Thursday, November 30, 2017

Zorn's Mephisto

Anders Zorn was in Madrid seeking portrait commissions when one morning, on a whim, he decided to paint a Swedish consul as Mephisto (the demon from German folklore who tempted Faust). 

He wrote to his wife Emma: "This morning I couldn’t paint what I was supposed to, but then Consul Dalander from Valencia came up to the studio and, as a joke, I painted him as Mephisto, quite a pretty joke in fact." 

Previously on the blog: Zorn's painting of an executioner
Exhibition: of Anders Zorn at Le Petit Palais in Paris through December 17

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Harry Anderson book on its way

The Art of Harry Anderson is the next in the lavish series of hardcover monographs from The Illustrated Press, the small company that previously produced the books on Tom Lovell, Jon Whitcomb, and Dean Cornwell.

Born in 1906, Harry Anderson is best known as for his magazine illustrations of children and romantic situations, probably the hardest subjects to pull off successfully.  

He was always a resourceful colorist. Look how the painting above is restricted almost entirely to blue-green, red-violet, and yellow ochre.

Although I haven't actually held the book in my hands yet, it will start off with a short biography, but the bulk of the pages will be devoted to big, beautiful color illustrations — 300 of them in the 224 page hardbound book. I wish all art books gave so much space to art.

There are representative examples from all the categories of art he was engaged in: editorial, advertising, calendar, religious, and gallery art. 

Much of the art in the book is reproduced from originals, but some is printed from vintage tearsheets. I like seeing those too because it gives a sense of the graphic presentation in the magazine layouts, so characteristic of the time.

The standard edition is $44.95 USD, and there's also a special edition for $64.95 that comes in a custom slipcase and is limited to 100 copies. Both editions are hardbound, 12 x 9 inches.

You'll never see these books at Barnes and Noble or a museum bookstore, because it just doesn't pay for small publishers like the Illustrated Press to deal with brick-and-mortar retail accounts or to warehouse an overly large printing. The earlier books, The Art of Jon Whitcomb and Tom Lovell—Illustrator books have sold out, and are only available on the secondary market at much higher prices. The Dean Cornwell book was brought back into print by popular demand and is still available.
You can preview the entire book online and preorder the book now at Illustrated Press. Shipping is expected to take place in March of 2018. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Replacement Animation

Replacement animation is a form of stop motion. But instead of making one puppet that you put through its paces, you make interchangeable pre-sculpted elements and swap them in and out.

For example if you watch closely, you can see that the little impact cloud-puffs are a animated with 5 separate rings of sculpted white blobs on very thin wires.

It takes a while to create all the stop-motion puppets and accessories for replacement animation. But once you do it, the animation goes fast. It's easy to animate 10 seconds per hour, while with traditional animation, it would take up to two full weeks to animate that many seconds.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Thaulow Painting in Snow

Fritz (or Frits) Thaulow (Norwegian 1847-1906) was best known for his paintings of the calm surface of ponds and streams. 

He painted directly from nature, both in the warm months and in the winter. Here he is in the snow with a wooden stool and a tripod easel. 

This sketch in oil shows a snow-covered cottage by a stream.

Probably after returning to the studio, he translated the information of the sketch into a pastel called "Norwegian Winter Landscape." He removed the stump of a tree in the upper right and made the fence a little clearer. 
Previously I did a similar pairing of a sketch and finish by Isaac Levitan in the post: "Plein Air and Poetry"
The blog Lines and Colors has information about Fritz Thaulow with an update that includes a lot of links and resources if you want to find out more.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

What happens to light in clouds?

Let's take a look at how sunlight interacts with clouds.

Photo New Scientist, photographer Mahrt Fabian
Although there is a light side and a shadow side on most clouds, most of the light enters the cloud rather than bouncing off the surface. If the cloud is thin enough or fragmentary enough, a light side and shadow side are not distinguishable.

But in a large, dense cloud like a thunderhead, the light that enters the cloud is scattered and dispersed within the mass of water vapor or ice crystals. After its random journey, the light eventually exits the cloud, lightening the shadow side.

 Note that the white cloud is darker than the white house.
Photo Home Buyer
This subsurface scattering gives clouds a different character than an opaque white surface such as plaster or painted stucco. The cloud's light side is darker than the solid surface (because it's absorbing light), and the shadow side is lighter (because of subsurface scattering).

The value of the shadow side of the cloud is therefore a combination of internal scattering and external sources, such as the blue light of the sky or reflected light from the ground.

Simulating clouds turns out to be a computational challenge for artists using 3D digital tools. A recent research paper by Disney's team of computer engineers discusses some improvements in the rendering of light behavior within clouds.

They used machine learning techniques to speed up the process of volumetric path tracing, following the complex pathways of the light within the cloud. (link to video)

Read more
Disney's research paper (PDF)
My book Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter (link to Amazon) gets deep into this topic. If you live in the USA you can get the book signed on my website, shipped within 24 hours.
Previously: Subsurface Scattering

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Painting Clouds Over a Sky Gradation

You can paint a cloudy sky in acrylic over an acrylic sky gradation that you prepare first in the studio.

