Sunday, September 30, 2018

Wyeth's Rockland Paintings

The Farnsworth Art Museum is currently exhibiting a group of paintings that Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009) produced in Rockland, Maine, where the museum is located.

Andrew Wyeth, Rockland Harbor, 1954
The paintings show a variety of water media techniques, including scratch-through, wet-into-wet washes, and scumbling. Many of the painting are framed up and shown here for the first time.

Wyeth, detail of Harjula's Airport, 1964
Wyeth takes great care in drawing and perspective, but he's very selective, focusing only on the part of the scene he wants to show. This biplane is only a small area of the overall composition, and it is carefully observed but efficiently described.  

Here's a detail of "The Slip," showing a two-masted schooner in dry dock, surrounded by grass. The painting is listed as a "drybrush watercolor," a term popularized by the Wyeths to include some opaque white gouache passages. The term is a little misleading, because the pigment isn't necessarily applied dry.

There's also an exhibition called NC Wyeth: Poems of American Patriotism at the nearby Wyeth Center, part of the Farnsworth Art Museum.
Museum website: Andrew Wyeth in Rockland through February 17, 2019.
Online article: Andrew Wyeth's Rockland: Boats, Planes, and Trains
Recommended books:
Andrew Wyeth: Looking Out, Looking In
Andrew Wyeth: A Secret Life
Andrew Wyeth, Christina's World, and the Olson House
Andrew Wyeth: A Spoken Self-Portrait

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Can I Mix Different Brands of Gouache?

Rei asks:
Is it alright to mix gouache of different brands? I have some Winsor and Newton gouache in primary colors, but am interested in trying other brands because of the differences in ingredients, to see what best works for me. Would I be able to mix my white and black W and N gouache with other brands and have an okay turnout? I am not certain because of the ingredients, and would rather not buy paints if they will not mix well with the Winsor and Newton I already own.

Yes you can, Rei, absolutely! I always mix different brands of gouache.

Not only can you mix different brands of gouache, but you can also mix your gouache with watercolors. They're all water based, of course, and both the gouache and watercolors use the same binder, which is gum arabic.

I sometimes start a picture in transparent watercolor and bring in the opaque gouache gradually as I need it, to cover up mistakes, add accents, or flatten passages.

I have even combined transparent watercolor pigments with acrylic matte medium to create an impermeable glazing layer over a casein painting. But be careful of your brushes if you use any acrylic, casein, or cel vinyl in any mixture because those binders will wreck a brush if it dries with paint on it. As always, I'd recommend that you do experiments on test scraps and see what happens with different combinations.

As for which brands to mix with your primaries, I would recommend Holbein's gouache set, M. Graham's watercolor or gouache sets, or the gouache set by Daler Rowney. To read more about kinds of gouache, check my previous post: Gouache Ingredients from Manufacturers.
PDF of Recommended Gouache Materials

Friday, September 28, 2018

Science Fiction Exhibit in Denmark Opens Today

"Ex Machina" film still ©2015 Universal
Opening today in Odense, Denmark: A major museum exhibition called "Into the Unknown: A Journey Through Science Fiction," with 6 major Dinotopia paintings. Through Feb. 17, 2019.

Curators say: "Science fiction is responsible for some of the world’s most iconic films, music, literature and art. In the wake of the Star Wars and Alien blockbusters, a constant stream of films, games and books continues to transport us to new planets and galaxies, and into the distant future. But how did the genre arise at the end of the 18th century? And why has it become so popular with people of all ages?"

"This exhibition is the ultimate genre-defining exploration of science fiction, delving into its storytelling beginnings to discover how visionary creators have captured imaginations around the world. Visitors will encounter rare pieces, such as vintage comics and advertisements promoting Soviet visions of space, alongside well-loved classics, including maquettes from Jurassic Park and the original Darth Vader and Stormtrooper helmets from Star Wars."

Paint-A-Cell-Tower Challenge

Lattice-type or SST (self-supporting tower) tower, gouache
I painted this cell tower yesterday in gouache. (Link to FB video)

Sometimes cell towers seem beautiful and delicate to me, like Christmas trees. But sometimes they look ominous, like Martian stilt-robots watching over us. That's how this one looked, against a stormy sky.

