Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Using motion blur in an oil painting

Here's an oil painting that uses motion blur effects. 
I had to imagine which parts of the pose were moving in which directions and at what speed. 

The arms are swinging up, and the feet are swinging outward from the knee. The imaginary “camera” is also panning right to track the action, which horizontally blurs the out-of-focus background detail.
From Dinotopia: First Flight (on Amazon) or (signed at my website)

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Book Review: 'Enchanted: A History of Fantasy Illustration'

The new book Enchanted: A History of Fantasy Illustration is a comprehensive history of imaginative art.

Curator Jesse Kowalski begins the story with a comparative survey of the art of ancient  cultures, going all the way back to Gilgamesh, the earliest known epic story.

Bernat Martorell, Saint George and the Dragon, 1434

Most ancient art is filled with fantastic imagery, with monsters, strange worlds, heroes, gods, and stories of creation. 

Martin Schongauer (1448-1491) The Griffin

Kowalski defines fantasy in terms of larger-than-life stories, such as folktales, myths, legends, and epic tales. That includes religious stories. As Joseph Campbell once said, “Mythology may, in a real sense, be defined as other people's religion."

Eugène Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People, 1830

Some political revolutions have expressed their core values in terms of fantasy.

Richard Doyle, The Fairy Queen Takes an Airy Drive, 1870

Kowalski delves into the work of Freud, Jung, and Campbell, who all recognized the universal power of the subconscious in art. 

Arthur Rackham, The Fish King and the Dog Fish; It's Head 
Was Patted Graciously, ca. 1905

This broad and inclusive history covers a range of narrative art forms, including film posters, comics, and book illustration.

The book is a catalog of an exhibition that was originally planned to open last summer at the Norman Rockwell Museum, but because of the pandemic, was delayed one year. The exhibition will now be on show from June 12 through October 31, 2021.

James Warhola, Magic Shop, 1985

The book covers fantasy art to the present day, with works by many living fantasy artists, some of whom created paintings especially for the exhibition.

Enchanted: A History of Fantasy Illustration, 232 pages, with 180 illustrations, mostly in color. There are essays by Jesse Kowalski, Alice Carter, Stephanie Plunkett, Greg Manchess, Craig Chalquist, and Rusty Burke. 

Monday, September 28, 2020

Robert Bechtle (1932-2020)

Robert Bechtle (1932-2020), one of the champions of Photrealism, once said: "One reason my paintings have become realistic has to do with my interest in what things really look like." 

Robert Bechtle: A Retrospective Beyond his way of interpreting reality in photographic terms, his work is striking for its inclusion of mundane subjects. 

Tissot's Creative Use of Photogaphy

A new book on James Tissot discusses his painting techniques and explains how he used photo reference.

According to author Sarah Kleiner, "he had a dedicated photography studio at the Château de Buillon, and evidence reveals that he used the medium to capture poses or other compositional elements. 

In Waiting for the Ferry, 1878, (above), for example, he arranged the tones so that the woman in the light coat stands out against the background, while the man and the boy are dark on dark and daringly cropped off the right side, a compositional trick he shared with his good friend Edgar Degas. 

The reference photo shows Kathleen Newton and her son. The girl's hands are on a sawhorse and they all appear to be holding still for a long exposure.

In a second exposure, she is sitting up more and he is leaning forward. Tissot picked and chose from these variations to get the poses he wanted. 

More in the magnificent new hardcover monograph about James Tissot (1836-1902).

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Should I Choose an Art Career?

Davis asks: "What would you say to someone who’s wondering whether to choose art as a career?"

First off, do you really love making art? Because you'll need to love it so much that you enjoy doing it day in and day out. You'll have to do high quality work even when you're bored or don't want to show up. 

People tell you to work hard, but what does that mean? Art doesn’t even seem like work if you really love doing it. I think what they mean is that you have to totally dedicate yourself to it, commit to it, follow the step-by-step process that results in your best stuff. If want an art career, you’ll need to be determined, patient, resourceful, and flexible. You'll need to be able to deliver a quality job every time. There will be time for wild experiments and crazy gambles, but first get your baseline working.

Creating a career in art means figuring out the intersection between: 1) What you like to make, 2) What you're really good at, and 3) What people want to buy.

