Monday, July 16, 2018

Color and Light in Russian and Korean

Here's my contribution to international diplomacy: the new Russian and Korean editions of Color and Light: A Guide for Realist Painters.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Studying Art in Paris, 1902

Around 1900, it was common for young American artists to study in Paris. But not everyone was in favor of it.
Typical Life Class in Sculpture
In an effort to promote American schools, Edmund Talbott painted an unflattering portrait of what it was like for young women studying art in Paris.
"American girls going to Paris have no conception of the life they will be forced to lead: the obnoxious companionship, the antiquated, disease-breeding sanitary arrangements in the dwellings, the scanty food and liability of illness resulting therefrom, the dirt, the dishonesty, etc. These things they cannot, except in rare cases, escape....Idleness, the dissipation of energies resulting from the temptations incident to residence abroad have robbed proud prestige which they acquired in their American schools, and left them worse off than though they had remained at home."
Some Facts About Art Study in Paris, Brush and Pencil, Vol. 10, No. 2 (May, 1902), pp. 122-126
Exhibition in Massachusetts: Women Artists in Paris, 1850-1900 through September 3, 2018

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Mick Moloney in Concert

Last night, Mick Moloney led an all-star group of Irish musicians in a late-night concert at a pub in East Durham, New York. 

The concert was all acoustic and included traditional instrumental tunes, songs and step dancing. 

Mick is a storyteller,  tour leader, professor, and folklorist with a special focus on songs about the Irish immigrant experience in America. As a professional musician, Mick plays the banjo and mandolin. He leads the Green Fields of America and has been one of the cherished leaders of the traditional music revival. 

There was a single light on the wall above Mick, and the rest of the room was quite dark. I waited for him to return momentarily to his pose, immersed in song. I used three colors of gouache (flame red, yellow ochre, peacock blue, and white). I held the sketchbook in my lap in very dim light, making it possible to estimate tonal values, but difficult to guess at the chroma or hue.
The Catskill Irish Arts Week concludes tonight

Friday, July 13, 2018

Abbey and Sargent, Side by Side

Edwin Austin Abbey shared a studio space with John Singer Sargent in England as they prepared their murals for the Boston Public Library. Abbey had worked for years as a pen-and-ink illustrator, but he had a lot to learn about painting in oil at a large scale.

Fortunately he had Sargent to show him the way, as a contemporary account describes:

Detail of Grail mural by Edwin Austin Abbey
"The evolution of Abbey's art at this point is remarkable. Heretofore he had dealt almost entirely in small pictures done in black and white. Now he suddenly 'blossomed forth in a night' as a painter in large, — covering canvas after canvas with powerful figures glowing in color. Yet these sweeping lines were evolved only after painful struggle.

"[William Merritt] Chase, who coached him at one time, says, ' I almost despaired of him: he would persist in seeing in black and white." And Abbey was particularly fortunate in having Sargent at his elbow while the Boston work was going forward, for Sargent was the maturer artist, and had dealt almost entirely in oils. The two men, indeed, were of mutual assistance, having followed different methods all their lives. Sargent was the painter of portraits in one medium; Abbey was the illustrator of stories in many mediums. Being opposites in other respects they naturally became good friends."

"The broad-minded viewpoint of these two strong men is shown by remarks made by them as the years sped by and the work seemed to languish. When Sargent was asked when he would complete his task, he replied, 'Never, unless I learn to paint better than I do now. Abbey has discouraged me.' While Abbey replied to a similar query, 'Give me a little time, and I'll do something worth while.'

Detail of Frieze of the Prophets by John Singer Sargent
What was it like in the Morgan Hall studio where Abbey and Sargent worked side by side?

Study for the Frieze of the Prophets
by John Singer Sargent
"It would have been hard to find a better equipped "laboratory" than the Morgan Hall annex at this time. Here was room for a dozen enormous easels at one time, without crowding, and the whole space was generally in use. Great sections of canvas might be seen in every stage of completion, the busy artist darting from one to another as fancy directed him ; while as for properties —many a theatre might have looked upon this collection with jealous eyes, for they were the real thing."

