Tuesday, August 31, 2021

How a Brayer Gradient Shows Through

The priming color is blue at the top and orange at the bottom, applied in a smooth gradient with a block printing brayer the day before. 

The priming is visible through top layers, because gouache is often a bit transparent.

I'll be showing more about gradients and how to use them in your paintings when I release "Gradients" on September 10. 

In case you missed it, here's the YouTube video: Sketching a Speed Boat in Gouache—Despite Wind, Rain, and Quicksand

Monday, August 30, 2021

Sketching a Speed Boat, Despite the Wind, Rain, and Quicksand

 (Link to YouTube) Painting voyage with Jeanette, Smooth, and son Frank in his 1966 Glastron speedboat. The goal was to sketch the moored boat from the shore of a wild island, but first we have to overcome rain, wind, quicksand, and an engine that won’t start. 

Sunday, August 29, 2021

"...I must put my foot in a bit of truth."

"I can't work completely out of my imagination. I must put my foot in a bit of truth; and then I can fly free." 

Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009)

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Václav Brožík, ( Czech 1851-1901)

Václav Brožík (b. 1851-1901) was a Czech painter who studied at the academy in Prague and Dresden, lived in Paris and became a teacher.

Smrt sv. Irie by Václav Brožík, 1873

This painting illustrates a tragic poem: "According to legend, Saint Iria (Irena) from Tomar, Portugal, was a pious girl who promised her life to God. She left home only when she wanted to attend Mass in the church of St. Petra. It was there that a young man named Britald spotted her and fell in love with her and offered her marriage. However, Iria refused, saying that she had made a vow of purity and was determined to become a nun. At that time, a certain monk, Remigius, whose suggestions the girl also did not want to hear, spread the rumor about her pregnancy. Outraged, Britald immediately decided to act - he hired a soldier who stabbed Irina returning from the church with a sword and threw it into the river."
Brožík chose this peak moment as Britald prepared to hurl her her lifeless body

Václav Brožík, Ottakar's Farewell

This large painting shows a moment in the life of Bohemian King Ottokar II: s (ca. 1230-1278). 

Václav Brožík was featured in a major exhibition in Prague in 2003, which rescued him from obscurity.

Václav Brožík on Wikipedia 

Book: Vaclav Brozik, 1851-1901 

Friday, August 27, 2021

Audrey Munson, Artists' Muse

Audrey Munson was a favorite model of the sculptors of New York's Beaux-Arts era. 

At the beginning of her career she went door to door among Manhattan artists' studios, where she secured work posing as goddesses, angels, and mythological figures. 

She was soon in great demand, not only for her ideal form, but for her professionalism.


Her figure inspired so many sculptures that she became known as "Miss Manhattan" or the "Venus of Washington Square."

She wrote an article for the popular press acknowledging that she was the anonymous subject of so many nude statues that adorned the city. 

“That which is the immodesty of other women has been my virtue — my willingness that the world should gaze upon my figure unadorned.”
But her story has many twists and turns and ends tragically. If you want to dive into the whole tale, follow one of the links below to book, blog post, or podcast. 

Read more:

Book: The Curse of Beauty: The Scandalous & Tragic Life of Audrey Munson, America's First Supermodel

Muddy Colors blog post: Audrey Munson: America's Venus

Wikipedia: Audrey Munson

Bowery Boys podcast: Tragic Muse

Thursday, August 26, 2021

William Walcot's Architectural Art

William Walcot, RA Perspective of County Hall under construction. c.1920.

William Walcot (1874-1943) was an architect, etcher, and watercolorist with a taste for monumental, classical forms.

He was born in Russia but grew up in Western Europe and South Africa. He received his training in Saint Petersburg and Paris, where he gravitated to Art Nouveau in his architectural work. 

His architectural fantasies have an epic feeling, like something from a Cecil B. Demille movie.

