Friday, September 30, 2016

Dinotopia's Oil Wash Technique

A lot of people are surprised to hear that the illustrations in Dinotopia were painted in oil rather than watercolor. This one of Tok Timbu is typical. I sealed my pencil drawing on illustration board with workable fixatif and after that a thin layer of acrylic matte medium. When that was dry, I used bristle and synthetic brushes to apply the paint, mostly transparently. When I needed to thin the paint, I could use either mineral spirits or alkyd painting medium. At any time I could scratch through to recover the drawing or just to get light lines, like the hairs on the beard.
You can get a signed copy of the 20th anniversary edition of Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time from me at my website.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Caricature Game

Jeanette and I played the Caricature Game during the banquet of the SKB Workshop. The goal is to sketch someone far away in the room and see if the other person can recognize them instantly.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Gouache Painting in the Colorado Wilderness

Here's a slice of the mountain forest in northern Colorado. It's a scene of organized chaos, which I deciphered in gouache.

Below is a 5-minute YouTube video that takes you through all the steps.

If you're receiving this blog post by email, you may not have a playable embedded video, so you may need to follow this link to YouTube to see the video.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Smooth the Husky

We've been hanging out with my son Frank in Colorado, along with his dog Smooth. Smooth is a husky mix rescue who loves going on hikes. 

Here are some sketches of him in watercolor. I love his black and tan coloration.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Gouache in the Rockies

Yesterday Jeanette and I, our son Frank, and his dog Smooth hiked up to Jewel Lake in the Medicine Bow Mountains of northern Colorado. 

I brought the painting gear but forgot to put on sunblock, so I was pretty roasted by the end of the day. 

The air was above freezing, so I was able to do a gouache painting of the view from up there.

I made a 1-minute video and uploaded it (above) directly to Blogger. It should be embedded above as a playable video. Does it work on your computer or do you just get an empty space? 

Above is the embedded version from Facebook. You can also watch the video by clicking over to my Instagram or Facebook page. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Just Glue Some Gears On It (and call it Steampunk)

Something fun for Sunday— a period-style video reminding makers to build Steampunk contraptions and attire that make sense.

The video is by the multitalented Reginald Pikedevant — Here's his introduction to himself.

If you're an email subscriber, you'll need to follow this link to the video on YouTube)
Thanks, Frank.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Using Gouache and Casein to Paint a Wolf

Over on Instagram, Suzypal asks, "How do you decide between casein or gouache?" Answer: You can use both together and use the advantages of each.

They're both similar in a lot of ways: opaque, matte, water media. The main difference is that casein dries to a more closed surface, meaning the dry paint doesn't reactivate when it's wet. Gouache can be reactivated.

Alaskan Wolf, gouache, 5 x 8 inches.

When I painted this Alaskan wolf in gouache yesterday, I used black and white casein for the background. Once I laid the background down, I didn't want it to change too much.

I chose gouache for the wolf because I wanted to be able to reactivate it. That was the only way to get the softness of the fur, especially in the shadows, like under the mouth and on the neck.

To do that softening, I re-wet a postage stamp size area with a flat brush dipped in pure water—really quick, no scrubbing! With a rewet surface, I could gently coax out softness with another brush or with my finger, or I could drop in a stroke that would blend into a blur.

(Use this link to view video on Facebook) Where I wanted fine details of fur in the lights and the halftones, I used gouache in a more dry-brush mode, and I used a few touches of light and dark watercolor pencils.
Expand your GurneyJourney Reach:
James Gurney on Instagram — Daily serving of color, light, and Dinotopia
My public Facebook page —Where you can see short videos that don't always appear on YouTube
Gurney on YouTube — Almost 200 free videos, fun and instructional.
Taxidermy by: Lynn Stewart
Event: SKB Workshop in Dubois, Wyoming / 5 days, 15 instructors, 150 students.
Gouache: Mostly HolbeinM. Graham , and Winsor Newton

Friday, September 23, 2016

Painting a Pronghorn in Gouache

Yesterday I painted a pronghorn in gouache for the one-hour Quick Draw event at the SKB Workshop.

If you receive my blog as an email, you may need to follow this link to watch  the video on YouTube because the email version doesn't support embedded videos.

More info about what I mention in the video:

Pronghorn expert: DeVere Burt, Cincinnati
Ancestral cheetah-like predators: "Did False Cheetahs Give Pronghorns a Need for Speed?"
Taxidermy by: Lynn Stewart
Event: SKB Workshop in Dubois, Wyoming / 5 days, 15 instructors, 150 students.
Gouache: Mostly Holbein, M. Graham , and Winsor & Newton

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Painting at the Whiskey Basin

A small group came with me out to the Whiskey Basin to paint the fall color along Torrey Creek. I could only get a few video snapshots for you because I was teaching, too and I forgot my main camera bag.