"Here were rare old tapestries hanging carelessly about, beautifully carved oak doors, heavy panels leaning against the walls, lay figures, bric-a-brac, suits of mail, standards of weapons, —swords, spears, gleaming battle-axes ; while chests of drawers overflowed with silks, brocades, velvets, and other rich fabrics of special weave and design. In another corner might be seen old chairs, settees, and musical instruments of quaint pattern ; and scattered about were studies, sketches of heads, arms, and legs, —all waiting to be melted in the crucible of the palette and transferred to their proper abiding-place. In an adjoining room devoted to the library might be found the finest folios on costume, and manifold works of reference."
Previously on GJ: Abbey, Sargent, and the Big Studio
Part 1: E.A. Abbey, "Greatest Living Illustrator"
Part 2: Abbey's Advice to a Young Artist
Manikin in the Snow
Abbey's Morgan Hall
Online Resources
Quotes are from Famous Painters of America by J. Walker McSpadden, 1916
E. A. Abbey on Wikipedia
Edwin Austin Abbey by E.V. Lucas
BPL's description of each of the Grail mural panels
Book: Unfaded Pageant: Edwin Austin Abbey's Shakespearean Subjects
Edwin Austin Abbey (1852-1911) Exhibition catalog

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Reflections in Still Water

The Delaware River near Milford, Pennsylvania, casein, 5 x 8 inches
The surface of the river becomes glassy as the afternoon wears on. Here's what I was thinking about as I was painting the reflections:

• The reflections mirror the colors of the far bank of trees.
• The colors in the reflection are very slightly darker than the colors being reflected.
• Within the area of the reflections of the trees, the detail is stretched vertically downward.
• The bottom edge of the reflection of the trees breaks up into horizontal fragments.
• Slight zephyrs create a blue patch in the middle distance, disturbing the vertical reflections.
• The bridge is reflected in the form of fragmentary strokes.
Previously on the blog: 
Water Reflections, Part 1

Water Reflections, Part 2
Water Reflections, Part 3
More about reflections in my book Color and Light
Join the Facebook group "Sketch Easel Builders"
Take part in the challenge "Paint a Parking Lot"

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Donald McGill's Postcard Art

Donald McGill was a gag writer and illustrator of comic-picture postcards in Britain in the mid-20th century. Each card had a slightly outrageous joke or double entendre.

George Orwell, author of Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, wrote about McGill's art:
"A comic post card is simply an illustration to a joke, invariably a ‘low’ joke, and it stands or falls by its ability to raise a laugh. Beyond that it has only ‘ideological’ interest. McGill is a clever draughtsman with a real caricaturist's touch in the drawing of faces, but the special value of his post cards is that they are so completely typical. They represent, as it were, the norm of the comic post card. Without being in the least imitative, they are exactly what comic post cards have been any time these last forty years, and from them the meaning and purpose of the whole genre can be inferred."


Read the rest of the essay "The Art of Donald McGill," available online in full.
It is also included in the essay collection All Art Is Propaganda: Critical Essays

Monday, July 9, 2018

Next up in International Artist: How to Paint More Efficiently

Painting efficiently is not just about painting quickly—it's about getting a lot done in whatever amount of time you've got.

Efficiency is not the main goal in art. Sometimes in the controlled conditions of the studio you might want to throw away the clock. But having those skills can really help when you're facing the rapidly shifting conditions of just about any outdoor motif.

That's what I cover in the next issue of International Artist Magazine, issue #122 (August / September 2018).

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Surfside on the Lake

I assume that the name "Surfside" is semi-whimsical, because there isn't much surf on Lake George.

I want to paint this neon sign showing the lights coming on, so I wait until after sunset to start painting. I try to anticipate the effect of the fading light of dusk by exaggerating the gradation in the sky and darkening and softening the ground areas around the base of the sign. 
• Take part in the challenge "Paint a Parking Lot"

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Civil Rights Protest Drawings on Exhibit

In 1956 Harvey Dinnerstein and Burton Silverman traveled to Alabama to cover the bus boycotts that were sparked by the protest of Rosa Parks. 

