Saturday, April 30, 2022

Google Doodle of Route 66

The newest Google Doodle is a paper animation celebrating Route 66, which travels from Illinois to Los Angeles.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Ashore, With Dreams of Sea

This is an early experiment in composition, sketched from life using mixed media: markers, pen and ink, charcoal, and gouache. 


Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Painting Alone or in Company

I posed the following questions to my Instagram followers. "What do you like most about painting with friends. Are there challenges for you when you sketch with others? Do you prefer painting alone?"

Here are some of the responses. Please share yours in the comments.

I enjoy painting with other people because it’s motivating and inspiring, I always learn something new painting with others. I also like painting alone because it’s more meditative and introspective. It’s nice to switch it up depending on how I’m feeling

Alone. I’m a solitary artist. I can’t seem to get into the zone as easily when I’m painting with other artists. Plus when I paint I’m slower than most plein air artists.

I like both but with it is fun and interesting with others, different eyes, colors and techniques for the ‘same’ scene. It amazes me sometimes at how differently we all see the same thing.

I've given instructions to my little brother when painting, but I've never painted with anyone where I could just paint, so I guess, idk ๐Ÿค”

I do both regularly. Together and alone. For me painting with my friends it's much more about the social aspect as about painting. And I enjoy it a lot everytime.

My favorite painting partner is my wife. Although our styles differ greatly we inspire each other and become better artists. It’s great to paint with someone, it allows me to see another perspective.

I prefer painting alone.
Less distraction, less need to make sure they’re doing well.
I like to paint alone because if a friend is around I do more talking than painting.

I don’t paint with friends often. I like the idea of painting with friends, I do think that could bring new energy and new ideas to my work. Having said that I feel like it takes all of my attention and ability to focus to paint effectively. So it’s hard for me to imagine doing my best with others around. My painting sessions feel like a solitary and serous activity for the most part. Maybe I’ll try and get together with some folks for some more relaxed en plein air painting soon to lighten it up :)

Hi James - I’d probably give a good limb to go out painting with you. I was sketching with my son this weekend in the woods and it was awesome just being together. I also like sketching with experienced sketchers as they know the value of sketchbook time and so interruptions are usually infrequent.

I tend to work alone with less distraction, but working with others can be nice for the encouragement and fun.

The challenge is we tend to get focused and very quiet. But it’s nice being in other’s presence. Or we get too chatty and call it a wash, pun intended :)

The fellowship can be good painting with others and it’s always nice to see how other painters approach the same subject without it devolving into a competition. Painting solo is also good as it enhances concentration. So I’ll say both approaches work.

That’s my favorite piece on your feed, I loved watching you make it back in the day. However, I always paint alone but not as a active choice

Beautiful painting Sir! Challenges while painting with artists friends, sometimes I end up watching them painting throughout the session. This leaves me with many incomplete paintings. Few times discussion about few topics go on for long and both end up with incomplete works. With experience I feel painting alone works for me!

Im taking a painting class next semester im excited about

I’m a talker! I get distracted and get nothing done ๐Ÿ˜‚ and I probably distract those I’m with ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

It reminds me a bit of Richard Williams's advice in the Animator's Survival Kit where he recommends artists to unplug music and shut the door for complete concentration. The best work is probably produced alone... But drawing/painting with friends provides some good vibes or feelings or maybe even dopamine. Amazing painting!

I like both, but they are different experiences. Each week I go out with urban sketchers, but also on my own to paint.

Its nice to get opinions from friends as you're painting! A friend encouraged me to make some shadows purple for fun and it worked out nicely. But mostly I paint alone and enjoy the challenge of trying to see as my eyes do

This looks amazing! I sketched with somebody maybe once or twice. Don't know many artists personally... But it was a nice experience.

I'm hoping to get to paint with friends this summer!! It's not something I've had a chance to do since getting back into art a few years ago! ๐Ÿคž

I love painting plein air with my kids. Sometimes, I’m really lucky and we all get to sit and focus intently… magic happens

I find painting (or any discipline) with friends to be refreshing, joyful . Though I find it limiting for going as deeply into my craft as if I had no constraints (constraints on time, on getting to those weird cool spots, etc)


I miss my weekly ‘painting with friends’ sessions. It kept me painting regularly and I got good feedback from them. Was always fun to see how different each of our paintings came out.

