Saturday, February 29, 2020

Tips for Painting Realistically in Gouache and Watercolor

In this new Youtube video I sketch of a pile of snow along a country road using gouache and watercolor.

I start in watercolor, applying the paint wet with big brushes, and gradually shifting to a more opaque approach. I use drybrush effects to capture the texture of the gravel road. The gouache goes on thickly for the highlights and accents.

Gouache and watercolor squeezed out from the tube can be used in combination for any kind of plein-air painting or urban sketching.

Ultramarine blue
Raw sienna
Cadmium yellow
Perylene maroon
Titanium white
Ivory black
Set of gouache primary colors

Friday, February 28, 2020

Vertebral Drawbridge

The vertebral drawbridge is a one-way passage into the Rainy Basin, Dinotopia's dangerous realm of the carnosaurs. The weight of a sauropod caravan flexes the structure downward, allowing armored convoys to cross over, before the bridge springs back up again. 

The fun of biomorphic or zoomorphic engineering is that you arrive at natural forms not because they're beautiful in some detached aesthetic sense, but because they're purely efficient and functional, as are all forms in nature. 

My dad, grandfather, great-grandfather, and my great uncles were all mechanical engineers, and they always rhapsodized about how skeletons are fascinating structures from a design perspective, combining strength, flexibility, lightness, and adaptability.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Monet Contemplates Eye Surgery

French impressionist Claude Monet (1840-1926) began to notice that something was changing in his vision. 

According to a British medical journal, he said that "‘colours no longer had the same intensity for me’, that ‘reds had begun to look muddy’ and that ‘my painting was getting more and more darkened.’ 

"To avoid choosing the wrong colors, Monet started to label his tubes of paint and keep a strict order on his palette. Glare from bright sunlight complicated things further forcing Monet to wear a big straw hat outside."

He traveled to London to consult with German ophthalmologist Richard Liebreich, who recommended cataract surgery, but Monet refused. But by 1914-15, he noticed that his color vision was worsening.”

Monet after eye surgery
"After Monet became increasingly despondent and less productive, Georges Clemenceau, former French prime minister and physician, urged his friend to consider cataract surgery. Frightened, however, by the fate of his fellow artists Honoré Daumier and Mary Cassatt, whose cataract operations had been unsuccessful, Monet was adamant to avoid surgery at all costs.”
Read the rest by Anna Gruener at the British Journal of General Practice
Have you had cataract or LASIK surgery? How did it change your vision? Please share your story in the comments.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Early Plein-Air Painters featured in Washington DC

“Vue de Capri/ View of Capri” (1851) by Vilhelm Kyhn.
Oil on paper, mounted on canvas. (Private Collection, London)
A small exhibition at the National Gallery in Washington features artists in Europe who pioneered using oils outdoors in the late 1700s, nearly a century before the Impressionists.

“Trinità dei Monti in the Snow” (1825/1830) André Giroux Santa.
Oil on paper, mounted on canvas. National Gallery of Art
The show includes Achille-Etna Michallon, André Giroux, Francois-Marius Granet, Jules Coignet and Jean-Jospeh-Xavier Bidauld, together with their better known successors such as Camille Corot, Richard Parkes Bonington, and John Constable.

“View of Bozen with a Painter” (1837) by Jules Coignet.
Oil on paper, mounted on canvas. 
Art critic Sebastian Smee of the Washington Post describes the show as radical, and one of the most important things going on in Washington right now. He says the effect is "Gorgeous! Warm sun illuminating the buildings and bridges on the island of San Bartolomeo. Oh! Vesuvius in the distant haze, beyond the backlit buildings of Naples. . . . The effect of light rinsing the eyes, of freshness and immediacy, of truth — it shouldn’t be so striking, so unaccountably emotional."

The show "True to Nature: Open-air Painting in Europe 1780-1870," is on view at the National Gallery of Art through May 3, 2020. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Greek Painter in Munich: Nikolaos Gyzis

In his witty painting Eros and the Painter, Nikolaos Gyzis shows an artist with her sketchpad propped up in her lap.

She directs a reluctant boy to pose for Eros, the Cupid-like god of love, who clutches an arrow, while a bird's wing is propped up behind him for reference.

In his painting Boy with Cherries, the boy has the curious expression of someone who has just eaten a cherry, and his cheek is sticking out a little. 

Portrait by Nikolaos Gyzis

Many of his paintings have the naturalistic form rendering and dark backgrounds reminiscent of other artists who had training at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, such as Frank Duveneck (1848-1919) and William Merritt Chase (1849-1916).

Psyche by Nikolaos Gyzis
Gyzis was inspired by Gustave Courbet when he saw some of the French painter's works that were shown in a Munich exhibition in 1869. But Courbet didn't like to paint mythological figures, saying: "I have never seen an angel. Show me an angel, and I'll paint one."
More about Nikolaos Gyzis, (Greek 1842-1901)

Monday, February 24, 2020

Florence Atelier on CBS Sunday Morning

Charles Cecil's atelier in Florence, which teaches a Bargue-based sight size approach to drawing and painting, received a respectful tribute on the CBS Sunday Morning TV program. (Link to YouTube).