Mrs. Rosa Parks by Harvey Dinnerstein
"New York artists Dinnerstein and Silverman spent several days drawing Montgomery’s African American citizens walking and carpooling, listening to speeches by community leaders and civil rights activists, and participating in the trial that challenged the segregation of public transportation. This exhibition features their drawings, ranging from expressive portraits to impassioned courtroom drama, and capture the spectrum of actions and emotions that marked the boycott as a turning point in the struggle for civil rights."
Their sketches are now on view at the Delaware Art Museum through September 9.
"The Montgomery Bus Boycott: Drawings by Harvey Dinnerstein and Burton Silverman" at the Delaware Art Museum.
• Previously on GJ: Sketching the 1956 Protests in Montgomery, Alabama
• Take part in the challenge "Paint a Parking Lot"

Friday, July 6, 2018

Cynthia Daignault's Road Trip

Cynthia Daignault was inspired by the rambling road trips of photographers such as William Eggleston and Robert Frank, and by writers such Mark Twain and Jack Kerouac. But she noticed the absence of women's names from the list.

She came up with an ambitious idea: to drive around America and stop whenever the odometer clocked another 25 miles. The goal was to paint whatever view presented itself. 
"Daignault traced the route she would take on a road map, snaking a thin pencil along the outside border of the continental United States. She drove the loop, on blue highways and back roads, avoiding interstates and stopping every few miles to get out of the car—look, paint, walk, or just sit. Traveling over 30,000 miles, across forests, deserts, mountains, and fields, she followed the road for a year." (Source)

Accomplishing the goal wasn't easy.
"I remember being about 7000 thousand miles into the drive and realizing, what have I done? My back hurt from sitting. I was exhausted from driving 14 hours a day. I was lonely and strung out. I remember looking at the canvases and thinking, “This has already taken months and I’m only at number 60. I still have 300 more to go.” (Source)

Eventually she built up 360 paintings, and called the collection "Light Atlas." 
An exhibition of "Light Atlas" will be on view as part of the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit  at the Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas through September 2018.

• Take part in the challenge "Paint a Parking Lot"

Thanks, Judy Maurer

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Wilhelm Amberg

A young woman in a white dress sits alone peering into the shallows of a forest pool. 

She has gathered some wildflowers, but in her reverie or sadness, a few of them tumble from her lap, perhaps a reference to Ophelia from Hamlet.

The painting is by Wilhelm Amberg (1822-1899), a genre painter from Berlin. Note the simplicity of the background. It's just enough information to place us in the forest, but it doesn't distract from her face and expression. The white shape of her dress is simple and clear. 

In addition to his figural paintings, Amberg painted outdoors on location.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018


Photogrammetry is the science of inferring measurements and 3D information from photographs.

Techniques for measuring comparative distances between points in a photograph have been around for over a century. But computers have greatly aided the ability to extract data from photographs, especially if there's more than one view available.

Scanning a John Rogers sculpture at the Smithsonian
Among the applications of modern photogrammetry are:
1. The ability to make a 3D model of a sculpture using only photos.

Office interior (Source)
2. The mapping of crowded interior spaces (such as the office above) from a database of photo captures taken within the space.

3. The translation of actual environments into virtual sets for visual effects in movies (link to YouTube video).
Photogrammetry on Wikipedia

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Oyens Brothers

Left: David Oyens by Pieter Oyens. Right: Pieter Oyens by David Oyens
Pieter and David Oyens were identical-twin painters who lived and worked in Brussels, Belgium. 

Pieter Oyens, The Art Lover, 1878
They were born into a big banking family in Amsterdam with a generous inheritance. 

Uninterested in the family business, they studied art instead, often posing for each other. They adopted a Bohemian lifestyle, and gradually became more successful. 

