Monday, April 30, 2018

Rainy Days in 19th Century Painting

Nineteenth-century painters loved capturing the unique effects of rainy weather and wet streets.

"Rainy Day in Paris" by Ulpiano Checa (Spanish, 1860-1916).
Ulpiano Checa (Spanish, 1860-1916) blurs the silhouettes of the buildings and carriages, and reserves his detail for the horses.

Columbus Avenue, Rainy Day by Childe Hassam, 1885
Childe Hassam (American 1859-1935) painted Columbus Avenue in New York City. He also softens the distant buildings and he groups the scene into two large blocks of tone.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Gouache Painting on a Rainy Day

(Link to Video on YouTube) Gouache dries slowly in the humid conditions of a rainy day, allowing much more time for blending the colors.

However, once the layers dry, I can add fine details to add mood and make the scene realistic.
The brushes are from a Richeson pocket travel brush set and I'm painting in a Pentalic Aqua Journal with Gouache mostly by M. Graham.
The sketch easel that I attach to the tripod is a homebuilt design, and I made a video explaining how to make one.
I've also made full-length painting tutorials on Gouaches, Casein, and Watercolor
Also available on DVD from the manufacturer or you can get the DVD on Amazon

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Beside a Triassic Pond

The scene is a forest pond, with several croc-like metoposaurids called Koskinonodons basking in the shallows, absorbing the warmth of a patch of sunlight.

Triassic Pond, casein, gouache, and acrylic, James Gurney, 2018
The flora is a mix of cycads, tree ferns, horsetail ferns, ginkgo, and other Triassic plant forms. Meanwhile, a small group of dinosaur precursors emerge tentatively from the shadows, hoping to get a safe drink. 

The giant amphibians usually eat fish, but they'll snatch an unwary dinosaur. Dinosaurs don't rule the world—they live at the margins. 

It's mid-winter as I prepare for this painting, which appears in the current (May, 2018) issue of Scientific American Magazine. There's a foot of snow on the ground, and we're hit with a total electrical blackout that lasts for days. 

But since my methods are mostly old-school, I'm able to sculpt a maquette using Sculpey for the metoposaurid and Model Magic for the bank. I fill a take-out container with muddy water, and set the creature in a basking position. The maquette helps me understand where light turns to shadow and where to place the highlights.
Check out my DVD How I Paint Dinosaurs
Also available as a download from Gumroad

Friday, April 27, 2018

Gouache Sketches for a Magazine Cover

The art director of Scientific American asked if I could help him with a rush assignment—a cover painting featuring a dinosaur.

The dinosaur is skinny, about the size of a housecat. At least that's what paleontologist Stephen Brusatte thinks. There's no skeleton to reconstruct. Prorotodactylus is known only from its footprints.  
The point of the story is that dinosaurs lived for millions of years at the margins of ecosystems dominated by amphibians and mammal-like reptiles. It was just a set of lucky circumstances that allowed dinosaurs to take over the planet. 

I gave the editors lots of options to look at. The sketches are in gouache, each one smaller than a business card. The editors discussed the options, and Design Director Michael Mrak requested the layout of Sketch #5 with the color scheme of Sketch #2.  

The final result, painted in oil, uses theatrical lighting to spotlight the little dinosaur and his footprints. I love the headline that the editors came up with.

It's the May 2018 issue, on the newsstand now.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Designing a Science Magazine

Designer Michael Mrak describes how he visualizes black holes, relativity, and dinosaurs for Scientific American magazine.
Society of Publication Design
Gumroad tutorial on painting Tyrannosaurs

Delaware Exhibition Pairs Ruskin and Wyeth

Andrew Wyeth, Flock of Crows
We stopped by the Delaware Art Museum to visit the exhibition Eye on Nature: Andrew Wyeth and John Ruskin.

Curator Margaretta Frederick took us through the show, which pairs 30 rare watercolors by the 19th century British writer/artist Ruskin with 28 watercolors and dry brush works by Andrew Wyeth. 
Although there's no evidence that Wyeth was directly inspired by Ruskin's writings, it's interesting to reflect on how the two artists regarded the study of nature.   

John Ruskin
Ruskin said "When once we see keenly enough, there is very little difficulty in drawing what we see." 

John Ruskin, Trees in a Lane, perhaps at Ambleside, 1847.
Pencil, black and brown ink, and ink wash, 17 5/8 x 22 5/8 inches.
He was famous for his admonition that young painters "should go to Nature in all singleness of heart, and walk with her laboriously and trustingly, having no other thoughts but how best to penetrate her meaning, and remember her instruction; rejecting nothing, selecting nothing, and scorning nothing; believing all things to be right and good, and rejoicing always in the truth."

But he also added that "straight documentation does not make up a work of art," and he recommended that once artists fill their eyes and minds with nature's forms, they should "take up the scarlet and the gold, give the reins to their fancy, and show us what their heads are made of." 

Wyeth, watercolor study of a blackberry branch
Wyeth said, "Art to me, is seeing. I think you have got to use your eyes, as well as your emotion, and one without the other just doesn't work." 

He did careful studies throughout his career, and used them to "get down to the real substance of life itself."

Andrew Wyeth Sycamore Tree, detail
Wyeth's large drybrush drawings are an impressive testament to his patience and concentration. 