I did have the new diffuser with me and it stood up to some pretty strong wind. I'll show you how to make one of those in a future video.

Here's the painting in casein, about 4 x 7 inches in my watercolor sketchbook. 

(Link to YouTube)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Painting a Palomino

Palomino, casein, 5 x 8 inches 
I'm painting a palomino at a ranch near Dubois, Wyoming. 

I've got my easel at a standing height outside the corral. The horses are sedated, because before we get there, they have had their teeth floated and they get freeze branded

So they're sleepy and my palomino stands there long enough for me to get the lay-in. Here's how things look after about 10 minutes. I'm drawing totally with the brush—no time for pencil prelims.

Of course he moves out of the pose, but other horses take similar poses, and my palomino returns a couple of times to a semblance of where he started.

John Seerey-Lester sits behind us, helping young artists with advice about sketching from observation.

 Here's John's sketch of me (gray shirt at left) and the folks hanging around the horse corral.

The SKB Workshop is held every year in September. It's a gathering of artists in Dubois, Wyoming with a group of instructors and about 150 students swapping ideas about wildlife art and landscape painting. It's very economical for a week of instruction, food and lodging. If you want to join in though, you've got to sign up right when they announce it, because the 150 places sell out in just a day or two.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Painting a Bighorn Ram

This morning I painted this demo in black and white casein at the SKB Workshop in Dubois, Wyoming. I used a reddish brown water-soluble colored pencil for the lay-in, and that color peeks through here and there.

The taxidermy is by Lynn Stewart. It's nice to have an animal that holds still!

The SKB Workshop has about 150 students and 15 instructors this year, with meals together and lots of time to hang out and talk, talk painting gear, paint out on ranches and eat meals together.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

On Leaving Stuff Out

Charles Lasar, Hillside in Summer
Charles (Shorty) Lasar (1856-1936) was an American painter who studied in Paris. He urged his students to leave out unnecessary detail in a painting. He said:

"Don’t try to put in a tenth of what you see, it is the continually leaving out that makes things charming."

"Mystery is caused by leaving out, but don’t leave out the big interest."

"If you put in too many accessories the interest will have no chance."

"When things are not interesting lose them."

"In a scene you will always have one part to your liking; neglect the rest for that favorite spot."

"When you are before nature give way forcibly to your big convictions. Put in what you feel the most, and not all the ab solute details that you see. You can’t put all the hairs on a cat, or the whiskers on the wheat."
From Practical Hints for Art Students by Charles Lasar, 1910. (Free edition on Google Books)
Previously: Charles Lasar on Posing a Model

Saturday, September 17, 2016

More Reviews for the Menzel Book

We've been receiving more excellent reviews of the Menzel book from influential art blogs.

"The thing that impressed me most about these drawings by Menzel is that the process didn't become mechanical for him. He was not drawing out of mere habit. After thousands and thousands of drawings, he still responded to the visual power of the world around him."
        Read more at—Illustration Art by David Apatoff 

"Menzel's subjects range from candid to formal portraiture–from the sublime to the mundane. One example of the latter being an odd perspective of a bicycle wheel. The depictions are authentic and, we assume, pictorially accurate, without partaking of narrow optical precision. Some of the sketches were drawn from memory, exhibiting an astonishing visual acumen."
       Read more at — Thick Paint by Brad Teare

The images in this post and the text are excerpted from my new book Adolph Menzel: Drawings and Paintings. The book contains 130 images, including 32 pages of color.

The book is available signed from my website. Here's the link if you'd like to order a signed copy. It's also available on Amazon

Read more about Menzel at Christian Schlierkamp's blog Alles Zeichnen.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Gouache Demo in Denver

Here I am doing a demo yesterday for my 12 gouache workshop students at at the Denver Botanic Gardens.

We find a nice spot next to the water garden overlooking the lily pads and the "Lemon-Lime Gecko" elephant ear bog plant.

Tropical bog plant - Elephant ear, gouache, 4 x 6 inches
The painting is 4 x 6 inches and it takes about an hour and a half.  I do the first washes transparently over the pencil drawing, looking for large gradations of color. 

Then I cut back into the leaf shapes with some of the dark and light reflections on the water surface, using more opaque paint. I alternate between relatively large flat and round brushes.

