Friday, May 31, 2019

Using Gouache for Preliminary Sketches

For quick preliminary sketches, there's nothing like gouache, watercolor, and water-soluble colored pencils. 

I use them in combination to paint preliminary compositional studies before embarking on a final illustration. They're a fast, fun, and and low-risk medium that dries quickly, letting you experiment with endless variations.

In this video, (Link to YouTube), I paint one sample thumbnail sketch in real time using transparent watercolor, then film the creation two other layout concepts in time lapse.

I also demonstrate how to use scaled-down laser prints of the final line drawing glued down with acrylic matte medium in order to test ideas for color schemes.

The final paleo-art paintings were created in oil, and were used to illustrate an article on T.rex that appeared in the May, 2019 issue of Ranger Rick Magazine.

This is an extended sample from "Unconventional Oil Techniques"
Check out the full tutorial video, which is full of practical art instruction for all levels.
Download at Gumroad:
Download at Sellfy:
DVD from manufacturer: 

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Complexity is a Hierarchy of Abstractions

Self portrait by František Kupka
One of the technologies that is rapidly emerging is neural networks, but scientists are just beginning to learn how they work.

"Neural networks aim to mimic the human brain — and one way to think about the brain is that it works by accreting smaller abstractions into larger ones. Complexity of thought, in this view, is then measured by the range of smaller abstractions you can draw on, and the number of times you can combine lower-level abstractions into higher-level abstractions — like the way we learn to distinguish dogs from birds."

This abstraction architecture is useful for training a computer network to recognize objects, such as differentiating one animal from another, or for reading handwriting.

Self portrait by Chuck Close
But the basic concept of complexity as a hierarchy of abstractions can be taken in another way by artists. Often a realistic painting is made up of abstract strokes at a micro level. They might be the little abstract pixel tiles of Chuck Close or the blobby dots of John Berkey.

We might also connect this idea with image processing in the human brain. As our visual system begins to interpret an image, it does so first by perceiving brightness differences across boundaries, and broadly abstract shapes and colors.

As the image is decoded from the occipital cortex to other cortical areas of the brain, those abstractions are assembled into a higher level interpretation of reality that takes into account such things as the passage of time, cause and effect, the relationships between objects, and the sense of story.
Previous post: Abstraction vs. Realism: Thoughts While Painting the Maine Coast
Quote from Quanta Essay "Foundations Built for a General Theory of Neural Networks"

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Do you need to be young to learn to paint?

Etchrlab published an interview with me, including this question:

Most artists think that if they don't start from a young age, then they won't be able to make a future in art. Yet, you committed to learning other areas first. Was that an easy decision to make?

No, it was a difficult decision, because I felt that I was too old to learn to paint. I had drawn a lot as a child, and was pretty good at it, but I was over 20 and didn't know much of anything about painting.

I was especially worried, as were my parents, when I dropped out of art school after two semesters. Since then I've come to realize that learning to paint isn't that difficult. It's thinking that's hard, and I learned to think at UC Berkeley.
Read the rest: Interview with James Gurney
Related post: Norman Mingo, Elder Mad Man

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Challenges of Garden Painters

Sitting in a garden painting a watercolor sounds like a pretty easy life, doesn't it?

One might think so, but two artists, Ernest Arthur Rowe (1863-1922) and George S. Elgood (1851-1943), show the kind of challenges these garden specialists faced.

Ernest Arthur Rowe, Holme Lacy, Herefordshire, 1902
Both of them traveled around Britain painting detailed watercolor portraits of estate gardens for rich clients.

Ernest Arthur Rowe - Revesby Abbey, Lincolnshire, The Fountain 1898
Ernest Arthur Rowe often had to contend with bad weather. In 1892 in Suffolk, he "worked in the garden under an umbrella in the morning and for an hour in the afternoon, then gave it up as a bad job. Rained all day." 

Later he said in his journal "a 24 x 20 drawing [was] blown into a fishpond."

Ernest Arthur Rowe - The Terrace, Gwydyr
He also faced financial challenges, even though he was one of the leading garden painters of his day. When he started out, he had a hard time getting commissions, so he would arrange permission from the head gardener to do a rendering, and then sweet-talk the owner into buying it.

In 1890 he only made £30. He gradually improved his fortunes enough to marry and build a house.