If you're shifting from a spare-time artist to a full-time professional artist, you'll obviously have to develop your foundational drawing and painting skills. Commit totally to becoming the best artist you can be.  You can't do that only by reading books or watching videos. 

And you have to figure out how to do a lot of different things. You'll have to do more than just draw and paint, including videography, framing, graphic design, bookkeeping, web design, and photography. 

Self employed artists need to be part business person. Doing business means negotiating contracts, selling merch, writing invoices, advertising your work, and updating your website. In the age of computers, all that has changed, and really, it's gotten a lot easier. Keep in mind that in the age of social media, business can be creative, too. And there's no clear dividing line between doing art and doing business.       

Now I have to switch to my Dad Voice. Keep in mind that no one is going to hand you a career. However, you might get handed an opportunity. When that happens, pounce! Do the best you can with it. If you work for a client or a boss or a patron, be sure to deliver on time and on budget, communicate clearly, and be pleasant to work with. Don't bother looking for job security because there's no secure job in the art business. Things will change for all of us, whatever careers we choose. You'll have to reinvent your career a few times throughout your working life.

Society keeps telling us that people don't need art as much as they need food and shelter, but I think people do on a very deep level. If you can make a successful career in art, it's probably because the world is hungry for your unique vision, and I wish you the best if you choose to take that path. 

Friday, September 25, 2020

Using Casein Over a Pretextured Canvas Board

Here are some details of the little portrait of my wife shopping for veggies (link to YouTube video).


The painting is in casein, and the way I use it is similar to the way I would paint in oil.

You can see the underpainting texture made with acrylic modeling paste on the canvas covered board. 

You can see more casein paintings on the Casein playlist on my YouTube channel or the "casein" search term on this blog.

Jack Richeson 37-Ml Artist Casein Colors, Set of 12

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Shopping for Veggies

Well, this time I didn't actually set up my easel in the supermarket, like I did last time. The aisles are too narrow and it's just too busy. 


So I worked from photos while I painted my wife Jeanette. This one is in casein, and I captured the process in this YouTube video.

More resources
Gurney tutorials on Gumroad

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Favorite Books

I wasn't a big fiction reader as a kid (I mostly looked at pictures and captions), but there were three books that totally lifted me out of my world: "Tom Sawyer" by Mark Twain, "Treasure Island" by Robert Louis Stevenson, and "Paddle to the Sea" by Holling Clancy Holling. What books gave wings to your imagination when you were young?

Monday, September 21, 2020

Tour de Hudson Valley


Just a little mishap at the Pond Hazard, but I’m just one painting behind the leader. (Link to YouTube)

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Copies of Heads by Classic Illustrators

Copying of heads in oil by Golden Age illustrators helped me understand all the technical decisions they made that led to each of their recognizable styles.

1. Haddon Sundblom / Robert Bonfils. Quaker Oats man. Low frontal plus edge lighting. Bristle filberts only. Stroke direction and weaving. Similar to Zorn, Sargent, Sorolla.

2. Dean Cornwell. Bristle flats, stand oil, decorative geometry. Darks first transparently. Opaque lights last. More like Brangwyn.

3. J.C. Leyendecker. Soft transitions contrasting with clear crisp strokes. Cut background last. Slippery medium.

4. Norman Rockwell. Indirect frontal light. Stroke module tightens down for significant details. Green/red palette. Subtle caricature everywhere. 

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Plein-Air FAQ

Here's a short list of answers to frequently asked questions, designed to stick on my easel or a nearby fencepost. You can generate your own QR codes for free at a site like this.

Friday, September 18, 2020

How Do You Respond to These Images, and What Does That Say About You?

Psychologists have developed several projective tests to understand the minds of their patients. The famous Rorschach test is one of them. A lesser known test is the thematic apperception test.

Subjects are shown a series of illustrations of ambiguous but emotionally powerful situations and asked to supply the story behind them.

The subject is asked to make up a story explaining what led up to the moment depicted, what is going on, how each character thinks and feels, and what the ending will be. 

The examiner uses those responses to construct a profile of the observer. How malevolent or benevolent are they, and how much do they invest emotionally in relationships? 