Link to Charles Cecil Studios
Book: Charles Bargue and Jean-Leon Gerome: Drawing Course

Sunday, February 23, 2020

How Edward Cooke's Paintings Help Historians

Historians and archaeologists are using 19th century paintings to understand how coastal sites in Britain have changed over time, and how better to preserve them.

'The Fishing Cove of Beer’ (1858) by Edward William Cooke RA
One artist whose paintings have been a big help is Edward William Cooke RA (1811-1880). In addition to his interest in painting, he was a devoted student of geology, botany, zoology, and maritime history.

The eastern part of Cooke’s oil painting can be seen in this recent photograph.
"What these artworks show," says Maritime Archaeology Trust, "is the remarkable similarity in terms of the form of the cliff line, the jointing in the cliff face, and the form, profile and nature of the beach. These paintings were all produced by artists who were renowned for their topographical accuracy."

"Cooke was a remarkably accurate painter, a Fellow of the Royal Society with a fascination for coastal geology."
‘Porlock Weir’ by Edward William Cooke RA. 1862.
"Encouraged by the art critic John Ruskin, Cooke sought to capture nature exactly following the ethos of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood."
(More at Cherish: Maritime Archaeology Trust)
Wikipedia: Edward William Cooke RA FRS FZS FSA FGS

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Can You Varnish Casein?

Scottie Jensen in my YouTube channel asks:
"I love watching your videos and have purchased a few of your “In the Wild” series. I am greatly inspired by you and have built a sketchbook easel, started painting in casein and have went out into the wild to paint all thanks to you. I have one question about varnishing casein, I read on your blog you use spray on varnish - is this to avoid smudging once dry?

Also, how long should I wait before varnishing a casein painting? Will a couple days after it is dry to the touch be sufficient or is there a longer curing process to avoid cracking? Thanks so much for your knowledge and infectious passion!"

Incident on Kelly Street, casein on board, winner of the NSPCA Award 
James Gurney: Thanks for the support and feedback. The main reason I varnish some of my caseins is to deepen the darks in an overall dark painting or to protect a painting that I want to frame without glass. It shouldn't smudge without the varnish, and I almost never varnish sketchbook paintings, because I can always deepen the darks in photoshop.

Keep in mind that casein paintings are not usually varnished. The matte surface is an attractive quality, especially in high key paintings. The manufacturers suggest buffing the surface of a dry painting using an old T-shirt to add some semi-gloss luster to the surface.

You should wait a couple of days before varnishing and during that time, put the painting in a warm place to make sure the paint is fully dry. The glue-like protein binder gets stronger over time. The best defense against cracking is to make sure you paint on panel or illustration board. If you paint on watercolor paper, don't use thick impastos, because casein does not have a strong emulsion.

As with any unconventional technique, experiment first on a scrap and make sure it does what you want.

Friday, February 21, 2020

John Steel, Model-Box Magician

John Steel (1921-1998) painted covers for plastic model kits made by Revell and Aurora.

He captured the element of fantasy that let builders imagine what the actual vehicle might look like in an action setting.

Steel's work included cars, airplanes, Navy ships, and a few commercial vessels, but the model companies discovered that customers weren't as enthusiastic about commercial ships.

Steel led an adventurous life, serving in three wars, where he was wounded more than once. He also contributed in the field of combat photography and combat sketching.

Along with Jack Leynnwood, who I profiled previously, Steel painted rapidly but accurately in gouache and casein. 

He also was an accomplished hunter, fisherman, and scuba diver, painting many covers to Skin Diver Magazine.
Website: John Steel Obituary
Previously: Jack Leynnwood, Revell's Rembrandt

Thursday, February 20, 2020

The hub of the color wheel

Joshua asks on YouTube: "You said in part 1 of Color Wheel Masking, "... As each of these colors approaches the center, it becomes a neutral gray." Why neutral gray, what is the reasoning or significance for this? I see in some wheels, the use of (outer to inner circles) white, black and saturation centers as well as neutral gray. Same question regarding a center white or black, if you please?"

A color circle created using CMYK Sliders (Source)
Answer: You could use white or black instead of gray at the center of a color wheel, and many people do, especially when they're in the digital realm. Whichever you choose, the center of the wheel should have zero hue saturation. Black, white, and gray all fit that description.

It helps to keep in mind that the color wheel doesn't represent the full color space, which is a three-dimensional volume, where the vertical axis is a gray scale. The Munsell color system charts color three dimensionally, like a tree with a trunk that goes from black at the bottom to white at the top, as the vertical arrays of hues branch out from the central trunk. Note that the colors have peak saturation at different values. Yellow peaks in lighter values and blue peaks at darker values.

