Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Outside a Car Dealer in Poughkeepsie

Here's our choice: sit in the waiting room and get pounded by 'The Price is Right' and hustled by the sales guys...

...or head out and try to make art out of the back of the car dealer (Link to video).

Monday, April 29, 2019

Two Finnish Painters

Finnish painters Akseli Gallen-Kallela (1865-1931) and Albert Edelfelt (1854-1905) painted together in the winter. 

Like other artists who had traveled far to study in Paris, they had absorbed the revolutionary artistic ideas that were in the air. They returned to their beloved land with a shared desire to bring something new to their country.  "Little Finland must now set about creating a new Renaissance, i.e. new energy and life and a new world. It is needed now, in this situation and era of misery, weakness and melancholy decadence." (Source of quote)
Thanks, Martyn Ravensdale

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Starting Out in a New Medium

qwerttyty1029 asks: "What is the easiest traditional medium to pick up if you don't know any, but do know digital?"

For figure painting and portrait painting, I'd say oil is the best to start with, because you can take your time and control the blends, and the values don't shift much when it dries. 

For cityscapes, landscapes, and quick sketching, I'd recommend gouache and watercolor, because: 
1. The cleanup is easier and it's less toxic.
2. They're better suited to international travel because there are no banned solvents, so the paints are less likely to be confiscated.
3. They're more suited to sketchbooks and indoor work.  They're lighter and more compact.
4. The quick drying time lets you overlap previous passages without picking up wet paint.
5. Watercolor and gouache are closer to drawing, and can combine with all sorts of mixed media approaches, such as colored pencils, brush pens, chalk, and fountain pens.

Using water-based media (watercolor, gouache, casein, and acrylic) hones your decision-making strategy so that you commit to strokes without fussing or second-guessing. 

With any new opaque medium, I'd suggest starting with just two tubes: black and white. That way you can keep it simple and avoid all the hue and chroma issues.

Easel J asks: "Got any plans for an eventual oils in the wild? Would love to see your oil painting process on video."
Yes, thanks for asking. This coming week, on May 1, I'll be releasing a new Gumroad tutorial called "Unconventional Oil Techniques." It's 93 minutes long, jam-packed with info, demos and exercises. During the course of producing three dinosaur paintings, I'll demonstrate over 11 techniques in black and white oil paint in real time. These 11 techniques include some familiar ones like transparent vs. opaque, side dragging, and oiling up. I also demonstrate more unusual ones, such as pouncing, stippling, and palette-knife blends. 

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Lightening Colors with White

Painting by Frank Brangwyn
When you're using opaque paint to create the illusion of lighted objects, you need to lighten colors on the planes that face toward the light. So you just add white to those colors, right?

Well, not so fast. Just adding white to a pure color tends to weaken the chroma and shift the hue toward blue or gray, with an dulling effect on reds and yellows in particular. If you use too much white in the lighted areas without adjusting the mid-tones and shadows, it can lead to a pale, chalky look.

Paul Strisik, in his book The Art of Landscape Painting, said: "Always think twice before using white. It can give your pictures a chalky look. If you want to lighten a color, sometimes try using another color instead of white. If you want your paintings to have brilliance, think in terms of more color, night lighter color."

Tom Lovell said, "color obtains in the light," meaning that we perceive chroma growing in force as it become more brightly illuminated within a scene. Therefore, we don't want to risk weakening it with white without adjusting all the color relationships.

In her book Daily Painting, Carol Marine describes the remedy this way: "If you can't quite get the color light enough without adding white, but white makes it chalky, maybe it doesn't need to be so light! Maybe the values around it simply need to be darker. If you're sure it needs white and it still looks chalky, try adding a little yellow and/or red."

Do you have personal experience with this issue? Did your teacher ever express a similar caution about white? Please share it in the comments.
Paul Strisik:The Art of Landscape Painting
Carol Marine: Daily Painting: Paint Small and Often To Become a More Creative, Productive, and Successful Artist

Previous blog post: Color Obtains in the Light, with insights from a vision scientist

Friday, April 26, 2019

Meet Duncan, the Mini Stallion

Duncan is the new mini horse on the farm. He's nervous because he hasn't met the other horses yet and all the sounds in the barn startle him. 

