Saturday, August 31, 2019

Announcing the Windchaser Ebook

One of the decisions an artist has to make when developing a fantasy universe is how much to license the images onto calendars and puzzles and other products. 

With Dinotopia, we turned down most such offers, and tried to emphasize "ink on paper" licenses to keep the focus on my illustrated books. 

But having worked in animation, I remembered the feeling of creative synergy, of making something larger than what one person can imagine. Gathering a team of creatives who share a vision is a requirement of games, film and animation, but not always so in comics and illustrated books. 

I was intrigued with the idea of allowing other writers and artists into the laboratory to help me build the world. I set up a few parameters, inviting them to: invent their own characters and storylines, stick to the spirit of Dinotopia, stay true to paleontology, and reference the characters of my illustrated books only obliquely.

Starting with Windchaser by Scott Ciencin, we ended up producing 16 digest novels. We hired Michael Welply to paint the covers. I enjoyed working with the authors, and felt that their contribution expanded the scope of my own imagination.

The books were successful, but they eventually went out of print, and we never published ebooks. Until now.

Working through The Authors Guild with a company that specializes in ebooks, we've made a reasonably priced ebook edition that you can enjoy on any of your modern devices. Dinotopia: Windchaser will be released on September 16, but you can pre-order a copy now at these links.
Dinotopia: Windchaser at Barnes and Noble

Friday, August 30, 2019

Sketch of the Farmer's Market

At the farmer’s market in our town, you’ll find fresh bread, salad greens, eggs, honey, jams, meat, wood crafts, and music.

(Link to video on Facebook) I bring my stand-up easel and do a quick painted study, using flat brushes to lay in the tones.

I paint it in gouache and watercolor in a Pentalic watercolor sketchbook
(Hey, this is the 5,000th post on the blog!)

Thursday, August 29, 2019

What's the difference between watercolor and gouache?

A question that came up during yesterday's live video is this: How is tube watercolor different from tube gouache? 

Obviously they have similarities—they both have gum arabic binder, they're both rich and concentrated in their pigment loads, and they can be used either transparently or opaquely depending on the properties of each pigment. 

Is gouache always more opaque than watercolor? Is the pigment / binder ratio different? Is it supposed to be more matte when it dries?

To help shed light on these subjects, I asked two manufacturer's representatives to comment: Ann McCarthy of Winsor and Newton's Support Team, and Timothy Hopper, Executive VP of Holbein, Inc. 

1. Gurney: What's the difference between gouache and watercolor in their tube form?

Winsor and Newton: “Watercolor and gouache are similar in that they both are made with gum arabic binders. Designers gouache is considerably more opaque and this is done by loading additional pigment. While most colors in gouache are opaque, some colors, mostly transparent pigments, are semi opaque. 

"The artist doesn't generally need to add white to most gouache colors to achieve opacity. The only caveats would be that gouache is susceptible to cracking when applied too thickly and that both types of media remain soluble even when dry, so layering can be difficult and we don't recommend varnishing."

Holbein, Inc: “The principal difference between Artist Watercolor (WC) and Designers Gouache (GC) is: Watercolor (WC) contains less pigment and more Gum Arabic, and Gouache (GC) contains more pigments and less Gum Arabic. As you know we (Holbein) are not adding any whitening agent to (GC) but we specifically choose (GC) pigments that are naturally matte.

2. Gurney: Is it advisable from your perspective if people use gouache as if it were watercolor (namely, in a transparent fashion), and watercolor in a gouache-like way, adding white to get opaque passages? 

Winsor and Newton: “Watercolors are a traditionally transparent medium and usually applied in thin washes while gouache will be used when a more opaque color is desired. I suppose you could use them in ways they weren't intended for but it seems like a lot of additional work to turn a watercolor into a gouache and vice versa."

Holbein, Inc: If you add White to WC, it becomes opaque but your resulting color will become grayish in color."

3. Gurney: Is there any problem with using them together in the same painting?

Winsor and Newton: “Yes, they can be be used together."

Holbein, Inc: “It is common that WC and Gouache are mixed and used together in the same painting without any issue."