Critics of projective tests, such as Rudolf Arnheim (1904-2007), have argued that the scientific value of such tests is limited. We may be overestimating what an individual's interpretation of such images says about the individual. The images have an objective reality of their own that people are responding to, and we deconstruct and explain images in so many ways, depending on what we expect people to want to hear.


Thursday, September 17, 2020

How They Taught Drawing to Children in 1901

In 1901, elementary schools taught drawing as a basic and necessary skill that everyone should practice. Here's an example of one of the popular drawing books: Prang's New Graded Course in Drawing

A specific exercise written at the top of each page, with a small printed drawing as an example. 

Let's look at one of the assignments. Note that "he" is used as the genderless inclusive pronoun.

"Exercise IV. REPRESENTATION.—Cube or Cubical Object.
Let each pupil draw the model or object as he sees it. Notice how the upper surface, when seen in a position like that shown in this illustration, appears narrowed. Try the placing of the model in other positions; watch this upper surface; sketch."

That's a helpful tip. They also have the student copy repeating patterns, focus on a bunch of grass, and build geometric study models from stiff paper. There's no talk of expression, personal creativity, or copying the styles of great artists of the past. 

Instead, "Drawing is used as a means of training the eye and hand and as a language by which the pupil not only expresses but impresses his thought." 

Drawing is seen as a cognitive skill. In the Preface, the authors say that the "course of instruction presents a means of mental development indispensable in the education of every child." 

But the writers of the book also recognize that drawing is not a purely objective activity. There's a personal dimension, too, that's an inevitable part of human visual perception. 

Here's how they put it:
What a Picture is
"A true picture shows not only how an object or a group of objects appears, but it tells also something of the one who has drawn the picture. It tells how the objects looked to him ; it tells not only what he saw,_ but also what he thought about the objects. For whoever draws a picture indicates, or tries to indicate, in the drawing, what parts he cared for most."

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Hubert von Herkomer's On Strike

Hubert von Herkomer (1849-1914) was a German-born British painter. In the 1891 Royal Academy, he exhibited this painting of a worker on strike and his family. 

Hubert von Herkomer On Strike (1891) 2280 mm x 1264 mm

The painting is a monochromatic brown except for the red clothing on the baby, and the figures are life size, giving them a monumental feeling.

The winter leading up to the painting was a hard one, with severe blizzards and gale force winds that sank ships in the English channel.  Reviewers suggested that the extreme weather was reflected in this painting and in much of the rest of the exhibition. Although there had been a few worker strikes before this time, they were a lot of them in 1890-91, with major strikes of dockworkers and millworkers in Britain.

This painting doesn't try to show the challenging working conditions, but instead shows the resolution of the striker and the effect of the work stoppage on his family. According to the Royal Academy: A Chronicle: 

"Herkomer’s painting On Strike introduces a different element to the plight of workers. It is less concerned with illuminating bad conditions than in the direct action that could change them. In the Victorian era, when the work ethic was idealised as a means of stability and prosperity for the family, the withdrawal of labour was shocking to many."

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Emily Dickinson's Home Poem #440

Rita asks: "Please tell me the name of the Emily Dickinson poem about going to the old home" from the new TRIADS video.

Rita, the Emily Dickinson poem is known by the number: #F440. Here it is, quoted from the website PoemHunter.

"Years I had been from home,
And now, before the door
I dared not open, lest a face
I never saw before

Stare vacant into mine
And ask my business there.
My business, - just a life I left,
Was such still dwelling there?

I fumbled at my nerve,
I scanned the windows near;
The silence like an ocean rolled,
And broke against my ear.

I laughed a wooden laugh
That I could fear a door,
Who danger and the dead had faced,
But never quaked before.

I fitted to the latch
My hand, with trembling care,
Lest back the awful door should spring,
And leave me standing there.

I moved my fingers off
As cautiously as glass,
And held my ears, and like a thief
Fled gasping from the house."

There are other variants of F440, including: this one

I Years had been from Home
And now before the Door
I dared not enter, lest a Face
I never saw before

Stare stolid into mine
And ask my Business there –
“My Business but a Life I left
Was such remaining there?”