Here's what I was looking at. As you can see, I had to move elements around to make the cell tower more prominent.

I'd like to invite you to paint a cell tower for the Paint-a-Cell-Tower Challenge.

• Free to enter. No entry fee.
• The composition can include the scene around the cell tower, but the tower itself itself must be a key part of the scene.
• You can paint an independent tower or other carrier (such as a water tower, smokestack, or building top) covered with antennas.
• Post your entries on this Facebook Event page.
• Five finalists will each receive a "Department of Art" patch and a free tutorial download.
• Must be painted outdoors, or at least mostly outdoors.
• You can focus on the ordinary aspects, the sublime aspects, the technical insights, the ugliness, or the beauty. Just make it interesting.
• All painting media accepted, such as oil, watercolor, acrylic, gouache, acryla-gouache, alkyd, casein, or water-soluble colored pencils.
• No limits on palette of colors.
• Enter just one piece. If you do two pieces, please upload your favorite.
• You can enter as soon as you finish the piece, but no later than the deadline: Wednesday, November 7, 2018. Winners will be announced on this page and on my blog GurneyJourney on Wednesday, November 14.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Lecture and Workshop Coming Up in Connecticut

I'll be giving a lecture called "How I Paint Dinosaurs: Art, Science, and Imagination" on Tuesday, October 9, 2018 — 6:30pm - 8:00pm at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut. It's free for Museum members and students with ID; nonmembers $15.  

The day before the lecture, on Monday, October 8, I'll be offering a workshop called "Techniques for Science Illustration."  Participate in an art workshop led by James Gurney, using water-soluble colored pencils, watercolors, and gouache to depict real museum specimens. Materials will be provided, but attendees may bring their own portable water-media setup if preferred. Suggested for participants age 12 and up. Slots are very limited, so early registration is suggested.

Members $40; non-members $55. The Museum is open at 6:00 pm. Reservations required.
Links: Lecture: Reservations at the Bruce Museum website @GurneyJourney
Workshop: Art Workshop: Techniques for Science Illustration

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Painting at Pemaquid Point

I had resolved to avoid the familiar subjects here in Maine—things like lighthouses, fishing boats, and waves crashing on rocks. But I was beguiled by the power of the waves at Pemaquid Point, and couldn't resist painting it in gouache.

In the video, I thought I'd try a slightly different kind of voiceover, sort of a video essay that considers the relationship between abstraction and realism. (Link to video on YouTube).

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

100k on Instagram

100k on Instagram! Thanks to everyone who follows my daily serving of color, light, and Dinotopia.

Check it out if you haven't already: @jamesgurneyart on Instagram  (Link to video on YouTube)

Monday, September 24, 2018

Painting Andrew Wyeth's Nephew

In Cushing, Maine, we visit the Olson House, where Andrew Wyeth's painted "Christina's World." (Link to Facebook for video)  

David Rockwell, Andrew Wyeth's nephew, gouache
Wyeth's nephew David Rockwell was sitting in the dining room. He's the son of Betsy's sister, and he spent a great deal of time growing up in the company of his uncle Andy and Christina Olson. As he shares photos and memories, I sketch his portrait in gouache.

At an early stage the portrait looks like a roughly shaped lump of clay. The background is transparent and the paint is a bit more opaque on the face.

The lighting is a form of split lighting, with cool window light from the left and warm light from the right, leaving the dark planes in the center of the face.
To visit the Olson House you'll need a ticket from the Farnsworth Art Museum
Wikipedia on Olson HouseAndrew Wyeth, and Christina's World
Video Tutorial: Portraits in the Wild download
All the DVDs direct from the manufacturer's warehouse

Sunday, September 23, 2018

The Mysterious Gulper Eel

Marine biologists respond in awe as a gulper eel (Eurypharynx pelecanoides) inflates its pouch-like mouth, apparently as a defensive strategy (link to YouTube).

This is one of the first clear videos of the gulper eel, shot from a deep-sea rover on a previously unexplored seamount at the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, northwest of Hawaii.