Ernest Arthur Rowe, Rose Garden
All his life he suffered from poor health. The First World War devastated the world that supported his profession, but he was able to revive his career a bit before his death in 1922. After that, for 50 years, he was virtually forgotten.

George Elgood
George S. Elgood was probably the best known garden painter and a gardener himself. He illustrated books by the renowned designer Gertrude Jekyll, and he was inspired by the gardens of Italy.

His paintings achieve a remarkable botanical truthfulness without sacrificing the atmospheric quality and the tonal unity of the distant areas.
George Elgood, Italian Garden
According to Christopher Wood, "as he grew older, Elgood grew increasingly crotchety, eccentric, and reclusive." His notes reveal "his great contempt for garden designers" and his disrespect for others in his profession. Apparently Elgood and Rowe didn't know each other and never spoke.

Elgood had a particular distaste for architects who designed gardens, and he wrote: "the architect who designed this porch ought to be whipped."
George Elgood
"In his own house," Wood continues, "Elgood resolutely eschewed all modern conveniences, refusing to install heating, electric light or even running water. He died a cantankerous, bearded old recluse, in 1943 at age 92, by which time the golden age of English gardens which he had so lovingly depicted, had long since passed away."
The quotes are from the art book Painted Gardens: English Watercolours, 1850-1914 by Christopher Wood

Monday, May 27, 2019

How to Learn Costumes

Sael Art asks: I have problems with clothing. Can you suggest me a practice or something to help me with that?
Drapery study by Frederic Leighton
1. Draw cloth in different kinds of folds.
2. Then draw (or paint) models in costumes.
3. Bring your sketchbook to costume collections whenever you can.

Studies of Costumed Figures by Fritz Roeber
From an earlier post:
  • You can find costumes at thrift stores or junk shops. Almost every garage sale has a Halloween costume or an unusual hat that you may want to use later.
  • Many smaller communites have a local theater company with costume collections. They are sometimes willing to loan their costumes to illustrators.
  • Renaissance festivals have vendors with an assortment of hats, cloaks, corsets, gowns, breeches, and doublets. Example: Moresca Clothing and Costume. That’s where the blue and red jacket came from, and I’ve used it in many Dinotopia pictures.
  • People who work in living history museums wear very authentic costumes. I've found they're glad to model for a sketchbook study. They may also be willing to pose for photo reference, but be sure to get their written permission first. Examples: Plimouth Plantation, Old Sturbridge Village, Colonial Williamsburg.
  • Big cities like New York, London, or Los Angeles have rental agencies serving theatrical or movie productions. Sometimes they will sell off their older, worn-out costumes. That’s where the doublet with the slashed sleeves above came from. Examples: Palace Costumes, Adele's Costumes.
  • Large museums, like the Metropolitan Museum or the Victoria and Albert in London have costume collections which can usually be sketched or photographed. Examples: Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute, Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Fake Fashion Models

Computers can create photo-real images of fashion models that never lived in the flesh.

In the short morphing video, hemlines rise and fall, stances shift, and genders blend into each other. (Link to video on YouTube)

The developers in Japan use generative adversarial networks to create the images. They have also set up their AI system to generate fake pop stars.

They say they plan to improve the technology to the point they can offer it to the apparel, cosmetics, and advertising industries.

They're also working with human co-creators to produce new Manga-style characters, saying the technology will help them "to significantly reduce the cost of producing content."
[Edit] The original links don't work, but here's another company that creates humans artificially: Generated Photos

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Karl Blossfeldt's Plant Photographs

Karl Blossfeldt’s photographs of plants inspired a generation of designers.

He began as a sculptor, working in an iron foundry. 

He wasn't trained as a photographer. He made his photos of plants with a home-made camera that was able to magnify leaves and buds, revealing symmetry and order in an apparently objective manner.

He became a professor of applied arts, and his photos were used mainly as teaching tools.

At age 63, he became a success overnight when his photos were published as Urformen der Kunst (sometimes translated as Art Forms in The Plant World), which is still in print.


Friday, May 24, 2019

Wapping Group of Artists

The Wapping Group of Artists is a companionable group who paint together outdoors in Britain.

They were featured (with their various cigars, pipes, and cigarettes) in this 1956 Pathé video. Link to YouTube

The group got its start in the late 1930s as a means of bringing together plein-air painters who liked to sketch dockside scenes along the Thames.