His compositions are founded on an accurate perspective structure, with loosely applied touches of paint that define small details in one area and melt away to indistinctness in another.

The masses of light and dark tone are unified into large shapes, creating a sense of monumentality, mood, and scale.

The book The Great Perspectivists describes Walcot's watercolor technique in this way: the watercolor "is richly and impressionistically applied over the underlying geometry of the drawing: a free technique which brought out the building's monumentality and the contrast of solid and void, and which may have owed something to the architectural etchings of Frank Brangwyn."


William Walcot on Wikipedia

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Painting with Roger Bansemer

Roger Bansemer, who has a painting and travel TV channel, paid me a visit.

He put me on his TV show and now the show is on YouTube. (Link to YouTube)

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

How Phil May Built a Drawing

Victorian caricaturist Phil May (1864-1903) described his method of building a drawing:

"First of all I get the general idea, of which I sketch a rough outline, and from this general idea I never depart. Then I make several studies from the model in the poses which the drawing requires, and redraw my figures from these studies." 

"The next step is to draw the picture completely, carefully putting in every line necessary to fulness of detail: and the last to select the particular lines that are essential to the effect I want to produce, and take the others out."

Sometimes, according to David Cuppleditch, "he transferred his figures from sketchbook to working page with tracing paper. He nearly always worked with a very sharp pencil or crayon edge so as to achieve simple, strong lines."

George Hacklett said, "The one important lesson learned from his Bulletin work was the value of a longer and heavier line, made imperative by the large scale of his cartoons."


Previous post on Phil May  

Wikipedia on Phil May (caricaturist)

Quotes are from the book: Phil May: The Artist and His Wit

Monday, August 23, 2021

What happens when our eyes move?

Eyes may resemble still cameras or movie cameras, but it's probably more accurate to regard them as very active extensions of the brain. 


Unlike cameras, the eyes must contend with constantly changing input as images are jumping on the retinas. 

We move our eyes about three times per second. Each time we do, the image projected on the retinal surface shifts and resets. 


Although the process is mostly unconscious, we are always surveying the peripheral areas of the retina for where to jump next. 

Right before your focus shifts from one point to another, a message travels from the motor cortex to the eye muscles predicting the movement and anticipating the observed result. A process called corollary discharge suppresses the signal during the jump so that we're not overwhelmed with the smeared image.

Despite all this frenetic movement we maintain the impression that the world is stable.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Three Artists Paint Cole's Studio


Christopher L. Evans joins me and Jeanette to sketch Thomas Cole's old studio. 
We talk about perspective and keeping brushes clean.
Christopher Leith Evans website

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Zorn's Brewery Painting

Anders Zorn, The Little Brewery, 1890 oil on canvas, 47.5 x 78cm

The museum website says: "In this interior from a brewery, women workers are bottling beer and corking the filled bottles. In the background, a supervisor is watching over their work. Women factory workers were not a new phenomenon in the era of Swedish industrialization. Their work could be both heavy and hazardous, but Zorn’s painting can hardly be interpreted as social criticism. On the contrary, he seems to have been mostly interested in capturing the light, the humidity and their concentration as they worked."

Footnote: I think the museum curator is right. He's not doing social criticism but rather has a deep affection for the people and the process of the brewery. Zorn's dad owned a brewery, and he grew up around the types. 

I'm guessing this painting was his response to the work scenes that Sargent painted in Venice, kind of a way of saying "I can pull this off, too."

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Shooting Illustration Reference Photos

Reference photo of Steve Holland

In the 1970s and '80s, many paperback covers were painted with reference to black and white photographs. Typically those photos were taken by professional photographers such as Robert Osonitsch using models like Steve Holland, who posed in a torn shirt for the "Doc Savage" covers.

The publishing client generally would pay for these sessions. Modeling sessions were expensive, so the team had to make the best use of the time. The illustration photographers had busy schedules with back-to-back appointments.

