Friday, August 31, 2018

Cartoons Portraying John S. Sargent

John Singer Sargent was a favorite target for cartoonists.

Max Beerbohm (1907) & Sir John Bernard Partridge (1925).
The one on the left satirizes the way he created a refined environment by bringing musicians into the studio to make his subjects feel like royalty. On the right we see him jab at the canvas like a fencer.

Sargent's paintings themselves were also targets. From left, the Mephisto-esque gaze of the Carolus-Duran portrait; the Boit daughters estranged in big spaces among oversize vases; and Madame X with her heart shaped bodice and dull face.
Here we see good friends Velazquez and Sargent convey their paintings to the National Collection. Liz Renes says:
"In a Punch cartoon from 1906, Sargent is seen carrying his portrait of Ellen Terry as Lady MacBeth while walking hand in hand with Velazquez, who also carries the Rokeby Venus. Both march boldly into the National Gallery, where their works would stand in perpetuity with the likes of Reynolds, Gainsborough and Turner. The cartoon makes no distinction between the fact that the Venus was bought for the nation through the National Art Collections Fund, while Lady Macbeth was donated by Sir Joseph Duveen. Indeed, the source of the works appears irrelevant to the fact that these two illustrious additions to the national collection came from 'desirable aliens', or painters who were not British. So while Sargent seemingly has reached the same stature as the great Old Master - unlike the criticism in the press early in his career, which implied him to be a type of Velasquez 'pretender' - he is still ostracised for his American parentage. Sargent's 'nation', as implied by the 'alien' epithet in this cartoon, was an often contestable aspect of his career as a painter. British, French, American - even to this day, art historians and critics struggle with how to accurately define and place an artist like Sargent, even though he remains revered and hallowed in the canon."

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Can there be too much academic training?

In his book on book on drawing and painting, Henry White (1861-1952) cautions against too much time spent with academic training: 

"An academic training in drawing and painting does not necessarily produce a great artist. It should not be continued too long, only long enough to enable the student to express himself fluently. What he does with his knowledge is another thing entirely.

Academie Julian, Paris
"Many Frenchmen and students of other nationalities in the Parisian schools painted from the life model for ten years or more or until they could render it with absolute perfection and the greatest ease. Technique could go no farther. Many of these men never did anything else. Their subsequent work was only a continuation of their school work, extremely clever and facile, but wholly uninspired and distinguished.

Arts Students League
"The average student, given any natural aptitude whatever, under good instruction, should master drawing sufficiently in a year or two at most, sometimes in a few months, for a working knowledge, to be combined with painting for the second half of the time. But no very interesting or valuable result is attained without a full measure of this discipline. Better a little more than is necessary than not quite enough."

Note: White studied at the Art Students League in the 1880s, as he puts it: "in the antique class under George de Forest Brush, who was a pupil of Gérôme and in the life class under Kenyon Cox, who was a pupil of Gérôme and Carolus Duran. Both artists were consummate draftsmen and their criticisms were severe. They held us to the highest standards. In addition, my teacher in painting was Dwight W. Tryon who had studied in Paris for five years in the highly specialized and very select school of Jacquesson de la Chevreuse who was a favorite pupil of Ingres. So I imbibed a triple extract, so to speak, of the best French tradition. It was a potent and ineradicable distillation that has served me well, both in the practice of painting and in teaching."

"On Drawing and Painting," by Henry C. White, 1944

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Electron Microscope Images

(Link to YouTube) The way things look at a tiny scale seems so alien, but so logical at the same time.
There are so many repeating textures of a fractal, organic nature, but very few straight lines or right angles. By scaling up those forms you can provide a lot of originality to your concept art.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Illustration Magazine

The new issue of Illustration Magazine (#61) has a cover feature on Earl Moran, who created pin-up and glamour illustrations in pastel. There's also a feature on Thomas Nast, one of the pioneers of political cartooning. The third article features illustrations from the frontier of the American West. 
80 pages, full color.
Illustration Magazine

Monday, August 27, 2018

A Farrier in Action

At the Dutchess County Fair yesterday, the farriers competed to make a perfect horseshoe. They had exactly one hour to create a standard shoe design, starting with a straight, rectangular bar of steel.