HILDER, Rowland, OBE, PPRI, RSMA Member 1950 - 1972
The Wapping Group is still active and the membership remains limited to 25. They meet every Wednesday between April and September.

These days it's harder to find those classic maritime views along the Thames, so they meet at parks and other places. Here's a book collecting sixty years of their best images: The Wapping Group of Artists: Sixty Years of Painting by the Thames

Are you a member of a group that meets regularly to paint from life? What rules does your group adhere to? What are the upsides, downsides, payoffs, pitfalls, or challenges of running such a group?
Wapping Group website

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Painting with Spots and Dots

To paint this portrait of Smooth, I use watercolor and gouache. 

I decide on a pose where he's laying down. I know he's going to move a lot during the hour and a half session. 

I start loosely, placing spots and dots with big brushes, knowing I can correct errors as I go.

The video shows the process of the painting — (Link to video)

Here are the 12 tips for painting a moving subject, including:

1. Keep the easel, brushes and palette near the line of sight
2. Use a limited palette of colors
3. If you don't like the start, start over
4. Use the corner of a large flat brush
5. Be vigilant for errors, and fix them as you go
6. Look for other places to use each color that you mix
7. Use a different brush for each main color
8. Use water-soluble colored pencils for small lines and textures
9. To modify a passage of dry gouache, wet it quickly (one touch!) and paint into it
10. Pick a pose your subject is likely return to
11. Try priming with casein or tinted gesso
12. Start loose in watercolor — just spots and dots

Pentalic watercolor sketchbook
M. Graham (watercolor)
M. Graham (gouache)
Connoisseur Travel brush 9467
Connoisseur Cat's tongue brush (Squirrel Hair Risslon)
Richeson Travel brush set
Water cup
Homemade easel
You can also use Caran d'Ache gouache in pan set
Fountain pen

Canon M6 (time lapse, video, and stills)
Canon PowerShot Elph (point-and-shoot)
Zoom H2N digital audio recorder
Rode Video Mic GO (microphone)

"Gouache in the Wild" (Download on Gumroad)
"Gouache in the Wild" on (DVD)
“How to Make a Sketch Easel” (DVD)
“Watercolor in the Wild” (Download)

Gouache Materials List
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

Facebook group "Sketch Easel Builders"

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Portrait of the Year Competition

(Link to YouTube) TV producer Sky Arts has taken a reality-TV-show approach to a portrait competition, pitting 21 painters against each other in an elimination round. The finalists were drawn from nearly 2000 applicants from all over the U.K., based on a preliminary stage where entrants sent in a self-portrait.

The judges, who are artists, art historians, museum curators, and gallery dealers, verbalize their reactions to the paintings as they progress.

The structure of the video is almost identical to the Great British Bake Off, with brief backstory excursions, commentary from the models, tense music, a ticking clock, and a moment where the finalists face the judges with their four-hour paintings.

Such artificial constraints may seem anathema to making a good painting, but it makes good TV entertainment. It's an expensive and ambitious undertaking to produce a show like this, and it would be great if they expanded the competition to entrants from beyond the U.K.

They also have a Landscape Artist of the Year competition (link to YouTube).
Website for: Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 
Previously: Portrait Society Competition
Portrait Society Conference

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Siggraph Previews Photo-Real Computer Graphics

Every summer when computer graphics experts gather at Siggraph, they reveal new technical breakthroughs. (Link to video on YouTube)

This year's preview video reveals realistic simulations of goopy frosting, ferrofluids, and human anatomy. It will be possible to change the lighting in photos, graft an art style onto a captured video, and seamlessly change what a talking head is saying by editing a text transcript.

Silly Rubber, viscoelastic and elastoplastic material
by Fang, Li, Gao, Jiang
These technical innovations will find their way into the visual effects that you will see in TV commercials, movies, and eventually consumer graphics programs.
Siggraph 2019 will 28 July - 1 August in Los Angeles

Monday, May 20, 2019

Podcast about Sketching Irish Music

If you like sketching Irish traditional music, this podcast is for you. Boston-based musician Shannon Heaton talks to Brian Vallely, Vincent CrottyCatharine Kingcome, and me. Topics covered include about traveling pipers, a dilapidated hotel in the Hudson Valley, Dudley Street dance hall in post WWII America, and a country home in County Clare.
Trad on Canvas by Shannon Heaton

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Shortcomings of American Art Education

In the following essay, a famous artist discusses the shortcomings of art education in America, and proposes some remedies. At the end of the post, I'll let you know who wrote the essay.  

