Sunday, March 31, 2019

Was Zorn an Impressionist?

Swedish artist Anders Zorn working on his
painting Mora Marknad (The Mora Fair) 1892.
Blog reader Mel Gibsokarton translated some memoirs of Russian painter Konstantin Korovin, which included this story of Anders Zorn (Swedish, 1860-1920) in Russia.

Zorn had joined a group of dignitaries for a polite evening that included the artists Korovin and Polenov, the Governor of Moscow, and a lot of high-society ladies. They were all interested in meeting the famous artist-foreigner.

As they gathered around the great round table to drink tea, one of the ladies declared:

"'I tell you, the paintings these days,' one lady said. 'Awful! All brushstrokes and brushstrokes, it doesn’t make sense. Horrible. I have been to an exhibition in Petersburg lately. They said, these are the Impressionists. A haystack is drawn, and, just imagine, blue… Impossible, awful. We have hay, and, I think, everywhere. Green, is it not? And his is blue! And yet more brushstrokes and brushstrokes… A famous, they say, artist-impressionist, Frenchman. It’s God knows what! But I'm glad you are not an Impressionist. Hopefully, we don’t have them and thank God.'"

"'I see,' Zorn blinked somewhat uneasily. 'Yes. But Velasquez is also an impressionist, my lady,' he said.

"'Really?,' the ladies were surprised.

"'Yes, and he' (Zorn pointed at me) 'is an impressionist.'

"'You don't say, really?' The ladies were surprised again. 'But he painted Sophia’s portrait so smoothly!'

"On the road back home Zorn asked me: 'Is this high society?'"

"'Yes,' I said.

"'How strange.'

"Zorn became silent. And the next morning he packed his briefcases and left for his home in Switzerland Sweden."
From the book "Константин Коровин вспоминает..."  (Konstantin Korovin reminisces...) Thanks, Mel.
Book on Zorn: Anders Zorn: Sweden's Master Painter
Wikipedia: Anders Zorn

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Flight of the Ornithopter

I had fun combining visuals from Dinotopia: The World Beneath with a short snippet of the audio adventure by ZBS productions.

Wrap the full production around your ears. Dinotopia: The World Beneath Audio Adventure (2 hours on 2 CDs) with signed bookplate.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Thanks, Bookstr, for including Dinotopia in your list of favorite dinosaur-themed novels. 
Top 5 Coolest Novels Featuring Dinosaurs (That Aren't 'Jurassic Park')
Dinotopia on Amazon

Box Mover "Handle" by Boston Dynamics

Yesterday Boston Dynamics released this video of a robot called "Handle" that can move and stack boxes in a warehouse. While their engineers are still building robots based on the design of humans or quadrupeds, their design evolution has taken them into realms where biological systems can't go. The counterbalance configuration, duo-wheel drivers, and lifting "arm-head" are ingenious departures from vertebrate analogs. (Link to YouTube video)

When the early pioneers of human flight realized that aeroplanes don't need to look and function like birds, they were able to arrive at designs that really worked.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Illustration Magazine #63

I just got my copy of Illustration Magazine #63. In the new issue they focus on the work of Saturday-Evening-Post cover artist Elbert McGran Jackson, whose work is reminiscent of Norman Rockwell and J. C. Leyendecker. The article tells Jackson's life story and evokes the era when illustrators hung out with movie stars and lived in mansions, and their work generated hundreds of letters of sharp-eyed readers. 

The second feature is on Mario Cooper, who used watercolor and dye pigments for his illustrations in Colliers and American Weekly. 

Illustration Magazine #63 is 96 pages and is packed full of color reproductions. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The Fleeting Fame of Anton von Werner

Anton von Werner directed the Prussian Academy of Art in Berlin from 1875 until his death in 1915.
Self portrait of Anton von Werner (1843-1915)
Because his work is associated with German military subjects, he is largely overlooked today. But he was greatly respected in his time. In his memoir, Emil Fuchs (American/Austrian 1866–1929) reflected on von Werner's renown:

Oil studies from life by Anton von Werner
"'The great Anton von Werner,' he was called. It was said of him that he could put more art into the painting of a soldier's boots than others could put into the face. His studio at the Academy was filled to overflowing with patriotic pictures. 