An hour was about right for me to try to capture a keyframe of the action. I watched Pennsylvania farrier Elmer Glick wielding his two-and-a-half pound hammer, which was moving so fast I had to paint it as a blur.

From where I was standing in the middle of the tent, he was lit by cool light spilling in from the sides. I contrived the background tones to be darker on the right side of his silhouette. That made his hair and his shirt stand out light against dark. I lightened the background on the left side to make his face and hammer read clearly.

This video (link to YouTube video, jump ahead to 2:35 for farrier only) gives a sense of the controlled chaos and energy of the moment. By the way, can everyone see these embedded Facebook videos?
For more about painting people in natural settings, check out my video tutorial, Portraits in the Wild.

"I loved how genuine these videos are. James doesn't hide anything. When his subject walks away, he shows us how he deals with it to save the painting."
—Stan Prokopenko,

"Insightful, direct and inspiring, Portraits in the Wild brilliantly shares James Gurney's creative process of capturing those fleeting moments of beauty that life provides.”
—Edward Jonas, Chair, Portrait Society of America

Download (66 minutes, 1080p HD widescreen MP4 video) Available at Gumroad and Sellfy for $14.95
DVD (NTSC widescreen with slideshow) Available from and from Amazon.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Alois Erdtelt, German Painting Teacher

Portrait by Alois Erdtelt (German, 1851-1911)
Alois Erdtelt was a painter in Munich, notable for teaching many women artists, including Maria Slavona, Ida Gerhardi, Ivana KobilcaRosa Pfäffinger, and Hedwig Weiß. Links take you to Wiki pages about those students. 
More about Alois Erdtelt at Wikipedia.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Ernesto de la Cárcova (1866-1927)

A man looks out the window of his modest home at the idled factory in the industrial southside of Buenos Aires. His left hand is clenched on the table beside his useless tools. There's no bread on the table and his wife and baby are hungry.
Ernesto de la Cárcova (1866-1927)
Sin pan y sin trabajo (Without Bread and Without Work)
1894, Oil on canvas, 125.5 x 216 cm (49.4" x 85") 
This work of social commentary is by Argentinian artist Ernesto de la Cárcova. He studied art in Turin under Giacomo Grosso, and then with Antonio Mancini in Rome. This painting was celebrated as a great achievement at the Salon.

He returned to Argentina at 28 years of age, where his work evolved to include florals, portraits, and landscapes.

Figure study, oil
More info about Ernesto de la Cárcova:
Wikipedia entry
National Museum of Fine Arts, Argentina.
"Art Expert" website

Friday, August 24, 2018

Review of "Painting Animals from Life"

I'm honored to see the thoughtful review that Charley Parker gave to "Painting Animals from Life" on the art blog 'Lines and Colors':
"It’s fascinating and instructive to see the paintings proceed from initial sketch to that indistinct state of rough shapes and then through levels of refinement. Unlike many instructional painting videos, in which the painter appears to masterfully know where every stroke will go without hesitation, Gurney lets us see a much more realistic process, in which even a highly experienced painter will search and experiment and correct in the process of finding a path to the final painting." Read the rest...


Review on "Lines and Colors"

Digital download:
69 minutes Widescreen, MP4 video. 
at Sellfy
at Gumroad 
at Cubebrush 

Skybax Toy Prototype

When the Dinotopia movie was in development at Columbia/Sony in 1996, the Hasbro company produced prototypes of a proposed toy line that never went into production. Here is a Barbie-sized Sylvia aboard her skybax.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Frank Calderon's Animal Academy

What would an ideal animal-painting academy look like?