He had deep appreciation for ordinary subjects close to home. He said, "You can be in a place for years and years and not see something...and then when it dawns, all sorts of nuggets of richness start popping all over the place. You've gotten below the obvious."
The exhibition Eye on Nature will be on view at the Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington through May 27, 2018.
Gallery of online images from the exhibition
Upcoming events:
Ferns and Flowers Monoprinting, April 29
On Location Photography Workshops, Sundays, April – June
Nature Sketching Sunday, May 20Thanks, Margaretta Frederick and Stephen Wildman

Artist's Mag and Quotidian Subjects

What's the best place for artistic inspiration—Venice? Barcelona? Giverny? Grand Canyon? I believe it's within 15 miles of wherever you are right now.

The theme of the current issue of Artist's magazine (print) is "Place." I wrote an article called "There's No Place Like Home."

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Portrait Demo at the Yellow Barn Workshop

On Sunday night we had a sold-out audience for my mini-workshop at the Yellow Barn Studio in Glen Echo Park, Maryland.

After my lecture presentation, I did a half-hour gouache portrait. My model was Steve Hanson, who was wearing a reproduction antique vest and coat. Steve has portrayed John Brown in a historical reenactment at Harper's Ferry.

I used a limited palette of gouache: Light Red by Shinhan Pass, plus Yellow OchreUltramarine BlueIvory Black, and Titanium White (M. Graham) in a Pentalic watercolor journal.

I did my preliminary lay-in with a Brown Caran d' Ache watercolor pencil and I finished up with a White Supracolor pencil for those few stray beard hairs and other accents.
Thanks, J. Jordan Bruns and Gavin Glakas for organizing the event, and to model Steven Hanson.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Portraits in the Audience

At the Portrait Society Conference, everyone is a model—wittingly or not—including a member of the audience near me.

This sketch uses a limited palette of gouache: Light Red by Shinhan Pass, and then the rest by M. Graham: Yellow Ochre, Ultramarine Blue, Ivory Black, and Titanium White. (Links take you to Amazon pages).

Monday, April 23, 2018

Sargent's Technique and Temperament

John Singer Sargent's grandnephew, Richard Ormond, speaks with veteran portrait painter Michael Shane Neal about Sargent's technique and temperament.

Michael Shane Neal and Richard Ormond, gouache

Here's an extended lecture by Richard Ormond about Sargent's work during World War I.
Sketched live at the Portrait Society Conference in Washington, DC
Ormond has authored many books on Sargent, including John Singer Sargent: Figures and Landscapes 1908–1913: The Complete Paintings

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Side by Side Demos

The Portrait Society Conference features many painting demos, where the artists paint models in oil during a 2-3 hour period, commenting as they go.

Daniel Gerhartz demo at the Portrait Society
Two cameras record the painting and the model, and project the images side by side, so you can really see what the artist is seeing. Here's a demo by Daniel Gerhartz.

Later, Jeff Hein painted Matteo Caloiaro.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Name Inflation

Hanging out with legends of the portrait painting tradition: Michael Shane Neal (standing) and Everett Raymond Kinstler.

This followed a presentation that discussed Howard Chandler Christy, James Montgomery Flagg, Charles Dana Gibson, and John Singer Sargent. Hmm, I think I need a third name.

Three-Hour Portrait

The opening event of the Portrait Society Conference is the Faceoff, where 15 artist paint from 5 models over a 3 hour period.

Joseph Daily by James Gurney
I had the pleasure of painting Joseph Daily, a portrait artist himself. I worked in oil, 12 x 16 inches.

It was fun to work next to another artist I admire, Mario Robinson, who recently published an excellent book on book on classical portrait painting in watercolor.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Business Breakfast

We're at the Portrait Society Conference in Washington, DC.

I paint two guys discussing business over breakfast. I using black and white gouache in a watercolor sketchbook. (Link to video on Facebook)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

A Chat with a School Bus Driver

(Link to video on Facebook) Driving through Maryland we noticed the school buses parked behind this house. It still had an old TV antenna on top.

In the video, you can hear the voice of Cindy, who hung out with us for a while and told us what it was like to drive the buses.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Portrait Society This Weekend

I'm doing a few oil copies to get in practice for the Portrait Society Conference in Washington, DC this week. This is based on Velazquez's portrait of Miguel Angelo, the barber to the Pope.

Here's my Portrait Society schedule:
Thursday April 19: 4:30p–7:30pm Artist-to-Artist Face-Off
Friday, 9:00a–10:00a. Composition: The Eye, the Mind, and the Story.
Saturday, 10:30a–12:30p. Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn't Exist

After that I'll be doing an event at the Yellow Barn Studio in Glen Echo, Maryland. 
That event will take place on April 22nd from 5:00pm – 8:00pm, and will include two lectures and a demo. There may still be some spots available.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Painting a Red Mazda on Location

My car needs a tuneup, so I leave it off at the dealership. I make a cup of coffee and sit down at the edge of the showroom.

A red Mazda MX-5 Miata RF is parked in the middle, facing out toward the light. (Link to video on YouTube) Two or three hours? Time enough for a quick painting.

I choose a page in my sketchbook with an insistent yellow casein underpainting. It challenges me to cover every area of the picture with opaque gouache.

This scene has a brighter range of values than most scenes. The light outside is very bright compared to the dark areas on the car. To capture that I have to bleach the lights and make the darks darker than they appear.
Get your Gear On
Gouache tutorial available at Sellfy and Gumroad.
How to Make a Sketch Easel
Pentalic 5" x 8" Aqua Journal
M. Graham gouache set
Pocket plein air brush set