I set up inside his stall to paint his portrait. (Link to video on Facebook) He's curious and friendly when I talk to him and offer him some grass.

But he accidentally bumps into the tripod leg, startles. and the whole painting rig goes down into the wood chips. I clean up and set up again outside his stall.

Duncan is a stallion, so even though he's tiny, he may be a little unpredictable around the other horses until he's gelded. Eventually he'll be introduced to the rest of the crew, starting with the mini horses, and then the donkeys.
Video tutorial: "Painting Animals from Life."
69 minutes Widescreen, MP4 video. 

Digital download


Thursday, April 25, 2019

Ettore Tito, Painter of Contemporary Life

Ettore Tito's paintings celebrated the daily life of the Italian people, often showing them in rich color and dynamic action.

Born in southern Italy, the son of a sea captain, he worked his way toward the English and French-speaking art markets, where the money was, and where new ideas of art were in the air.

Ettore Tito, Le mondine in Polesine, 1885
In this scene, he carefully manages the light, as a cloud shadow passes over the foreground. The shoes of the waders are lined up on the bank. The wind blows the skirts of the central figure, and she holds her hat from blowing off. Note the lady with the red hat mostly overlapped by the standing figure.

When his work was exhibited at the Pan-Pacific Exhibition in San Francisco, he was awarded the top prize in Italian painting, and there was a popular exhibition of 18 of his paintings in Los Angeles. 

He had versatile skills and produced work in a range of categories, including portraits. 

Ettore Tito, Raggi di Sole (Rays of Sun) 1892

Ettore Tito, Pagine d'amore (Pages of Love)
According to the Studio magazine from 1905, "In Paris he even found himself looked on as chic, and the fashionable painter of the day. He used to come to London almost annually; he worked for the “Graphic” and also for the American magazine “Scribner's.”

He produced a series of risqué illustrations of proverbs with a contemporary flair. This one says "Aide-toi, le ciel t'aidera" (Heaven helps those who help themselves). 

Ettore Tito, Amore e le Parche (Love and the Fates), 1909
In his later career he was inspired by 18th century Venetian painting to paint symbolic and allegorial subjects.

Ettore Tito on Wikipedia (1851—1941)
Art Contrarian Ettore Tito
Another blog post on Ettore Tito
Book on Ettore Tito (old book in Italian)

Wednesday, April 24, 2019


Look at the circle of red dots with your eyes relaxed. It is surrounded by a ring of blue dots against a black background. 

Does one group of dots appear to come forward or rise above the other? Is there any apparent lateral movement of the dots in relation to each other?

Here are some horizontal stripes: white, black, yellow, and blue, with a stonework texture throughout. Does the figure look flat, or do some of the stripes seem to advance forward toward you, like shiplap siding? 

About half of the viewers of all of these illusions perceive the warm colors to be coming forward relative to the blue and black colors, and many see other movement happening. Some people see the reverse: the blue parts ahead of the red or yellow 

These figures were created by Akiyoshi Kitaoka (link to website) to illustrate chromostereopsis, a phenomenon where warm colors seem to come forward while cool colors appear to recede.

Early stained glass windows suggests that artists have used the effect to create the illusion of depth in a 2D surface.

According to color expert David Briggs, "This phenomenon results from the effect on our stereoscopic vision of the different focal points of long and short wavelength rays, causing a red object to appear to be on a distinctly nearer plane than an equidistant blue object for the majority of observers." 

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Will there always be a place for traditional mediums?

Dan Scott, who runs the website Draw Paint Academy, just published an interview.

One of his questions: With the rise of digital art, do you think there will always be a place for traditional mediums?

First, let's talk about the terminology in your question. I don't use the term "traditional" the way you do. The imagery of physical painters is not necessarily traditional. And even though I respect tradition, there's nothing necessarily traditional about the way I use physical materials (such as painting gouache over casein, or combining watercolor with water-soluble colored pencils).