William Frank Calderon (1865-1943) founded a school of animal painting in London in the 1890s. He and his students worked from live animals.

"The studio bustled with horses, dogs, cats, goats and the occasional donkey. At one time, he had five regular dog models, including a fox terrier, an Irish wolfhound, a foxhound and a Russian wolfhound. Students were also encouraged to visit the Zoological Gardens and sketch the animals in natural poses and study the anatomy of their chosen subject."

 "Calderon also set up a summer school in West Sussex which became a focal point for animal painters who called there both to hone their skills under his guidance and enjoy some time in the country."
"Mr. Calderon warmly encourages the practice of making a number of spirited sketches of a series of chance poses, any one of which can be afterwards worked up if required into a finished picture, the student meanwhile gaining a knowledge of her subject which the most elaborate painting of the model standing in one position for an hour could never give." 
A private trial, 1890 by Frank Calderon
"He also had a cast room consisting of plaster snakes, monkeys, armadillos and sheep, and endless horses and dogs, to special parts, such as heads and paws of lions and tigers – as well as many anatomically set up animal skeletons and casts of partial dissections, made by an expert, of a horse and of a calf with the outside skins removed."

"In 1911 he built a new school in conjunction with his own private house and studio at Kensington. The school was highly influential and many of the great 20th century horse and animal painters studied there. Among his students were Cecil Aldin, Lionel Edwards, Alfred Munnings, Lady Helena Gleichen, Frederick Whiting and George Studdy, besides a good many, who, with already-established reputations came to him from time to time for the special purpose of studying animals. Calderon had a thorough understanding of anatomy and published 'Animal Painting and Anatomy' in 1936, [which] was reprinted in 1975."
(Foregoing quotes are taken from various resources listed below:)


Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Portrait of a Blue-Ribbon Cow

"Oakmere Madmax Shasta" is my model for a watercolor sketch.  

To make my job simpler, I paint her without her rope halter. She's tied up to her stall with enough slack to move around.

As you can see in the video, she is in constant motion compared to a person posing in an art studio. But after watching her for a while, I notice that she returns to a base pose every few minutes. 

There are a lot of animals to sketch at the Dutchess County Fair, which is taking place through Sunday August 26, 2018 in Rhinebeck, New York. (Link to video on Facebook)

Check out my video tutorial: "Painting Animals in the Wild

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Scrubbing Down a Belgian Horse

The Belgian draft horses get their bath before the Dutchess County Fair, which starts today. (Link to video) I'm using a basic palette of primaries in gouache, and using the paint transparently in the early stages.

Having the option of using white gouache gives me the freedom to adjust and correct the shapes and to add overlapping details, such as the wash tub at the lower right.
To watch more paintings like this take shape, check out my new video, Painting Animals from Life.

69 minutes Widescreen, MP4 video. 
DVD at Amazon

Monday, August 20, 2018

Whistler: 'Color is a Splendid Bride"

James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), writing in a letter to his friend Henri Fantin-LaTour, compares color to a bride that needs to be mastered by a strong husband. It says as much about his view of women and marriage as it does about his approach to color. 

"Drawing, by Jove! Color— color is vice. Certainly it can be and has the right to be one of the finest virtues. Grasped with a strong hand, controlled by her master, Drawing, Color is a splendid bride with a husband worthy of her—her lover but her master, too—the most magnificent mistress in the world, and the result is to be seen in all the lovely things produced from this union. But coupled with indecision, with a weak, timid, vicious drawing, easily satisfied, color becomes a jade making game of her mate, you know, and abusing him just as she pleases, taking the thing lightly so long as she has a good time, treating her unfortunate companion like a duffer who bores her—which is just what he does. And look at the result; a chaos of intoxication, of trickery, regret, unfinished things. Well, enough of this. It explains the immense amount of work I am now doing. I have been teaching myself thus for a year and more, and I am sure that I shall make up the wasted time. But— but—what labor and pain!”