So the color wheel is a horizontal cross section of that 3D color volume, sliced through the peak saturations of each hue, with a gray at the center.

Most color wheels don't have a constant value all around the perimeter. I chose to represent the hues at whatever value shows them at peak chroma, and then I put the center point at an average gray value rather than raising it up to white or dropping it to black.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Prohaska's Painting Method

The new Illustration Magazine has a feature on Ray Prohaska (1919-1997) that includes an extended transcription of what he said during a painting demonstration.
"I will start today using the alla prima technique, and drawing with a brush. Right now, I'm going to prepare my palette.... I will use cerulean blue, ultramarine blue, raw umber, ivory black, naples yellow—if I have it—mars yellow, cadmium red light, cadmium yellow light, which I may or may not use. Now Grumbacher's titanium white—which is slow drying. And you will notice I squeeze out a great amount of color, particularly white. Turpentine is the only medium that I will use. Two cans of turpentine—one for painting, the other for washing the brush."

The passage continues on for several pages, offering a detailed glimpse into the thinking behind the procedure of a notable mid-20th century illustrator. Like many of his contemporaries, he was attuned to the abstract potential of his paintings:
"Now there is one particular thing to notice, and that is this. That is how wonderful painting is, the wonder and magic of painting...that practically all of these dabs I'm putting on are in themselves kind of a mosaic pattern, completely abstract, right? You see them abstractly, but they build to a reality as they are held together, and being placed alongside each other is creating a kind of magic."
Read the rest in Illustration Magazine Issue 67, which also has features on Vincent DiFate and Samson Pollen.
Back issues of the magazine, such as Illustration 55, are also available.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Extreme Expressions

This detail of a painting from Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara shows a singer in a millstone ruff.
Detail of Bilgewater Chorus, oil, 

In the photo reference I push the expression to the limit. It's not easy to hold an expression like this for very long, and it's rare to get a chance in art school to paint from a model with an extreme expression.
Photos courtesy Paul Ekman
But faces are highly mobile and expressive, and if you stop-frame a video of people acting and reacting, their faces are constantly changing with brief expressions. 

One of the pioneers of the study of expressions was Paul Ekman, who began his research in the 1950s, and introduced the concept of microexpressions. 
Previous posts:

Monday, February 17, 2020

Online Trove of Natural History Images

From Tortoises, terrapins, and turtles,
London, Paris, and Frankfort :H. Sotheran, J. Baer & co.,1872.
Biodiversity Heritage Library is a free, online archive of more than 150,000 high resolution science-based renderings of insects, birds, flowers, and shells. You can scan through a vast collection of natural history artwork of fauna and flora, mostly created before the era of photography.
Biodiversity Heritage Library on Flickr
Smithsonian Magazine: "You Can Now Download 150,000 Free Illustrations of the Natural World"

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Fire and Ice Original to Be Auctioned March 1-2, 2020

On March 1-2, 2020, Heritage Auctions will offer an original background painting, complete with hand painted cel overlays, from the movie Fire and Ice (Ralph Bakshi / Frank Frazetta).
The description says: "Here's an exceptional original hand-painted cel and background setup from Fire and Ice, an epic high fantasy animated film that was a collaboration between Ralph Bakshi and one of the most important fantasy and science fiction artists of the past century, Frank Frazetta. It was also a collaboration with another artist of note, James Gurney. Mr. Gurney is best known for his illustrated book series Dinotopia; he painted the gorgeous backgrounds for Fire and Ice, his first major assignment. This splendid piece actually has two James Gurney paintings; the vine-wrapped tree at the right, and as an overlay, a foreground of flowers, a wall, and a pond. This scene occurs not long after Princess Teegra and and the warrior Larn first get together, at the ancient ruins; here, Teegra laughs as Larn clowns around after being told to "behave himself."
2020 March 1-2 Sunday & Monday Comics, Animation, & Art Weekly Online Auction #122009

Saturday, February 15, 2020

King Piye Behind the Scenes

1. Kushite pharoah Piye (or Piankhi) traveled north from Nubia to conquer and unite the kings of the Nile, published National Geographic Magazine in November, 1990.

2. Setting up a miniature tableau with clay figures, toothpicks, foam board.

3. I record light and shadow arrangement using white and black charcoal.

4. Mirror studies on tone paper of Piankhy.

5. Quick gesture studies from live models of bowing figures.

6. Refine the scene with charcoal on vellum for archaeologist Tim Kendall's approval.

7. Beginning to block in the palm trees in the distance.

    A reader on Instagram asks: "When do you know you are happy with your underdrawing before you start painting.?I either keep making changes perpetually on the drawing, or get impatient and leave things out and start painting, adding elements as I go."

    Answer: "I probably did 25 different preliminary sketches, most that I didn't show. Didn't spend more than a few hours on each sketch. Each one solves a different problem. Deadline keeps process moving forward."
This process is covered in greater detail in Step by Step Graphics Magazine, Volume 6 #7