4. Gurney: Why is there a price difference between the two for the same pigment and same size tube?

Winsor and Newton: "Watercolor formulations are much more complex and cost more to make."

Holbein, Inc: “There has always been a price differentials between both gouache and watercolor. One of the main reasons is the production of Artist Watercolor is more detailed in nature than the production of Gouache. The same differential can be found in many high quality art lines."
Thanks to Mr. Hopper and Ms. McCarthy.
Amazon links:
Holbein gouache set
Shinhan Pass watercolor/gouache hybrid set

Gouache Ingredients: Info from Manufacturers
Gouache: Tubes or Pans?

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Your Gouache Questions Answered

I tried a new YouTube format with a "YouTube Premiere" video that launched at 12 noon today. We covered materials and methods and followed one painting from start to finish. If you follow the YouTube link you'll be able to read the live chat that accompanies the video.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Animal Painter Rudolf Koller

Rudolf Koller (1828-1905) was a Swiss animal painter.  His father was a butcher, brewer, and innkeeper, so he regularly saw wagon drivers and cattle dealers.

He bought a chalet along Lake Zurich and kept a small stock of animals, mainly to use for models.

This painting called "The Artist and his Model" gives a hint about what his working method must have been like. The artist props his paint box in his lap, shielded from the sun by his umbrella. The farmhand who is supposed to be watching the donkey lounges in the foreground.

According to Wikipedia, "To honour the 100th anniversary of his death the Hotel Adler fitted a "stand-up bar for dogs", consisting of cast-iron water troughs, to the outside wall of the hotel. The bar has a mechanism which refreshes the water every 30 minutes."
Note: I'll be doing a YouTube Premiere called "Gouache: Your Questions Answered" tomorrow, Wednesday August 28 at noon Eastern Time.

Monday, August 26, 2019

How to Paint Shiny Reflective Surfaces

How do you paint the colored surface of a shiny new car? 

I find you have to be simultaneously aware of the lighting, local color, and specularity.

I'll be doing a demo and fielding your questions on a YouTube video premiering this Wednesday, August 28. Link to video on YouTube.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Our visual system elaborates meager input

How is it that we perceive the world in such rich detail and texture, even though the eyes don't actually take in very much information?

Ivan Shishkin, In the woods, 1860s,
unfinished drawing, ink, pen on paper
State Tretyakov Gallery, Russia
Neuroscientists working with mathematicians at NYU have developed a mathematical model of vision which explains the process that the brain uses to generate elaborate visual representations.

This process is necessary because to achieve our detailed vision, we don't use our eyeballs in the same way that a camera uses its lenses and sensors. For one thing, there are relatively few neurons carrying information from the retina to the back of the brain.

The magic happens in the visual cortex, which is much better connected neurally. As the brain begins to sort out the relatively meager information it receives, it elaborates the data into a richer representation. Until recently, scientists thought this process happened in a "feed forward" direction, a one-way trip from retina to visual cortex to higher vision centers in the brain.

Oak Forest by Ivan Shishkin

But it turns out that information often loops back from higher to lower levels of processing, amplifying weak signals into richer images. This happens in real time, largely unconsciously, and sometimes inaccurately, such as when you think you see a snake, but it turns out to be a rope.

At this stage, the researchers are concentrating on the brain's preliminary decoding of the image—tasks such as edge detection and shape recognition, but they're working their way to understanding other levels of processing, such as perception of motion and color "which occurs through an entirely different and more difficult neural pathway."

Painting by Aaron Draper Shattuck
As a plein-air painter, these findings make sense to me. When I'm looking at a scene in order to paint it, I'm conscious of the impression of infinite detail, much of it suggested to me by my peripheral vision.

I'm also aware of how my visual system also screens out elements of a scene such as a pole or a foreground object,  even from a scene that I may have been looking at for over an hour. There are objects in my visual field that I'm not aware of at all until someone points them out to me or I look at a photo of the scene.

Read the articles:
Quanta Magazine: A Mathematical Model Unlocks the Secrets of Vision 
Quanta Magazine: Computers and Humans See Differently

Thanks, Keith Patton

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Harry Anderson Techniques

Harry Anderson still life, casein, 1980s
Illustrator Harry Anderson  painted floral studies casein and tempera paint. Here's what he said about how he made a picture:

"When I put brush to paper, the final composition is reasonably clear in my mind. Picture boundaries are determined by boxing the hands or by using a cardboard viewer with a rectangular opening. Starting to paint, I like to lay in all color areas as quickly as possible, so that the arrangement becomes clear for a second study. In this stage, little attention is paid to detail—only the general shapes are indicated. Values and colors are made as true as feasibly consistent with hasty application.

"Frequently I use my fingers or, more accurately my thumbs in manipulating the color for different effects. I am always watchful for desirable 'accidental' passages which, when found effective, I am careful to retain."

"Another practice, which I am told is uncommon, is the use of two different colors on a single bristle brush in painting objects whose color might run from light to dark—as a cylinder. First I load the brush with the lighter hue and then with a section of the brush I pick up the darker paint so that, when the stroke is made, very interesting accidentals result. This works very well on small objects. To lighten or change a painted tract, I would hesitate to use solid opaque color, applying light on dark. I would prefer first scrub out the expanse and then repaint it."
—The quote comes from in the book The Art of Harry Anderson and was originally published in American Artist, May 1956.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Meme Propagation

A lot of people sent me this meme, and said it was going around. I did the painting, but I don't know who contributed the quote. 

I think the idea is kind of fun, especially since the word balloon points to the dinosaur. It makes me wonder how you launch a meme, and how it spreads. Does anyone know? Is it just via 'word of mouth' and sharing on Twitter?

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Paint Technique: Bravura vs. Patience

Painting Atelier in the École des Beaux Arts
American mural painter Edwin Blashfield (1848-1936) recalled that when he was an art student in Paris, all the students on Léon Bonnat's atelier wanted to use a lot of paint and to make sure their paintings looked vigorous and not labored.

Leon Bonnat, Roman Girl at a Fountain
One day Monsieur Bonnat arrived to survey the student work, he said: "Gentlemen, why do you use so much paint? You are only tripping yourselves up. I do not use a great quantity of paint for its own sake, but because my temperament is such that I can get my effect better in that way."

The comments quenched the students' enthusiasm for obsessing with thick paint and technique in general. According to Bonnat, the technique didn't matter so much as effort and patience.

Bonnat said: "It has often been told us that Michelangelo said, 'Genius is eternal patience,' and there is no doubt that Michelangelo was an expert in the definition of genius if ever a man was. Thomas Carlyle, too, defined genius as a 'transcending capacity for taking trouble.'"

"Students may remember then, when they wish to work vigorously and powerfully, and when they disdain what they call labored painting — may remember, I say, that two of the most rugged and original personalities that ever existed, the one in literature, the other in art, have averred that patience — careful, painstaking patience — is the crowning virtue which shall furnish the basis to the brilliant and captivating vigor which is so desirable an achievement."

"And do not mistake my intention. I am with the student. I sympathize in his wish. The skillful manipulation of pigment is a capacity to be struggled for and to be proud of when obtained; it makes the surface of the canvas attract at once. But if the canvas is to be made vital-looking and lastingly solid as well as attractive, behind and under the lively manipulation of pigment there must be construction and knowledge, the fruit of hard work."

Edwin Blashfield, Trumpets of Missouri
"Idolatry of mere dexterity is peculiarly dangerous in America because it assails us along the lines of the least resistance. Dexterousness comes naturally to the American, and in its favor he is sometimes only too ready to suppress hard thinking, which is the one invaluable kind of hard work and discipline in any profession. Technical excellence is at its very best only a means to an end, and art stands for something much finer, greater, and deeper than even the very skilfullest and most brilliant handling of one’s tools." 
Read more:
Wikipedia on Edwin Blashfield (1848-1936) and Léon Bonnat (1833-1922) 

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Damascus Gate

Damascus Gate is an entrance to Old Jerusalem built during the times of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century. 

I sketch this with a simple black watercolor wash, painting around the white shapes of figures on the bridge.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Tombs of the Kidron Valley

This watercolor sketch depicts the tombs of the Kidron Valley outside of the walls of Jerusalem. The Jews left their dead in tombs made outside the city walls.  