The letter also shows that behind his brash and confident exterior, Whistler was plagued with doubts about where the pursuit of realism had brought the art of painting.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

F.R. Gruger on Illustration

Frederic Rodrigo Gruger (1871-1953) was a prolific illustrator for the newspapers and story magazines. He wrote an inspiring essay on the topic of "Illustration" for the 1929 edition of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica. Part of his essay addresses the challenge that photography presents to the artist.

All art in this post by Frederic R. Gruger
"The camera has gone into every corner of the world and has brought back cold, precise facts. The reporter and the investigator have gone wherever the camera has gone; they have come home with more facts, and with explanations of the camera's pictures. This is knowledge; the newspapers and magazines send it to everybody. The important question to the artist, no matter whether he paint pictures for the galleries or make them for the magazines, is: what have this widespread knowledge and the countless photographs got to do with him? Shall he go into competition with the camera? The camera in the hands of an artist-photographer is a formidable opponent. Can he meet it on its own terms, on its own ground? He cannot. In a fraction of a second it will defeat his labour of weeks.

"The taste of the world demands pictures. It demands paintings, illustrations, photographs; it has seemed to declare definitely when and where it desires to see one or another. It would appear, then, that the painting and illustration has something the photograph lacks. On the other hand when people desire to see in a picture what is lacking in painting or illustration they turn to the photograph The camera can only report what is before it; it can report with exceeding beauty, at times, but it can only report. The artist can create and he can select from the manifold beauties of nature what he will, to incorporate with his creation. To the artist then, it would seem that the deliberate message of the world appears to be that he is expected to create and to let the camera report.

"Illustration may become a great art, but to become a great art it must be creative. It cannot hope to compete with the camera in the reporting of facts. It has no business with the outer shell of things at all. It deals with the spirit. Dealing with the psychological aspects is a great opportunity and a serious handicap. Presupposing a pictorial presentation of the relations of people, the telling of the story is inevitable. A great and simple story, akin to truth, or a poor and trivial one, akin to meagre facts, may be told of the same incident depending upon the insight, the vision of the artist. The nature of the story portrayed is the measure of the artist who portrays it. It makes no difference that he may be most accomplished in his craft. Though he may draw with marvelous skill, though his composition be perfect, though his detail be faultless, if his conception is trivial and his thought upon it slight, then his technical excellences betray him the more and his work is a mere virtuosity, empty and meaningless.

"If the illustrator has not parallel experience with the writer, he cannot march beside him, but must follow, presenting inconsequential, quasi-photographic, external repetitions, a faint accompaniment, indeed of what the author has written. The illustrator must be a person of wide knowledge, that he may have understanding; of wide sympathy, that he may know the people whom he is to picture; of creative imagination that the story may be real in his vision. To maintain such an ideal in the face of the difficulties which confront him is almost impossible, and necessitates a rare devotion to his work."
Quote is from The Encyclopaedia Britannica 1929 - 14th Edition
There's no Wikipedia article on Frederic R. Gruger, so I invite one of you to create one.
The main monograph on Gruger is: Golden Age of American Illustration: F. R. Gruger and His Circle
Previously: Memory Games of Artist-Reporters

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Kim Jung Gi explains his thinking

Korean artist Kim Jung Gi is well known for his fabulously complex ink drawings, which he creates in impromptu settings before live audiences.

What's not as well known is what he's thinking as he creates them. This short documentary explores his working process via an subtitled interview. He talks about how he uses visual memory and what he's trying to accomplish in the realm of imaginative drawing in Korea and beyond. (Link to YouTube)
Book with Kim Jung Gi's artwork
Kim Jung Gi Sketch Collection, 2103
Books that include Kim Jung Gi's work with others
Terada Katsuya + Kim Jung Ill illustrations collection
Sketching from the Imagination: Characters
Masters of Sketching

Keeping a Daily Sketchbook

For many years, Samantha Dion Baker, a Brooklyn-based graphic designer and illustrator has been maintaining a daily commitment to sketching her life.