The colors I'm using are: burnt sienna, raw sienna, lemon yellow, perylene maroon, viridian, permanent green light, ultramarine blue, and white.
My full length instructional video is called "Gouache in the Wild"

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Menzel the Man

Should an artist's physical appearance matter, or should we consider only the work? I suppose one's appearance only matters if it affects his work or his outlook on life. And in Adolph Menzel's case his unique form certainly shaped his personal and artistic choices. 

Adolph Menzel (1815-1905) was conspicuously small in stature, only four feet, six inches tall. He had a large head and was often compared to a gnome. He frequently scowled. When he was young, his peers called him the “Little Mushroom.” When he became angry and fought back, they called him the “Poisonous Mushroom.” 

Adolph von Menzel in his studio before a screen,
with his left hand drawing in a sketchbook. 1904.
His unusual stature affected his life from his early days. Reflecting on his art education, he said, “It would have been quite useful for me to have attended the Academy longer; only that, you know, a certain pride stood in the way: one pitied the cripple—the small one was smiled at. I sensed that strongly my whole life long, most strongly in my youth.” Although he was beloved by his circle of close friends and relations for his intelligence and wit, he spoke gruffly to strangers, not wanting to endure their condescension.  He was extremely devoted to his family, especially his sister, brother and nephew.

In his self-portraits he regarded himself warily and uncomfortably. He did not like writers of his day to recount anecdotes about him, and urged them to “Please leave aside everything personal.” While reviewing galley proofs of a book of his artwork, he wrote marginal corrections full of sarcastic remarks about those “jackasses, the gentlemen of pen and ink.”

He kept to himself and never married. “Not only have I remained unmarried, throughout my life I have also renounced all relations with the other sex,” he wrote in his last will and testament. . . .There is a lack of any kind of self-made bond between me and the outside world.” There are few portrayals of female nudes in his life work. 

Boy with water glass. 1889. Pencil on paper. 20.8 x 13.3 cm. [8.2 x 5.2 in.] 
Photo: © Karen Bartsch, /Villa Grisebach, Berlin 

His alienation shaped his artistic outlook. One drawing might show a man sitting on a toilet or the patterns of an old man’s chest hair. At the same time, paradoxically, his drawings evince a remarkable empathy, particularly for people who were old, poor, or suffering. He was fascinated with frankly chronicling the physiognomies of his fellow humans. 

Nobility often lies hidden behind unglamorous appearances. He once said, “A person not only acts with, but also has, a certain external appearance, and the latter is as inconsequential as it is accidental.”

In his mature years he had a studio on the fifth floor, where models would come in small groups and talk informally. Gustav Kirstein wrote that “on the landing one could encounter old, ugly models, ‘character heads,” which he preferred for practice in those late years.

The images in this post and the text are excerpted from my new book Adolph Menzel: Drawings and Paintings. The book contains 130 images, including 32 pages of color.

The book is available signed from my website. Here's the link if you'd like to order a signed copy. It's also available on Amazon.

Adolph Menzel: Drawings and Paintings signed copies from

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Thomas Girtin Watercolor

Here's a study in warm and cool by Thomas Girtin (1775-1802). He worked in watercolor and was a master of architecture. He must have been ignoring greens and possibly reds in this painting to make this a study of blue vs. raw sienna.

The values are beautifully controlled, with the the values lightened on the left side of the building, and the darkest accent being the figure and the cow at center right.
If you're in Denver, see my lecture tonight at 6:30 at the Denver Botanic Gardens.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Lecture Wednesday Evening in Denver

I'll be lecturing tomorrow evening at the Denver Botanical Garden's "Café Botanique."

The event is Wednesday, September 14, 2016 - 6:30 PM, and the fee for adults is $5.00

The topic is "Color and Light in the Landscape," richly illustrated with visual examples in a digital slide show.

There will be a Q and A session and book signing afterward.

James Gurney at Café Botanique, Wednesday, September 14.

GJ Honored in List of Top 100 Art Blogs

Thanks to the staff at Feedspot for including GurneyJourney in the list of "Top 100 Art Blogs"
I saw on the list a lot of other art blogs that inspire me too, such as Parka Blogs and Lines and Colors.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Stopping to Sketch in Ohio

We're driving across country to a couple of workshops in  the Rocky Mountains, but we stopped in Ohio yesterday to paint alongside the railroad tracks. (Link to YouTube)

I rode through this area of Ohio on a freight train on a much earlier sketching adventure. It was near here that I was kicked off the train by the Willard, Ohio police department.

I'm using the limited palette called Gurney's Casein 6 Pack

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Bob Dylan's Voice

Don't get me wrong--I love Bob Dylan's music. But lately, every time I hear his voice, I imagine it coming from a six inch tall grumpy elf. 

Stylistic influence thanks to my friend J.B. Monge

Saturday, September 10, 2016