Proclamation of Prussian king Wilhelm I as German Emperor at Versailles,
by Anton von Werner, 1885
"He painted the Proclamation of William the Great as Emperor at Versailles, the Negotiation of Peace at Versailles in which Bismarck forces Thiers to sign the Treaty, and innumerable other historic canvases. 

Illustration by Anton von Werner
"Von Werner was considered an institution in German art second only to the great Menzel, his illustrious contemporary. The Academy was proud of possessing so distinguished a leader. And excellent he doubtless was for that particular post. His speeches at the beginning and end of each term were considered classics of their kind. Even in my brief stay there, two things which he said still linger in my memory. At his opening address he took a piece of chalk, and holding it up, declared:

"'Talent is one. It is the basis of art. Without it any amount of industry is of no value.'

"Then he added a zero and held the one beside it. 'But,' he went on, 'talent and industry combined make ten.' 

"At another time he said, 'Academies are only for mediocrity. They are the crutches upon which art students learn to walk. But some of the students are born with wings—those are the geniuses. To them the academy is only a hindrance.' 

Anton von Werner, The Arrival of King Wilhelm I in Saarbrücken 
on 9th August 1870 (sketch above, finish below)

"When, before starting for Italy, I took leave of him, he gave me another grain from his supply of wisdom: 'If the world praises you, it is good; if it abuses you, that is not bad; but beware if it passes you in silence.' 

"Had anybody told him at that time that his pictures would be almost forgotten even before his death, he would have been astounded. So imbued was he with the sense of his own greatness and importance, with such deference was he treated by the high and lowly, that nothing but eternity could have appeared to him as a possible measure of his fame's duration."
Quote from Emil Fuchs, With Pencil, Brush, and Chisel: The Life of an Artist, 1925
Previously: Detective Storytelling (German soldiers billeted in chateau).
German Wikipedia lists von Werner's work in collections.
Thanks, Christian, Christoph, and Kev. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Jakub Schikaneder: Mood, Mystery, and Murder

Jakub Schikaneder (1855-1924) painted lonely figures in misty, twilight moods.

He was German-Bohemian, and he came from a family that was poor but they loved art. 

Jakub SchikanederMurder in the House, 1890
oil on canvas, 203 × 321 cm - 6 ft 8 x 10 feet 7 in
His painting "Murder in the House" created a sensation when it was exhibited. Visitors studied the evidence in the painting and debated how the girl died and who may have killed her.

The scene takes place at a specific location in the Jewish Quarter of Prague, where the city's poorest inhabitants lived. The young woman lies in a pool of her blood, but there's another pool of blood farther back and a bloody handprint on the wall of the arched passageway.

The group of onlookers show a variety of reactions: there's the shocked maid with clasped hands, the shopkeeper leaning forward, the young man pointing. Is one of them the murderer?

Jakub Schikaneder, study for Murder in the House
Schikaneder made several charcoal studies to work out the pose of the young woman.

In an age before television and movies, paintings captured the imagination of the public with some of the same themes of murder and drama that have always intrigued us.
Jakub Schikaneder is featured in the book Prague 1900: Poetry and Ecstasy

Monday, March 25, 2019

Artist's Magazine Files Bankruptcy

F+W media, publisher of The Artists Magazine, Pastel Journal, Watercolor Artist, Writer's Digest and Interweave Knits has filed for bankruptcy, citing declining print sales and disappointing e-commerce results.  

The actual story appears to be more complex, involving a family selling its profitable business to corporate interests who racked up a lot of debt in dubious ventures and acquisitions. (thanks, Bob).
Publishers Weekly's article on the business travails 
Wikipedia page with full list of magazines
Previously: Your Favorite Art Magazines

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Cube and Checkerboard Illusions

The dark square marked “A” is painted with the identical mixture as the light square marked “B”. (Link to video on Facebook.)