Paperback illustrator Bob Larkin recalled, "I had only an hour to shoot. Steve [Holland] first posed for what I wanted, and then what Bob [Osonitsch] suggested, then Steve did what he thought would work. Everything is going smoothly until Bob's camera shot counter tells him to put in a new roll of film. Bob opens the back of the camera to put a new roll in—and no first roll was put in! This is early in the morning. He's still not awake yet. We had a good laugh, Bob apologized, and we started all over again from the beginning with minutes to spare before the next artist had to shoot Steve. He was booked all day anyway."


Doc Savage cover by Bob Larkin

Read More:

Magazine: The quote comes from the new issue of Illustration #73, which includes features on Peter Driben, Art Fitzpatrick / Van Kaufman, Zoë Mozert, Steve Holland, and Robert Osonitsch  


Steve Holland: The Torn Shirt Sessions and Steve Holland: The World's Greatest Illustration Art Model

Monday, August 16, 2021

I'll be part of Lightbox Expo in September

Next month I'll be part of Lightbox Expo 2021, a virtual gathering of artists sharing demos and insights.

I'll be introducing a new feature-length tutorial about GRADIENTS, and I'll release three interactive YouTube premieres starting on September 10. 

This painting is called "Patient Companion," 9x12" casein on panel.
Tickets go on sale today, and the paywall is super cheap—You can get in the door for just $1 (the fee is to keep out the 'bots). More info at the Lightbox Expo website 

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Giant Monorail

What if a monorail could be as big as an ocean liner? 

The little yellow flight pod on the left carries passengers around the city. 

A flock of those flight pods returns to the dorsal flight deck below.

The scene is from a wraparound paperback cover for Mick Farren's 1987 novel "Citizen Phaid." 

It's painted in oil on canvas mounted to panel.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Solomon J. Solomon Paints a Young Violinist

Solomon J. Solomon, Mischa Elman Playing the Violin, 1911

Solomon Solomon painted the Mischa Elman (1891-1967) when the young violinist was just 20 years old. 

His hands are a blur, but his face painted with a solid understanding of the old masters.

 Elman was a child prodigy, but not everyone wants to perform with young prodigies:
"Elman was still only a boy when [musician Leopold] Auer arranged for him to play with the famous Colonne Orchestra during their visit to Pavlovsk. Knowing Édouard Colonne's hatred of child prodigies, Auer did not tell him Elman's age when making the arrangements, and not until the famous conductor saw young Mischa waiting to go on the platform did he realize that he had engaged a child. He was furious, and flatly refused to continue with the programme. Frantic attempts were made to assure him that Elman had the recommendation of Auer himself and was well capable of doing justice to the music, but Colonne was adamant, "I have never yet played with a child, and I refuse to start now," he retorted. So Elman had to play with piano accompaniment while conductor and orchestra sat listening." According to Elman ."I was eleven at the time. When Colonne saw me, violin in hand, ready to step on the stage, he drew himself up and said with emphasis: 'I play with a prodigy! Never!' Nothing could move him, and I had to play to a piano accompaniment. After he had heard me play, though, he came over to me and said: 'The best apology I can make for what I said is to ask you to do me the honor of playing with the Orchestre Colonne in Paris.' He was as good as his word. Four months later I went to Paris and played the Mendelssohn concerto for him with great success."
Book by Solomon:  
The Practice of Oil Painting and Drawing (Dover Art Instruction)

Friday, August 13, 2021

"I Have an Upside Down Stomach"

This isn't my usual way of drawing, but Mr. Wright had such an unusual way of presenting himself that I couldn't resist relaxing a bit.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Landing the Spirit of St. Louis

A replica of The Spirit of St. Louis comes in for a landing just past the tower at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome. Ken Cassens is at the controls.

Cassens is the Aerodrome's veteran mechanic, builder, and pilot. This replica has the fuel tank in front of the pilot, just like Charles Lindbergh's original, but the tank blocks the pilot's view forward.