This new video shows how fast the sky changed over the hour and a half that we were painting. (Link to video)

I set up my easel with the full sunlight on the pages. That way the brightness level of the art was close to the light level of the scene itself. I shot the video with a Canon EOS M6, which has a built in time lapse video feature.

Pro Tips
1. Acrylic is good for this because the paint film is durable. Casein might chip off a bit on facing pages.
2. The sky should gradate from a more saturated blue at the top to a paler and warmer blue at the horizon.
3. Don't make the blue sky gradation too dark.
4. Use a small spray bottle or mister to slightly dampen the sky first. That will give you soft edges.
5. Paint from background to foreground.
6. If you make the objects on the ground plane small and far away, the sky will look bigger.

The same idea works fine in oil. This plein air study is 16x20
Supplies and Links
For the sky, I used Tri-Art Liquid Acrylic 
For the clouds, I used Acryla Gouache, which is opaque and handles like gouache
I keep a fine spray mister to dampen the sky gradation on location before painting the clouds.
I'm using a Pentalic watercolor sketchbook
Check out my videos on Sellfy and Gumroad. They're inexpensive, fun to watch, and packed with information.

Previous posts
Using "sky panels" for oil painting
Clouds: Growth and Dispersion
Sky Blue (Explaining the two gradations in a normal sky) 

Friday, November 24, 2017

Victorian Dolls in Real Life

Photo: Derren Brown
These two people dressed as Victorian dolls and walked the streets of London, unsettling people wherever they went. More photos

Thursday, November 23, 2017

N.C. Wyeth's Pilgrims

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

N.C. Wyeth's Pilgrim Mural "Turkey Hunt"
N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945) painted a set of murals about the spirit of New England for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. He said the paintings were an expression of his own life and heritage. "All creative expression, be it in painting, writing, or music, if it pretends to appeal warmly and eloquently, must spring from the artist's own factual and emotional experience."
Children's book with Wyeth's Pilgrim murals: N.C. Wyeth's Pilgrims
Quote from the classic biography: N.C. Wyeth - The collected paintings, illustrations and murals by Douglas Jr Allen

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Living Sketchbook Updated for iPhone X

We've updated the Living Sketchbook™apps to work with the iPhone X.

The apps let you scroll through the pages of my sketchbooks and experience making-of videos and audio clips recorded at the scene.

Iain McCaig, concept artist for Star Wars, Jungle Book, and Avengers, says: "The 'Living Sketchbook' app takes a classic Gurney Sketchbook and adds audio, video, and written notes on the inspiration, palettes, and thinking behind the art. It's as if you were a friendly ghost watching the creation of every page.”

Volume 1 "Boyhood Home" is available for iOS on Apple phones and tablets at the App Store

and for Android devices at Google Play

Volume 2 "Metro North" is available in three versions to suit your device:
• App for Apple iOS phones and tablets from the App Store
• App for Android devices from Google Play
• For laptop and desktop computers, or people with old phones or tablets, a "PDF+ Edition" including all the art plus all the audio and video in HD.

Erik Tiemens of says ''James Gurney's Living Sketchbook celebrates the mobility and charm of gouache, casein, colored pencil, and pen and ink in sketchbook form."
Review of the app by Teoh
For those of you who have it already, please give it a review— and if you're wondering when the next Living Sketchbook will come out, well, I'm planning to work with my developer put together a couple of new ones by early 2018. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Think Outside the Box

Whenever I hear a self-help cliché, like "Get our ducks in a row," I can't help thinking of the metaphor literally.

When someone says we should "think outside the box," I imagine what Mrs. Basher would do. (Link to video)

If you watch closely, you may glimpse a few frames like this, where the motion blur gives a different spice to the action.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Milton Caniff's Advice on Inking with a Brush

Milton Caniff (1907-1988), the cartoonist behind Terry and the Pirates and Steve Canyon, was also an instructor for the Famous Artists Cartoon Course

He noted that the brush had become a very popular tool for drawing in the 1940s and '50s in magazine gag panel cartooning.

Here are some of his tips:

1. When dipping your brush in the ink, always press it gently against the inside edge of the bottle neck to remove excess ink.

2. Before touching your brush to the paper try it first on a paper palette (a strip of paper thumbtacked to the top or side of your drawing board).

3. Never let ink dry on the brush.

4. Always wash it by rubbing the brush lightly and gently on a cake of soap, then rinse it in clear water when you are ready to put the brush away.
You can still get the original instructional binders: Famous Artists Cartoon Course (3 Volume Set)
And there are also reprints of The Complete Terry and the Pirates
Modern brush pen that takes cartridges and is very portable: Pentel brush pen

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Akeley's Fight with a Leopard

When artists and scientists produced the dioramas for the American Museum of Natural History, they went to Africa in search of suitable animals. But sometimes the encounters didn't go as planned.

In Ethiopia, taxidermist Carl Akeley was hunting warthog and ostrich when he took an ill-advised shot toward a noise that he heard in the bush.