The square marked “A” is painted with the identical color mixture as the square marked “B”. Both are a neutral gray. (Link to video.)

The lesson from both of these diagrams is that our visual system uses context cues to override the raw information that our eyes receive. It's good to keep this rule in mind when estimating the value and the color of objects.

David Briggs, an expert on color theory, did this lecture on color constancy and painting. (Link to YouTube)
From my book "Color and Light: A Guide for The Realist Painter."

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Józef Chełmoński's Wildlife Paintings

Józef Chełmoński (Polish 1849 -1914) studied in Paris and exhibited in the Salon. But after a decade in France, he returned to his homeland in Poland. 

He used his academic skills to paint evocative scenes of the people and the wildlife that he was familiar with. 

One of his best loved paintings shows a group of partridges struggling against the wind, surrounded by the bleak, infinite whiteness of the snow and sky. 

Józef Chełmoński, Partridges, 1891, oil on canvas, National Museum, Warsaw
There's no food or shelter in sight for these small, warm-blooded creatures. The image works on the literal level, but each viewer may identify with it on a figurative meanings, perhaps an expression of human struggle.

Józef Chełmoński , Partridges, detail
The details of their plumage are painted carefully, presumably from actual specimens. Chełmoński creates depth by blurring and obscuring the further individuals.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Your Questions About Gouache

You had some questions on YouTube and Instagram:

Preston asks: Hey James, I want to start painting gouache en plein air. However, I’ve been having some trouble with the colors. I have experience oil painting, but all these gouache colors confuses me. There’s like 3 different types of reds such as “Spectrum Red, Primary Red, and Designer Red”, yet they all look like the same hue. Perhaps they have varying opacities? I plan on just buying Red, Blue, and Yellow with White and Black, and a few Earth Tones. I also plan on building the painting setup you discussed on your blog.

Gurney answers:  I would suggest buying gouache with well-known pigments, such as cadmium red, and avoiding colors with descriptive names like "spectrum red." As you probably know from your oil paints, the pigments are identified by Color Index Names (so cadmium red is PR108), and the reputable brands list pigments on the tubes. There's a website that tells you the pigment numbers. The opacity varies according to the pigment, and in my opinion, it's good to have some gouache pigments that are less opaque to use like watercolor in the lay-in stages.

Gouache is often marketed with "primary colors" or "spectrum colors" because it's so often used in art classes for painting color wheels. I would also beware of the cheap gouache sets that have weak pigment loads or pigments that aren't lightfast.

By the way, here's an interesting video about color pigments. (Link to YouTube)

Brady asks: "I was wondering how you frame a gouache painting once you have completed it. For example, a painting that you finish for a client or plan to put in an art show."

Gurney answers: I would mat and frame your gouache behind glass. You have to protect that delicate surface, because a splash of water, a sneeze, or an oily touch would spoil it. You could use a thin wood or metal photo frame and a generous mat to make the frame look museum-quality. It is possible to varnish gouache and treat it like an oil, but not really recommended, because the beauty of gouache is that matte surface, and a varnish will bring out lots of surprising layers. As always, experiment first!

Jonathan asks: What did you use to tone the paper tan?

Gurney answers: I toned the paper with a thin layer of casein paint (white, yellow ochre, and light red), but you could use Acryla Gouache or tinted gesso, or even brown India ink.

Tom asks: When working with gouache, or casein for that matter, do you wait a little while before folding up the sketchbook to avoid smudging, or does the paint dry sufficiently to allow you to pack up almost immediately? 