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Portrait Class, 1901
"It seems to me that no one could seriously dispute the fact that a great school of art in America is needed, or that such a school would have the very greatest influence in the development both of the spirit and the practice of art. As art is now taught in this country, it is too fragmentary. The pupils are not thoroughly grounded. Any one who wants to study art here can do so. The examinations are too easy. In the foreign schools the examinations are very difficult. The student must know a good deal to pass them. There should be an American school with equally high requirements. 

If a young man [or young woman] wants to enter Harvard or Yale, his preparation must be thorough. That is the way it should be with the school of art, for the school of art should really be like a university. The student, before being admitted to the university, should have passed beyond the elemental stage of study which properly belongs to the grammar-school grade. As it is now in America there is no place where parents who think their son is a genius can send that son to find out that he isn’t a genius. There are very few people who can’t be taught to draw more or less well, but the mere ability to draw does not make an artist. 

"There seems to be a desire on the part of a very large number of persons either to become professional artists, sculptors, and painters or to acquire some of the principles of decoration. But there is also widespread ignorance that a thorough grounding in certain facts is absolutely essential to the serious student before he is prepared to avail himself of the experience of others. 

Those who wish to study art here are admitted to classes far too leniently. In the schools abroad the entrance examinations are very severe, and by a succession of examinations, the less talented are eliminated. This refers, of course, to the great schools — not to the irresponsible studios, where a model or two is hired and a few painters with a present reputation are engaged to call in occasionally to give advice; to such schools anybody, with no experience whatever, can, by paying a small fee, be admitted. 

It has been immensely to the advantage of America that there is nothing for architects abroad which corresponds with the irresponsible painting ateliers referred to. The student of architecture going to Paris, for instance — although my remarks do not apply to Paris alone — can only study his profession by going into the “Beaux Arts.” The entrance examination is very severe, of course, and should be so, but the effect upon the American student is everywhere apparent here, and has given the architects of the United States the great position they occupy to-day. 

If the money is provided — and one of the things which surprises me on coming back to America is the amount of money there seems to be — there would seem to be no reason why a great American school of art should not be established and be put in working order within a reasonably short time. A building should be furnished, among other things, with copies of the best examples of art in foreign countries in sculpture, painting, and architecture. There would be little difficulty in acquiring these, although it would take time. 

The American Art Federation would be the institution which would most naturally father the work of establishing an American school. And the question of a location for the school would have to be answered by circumstances. It should be in a center, some place where it would be to the advantage of both pupils and instructors to live. The location might be a problem. One would name New York as the obvious place for the school, as the National Academy is there, and the various art societies to which most American artists contribute hold their exhibitions there. 

The art ability of Americans is not to be belittled. The best American artists can hold their own anywhere. American art as a whole, however, has the tendency to be preoccupied with problems of a technical nature, such as how to put on paint, and things of that sort. The painting of individual pictures is not art in its highest form. Pictures are only fragments. The great things are works which carry an idea through to completion. 

I do not think that the great problems of adapting one subject or composition to its environment is sufficiently studied, if it is studied at all. The three great branches of art — painting, sculpture, and architecture — should be independent. Without a knowledge of the other two, each is incomplete. The restraining influence the study of each one has upon the others is of the greatest importance and of the greatest service. 

A school should have, first of all, the great artists of the country as overseers. That is the method pursued in Munich, where the great artists are given studios in the school, and the students are allowed, several days in the week, to consult them about ideas. In addition to the influence of American artists of first rank, the American school might also make arrangements to receive the benefit and advice of prominent foreign artists who are visiting this country from time to time. As to the instructors, there should be many of them, and there is no reason why they should not be drawn from the ranks of American artists. 

The curriculum of the school should embrace sculpture, painting, and architecture, and every student should be made to learn something about all three branches of art. There are many Americans who are quite competent to act as instructors, under the supervision of artists of first rank. And the great thing is that the school should have one inspiring head. The advantage of having great artists on the staff, to whom students can have access, lies in the fact that one can learn much more by working with a man than by simply being told what to do, or what not to do. The establishment of the school would mean, primarily, the sifting out of the incapable. It would push forward those who had real talent, and would discourage those without talent. 