She reflects each day's errands and discoveries in the form of pen and watercolor sketches, enriched by a combination of written notes and hand lettering. 

Now she has written a book designed to encourage others to do so. The book starts off making the case for the benefits of a regular drawing practice, and then discusses materials and methods. A series of chapters tackles subjects in turn: signage, weather, nature, architecture, quotes, everyday objects, food and drinks, animals, and people.  

You can also get a blank "Draw Your Day Sketchbook" where each page spread has a small spot illustration and a prompt to get you going, such as "Do you have a favorite mug that you drink your coffee or tea out of in the morning? Draw your mug here."

Friday, August 17, 2018

How Stubbs Did His Horse Dissections

George Stubbs (1724-1806) was the first artist to do a thorough dissection of the horse for the benefit of artists. He found an isolated farmhouse away from curious neighbors where he could carry out the work.

(If you are squeamish, you may prefer to skip this blogpost.)

Dissecting a horse is not an easy task, because a horse cadaver is very large and heavy, and it won't stand up on its own. Fortunately, Stubbs was the son of a tanner, and was accustomed to dealing with carcasses. According to a book on his anatomical works:
"The horses which Stubbs used for his dissection were killed by bleeding from the jugular vein, a process which avoided damaging the carcass. The vascular system was then injected with warm tallow to preserve the course of the vessels and make them more visible as the dissection proceeded.
 "These preliminaries complete, the carcass was slung from the roof beams by iron hooks fixed to a bar of the same metal and thrust through the rib cage below the spine on the side opposite the one being dissected. The iron bar was attached to a tackle and suspended so that the horse's feet just touched the ground and the anatomist could have ready access to all parts. Dissection began with the abdominal muscles and worked down to the peritoneum and pleura covering the gut and lungs, at which point the viscera were discarded.... 
"Work on each specimen apparently occupied between six and seven weeks, and in one instance eleven weeks, but no mention is made of the method of preservation. No doubt Stubbs did most of his dissecting during the colder months of the year, or he may have used vinegar as a crude method of arresting decay, but the work can never have been easy or pleasant. The size of the animal and the enormous care needed for accurate dissection and drawing at each stage would have made work very slow, and inevitably a powerful stench could not have been avoided."

Quote from Anatomical Works of George Stubbs by Terence Doherty, Godine, 1975.
Also check out: The Anatomy of the Horse (Dover Anatomy for Artists)

Painting Animals from Life
69 minutes Widescreen, MP4 video. 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Hooray for Librarians

Here are Nallab and Enit, Dinotopia’s librarians. Tell me in the comments if a library or a librarian helped make you who you are. For me, the Brand library in Glendale, California was the lifeline to early art instruction books that I used to teach myself in the pre-internet era.
from Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time signed on my website. Also available on Amazon

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Thunderstorm Coming

A hard rain is coming. If I don't finish soon, my gouache painting will be ruined. (Link to video on Facebook)

Thomas Fluharty's Blue Drawings

I don't often recommend Kickstarter campaigns, but this one looks irresistible. Thomas Fluharty has an original vision for caricature and exaggeration, especially in his Indigo blue Prismacolor pencil drawings. He's doing his first Kickstarter campaign to produce a book that showcases his blue drawings, along with the joyful wisdom that drives them. I'm a backer.
(Link to Kickstarter)

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Stop-Motion Short "Burnt"

“In a scorched desert forest, three damaged plant creatures encounter something green.”(Link to Vimeo)  Via Cartoon Brew

Deep Structure of a Horse's Leg

“It’s amazing to watch him get right in there and start drawing with his brush. After that, the looseness of his blocking is wonderful because he knows where it’s going and he’s not afraid to just let the process play itself out.” 
—Aaron Blaise, co-director of Disney’s Brother Bear and founder of

69 minutes Widescreen, MP4 video. 
Digital download: