Friday, January 31, 2020

Painting a Farm Road in Gouache

Painting is a kind of magic trick where you invite the viewer to travel through the surface into a world or feeling and imagination. (Link to video on YouTube)

Open Road, gouache, 5 x 8 inches
In the video I reference an excerpt from John O'Donahue's poem "For the Senses"
May your inner eye
See through the surfaces
And glean the real presence
Of everything that meets you.

May your soul beautify
The desire of your eyes
That you might glimpse
The infinity that hides
In the simple sights
That seem worn
To your usual eyes
CBC Interview with John O'Donahue (Thanks, Fhinn)

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Neanderthals Made Art, Scientists Say


Scientists believe that the cave paintings in Spain were made before modern humans arrived, suggesting that they were capable of making art and thinking in symbols.

Uranium-thorium dating suggests Neanderthals were in Europe 65,000 years ago, while Homo sapiens didn't arrive until about 45,000 years ago.

"This suggests that the Palaeolithic artwork must have been made by Neanderthals, a "sister" species to Homo sapiens, and Europe's sole human inhabitants at the time. But, so far, the researchers have found only abstract expressions of art by Neanderthals."

Examples of art-making go back as much as 70,000 years ago, but they can't be associated with any particular human ancestor.

Read more: BBC Neanderthals were capable of making art

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Jeanette Cooking

A casein underpainting sets up a warm color tonality for this quick gouache study. (Link to Facebook)

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Hultgren Cartoons

Ken Hultgren (1915 - 1968) was an animator and a comic artist for Walt Disney and went on to write instructional books about cartoon-inspired drawing.

His construction method emphasizes the three-dimensional solidity, based on ball-shaped forms connected by a line of action.

His anthropomorphic animals adapt the animal types to bipedal poses. 

Underneath cartoon caricatures are simple designs that he lays out as 2D shapes and builds out as 3D forms, complete with centerlines. 

He often shows a drawing in two stages of construction, so that you can see how he carries the gesture into the whole pose, and how he alternates straight and curved lines.
 Books by Ken Hultgren: 

Monday, January 27, 2020

Where We Look at Madame X

Where do people spend the most time looking at Sargent's Madame X? We study the face and hands as expected, but we also look at her chin, neck, and striking decolletage.

Left: John Singer Sargent, Madame Gautreau
Right: Eyetracking heatmap
Dan Hill, the vision scientist who did this study, says: "The mind's eye can go anywhere. In reality, faces command attention. What gets noticed first, typically? The answer is faces and what's in the vicinity, namely people's heads."

Thomas Gainsborough, Mr. and Mrs. Andrews

Hill says, "Faces matter. After twenty-plus years of conducting market-research studies, I can tell you most definitively that nothing changes the underlying pattern. If there's a face involved, as much as seventy percent or more of all the gaze activity goes to the face(s) present."
Previously on the blog: 
Eye Tracking and Composition
Men, Women, and Eye Tracking
Images from the book "First Blush: People's Intuitive Reactions to Famous Art" by Dan Hill

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Photos of Americans at Outdoor Fairs

Person at the Fun Center from Earthsworld
taken by "a human being in Portland"
Earthsworld is a website with collections of candid photos of anonymous Americans taken at outdoor fairs.

It includes a crosscut of individuals, honest and unfiltered. It's a good source of reference for character designers and virtual people-watchers.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Sketches from the Impeachment Trial

Art Lien for New York Times.
Art Lien has been a witness to history as he sketches the impeachment trial in Washington, DC.

Art Lien says: "Some members took up a second activity, like fidget spinning or doodling.”

He says that he is only allowed to bring simple drawing tools into the Senate chambers to produce the line work. He is forced to paint the washes later from memory.

Art Lien's normal beat is the Supreme Court. Here's a video profile (Link to YouTube).

Most professional courtroom sketch artists work in federal jurisdictions, as many state courts have allowed cameras to cover their proceedings. 

Friday, January 24, 2020

What Colors to Take on Vacation?

Tad asks: "I noticed your recommended basic sets of colors are different, depending on the medium. Did your habits change between videos or does the transparency differences between gouache and watercolor require a different set to get the most flexibility?

Hi, Tad, I take a different set of colors each time I travel. I'm always trying new pigments in new combinations. I usually start out with a commercial watercolor pan set, which I customize by replacing some of the colors. I bring along a few tubes of gouache or watercolors, because the paint from tubes is juicier than the paint dried in pans. I carry the tubes in a little plastic snack box or in a plastic bag.

Those extra tubes of gouache are from sets offered by HolbeinM. Graham, or Winsor and Newton. It costs a lot less per tube to buy them in sets rather than individually. I also sometimes pull unusual colors from the big set of Shinhan Pass, which is a watercolor/gouache hybrid. I also have a big jar of Richeson (casein), which I use when I want to work in a broader, more painterly style.

Although the set of colors that I actually bring in my kit evolves or changes on a given outing changes, I typically bring one or two reds, a couple yellows, and a couple blues, plus white. I like to have a high-chroma and a low-chroma version of each one. For example I might have cadmium yellow and yellow ochre, but next time I may want to change out the cadmium for a lemon yellow.

When I start a painting, I select even further from the 6-12 tubes of colors that I have in my kit, because I don't want to squeeze out any more colors than I actually need. If midway through a painting I find I need an additional color that I haven't squeezed out yet, I add that midway through.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Frank Bramley's Preliminary Sketches

Frank Bramley, Saved... 'Oft in a humble home a golden room is found "
1889, oil on canvas, 150 x 196 cm. Durban Municipal Art Gallery, South Africa
Frank Bramley's 1889 painting Saved "depicts a trio of Cornish fish-wives and their children gathered around the fire in a Newlyn cottage to await news of their husbands' boat lost at sea," according to Sothebys.

Frank Bramley Saved, 1889, Tate
"In 1888 Bramley had exhibited 'A Hopeless Dawn' at the Royal Academy, to great critical and public success. The painting showed a young woman inconsolable after hearing that her husband has died at sea, and Bramley conceived Saved as a companion piece, showing a happier ending as the old fisherman in the doorway announces the news of the men's rescue."

Frank Bramley sketch for Saved
The preliminary oil sketch for Saved "shows Bramley's rugged style, inspired by French art whilst the subject is typical of an artist who sought to show the hardship of contemporary life in Cornwall without resorting to melodrama or anecdote." (Source Sothebys)

Frank Bramley, compositional color study
Bramley's color studies make clear his design philosophy, which show great awareness of value organization, with each area treated as a relatively flat shape and a minimum of modeling. The influence of French painters, particularly Manet, would have been evident to viewers.

Frank Bramley, Every One His Own Tale, 112 by 179.5 cm., 44 by 70 in. 1885
Sothebys says that Every One His Own Tale "depicts an everyday scene in the lives of the local Cornish people, who are gathered around the fire of an inn to hear a tale of adventure and danger. Firelight glows in the sturdy iron hearth that has given warmth and comfort to generations of fishermen over the many years that the inn has stood on the Cornish coast. A young mariner, sprawled in his chair has put aside his cider to regale a spell-bound young fishergirl with his tales of the open sea. She is dressed in a white work apron and her sleeves are still rolled up from her work preparing the catch for market, but all thoughts of toil are forgotten as her imagination rushes out over the seas, inspired by the words of the young man. Her jovial grandfather, amused by her enthusiasm and familiar with the stories told by the younger members of the fleet, rests a loving hand onto hers in a gesture of pride and affection."
Previous posts about Frank Bramley 

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Deadline for Spectrum 27 Is Thursday

Tomorrow, Thursday, is the final day for submitting your artwork to Spectrum 27, the annual of contemporary fantastic art. You can submit by uploading your images online, and the fee is reasonable.

The jury changes every year, and jurors are always leaders in the field of imaginative art. This year they include Alice A. Carter, Craig Elliott, Anthony Francisco, Courtney Granner, Forest Rogers, Chie Yoshii
Here's a quick link to the submissions page.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Why is Old Glass Wavy?

Old glass has wavy imperfections because of the way it was made, not because it continues to flow. That's a commonly repeated myth.

Plein air painting from Montgomery Place, New York
Very old glass was made by spinning a glass crown disk from a central rod, flattening it, and cutting rectangular pieces out of it. Later, in the early 1900s, glass was made in tall cylinders which were reheated and flattened. After the mid 20th century it has been made by floating molten glass on molten tin, which results in perfectly smooth glass. Whichever way it's made, it doesn't change shape appreciably after being installed in a window.

Antique glass, with its wavy imperfections, distorts both the view through the window, and the reflection of anything behind the viewer. Those distortions are minimal if objects (like the bust) are close to the glass, but the ripple effect grows as objects are farther from the glass. 
Read more:
The Craftsman Blog All About Wavy Glass
Corning Museum of Glass Does Glass Flow?

Monday, January 20, 2020

Foveated Rendering

In this new study, a neural network compresses video data by concentrating the fine detail only in areas where we're looking with our foveas, the central area of our vision where we perceive more information. (Link to YouTube)

There are two ways of achieving foveated rendering. One ways is to use an eye tracking system connected to a virtual reality headset to guide the reduction of rendering data by focusing the detail only where we're actually looking. 

A more primitive method is to make educated guesses about where people are likely to look in a scene and put the detail there.

Obviously this has strong applications to what we do as painters. We don't need to put detail everywhere in a picture. A painting will look super detailed as long as the fine-grained information is concentrated in the faces or other key areas. 
Facebook research paper: DeepFovea: Neural Reconstruction for Foveated Rendering and Video Compression using Learned Statistics of Natural Videos

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Leibl and Sperl: Artistic Team

Wilhelm Leibl and Johann Sperl teamed up on nine paintings. Sperl (1840-1914) painted the landscape....

Detail of painting above
...and Leibl (1844-1900) contributed the figures. Here, a local man tells a hunter where to find his quarry.

This little grouping of figures worked so well that they placed them into another landscape.

According to a catalog of German painting, "Leibl and Sperl met when they were students, but a strong friendship developed only in 1873. Leibl left Munich that year and lived in a succession of Bavarian villages. After joint painting campaigns in 1875 and 1878, they lived and worked in Bad Aibling from 1881 to 1892."

In 1914, Sperl collapsed while painting a blooming meadow and died a few days before the outbreak of World War I. His final wish was to be buried next to his friend Leibl.
Book: German Masters of the Nineteenth Century
Wikipedia: Wilhelm Leibl
Johann Sperl

Saturday, January 18, 2020

"Through the Water" by von Zugel

"Through the Water," by Heinrich Zugel, is an excellent example of the Modern German School," writes the Magazine of Art in 1911

Study for "Through the Water" 1908, by Heinrich von Zugel,

"The dominant notes in the color scheme are blue and gray. The canvas is large and the pigment held in big, ample masses. The oxen are great, strong brutes, well drawn and admirably painted. The little boy on the back of the off-ox seems more of an incident than a factor in the composition. He is, however, a real boy, vital and with definite personality."

"Through the Water" 1908, by Heinrich von Zugel, formerly at the Metropolitan Museum
This is one of a collection of paintings by contemporary German artists which was exhibited in New York, Boston and Chicago in 1909, having been brought to this country through the efforts and generosity of Mr. Hugo Resinger, of New York, with the object of increasing here the knowledge and appreciation of German Art of which he is both a connoisseur and patron. It was acquired then by the Museum."

The painting no longer appears to be at the Metropolitan Museum.


Friday, January 17, 2020

Featured Artist on Dutch Art Box

I'm the featured artist this week in Dutch Art Box, along with a short interview.

Question: What inspires you to paint?
Answer: Dinosaurs and parking lots. One is beyond our imagination, the other is beneath our notice.

The website was founded by a mother / daughter team in the Netherlands who wanted to feature emerging and established artists, and share tips about art supplies and methods. Anyone can sign up to be featured.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Wall Street Journal's Hedcuts

Top row: hand-drawn portraits; Bottom row: computer-generated versions.
The Wall Street Journal has developed an artificial-intelligence system for creating its distinctive 'hedcut' portraits.
Human-created hedcut of Grumpy Cat, 2013, courtesy Wall Street Journal
Hedcuts have a wood-engraving or scratchboard look, made up of dots and dashes.

Left: human-created 'hedcut' of actress Chloë Grace Moretz
Right: AI-created hedcut, courtesy Wall Street Journal
The AI learned the style and produced adequate results in most cases. But there were difficulties. One challenge was "teaching the tool to render hair and clothes differently than skin, which was often a matter of whether to crosshatch versus stipple."

Error cases caused by AI working with too limited set of data,
courtesy Wall Street Journal
"The most harrowing issue of all was overfitting, which happens when a model fits a limited set of data too closely. In this case, that meant the machine became too satisfied with its artistic ability and began producing terrifying monstrosities like these."
Read more on Wall Street Journal: What’s in a Hedcut? Depends How It’s Made.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Herminie Waternau's Gouache Studies of Paris

Herminie Waternau (1862 - 1913), Courtyard of the Auberge du Cheval blanc in 1898
gouache and watercolor, Carnavalet Museum, History of Paris
Herminie Waternau (1862 - 1913) painted detailed architectural scenes around Paris using a muted palette of watercolor and gouache. She achieved convincing textures with a combination of transparent and opaque watercolor.

I found these images at the Paris Musées website, which recently released a trove of over 100,000 high-resolution images online. Since they're in the public domain, you can download the large files and look at the details.

Herminie Waternau (1862 - 1913), Port-Royal Hospital in 1909, 

gouache and watercolor, Carnavalet Museum, History of Paris

You can search for works by your favorite artists or discover lesser-known people.

Herminie Waternau (1862 - 1913), 34.4 x 25.4 cm (13 x 10 inches)
gouache and watercolor, Carnavalet Museum, History of Paris

According to Wikipedia, "She died of a heart attack together with her maid Ermunde Serre, and their bodies were discovered by authorities when neighbors were alarmed by their absence."

Herminie Waternau (1862 - 1913), Courtyard of the
Petit Séminaire de Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet in 1908.
gouache and watercolor, Carnavalet Museum, History of Paris
Paris Museums Collection Online
Article about the release of images in Smithsonian Magazine

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Vogue Italia's Illustrated Issue

The fashion magazine Vogue Italia used a series of illustrated covers for its January, 2020 issue in order to reduce the magazine's impact on the environment.
 January 2020 Vogue Italia Special Issue on newsstands
January 7th 
They explain: "All of the covers, as well as the features of our January issue, have been drawn by artists, ranging from well-known art icons and emerging talents to comic book legends, who have created without travelling, shipping entire wardrobes of clothes or polluting in any way. The challenge was to prove it is possible to show clothes without photographing them." 
@MiloManara_official featuring @OliviaVinten in @Gucci
They continue: "This is a first, Vogue Italia has never had an illustrated cover: and as far as I know no issue of Vogue in which photography is not the primary visual medium has ever been printed. Thanks to this idea, and to these artists' process, the money saved in the production of this issue will go towards financing a project that really deserves it: the restoration of @FondazioneQueriniStampalia in Venice, severely damaged by the recent floods.”

Whether there's any real environmental benefit to this decision, or whatever their motivation in choosing it, a side benefit is that they're hiring more art. They say having art on the cover is a first for Vogue Italia. Perhaps so, but it's not a first for Vogue itself, as a quick search of 1930s-era covers will attest.
Comments on their Instagram post include:
Obsessed with this!! We need to see more of this as us illustrators are very under appreciated in the fashion industry.
fawxden Surprised you kids have not done this concept before. It’s pretty fabulous. Do an all black and white edition next!! 🖤
begasquish Supporting artists is also a wonderful idea again! Bravo !! 👏💙🙏