An art atmosphere is hardly to be spoken of as something which is created; it is rather something which happens. It is a matter of tradition. A whole country grows up to art, and the atmosphere comes gradually into being, one can hardly explain when or how. And a people who have once developed an art atmosphere may degenerate. Take Italy, for example. The Italy of the past was a paradise of art. Rome is an eternal city because of the handiwork which immortal artists have left there, if for no other reason. But take the Italy of to-day—where is its art atmosphere? The average modern Italian likes the worst pictures and loves noise. It would seem as if all the art air had been breathed over there. An art atmosphere is not generated entirely by pictures. The kind of houses men build, and what they put into them; the decorations of public buildings; the beautifying of public parks; the care of the streets, all these things play important parts. In this day, it is not so much the love of pictures as care for vital things which needs to be encouraged. 

The generating of an art atmosphere requires a great deal of money, as well as a great deal of good taste on the part of a great many people. Public building decorations of the highest order are so expensive as frequently to make them impossible. The artist who does the work, too, must inevitably make sacrifices. But the man who takes up the profession of art must have higher aims than financial considerations. The painting of an important and thoroughly careful work is much more expensive than most people realize.

Edwin Austin Abbey King Lear, Act I, Scene I The Metropolitan Museum of Art.jpg
King Lear, Act I, Scene I (1897-98) By Edwin Austin Abbey -
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Public Domain, Link
The essay was written by the American illustrator and painter Edwin Austin Abbey, and it appeared in Brush and Pencil magazine. Abbey was an illustrator and painter, trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He was a good friend of John Singer Sargent, and alongside Sargent, he painted murals for the Boston Public Library. He lived and worked for most of his career in Great Britain, and exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy. The essay was published in the March, 1902 edition of Brush and Pencil magazine.

Questions for discussion:
1. Abbey argues for maintaining high standards and weeding out those of lesser abilities. Is that position tenable in our time, and in today's art world?
2. Should an art school have a shared set of standards or values, and what should those standards be?
3. Why does our contemporary artistic culture allow for these standards in music conservatories, such as Julliard, Bard, or Eastman, but not in art schools?
4. He says "American art as a whole has the tendency to be preoccupied with problems of a technical nature, such as how to put on paint, and things of that sort." Is it still true that Americans are preoccupied with tools and technique? 
5. Abbey argues that the curriculum should embrace painting, sculpture, and architecture. For those of you who have studied sculpture or architecture, what has that study given you as a painter?

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Dean Cornwell Panoramic Sketch

Up for auction right now is an unusual preliminary sketch by Dean Cornwell.

The panoramic gouache painting is 6" x 83", matted and framed. Cornwell painted it in preparation for the mural "Telephone Men and Women at Work" in Boston in 1951.

The 190-foot mural circles the lobby, with 197 life-size portraits telling the story of the history of the telephone.

Such a monumental mural requires a lot of planning. Cornwell produced a series of small sketches, first to get hired for the project, and then to plan the figure groupings.

Cornwell gave the original gouache sketch to teacher and painter Jack Faragasso, who turned 90 recently and has preserved the sketch all these years. 
Online Auction: Christies Dean Cornwell Sketch through May 22
Book by: Jack Faragasso: The Student's Guide to Painting

Friday, May 17, 2019

Unusual Uses of the Palette Knife

(Video link to YouTube)
Most people associate "palette knife painting" with the look of thick impasto and broad handling.

But it's a tool that can also deliver fine lines, smooth gradations, and delicate textures. 

What is a palette knife? It's a metal blade attached to the end of a wooden handle. In older-style palette knives, the blade is made of a long flexible steel strip lined up with the handle. But the majority nowadays are offset to keep your knuckles out of the paint.

I prefer to use triangular designs, both for mixing paint on the palette (where it's known as a "palette knife") and for applying it to the canvas (where it becomes a "painting knife").

Because it doesn't hold onto paint the way a brush does, it has unique value as a tool for applying paint. It can be completely cleaned off quickly with a rag, letting you change colors quickly. 