I leaned upon the Awe –
I lingered with Before –
The Second like an Ocean rolled
And broke against my ear –

I laughed a crumbling Laugh
That I could fear a Door
Who Consternation compassed
And never winced before.

I fitted to the Latch
My Hand, with trembling care
Left back the awful Door should spring
And leave me in the Floor –

Then moved my Fingers off
As cautiously as Glass
And held my ears, and like a Thief
Fled gasping from the House –

The differences apparently derive from the fact that most of Dickinson's poems weren't published when she was alive. She had kept nearly 2,000 poems  hidden away in manuscript form, and they were discovered and divided between two different collections. The editors were baffled by the many marginal notations, second thoughts, and alternate wordings, so it's hard to say which version is the one Dickinson would have wanted.

In this poem, the following stanza is written two different ways:

I fumbled at my nerve,
I scanned the windows near;
The silence like an ocean rolled,
And broke against my ear.
I leaned upon the Awe –
I lingered with Before –
The Second like an Ocean rolled
And broke against my ear –

The first version:

"Who danger and the dead had faced,
But never quaked before."

While the second says:

"Who Consternation compassed
And never winced before."

"wooden laugh" becomes "crumbling Laugh." 

Here's an interesting analysis of the poem, which suggests that the "Face I never saw before" is not the home's new owner, but rather the ghost of the writer's former self. That's a potential meeting that would fill both the older self and the younger self with trepidation.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Triad Challenge: "Sunny Still Life"

We've had such an enthusiastic response to our previous painting challenges that many of you asked for another opportunity.

I hesitate to call it a "contest" because there's no entry fee and the spirit is more about cooperation, community, and camaraderie than competition. We're all at different levels of skill and experience 

Laura Coombs Hills, (American,1859-1952)

"Sunny Still Life" Challenge
The challenge is to paint a still life in sunlight from observation with a limited palette.

The Triad
The limited palette must be a triad of your choice—just three colors plus white.  
For example, here are some suggestions, giving equal time to different companies: 
Holbein gouache: ViridianCadmium red deep, and Yellow ochre plus white
M. Graham gouache: Ultramarine blueCadmium yellow deep, and Burnt sienna plus white
Winsor and Newton gouache: Perylene maroonCadmium yellowCobalt blue plus white
Assorted makers: Prussian blue, light red, golden ochre, and white

Feel free to come up with your own triad. You don't have to follow these suggestions, and you'll probably want to choose colors that more or less fit your subject.

Painting by Vladimir Zhdanov (Russian 1902-1964)
What kinds of subjects?
You can paint any objects, such as flowers, fruit, toys, tools, products, or harvest vegetables. They can be things you arrange into a group or objects that you found in place. Regardless of what you paint, I'm looking for a colorful, sunny effect, either from light streaming in a window or direct sunlight outdoors.

On Location
Your picture must be painted mainly from observation and it must be a new painting done for this challenge. 

All traditional painting media are acceptable, such as: oil, watercolor, casein, or gouache, acrylic-gouache, or acrylic. Sorry, no dry media or digital.

It's free to enter. Please submit only one painting. You can enter as soon as you finish the piece, but no later than the deadline: Tuesday, October 20, 2020 at midnight New York time. Winners will be announced on October 27.

What and How to Enter
Shoot three image files: 1. Your finished painting, 2. A photo of the painting in progress in front of the subject, and 3. A Triad Test of your chosen gamut. Your face doesn't have to be in the photo unless you want to.

If you do Instagram or Twitter, please use the hashtag #sunnystilllife  You can also upload the images to the Facebook Group Color in Practice. If you don't have an Instagram or Facebook account, please ask a friend with an account to help you. Please include in the FB or IG post the list of the three colors you chose (plus white), and if you want, a word about your inspiration or design strategy, or an anecdote about your painting experience.

I'll pick one Grand Prize and five Finalists. All six entries will be published on GurneyJourney, and all six will receive an exclusive "Department of Art" embroidered patch. In addition, the Grand Prize winner receives a Gurney video (DVD or download) of their choice.
Own the 90-minute feature "TRIADS: Painting with Three Colors" for only $17.98
• HD MP4 Download at Gumroad 
• or HD MP4 Download at Sellfy