Tombs of the Kidron Valley
I made the sketch on location while researching a story for National Geographic (never published) about the interaction of Roman and Judaic cultures during the days of Jesus

According to the website Jerusalem 101, these tombs were present during Jesus' time: "He would have walked past them many times and constantly viewed them whenever his eyes scanned the Kidron Valley or the Mount of Olives. He even spoke about them in the Gospels, calling them “beautiful” when he addressed the religious leaders on the Temple Mount:
'Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.' - Matthew 23:27"
Sketching these rock-cut tombs helped inspire Canyon City in Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Focusing Light on One Part of the Painting

Olana is the Hudson Valley home of 19th century landscape painter Frederic Church (1826-1900) (Link to YouTube video

My goal in this plein-air gouache/watercolor study is to focus light on one part of the painting.

Frederic Church himself inspires me to try this kind of lighting, given that he distributes the light in his paintings in a theatrical way.

Frederic Church designed his home, inspired by his travels in the Holy Land. 
Frederic Church on Wikipedia

Glories of the Hudson: Frederic Edwin Church's Views from Olana (The Olana Collection)

Sunday, August 18, 2019

R.I.P. Richard Williams, Animator and Teacher

(Link to YouTube)
Richard Williams has died at age 86. He animated Pink Panther, produced a 1971 adaptation of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, and developed the animation for Who Framed Roger Rabbit? 

Perhaps his biggest contribution, though, was as a teacher. He had a huge base of knowledge, which he shared freely and cheerfully with a younger generation.

He learned the craft directly from Disney greats like Milt Kahl and Art Babbitt, as well as Warner Bros. talents like Ken Harris, who animated Bugs Bunny during the golden years, and later came to work with Williams in London.

All of that information is compiled in his excellent instructional book The Animator's Survival Kit. The book contains a wealth of drawings illustrating all the principles of animation and is considered the classic instructional text in that field.
Book: The Animator's Survival Kit: A Manual of Methods, Principles and Formulas for Classical, Computer, Games, Stop Motion and Internet Animators
BBC: Roger Rabbit animator Richard Williams dies at 86

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Serov's Fable Illustrations

Though better known for his portraits, Valentin Serov (1865-1911) illustrated the animal fables of Ivan Krylov with expressive line drawings.

In "The Monkey and Her Glasses," an older monkey with poor eyesight buys some eyeglasses. Unfortunately, she doesn't know how to wear them. Since she can't see better, she breaks them in anger. 

In "The Quartet," a bear, a goat, and donkey, and a monkey decide to play music as a string quartet. Having no luck at playing the instruments, they keep trading instruments, but still they can't make a good sound. Finally a musically inclined nightingale appears to remind them that you can't play music without skill and talent.

It's interesting to see how a great portrait painter explores gesture and character in loose line drawings that blend the real with the imaginary.

In the book Valentin Serov, Dmitri Sarabyanov says: "This combining of the imaginary with the real was something Serov always tried to achieve, whether in his portraits or drawings for Krylov's fables or historical themes."

Some of Serov's later paintings explore mythological themes such as "Rape of Europa" (left), where his stylization departs from naturalism and becomes more expressionistic.

According to the Ancient History Encyclopedia: "Europa was charmed by the docile animal and decorated him in flowers. Then, thinking she might ride such a gentle beast, she climbed on his back. The bull swam with her into the sea, soared into the air and carried Europa far away from Phoenicia."

Book: Valentin Serov: Paintings, Graphic Works, Stage Designs 
Wikipedia: Valentin Serov

Friday, August 16, 2019

A Street in Ravenna by Signorini

The street is half in shadow and half in light, with an irregular shadow edge cast from the building tops across the cobblestones. 

A Street in Ravenna by Telemaco Signorini (1835-1901).
To pull off the idea, Signorini must have been very conscious of grouping the values. The tones in the illuminated side of the street are well organized as a single light shape. And the values of all the forms in shadow never go above a middle range. The sky is kept fairly flat, and he didn't overplay the warm and cool effects.
Wikipedia on Telemaco Signorini (1835-1901).
Book: The Macchiaioli : Italian Painters of the Nineteenth Century
Previously: Mezza-Macchia (painting impressionistically in two tones)