But I see what you're asking. Some analog methods are probably gone for good, such as paste-up with rubber cement, Craftint, and phototypesetting. But other ways of making art have never gone away or are staging a comeback: gouache, watercolor, fountain pens, sign painting, calligraphy, manual typewriters, and sketchbooks of all kinds. Never in my life have I seen as many kinds of sketchbooks available as there are today. The Internet has fostered a fierce revival for hand skills, and the results are often more satisfying for both the artist and the audience.

I remember when digital techniques were first emerging, physical solutions seemed a little embarrassing and cheap and outdated. Now the situation has reversed. While cutting-edge digital art created by leading artists will always be impressive and ground-breaking, the bottom end of the market—produced by the less able artists and by clients with tight budgets—is now accomplished digitally. As a result, digital methods are associated with work that is cheap and embarrassing.

Physical paintings are the only kind that museums want to exhibit and the only valued originals that collectors want to pay money for. When Frank Frazetta painted his barbarian paperback covers, he was only paid a few hundred dollars for the illustration commission, but now, his originals have sold for over a million dollars. That source of value is lost to digital artists.

One also wonders how long the authoring software will remain accessible. I can open any of my sketchbooks and they're in perfect shape, but I wonder if people can still open their old files in MacPaint or KidPix? If you don't keep paying Adobe, how will you be able to access your .psd files? So you might properly ask: "Will there always be a place in the future for digital mediums?"

In truth the two will always live side by side in some form. I'm inspired in my physical painting by things I've seen digital artists create. Some of the most interesting work being done now is some combination of digital and physical media, and hopefully the two modes of making art will inspire each other.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Background Painting for Fire and Ice

Today on Ebay, there's a background painting for the 1983 Bakshi/Frazetta animated film Fire and Ice. The original painting is rendered with brush and airbrush in cel vinyl paint on board, 12.5" x 16"  by James Gurney.

In the film, an animated layer of bright red lava spews out from the volcano gargoyle.
Ebay link Fire and Ice background painting by James Gurney.
Fire and Ice (Two-Disc Limited Edition)

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Van Schendel's Moonlight Markets

Petrus Van Schendel was born today, April 21, in 1806. 

To paint his famous candlelit scenes, he divided his Brussels studio into two spaces: an illuminated part where he did his painting and a darker section where he posed his models. 

His outdoor market scenes often set up a contrast between lantern light and moonlight. The candles and lanterns illuminate the fronts of the figures, and each flame is surrounded by a glowing halo of light. The moonlight is relatively cool and the buildings only dimly seen in the shadows.

The challenge with painting the effect of dim light is to suppress detail in the shadows and to make the transitions gradual. We're accustomed to seeing photographic interpretations of night scenes, which typically include far more detail than the human eye can see.
Wikipedia: Petrus Van Schendel

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Are Comics Respectable?

Micheal, a community college student in Idaho, asks:

Jack Kirby (1917-1994) at his drawing table
a) Do you consider comics and graphic novels to be an art form? Is it a respectable one?

Yes, comics are an art form. Like movies, they are a form that can communicate stories, characters, emotions, and ideas. They can be a showcase for a variety of styles of drawing and writing, and an infinite range of moods. There's nothing about the form that makes them respectable or not respectable. Quality work in any art form is always worthy of respect. But you'll also find uninspired, mannered, and derivative work in any art form, too.

Lynd Ward, illustration God's Man: A Novel in Woodcuts
b) Do you feel that a book with illustrations has less literary merit than one without?

It's a circular question, because the term "literary" usually refers to the world of writing, not that of pictures. So an illustrated book isn't strictly "literary." But if you're talking about artistic merit, my answer would be yes, an illustrated book is entitled to be regarded as a work of art. The merit has nothing to do with the form, but rather with how well the work is executed and how successfully it communicates to its audience.