Gurney answers: It dries almost immediately (unless it's raining and 100% humidity), so I can pack i it up immediately.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Start a Gouache Landscape with Wild Brushstrokes

Sometimes like to I start a gouache landscape with loose, wild brushstrokes. (Link to YouTube)

Caran d'Ache watercolor pencils
Pentalic watercolor sketchbook
M. Graham gouache Ultramarine blue, terra rosa, yellow ochre, and titanium white.
Richeson casein paint (underpainting)
Travel brush set
Water cup
Homemade easel

Gouache in the Wild (Download on Sellfy):
Gouache in the Wild (Download on Gumroad):
How to Make a Sketch Easel (DVD)

Canon M6 (time lapse, video, and stills)

List of Gouache Materials
List of Watercolor Materials

Color and Light: A Guide for Realist Painters
Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn’t Exist 
Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time:


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Oolu, Skybax Instructor

Here's Oolu, skybax instructor, shown with emblems for master, apprentice, and beginning riders, an illustration from the book Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Glitter Path

A glitter path is a vertical reflection of a very bright light source on water, extending from the horizon straight down to the water near the viewer.

Glitter path, photo by Harald Edens
Typically the source is the sun or moon, so sometimes it's called a "moon-path." The glitter path widens where the water is disturbed, and it narrows in the areas where the water is calmer.

Study by Peder Krøyer
Wavelets present many small reflecting surfaces at a variety of angles. Wherever those surfaces are just the right angle to reflect the sun, a spot or dash of light appears.

The effect fascinated Danish artist Peder Krøyer (1851-1901), who did many studies of it, and included it in some of his most famous paintings.

In Howard Pyle's magical story, The Garden Behind the Moonthe "moon-path" appears one night and a young boy discovers that he can walk out on the water:

"There was the moon-path, and there was the wave, and there was this bar of moonlight right a-top the wave. I stepped out again, and this time I wasn't afraid. This time, would you believe it, I didn't fall into the water at all. All the same I had to jump off that wave on to another, for the moonlight was sliding under my feet. It was as slippery as glass."
BooksHow to Read Water: Clues and Patterns from Puddles to the Sea by Tristan Gooley
The Garden Behind the Moon by Howard Pyle
Online: Glitter Path, explained in Backyard Optics 

Monday, March 18, 2019

Joseph Ducreux's self portraits

Joseph Ducreux (1735 –1802) was a French painter best known for his unusual self-portraits.

He was interested in the study of physiognomy, and wanted to explore expressions that went  beyond the standard ones used in portraiture. 

Some also involve gestures, such as Le Discret (ca. 1790), which shows himself asking for silence.

He studied with Maurice Quentin de La Tour, who was known for his expressive pastel portraits. When Ducreux focused more on oil, his technique was influenced by Jean-Baptiste Greuze.

Portrait de l'artiste sous les traits d'un moqueur, 1793
(Portrait of the Artist in the Guise of Mocking)
When the French Revolution broke out, circumstances were more dangerous for Ducreux. He drew the last portrait of Louis XVI before the king's execution. Ducreux was forced to travel to London.

His self portrait with the mocking expression has inspired a huge number of memes.

We're not used to seeing old paintings or photos of people with facial expressions. See the Previous Posts below for some exceptions to that rule.
Previous Posts: 

Wikipedia: Joseph Ducreux

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Sketching Irish Musicians

(Link to video) It's good for a sketchbook to have a little Guinness spilled on it.

This article comes out in the next (April 2019) issue of International Artist Magazine. Blog readers have voted them the best art magazine, and I am pleased to have been writing a column in every issue since 2007.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Victor Perard's analysis of the figure

Victor Semon Pérard (1870-1957) was a Golden-Age American illustrator who trained at the École des Beaux Arts with Jean Léon Gérôme, and later at the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League.

He also wrote many art-instruction books in the early 20th century. Pérard's book Anatomy and Drawing presents a sequence of steps for drawing a figure.

"1. Find the center of the paper by drawing lines from corner to corner. This is done to help center the study.
2. Measure with the eye or pencil to find the center of the subject and make a line at that point as related to the center of the paper. Draw a line at the head and another at the feet. With free lines, search for the rhythm of the pose, to help visualize the figure and to place it on the paper the size intended. Draw lightly so that the mental impression of the figure is not obliterated by a heavy drawing, and corrections can easily be made.
3. Decide where the pit of the neck should be placed, and draw a perpendicular line from the seventh cervical vertebra to the feet. Find the line of the shoulders, giving the angle of their positions. If a standing figure, first draw the leg on which there is most weight, to obtain the proper balance of the figure."