Also called a pelican eel because of its expandable jaws, the gulper has a light-emitting organ on the tip of its tail and can grow up to 6 feet long.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Book Review: The Profitable Artist

Artists want to create work that is original and relevant, but we also want to make a living doing it. 

A handbook called "The Profitable Artist" is designed to help us succeed with the business aspects of our journey. It focuses primarily on marketing, law, finance, strategic planning, grant writing, and pricing. This second edition has been updated to include some basic common-sense advice on social media, crowdfunding, and some new information on launching start-ups.  

The book gives an overview of general contract issues facing not only visual artists but also writers and performing artists. It touches on gallery art, but doesn't get into the business details of specific sectors of visual arts, such as illustration, publishing (or self-publishing), concept art, or animation, and it's not a pricing guide or a book of sample contracts. Without that granular information, it has some value as an introductory guide, but not as a reference book.

Recommended books that focus more on detailed business issues faced by visual artists include:
Kirsch's Handbook of Publishing Law: For Authors, Publishers, Editors and Agents
Business and Legal Forms for Fine Artists
Art, Inc.: The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist
If you're already published as an author, you can join the Author's Guild, which has a lot of helpful printed guides and services to help with publishing contracts.
The Profitable Artist: A Handbook for All Artists in the Performing, Literary, and Visual Arts, published by the New York Foundation for the Arts, a non-profit that supports

Friday, September 21, 2018

Gertrude Fiske

The paintings of Gertrude Fiske (American 1879-1961) are being featured at the Portsmouth Historical Society in New Hampshire. 

Fiske was a student and then a colleague of American Impressionists Edmund C. Tarbell, Frank Benson, Philip Hale, and Charles Woodbury. 

Woman at Work, 1910
Her paintings feature portraits, genre scenes, florals and landscapes, composed with an eye to simple and expressive value organization. As with other American Impressionists, she has a refined sense of edges, capturing a sense of mystery and poetry.

She passed up several opportunities to marry, preferring her independence. She maintained friendships with fellow painters known as “The Pine Hill Girls.” Her work won many prizes in her day.

Some of her paintings include "character portraits" where older models posed as representatives of occupations.
Gertrude Fiske: American Master will be on show at the Portsmouth Historical Society in New Hampshire through the end of September, 2018. Admission is free.
There's a catalog: Gertrude Fisk: American Master

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Painting a Cranberry Isle Skiff in Watercolor

This skiff from Cranberry Island in Maine is parked out in front of the The Carpenter's Boat Shop.

This behind-the-scenes video shows the how and why. (Link to YouTube)

The Carpenter's Boat Shop is a community that nourishes teams of apprentices, who work with master boatbuilders to learn time-honored skills.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Painting on Main Street in Maine

Mid-September is a great time for painting in Maine. The summer crowds have gone home and the leaf peepers aren't here yet. 

We're staying in the mid-coast region. I'll start off by painting Main Street, Damariscotta. (Link to video on YouTube)

Art Supplies:
Titanium White (M. Graham)
Raw Sienna (M. Graham):
Terra Rosa (M. Graham)
Peacock Blue (Shinhan Pass)
Rowney Blue (Daler-Rowney)
Pentalic watercolor sketchbook
Travel brush set

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

World's Oldest Drawing?

Colored marks on a stone found a cave in South Africa may be the oldest drawing in the world. National Geographic reports that the red-ochre lines are 73,000 years old, nearly 30,000 years older than the oldest cave art.
"Inside the cave, scientists have found other evidence of Homo sapiens being crafty from as far back as a hundred thousand years ago. Discoveries so far include perforated shells that archaeologists think were used as beads; tools and spear points; pieces of bone and ocher with scratched faces; and a group of artifacts that seems to point to production of a liquid form of ocher pigment. The discovery shows 'that drawing was part of the behavioral repertoire' of early humans, the researchers write. If people were making paints, stringing beads, engraving patterns on bones, and drawing, then they were behaviorally modern as early as 70,000 years ago, and perhaps earlier."