Conventional critics and professional associations coalesce around art forms that are familiar and popular. Literary critics often don't know how to respond to illustrated books for adults because there isn't much illustrated fiction outside of graphic novels. It's rare to find a critic who can respond intelligently to the unique synergy between art and writing.

Superman comic from 1938
10 cent investment; $3.2 million auction record
c) As a person who has studied the masters and been heavily involved with art education, do you feel that comics and graphic novels are fairly represented in the professional art world?

Are comics fairly represented? I don't know, but they certainly have made a splash in the professional art world. A single printed comic book has sold at auction for millions of dollars. Important galleries specialize in comic art. Cartoon art has been featured in museum shows everywhere from Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art to the Norman Rockwell Museum. Art schools offer classes in sequential art. Professors in leading universities have specialized in dissecting the the language of comics. There are books recounting the history of comics. And there are professional awards, professional associations, and popular conventions.

So, yes, comics have earned a place in the professional art world. That doesn't mean it's easy to make a living in comics. And I'm not sure all that gold-plated respectability is always a good thing for any art form. Have the Oscars® encouraged people to make better movies? I'm doubtful about that.

As we think about honors, awards, and auction prices, let's not forget the silly fun of comics, the flashlight-under-the-covers thrill of comic books that your parents don't want you to read, the over-the-top craziness of experimental comics that authorities frown upon, the guilty pleasure of comic books rescued from the dumpster, thrown there by someone who told you to read something more educational.

Being in the Hall of Fame is fine, but the most vital art forms always have one foot in the back alley. Shakespeare wrote for the Globe Theater, which was a raucous, bawdy place for commoners. Mozart's operas were written for low-class working folks. Bob Dylan wasn't thinking about the Nobel Prize for Literature when he wrote his guitar lyrics. He was just trying to channel something deep and ancient, doing it first and foremost for the crazy love of it.

Book: Comics: A Global History, 1968 to the Present
Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art

Friday, April 19, 2019

Painting The American Flag

I'm back at the supermarket parking lot again, this time casting an eye skyward.

It's a cloudy day with a steady breeze from the south. The flag catches my eye, and I decide to paint it in gouache. I mute the colors and warm them, which means the blue is just a gray. I gradate both the flag colors and the sky colors toward an imaginary fiery orb behind the flag.

(link to YouTube)
As I say in the video, local colors become interesting when they are transformed by a system of illumination.  That's how you animate colors—modulate them according to a logic of light. That logic might be atmospheric perspective, light and shadow, or in this case, halation / lens flare / or color corona.
Check out the website of my pal "Big Jim" Mushett, who will paint a portrait of your favorite car when he's not rounding up your shopping cart.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Oscar Rejlander and Art Photography

Oscar Rejlander contributed photographs to Charles Darwin's work The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.

Published in 1872, the book was one of the first to be illustrated with photographs, and it was unusual at the time to see photos showing such expressions.

Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), 1863 by Oscar Gustav Rejlander
Oscar Rejlander took a carefully composed portrait of Alice-in-Wonderland author Lewis Carroll.

He provided reference photographs to assist painters such as Lawrence Alma Tadema. Finally, Rejlander pioneered an ambitious approach to art photography, producing in 1857 a moralistic photomontage called "The Two Ways of Life."

The Two Ways of Life by Oscar Rejlander, 1857

Oscar G. Rejlander: Artist Photographer
"This was a seamlessly montaged combination print made of thirty-two images (akin to the use of Photoshop today, but then far more difficult to achieve) in about six weeks. First exhibited at the Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition of 1857, the work shows a man being lured to paths of vice or virtue by good and bad angels. The image's partial nudity, which showed real women as they actually appeared and not the idealized forms then common in Victorian art, was deemed 'indecent' by some. Rejlander was also accused of using prostitutes as models, although Rejlander categorically denied this and no proof was ever offered. Reservations about the work subsided when Queen Victoria ordered a 10-guinea copy to give to Prince Albert." —Wikipedia
Wikipedia: Oscar Rejlander and Art Photography
Book: Oscar G. Rejlander: Artist Photographer