"4. Give the line showing the angle of the position of the pelvis. Indicate a line through the kneecaps. Draw the torso, indicating its bulk, marking the width of the shoulders, hops, neck, and head. Block with straight lines going beyond the intersections to obtain a better idea of the direction of the line and to avoid a cramped feeling.
5. Sketch within the lines a simplified skeleton, to check up on position of joints and bulk of chest. See that the pit of the neck, the pubic bone, the navel, the pelvis, the kneecaps, and the inner ankles are in proper relation to each other. Compare relative sizes of head to bulk of torso, hands to face, feet to hands, arms to legs, and thickness of the neck to that of the head, leg, and arm.
6. Go over the outline, perfecting it, searching for character and for grace of line."

"7. Indicate the outline of the planes and of the principal shadows.
8. Fill in the planes in large surfaces, and connect the shadows as much as possible.
9. Without losing their mass, model the planes keeping well in mind the direction of light. In drawing the head, decide on the bulk and draw in the planes of the face, then the eyes, the mouth and the nose last. It is easier to fit a head on a figure, than to fit a figure to a head."
Pérard's book analyzes the figure in many different ways, including drawings that show the expressive contours of action poses.
Books by Victor Pérard
Anatomy and Drawing
How to Draw Nearly Everything

Pérard is profiled in Walt Reed's book The Illustrator in America

Friday, March 15, 2019

Gouache as a Rehearsal Medium

Here's a new teaser for the upcoming article about T. rex coming up in the April issue of Ranger Rick. (Link to YouTube)

I do two quick sketches in gouache before launching into the final oil painting. I paint them over a scan of the line drawing, greatly reduced in size, printed out on my copier, and sealed with acrylic matte medium.

These gouache sketches serve two purposes. First, they help me imagine what the final result might look like. And second, they serve as a trial run, allowing me to rehearse the painting sequence.

I'll be releasing a full length tutorial download in a couple of weeks called "Unconventional Painting Techniques in Oil," intended for all sorts of painters, not just dino-artists. The focus will be on unusual ways of applying the paint to achieve naturalistic effects.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Painting the backgrounds of Akira

The 1988 animated film Akira (1988) included a lot of detailed city scenes, each of which was a handmade painting, created with brush, airbrush, and poster color.

(Link to video)  Most of the paintings are very small, approximately 9 x 12 inches. To achieve the straight lines, the artists used bridges (straightedges suspended above the painted surface). To make window dots in a consistent row, they used glass rods with ball tips that look like stirring sticks, held in the painting hand next to the brush.

(Link to video) If you're not familiar with Akira, here's an appreciation (thanks, Martinho).
Paint: Knicker Poster Color (Japan Import)
Video: Akira (English Dubbed)
Book: OTOMO: A Global Tribute to the Mind Behind Akira
Previous Post: Demo by Kazuo Oga
Guide for Painting Perfect Lines (thanks, Daroo)

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Sir Ernest Albert Waterlow

Sir Ernest Albert Waterlow, R. A. (1850 - 1919)
Sir E. A. Waterlow was an English painter who studied at the Royal Academy schools and became a R.A. member.

Sir Ernest Albert Waterlow, R. A. (1850 - 1919)
He painted both in oil (above) and watercolor (below), capturing the changing moods of weather and the appeal of the old-fashioned life in the countryside. 

Waterlow, The mill pool, Hemingford Grey, 1902-1904
A 1906 edition of The Art Journal described his work as: "graceful, charming and harmonious, of singular freshness of execution, appealing to the senses by its elevated style and dignity of beauty, and by its mastery of accomplishment, to the intellect."

"But to the passions it makes no call, because the stern or awful moods of Nature pass over his head and leave him, not unmoved, but unconcerned."
Sir Ernest Waterlow on Wikipedia
Bio on Art Gallery of NSW website