David Oyens, The Stroll, 1877
David got married in 1866, which was a difficult adjustment for Pieter. 
"David and Pieter Oyens were so alike that even David’s wife Betsy found it hard to tell them apart: thinking that she was talking to her husband, she once asked Pieter to ask his brother (that is, himself) not to come round quite so often. Their work was also very similar, not only in style and technique but also in choice of subjects (generally studio and cafe scenes). As a result, it is often very difficult to ascribe works simply signed ‘Oyens’ to the right twin." (Source)
David Oyens, Drawing, 1878
Pieter eventually got married in 1893, but suffered a stroke soon after, and died before the birth of his daughter. 

Pieter's death devastated David, who almost ceased painting. David died in 1902 and was buried beside his brother.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Make a Sketch Easel: Tools and Materials

(Link to video on YouTube)
Here are the tools and materials you'll need to get started making your own sketch easel. The tools aren't fancy and the materials are surprisingly inexpensive (except for those darned hinges), compared to the expense of buying a factory easel.

Full video tutorial

Sunday, July 1, 2018

The Studio of Luigi Conconi

The studio of Luigi Conconi (1852-1917) was close to one of the busiest streets in Milan. 

Inspired by the spirit of rebellion and bohemianism of other writers and artists, such as Gautier, Baudelaire, and Poe, he wanted to cultivate a creative space that nourished his bizarre imagination.

A visitor said "It is like the abode of some necromancer of old, with its strange collection of mummified cats and snakes and bats and chameleons, filling all the corners in grotesque and monstrous shapes, and conjuring up all sorts of fear- some fancies."

"To go into these rooms is like entering into a fabled world of enchantment. Here Conconi lives as it were in his own natural atmosphere; for everything weird and strange seems full of attractiveness and suggestion to him." 

He wanted his studio to look like the "home of some old-world alchemist, a terrible place full of whitened skeletons, with screeching owls perched on the lintels of the doors."

Art by Luigi Conconi
Coconi designed a clock, where "the sense of horror is conveyed, not so much by the skulls forming the centre part, as by certain of the details which at the first glance might not be noticed. The base of the dial on which the hands are fixed is designed in the shape of a coffin ; the hour and minute hands are formed like finger bones, and the pendulum is a scythe, which, in its oscillations, symbolizes the inexorable reaper of lives."
Quote is from Studio Magazine, 1893
Luigi Conconi (1852-1917) on Wikipedia

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Paul Charles Chocarne-Moreau

Paul Charles Chocarne-Moreau (French, 1855-1931) painted realistic scenes of urban street kids having fun and getting into mischief.

He loved to contrast the black tones of a chimney sweep with the white of a pastry chef.

Often the two lads light cigarettes from each other.

The idea of unsupervised children in cities was a popular theme in 19th century European literature, such as Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens or The Match Girl, by Hans Christian Anderson. 

"Opportunity Makes the Thief"
Reformers were in interested in how neglected children could be corrupted by the temptations of urban life. 

Both London and Paris had large numbers of orphans and other parentless kids, who were disparaged as: "half-savage children, street arabs, street urchins, mudlarks, and guttersnipes — filthy, ragged, lying, cursing, and hungry, roaming singly or in packs like young wolves, snatching stealing, stone-throwing, destructive, brutish, and cruel when not merely hopeless and lost." 

In some moralistic and sentimental writings, the hardships of the street were sometimes regarded as a builder of character, but in Chocarne-Moreau's paintings, they mainly provided the stage for affectionate and humorous anecdotes. 

At the Circus
Chocarne-Moreau's portrayal of childhood were popular in their day, and he might be regarded as a forerunner of Norman Rockwell. 

"I warned you"
He studied under Robert-Fleury and Bouguereau, According to Aaron Scharf, he probably based his paintings on photographs, as most realist painters did in those days.
Pinterest collection of Chocarne-Moreau
Roe, F. Gordon. The Victorian Child. London: Phoenix House, 1959.
Scharf, Aaron. Art and Photography.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Final Weekend at the Gold Medal Show

This Sunday in Los Angeles, two artists I admire will lead tours of the Gold Medal Show at the Natural History Museum.
• 1:30 p.m. - William Stout: Bringing Back the Dinosaurs
• 2:30 p.m. - William Wray: Urban Subjects and Redefining the Landscape.