Nat Geo: "73,000-Year-Old Doodle May Be World's Oldest Drawing"

Monday, September 17, 2018


Costumbrism—or Costumbrismo in Spanish—is a movement of painting in Spain that emphasized scenes dramatized from ordinary life, with a focus on the customs of common people.

Penitents at the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, 1874 Museo del Prado
José Aranda Jiménez (Spanish 1837-1903) was an example of the trend, which was inspired by photography and the movement for realism.

José Jiménez Aranda, A Disaster, 1890
Jiménez studied in Spain, Rome, and Paris. He staged his scenes like a movie director would, with a sense of drama and mystery.

Conversation in a Sevillan Courtyard
According to a Armand Gouzien, writing in 1930: "In the folklore paintings of Jiménez Aranda we admire the knowledge and cleverness of the composition, the acute study of the types, the truthfulness of the attitudes, the elegance of the finish, and the perfection of the drawing."

"His pictures are masterpieces of observation, with the serenity of descriptive works”. 

Aureliano de Beruete said of him: "the most important thing “(…) even more than technical execution, (is) the clarity of the scene represented." 

Figure study by José Jiménez Aranda
Costumbrismo on Wikipedia
José Jiménez Aranda on Wikipedia

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Julius C. Rolshoven

Julius C. Rolshoven, Model Reclining and Reading a Sketchbook
Julius Rolshoven (1858-1930) was a Detroit-born artist who studied in Europe. He is best known for his paintings of women and Native Americans.

He joined a group of high-spirited artists called the "Duveneck Boys" in Florence, enchanted by Titian, Veronese, and Tintoretto. He bought and fixed up a dilapidated Tuscan castle known as "The Tower of the Devils."

He bounced around Europe for a while, studying in Paris, and finally landed in the Taos art colony in New Mexico.
Read the biography at the Gerald Peters Gallery
Wikipedia article on Julius Rolshoven

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Carlos de Haes

According to Wikipedia, Carlos de Haes (Belgian/Spanish, 1829–1898) "believed that the end result of art should be the truth found in the imitation of nature, the source of all beauty."

"The painter should imitate nature as closely as possible, and to do so, you must know nature and not rely on imagination. Leaving behind Romanticism, he was early to embrace the en plein air style, working from outdoor preparatory sketches which were completed within a workshop."
Carlos de Haes on Wikipedia

Friday, September 14, 2018

Summer Foliage

Summer foliage by Aaron Draper Shattuck (1832-1928)
I'm out painting today, but I'd like to offer a study by A.D. Shattuck, one of the later Hudson River School artists:
"Described as affable and inventive---he held several patents, including one for metal stretcher keys found on the backs of paintings---Shattuck was also sensitive to his environs, capturing the subtlest nuances of pastoral landscapes in his oils."
Aaron Draper Shattuck (1832-1928)
Best book on Shattuck and his contemporaries: The New Path

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Gruger on Composition

Following are some thoughts about composition by Frederic Gruger, from his 1929 article on "Illustration" in the Encyclopaedia Brittanica.

"The outward form given to an inward vision depends upon composition. Technical skill merely develops that outward form and is governed by composition which, in its character, must possess the emotional meaning of the vision and speak directly to the emotions. It has been said that the artist struggled with nature to learn the laws of composition, and after that he devised rules for it. One should know, then, the fundamental natural law so that he may, at need, disregard the rules.

"The meaning of emotional character of form in composition may be illustrated by referring directly to human experience. Mankind has looked with awe upon the mountains for countless generations. The effort to cross them taxes his utmost powers and has cost much in pain and death.

"The vast pyramidal forms of mountains stand in his imagination as a sign of majesty. In composition the pyramidal form is used sparingly, only when the emotion of majesty, of grandeur, is to be conveyed.

"Man has long looked upon tall trees with respect and has endowed them with personalities; he has bowed low before temples stately with tall columns. Tall lines in composition are used to express dignity.