Unexpectedly he had injured a leopard, which pursued him and later attacked him. He knew that once engaged in a fight, a wounded leopard would never give up, and it would be a fight to the death.
"A leopard, unlike a lion, is vindictive. A wounded leopard will fight to a finish practically every time, no matter how many chances it has to escape. Once aroused, its determination is fixed on fight, and if a leopard ever gets hold, it claws and bites until its victim is in shreds. All this was in my mind, and I began looking about for the best way out of it, for I had no desire to try conclusions with a possibly wounded leopard when it was so late in the day that I could not see the sights of my rifle.”
Read the rest online at Mental Floss: The Time Carl Akeley Killed a Leopard with his Bare Hands.
From Akeley's book In Brightest Africa

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Doré's Caricatures of Communards

Gustave Doré (1831-1883) is best known for his illustrations of the Bible and Dante's Inferno, but he was also a caricaturist. 

In this 1871 sketch of a Communard prisoner, He emphasizes the wild hair and beard by downplaying the eyes and making them mere smudges.

He pushes the sweeping curve under the chin and the aquiline nose. 

This guy has dots for pupils and a triangular face.

After their failed uprising, many of the Communards were executed or exiled. Doré portrayed them as the pitiful souls that they must have been. The sketches were done under intense conditions: "In the evening, among his friends, to the repeated sound of the cannon at Mont-Valérian and the heights of Montretout, thundering incessantly against Paris; at the striking memory of those long processions of Communard prisoners brought back from Paris to the avenues of Versailles, at the sight of those wretches, their brutish faces contracted with hatred, rage and the suffering of a long march, under a burning sun he took pleasure … in making these sketches.

Dig Deeper
Book: The Dore Illustrations for Dante's Divine Comedy
Flickr set with more of these Gustave Doré caricatures
Images: from Versailles et Paris en 1871, which also includes magistrates and members of the National Assembly
Previously on GurneyJourney: The other side of Gustave Doré
Wikipedia on Communards and Doré
Thanks, John Holbo and Mme. Bruyére

Friday, November 17, 2017

Robot jumps and does backflips

The robot "Atlas" by Boston Dynamics has moved beyond walking to jumping and doing backflips. Atlas is 5'9" and weighs about 330 lbs. (Link to video on YouTube)

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Planning a Picture with a Large Group of Figures

Karen Robinson says: "I had just been looking at work by Wilhelm Gause. I was looking at the Vienna Ball one - and puzzling over how you would even begin to render a piece with multiple figures. Do you make a really detailed drawing, pick the focal person and kind of fan out from there? What if there isn’t really a focal person, the point being that there are LOADS of people..."

Wilhelm Gause, Hofball in Wien 
Karen, when you want to show a whole lot of figures in a scene, I think it's important to work out the design in black and white preliminary sketches first.

Wilhelm Gause (German, 1853–1916)
Hofball , 1897, grisaille on paper laid on cardboard
Size:69 x 46 cm. (27.2 x 18.1 in.
In the case of Gause's Vienna Ball scene, there appear to be a related work done on tone paper. I'm not sure whether it's a preliminary sketch, or how he proceeded, but I would guess that he sketched the figures loosely at first and then worked them out individually based on models in costume.

One of my favorite Viennese multi-figure scenes is this early one done by the Gustav Klimt and his brother, before Gustave went into the more abstract work.

"Friday at the French Artists' Salon" by Jules-Alexandre Grün (b.1868)
Thanks, Damian
Some of the best painters of crowd scenes conceive of the figures as part of larger tonal masses. If you do that in the early planning stages of the picture you'll avoid the tendency for a broken up or spotty effect.

Alphonse Mucha, one of the Slav Epics
You can get that right by keeping the sketch a little out of focus, and then you can begin to differentiate the individuals. You can see this done well in the work of Alphonse Mucha, Rembrandt, Joaquin Sorolla, Tom Lovell, F.R, Gruger and others.

If you put those names in the search box of this blog you'll find posts about their compositions and design process, or this link will aggregate all posts about composition.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Dalí and Halsman capture a moment

"I have an idea for a photograph," Philippe Halsman said to Salvador Dalí. "In it, you, the easel, and the subject you are short everything—is in suspension."

Using invisible wires, Halsman suspended a chair, an easel, and a print of Dalí's painting Leda Atomica. Three assistants stood ready to toss their cats in the air. A fourth assistant held a big bucket of water.

Halsman counted to four. At "three" the assistants threw the water and the cats in the air, and at "four," Dalí jumped. Flash bulbs froze the action. Halsman quickly developed the film and announced that the composition was not perfect. 

They must try again.

They kept trying for 26 attempts, each time wiping the water off the floor, catching the cats, and drying them off with towels in the bathroom. 

But each time there was something wrong with the composition. This was 1948, long before the era of Photoshop. So, as Halman's daughter said, "Everything had to be done in one shot."

Five hours later, totally exhausted, Halsman declared they had a success, a photo he called Dalí Atomicus. The only thing added was the painting on the easel, which the artist painted on a small piece of paper that was pasted in.

The photo was published in Life and has made Time magazine's list of most influential photographs.

Recently, photographer Karl Taylor recreated the photo setup, sans cats (link to YouTube).

From the book: Halsman: Sight and Insight
Dalís Halsman's daughter recalling the photoshoot.