I have two paintings in the show, one from Dinotopia and the other a paleoart piece.

Harlan Ellison (1934-2018)

I mark the passing of science fiction writer Harlan Ellison (1934-2018) with this wraparound paperback cover that art I did for his novel “Phoenix Without Ashes.” 

The story was based on a TV script he wrote called "The Starlost," about people who discover they're living on a generation starship. 

The production of the paperback book got hung up in some dispute Harlan had with the publisher, so it didn't get past the proof stage in the paperback version, but was later released on a hardcover dust jacket by IDW press.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Adolph Menzel: Obsessed with Drawing from Life

Adolph Menzel was always prepared to draw. One of his overcoats had eight pockets, each filled with sketchbooks of different sizes. On the lower left side was an especially large pocket which held a leather case with a big sketchbook, some pencils, a couple of shading stumps and a gum eraser.

His personal motto was 'Nulla dies sine linea' ('Not a day without a line'). He drew ambidextrously, alternating between the left and the right hand, sometimes on the same drawing. He was known to interrupt an important gathering by pulling out his sketchbook, sharpening his pencil, casting an eye around the room, and focusing on a coat, a chair or a hand. This sometimes brought the proceedings to a halt until he finished. But he preferred to draw people unawares. Once his friend Carl Johann Arnold awoke from a nap to find the artist busily drawing his portrait. 'You just woke up five minutes too early,' Menzel told him.
from "Adolph Menzel Drawings" edited by, and signed by James Gurney

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

What it was like to sit for Sargent

Dr. William H. Welch and three of his colleagues sat for John Singer Sargent, and here's how it went.

The Four Doctors by John S. Sargent, 1906.
The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore
"The first sitting was taken up with trial groupings; the following ones singly and in pairs. The artist talked incessantly of everything and smoked cigarettes continually while he worked. The boldness and accuracy of his work conveys the impression that he sits steadily at his easel.

"This, however, is not the case. He walked back and forth, talking and smoking, but when at the picture his brushwork was rapid and precise. At one of our group sittings he seemed in despair, saying: 'You all seem so much alike—four white dots on a canvas. It is not a picture.'

"With that he approached the canvas and passed the brush rapidly before it. 'I have it!' he exclaimed. 'There is a big Venetian globe in my other studio. If there are no objections, on medical grounds, it will make the portrait a picture.' I replied that there were no objections to its introduction: in fact, I thought it would be symbolic of Dr. Osler's fame encircling the earth.

("Unfortunately, the globe was so massive it could not fit through the studio door. Undeterred, Sargent simply directed that the doorway, and a good chunk of the wall, be chopped to permit the object's entry."—Gazette)

Welsh continues: "We each averaged two sittings a week, which owing to the artist's press of work, he was frequently getting mixed with the sittings of others, one of whom was Lord Roberts, who broke in on us several times. Dr. Osler gave the artist the most trouble. Sargent complained frequently that Osler was 'fidgety.' My head he painted on a single impression. The present portrait of Dr. Osler is the third attempt. He did not attempt to 'niggle' the first two into acceptability, but rubbed them out each time.

"Sargent's affability and unaffected simplicity are engaging, and his broad interests make him an interesting talker. He lent to simple incidents of the street the same penetration and humor that attended his remarks on art. At the time of our sittings he was anxious to finish his work in London and get to Syria in order to make sketches for his unfinished decorations of the Boston Public Library, which seemed to have become a great burden on his conscience. Contrary to the general
impression that Sargent is difficult to sit for, I never while before him felt that I was being scrutinized."
Source: Brush and Pencil, Vol. 19, No. 3 (Mar., 1907), pp. 95-99
More about the painting "The Four Doctors" online at JSS Gallery.