The palette knife works especially well for blending colors. With a little practice, you can get a smoother gradation than you can get with a brush.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) used a painting knife to achieve his enamel-like surfaces. He would rough in a passage with a brush and then smooth the paint with the painting knife.

Camille-Felix Bellanger (1853-1923) described Bouguereau's paint application:
"His lay-ins were broad and thickly-painted ... He never left them in this state: as soon as the piece — which to anyone else would have seemed completed — started to solidify, he took up his palette knife and, with incredible skill, would go over the whole, in all directions, evening out, stripping, until the surface had acquired the desired finish and transparency."
There are a lot of palette knives to choose from, but the ones I like best are the ones with the triangular shape, with fairly straight sides.

Source for the quote: Bouguereau at Work by Mark Walker

More info in the new tutorial: Unconventional Oil Techniques: Fast-Drying Methods for Realistic Painting
Digital download at Gumroad
Digital download at Sellfy
DVD from manufacturer
DVD on Amazon: DVD on Amazon

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Pen Sketching is a Confidence Builder

Pen Sketches by Édouard Detaille, 1848-1912
Sketching directly from life in pen with no pencil lay-in is a good thing to do once in a while. It builds confidence and sharpens your accuracy.

Because pen sketches preserve every touch—every boldness and hesitancy—they're like an indelible record of thought itself.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

On the Way to Dog Park

Smooth, the husky, wants to get out and play with other dogs. So we drive to the dog park. I'm sitting in the back seat with my sketchbook open.

I start painting Smooth with his mouth closed. But once he opens it, I change my mind and want to capture that doggy smile, with the tongue draped over his teeth and the red color on the underside. 

I'm using watercolor with casein white on a casein underpainting. It's a fairly non-absorbent surface that makes the paint float on the surface. But it's nice for getting fur textures. (Link to video on Facebook)
Video tutorial: "Painting Animals from Life"

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


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

How Do I Make a Posable Maquette?

Robert Post asks: "James, I need to build a maquette that is flexible to pose as a model for paintings. What material do you recommend? "

Robert, it depends how much flexibility you want. If you just need your maquette to flex a little, there's a kind of flexible Sculpey that bends a bit after curing.

If you really need a model that you can pose, you can use the build-up technique, using soft foam and latex, as shown in the video above.

The easiest way to make a skeleton is to use an aluminum armature, and you can bulk out the forms with foam, as with the simple robot maquette above.

That's more or less how I made the poseable skybax maquette (right).

Or if you want an exact shape with a smooth outer surface, you can sculpt, mold, and cast latex or silicon, but those processes are a lot more involved. Stop Mo Nick has some pretty good videos on this.

Bill Wiist asks: I am planning to build posable human maquettes. Have you done a blog on articulation, best materials to use, etc.

Bill, I haven't done a blog post about articulated joints yet. The simplest solution is to build your person or creature over an existing action figure by grinding away material and then adding what you want to add with Magic Sculpt.

If you want to build a posable figure from scratch, you can get a metal stop-motion armature or use the cheaper one made of plastic called a Modibot. (above, right)

Finally, the small artist manikins have gotten a lot better since the old "jointed wooden doll" era. For example, the Color LILIJ male and female manikins shown at right are quite realistic, and not as expensive as they used to be.

Monday, May 13, 2019

A Gannam Sketch

Following up on yesterday's post, here's a preliminary sketch in gouache and ink by John Gannam of  polo players.

The book Forty Illustrators and How They Worked describes how tireless he was with these sketches, which were created quickly out of his imagination from the moment he read the story he was asked to illustrate:

"At the outset we find John engrossed in his manuscripts, a pad and pencil handy for notations of illustrative possibilities. Then comes the graphic struggle with countless pencil and brush sketches. First ideas are as likely as later ones to be the best, but he won't be satisfied until he has worked all around the problem. He says he spends far more time in preparatory study and gets more fun out of it than in the execution of the finished painting."

There's no Wikipedia page on John Gannam. Would someone out there like to start one?
Flickr setcollected by Leif Peng
Online bioHe was honored in Society of Illustrator's Hall of Fame.
BookForty Illustrators and How They Worked
MagazineIllustrators 51 with article on John Gannam (free digital preview with option to pay for download)
Previous posts which mention John Gannam
My book Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn't Exist  covers the sketch process.