(Click right arrow below to watch video of the aircraft in flight.) 

To see the small grassy airstrip, Cassens maneuvers the plane so that he looks out a side window as it slips sideways.
Read more: 
Lindbergh’s Airplane (or a Close Replica) Takes to the Skies

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

History Paintings by José Moreno Carbonero

 José Moreno Carbonero (1858-1942) was a Spanish painter who brought moments of history to life with grandeur and pageantry. 

Prince Don Carlos of Viana, 1881 by José Moreno Carbonero

He studied in Paris with Gerome, and spent time in Rome.

The Entry of Roger de Flor in Constantinople by José Moreno Carbonero
Height: 350 cm (11.4 ft); Width: 550 cm (18 ft)

One of his large works shows "the Italian mercenary Roger de Flor and his troops of Almogavar warriors entering the city to relieve the Byzantine emperor from the Turkish."

The Conversion of the Duke of Gandía by José Moreno Carbonero

This painting illustrates a spiritual—and gruesome—moment as San Francisco de Borja, Marquis of Lombay converted to Christianity "after contemplating the rotten corpse of Empress Isabel of Portugal, wife of Emperor Carlos I of Spain. The empress died in Toledo on May 1, 1539, her body being transferred to Granada, the city where the scene represented in the painting took place. When the duke contemplated that the corpse of the empress, whose beauty had captivated the entire Castilian Court, had decomposed due to the heat of the trip, the nobleman decided to 'Never again, never again serve a lord that I may die,'" He then entered the Order of the Jesuits.

In “La aventura de los mercaderes” (Adventure of the Merchants), Carbonero illustrates a scene from Don Quixote where the knight from La Mancha confronts a group of silk merchants in his usual psychotic fashion and ends up getting beaten by one of their servants with his own broken lance.

Adventure of the Merchants by José Moreno Carbonero

Here's a detail showing the care he lavished on each figure.
Quotes from Wikipedia: José Moreno Carbonero

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Mermaid's Minoan World

Ride to Atlantis, oil on panel, 1989 

The architecture on the seafloor is Minoan. The idea came from the proposal that a historic volcanic eruption on the island of Thera devastated the Minoan civilization, thereby inspiring Plato's account of Atlantis. 

My wife posed for the mermaid.

Monday, August 9, 2021

How Thomas Lawrence Painted a Portrait

Unfinished portraits by Sir Thomas Lawrence (English, 1769-1830) reveal insights into his painting methods. 


"Lawrence always painted standing. ‘His constant practice was to begin by making a drawing of the head full size on canvass; carefully tracing dimensions and expression. This took up one day’ 

[I'm quoting from a webpage of National Portrait Gallery who sources these insights from Lawrence's own writings, those of his sitters, and of his early biographer Allan Cunningham, 1833 pp.194-5."] 

"At the next sitting, Lawrence would begin to paint the head."

"Lawrence often kept his sitters for three hours at a time and generally required eight or nine sittings, according to Cunningham (Cunningham 1833 p.194). But many sessions were shorter."

"In 1803, in the face of mounting debts, Lawrence claimed, ‘I have now four and five sitters in a day and have no choice without absolutely affronting them between receiving them and finishing other pictures’ (Kenneth Garlick, Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1954, p.10), while his friend, Elizabeth Croft, wrote of him admitting ‘four sitters for two hours each in bright summer days, stating that he painted from sunrise to sunset, except for correcting engravings and for hurried meals (Layard 1906 p.246)." 

"When painting at Aix-la-Chapelle in 1818, Lawrence noted that the average length of his sittings was two hours and that his sitters, ‘the three greatest monarchs in recent political importance’, had sat to him six or seven times (Williams 1831, vol.2, pp.119-20)."
Online resources:
Sir Thomas Lawrence was mostly self-taught and he became president of the Royal Academy.
More about his method at the National Portrait Gallery website.

Previous posts:

Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power & Brilliance