"The sombre greys of storm clouds, full of thunder, have terrified us since the infancy of the race Cloud forms, subtly introduced into a composition, suggest impending evil.
Quote is from The Encyclopaedia Britannica 1929 - 14th Edition
The main monograph on Gruger is: Golden Age of American Illustration: F. R. Gruger and His Circle
Memory Games of Artist-Reporters
Gruger on Illustration

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Tyranny of First Decisions

Heather, a fine-arts student from Oklahoma, asks:

How have you overcome roadblocks in your creative process to create works that meet your artistic goals?
Almost every artistic project has roadblocks. Some are from the outside and hard to control, such as a requirement from your publisher, a demand from your gallery, or if you're painting outside, bad weather. Some are internal, such as doubts or bad habits or other psychological barriers you have to get beyond.

The hardest roadblocks to overcome are initial creative decisions that seemed good at the time, but which turn out to be flawed thinking. I call this problem the "tyranny of first decisions." That might be as simple as choosing a vertical 36" x 24" linen canvas for your portrait, or it might be as bad as the decision to make a live-action adaptation of Popeye. The final product will be the offspring of the very first choice that you make, and nothing later will fix it. Those problems are hard to address because they're hard to recognize. The problems that issue from the first decisions aren't evident until later in the process. Until you recognize the problems and face them, you can't correct them. 

Sometimes getting past a roadblock means starting over entirely. Sometimes it means fixing something mid-stream. Knowing what can be changed and how it can be changed isn't easy, even for an experienced artist. You have to be honest with yourself, or ask a friend to give you feedback at various stages. Most mistakes can be fixed if you catch them in time.

What is something (perhaps a habit, a learning experience, or an inspirational figure) that you feel has helped you on your road to be a successful professional artist?
At an early age, I ran across a book about Norman Rockwell, where he described his process in great detail. He showed his thumbnail sketches, posed models, comprehensive drawings, and color sketches leading to the final painting. I realized that every big task can be broken down into meaningful steps, solving one problem at a time. If you approach the making of a picture or the development of an illustrated book in that way, you're almost guaranteed of a successful result. As Rockwell did, I put up in my studio a little sign that says "100%" to remind myself to make a full effort on every step and to trust the process.
Best two books on Rockwell's process, by the man himself:
Rockwell on Rockwell: How I Make a Picture
Norman Rockwell Illustrator

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

A.I. systems that generate photo-real video

Computer networks are getting pretty good at synthesizing video from fragmentary sources, as shown in this latest production from Two-Minute Papers (link to YouTube).

Photo-realistic expressions at right are generated
purely from the line drawings at left. Source
The generative adversarial networks can effectively create video from animated line drawings, as in the still frame above. They're also getting better at classifying the elements of a scene into its various components and translating one class of objects into another. So, for example, a tree-lined street can be changed so that it's lined with buildings instead, or vice versa.

This latest iteration does so without as many weird jumps or gaps.
Read the scientific paper here as a PDF

Monday, September 10, 2018

Cowboys, Tractors, and Robots

I transform a tractor into a robot with the help of Wyoming cowboys Tom Lucas and John Finley. (Link to YouTube video).

I start the painting in gouache and finish in casein. 

Farmwife on myYouTube channel, says:
"Nice work. I like that you see the value and beauty in the workings of the farm. We have a gifted 1945 Massey and my husband did some work so it works for cutting and such. Ours isn't painted yet, next summer. We also have a 1950 Farmall M that he overhauled, not repainted but that old work horse is road and farm ready. He'd love to get hold of that diesel Farmall. My husband is a retired farmer if there I such a thing, farmers do not retire but our horse stable did. He is also a farm machinery mechanic so our property sports all manner of old tractors and parts. As soon as one tractor moves on out, another appears, seems to be no end to old farm machinery since farmers do not scrap their tractors no matter the condition. I have to admit though that I wish some of them would transform into robots and make their way down the road!"

See it in print
This painting will be featured in the upcoming book, Nuthin' But Mech 4, which releases on September 15. So if you want to see it in print, that's the place to get it.

More Resources
Web article about the actual autonomous robot cowboy "Swagbot" 
YouTube Video: Making robot maquettes from foam
Video tutorial: "Fantasy in the Wild: Painting Concept Art on Location":
Digital download (HD MP4):
DVD (NTSC Region 1)
DVD on Amazon

Canon PowerShot Elph (point-and-shoot)


Thanks to the SKB Workshop, where I did this painting.