I love painting with friends it shows me things I can improve on with my technique or a new way to tackle a subject

Alone. Too much performance anxiety.
wow I love this painting!! This as a print would be reaaaally cool! ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜❤️๐Ÿ”ฅ

For the most part I do tend to paint alone as I do prefer being able to focus on the painting and allowing myself to be absorbed by my surroundings as it's incredibly relaxing, however I do sometimes go painting with my partner however besides that I've got no one else to paint outside with around my area as there's not a community for it besides myself

I think it helps, long term, to draw & paint with people around. The world is full of folks. I enjoy sharing the experience even if it means my focus gets shifted at times.

I only wish to have just one friend that paints or draw, I think I would love to challenge ourselves as I like healthy competition ๐Ÿ™Œ

My likeminded friends

Am yet to try painting still practicing my pencil skills, maybe it's because am not that good I prefer doing it alone if am with friends then I'd appreciate if they didn't check on me every second ๐Ÿ˜…

Both have an appeal at different times. Sometimes I love the chat and seeing what they have done. That said sometimes I prefer the peace of painting alone, or listening to a good audio book.

I would be happy to actually find time to get outdoors and paint. Hard to do when I work a day job in retail. Going to try hard this year to paint plen air on some of my off days.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Robots with Flowers

How would you imagine a painting of a robot with flowers growing out of it?

"A happy robot with flowers growing out of his head, clouds in the background, digital art." 

It's a whimsical idea that might make a fun concept for a children's book.  

"A detailed painting of a rainbow colored robot with flowers growing out of its head."

Or it might be a promising pitch for an animated film.

"A Rene Magritte painting of a robot head with flowers growing out of the top with clouds in the background."

It could also be a theme for a group exhibition of surrealistic gallery art.

"A painting by Syd Mead of a bipedal robot with flowers growing out of the top of its head."

Designer Ben Barry used variations on this idea to generate over a thousand images in different styles. Mr. Barry is not an imagemaker in the usual sense. He is one of the lucky few who received beta access to the AI computer tool called Dall•E 2. 

"A woodblock print of a bipedal robot with flowers growing out of the top of its head."

Mr. Barry came up with the instigating phrases or prompts, and Dall•E 2 did the rest, creating hundreds or even thousands of novel images in a few hours. The prompts sometimes used the names of dead artists to catalyze the results, but more often than not the prompts were just descriptive. 

These are all high resolution images, adequate for magazine reproduction. 

"A painting by Caravaggio of a robot head with flowers growing out of the top."

Mr. Barry edited a digital book that you can check out for free called 1000 Robots on He chose the subject matter of flowers and robots because "I find the idea of an artificial intelligence painting robots to be simultaneously humorous and endearing."

"A painting by Norman Rockwell of a robot head with flowers growing out of the top with clouds and a rainbow in a background, digital art"

The technology seems adept at understanding the artistic logic of the prompt, both in terms of style and content. But there are a few incongruous elements, such as the weird red cable that arcs over to the rainbow.

Mr. Barry says: "While the model is capable of generating other types of images, I found paintings to be the area where it truly excelled aesthetically."

"A colorful painting by M.C. Escher of robot head with flowers growing out of the top"

The survey of styles resembles a Society of Illustrators exhibition or a professional illustrators' workbook. The foregoing two pages don't strike me as particularly reminiscent of Rockwell or Escher, but to me they score quite high on internal coherence and aesthetic appeal.  

Right now only a few people have access to this tool, but presumably it will soon be widely available essentially for free.

"a dramatically lit brightly colored detailed painting of a robot artist painting a picture"

The power of this artificial intelligence gives me a mixture of feelings: I'm surprised, delighted, intimidated, and a bit breathless at the speed of the progress. 

If you are an illustrator or gallery artist who paints surrealistic images in your particular style, it's a good time for soul-searching. 

You might consider:
1. How you would use these tools. 
2, How you will provide value for clients who have these tools.
3. How you will create artwork that these tools can't accomplish. 

This system of artificial intelligence won't eliminate traditional human artists—(and by "traditional" I include digital artists with those who use physical paint.)

But it will send shock waves through the illustration world, and it will replace a lot of jobs. Soon, anyone and everyone will be able to create images easily, cheaply, and quickly with simple prompts of natural language.


Learn more about Ben Barry's book called 1000 Robots at

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Yuri Podlyaski

 Yuri Podlyaski (Russian, 1923-1987)- Portrait of Masha Surtukova Reading

Farmers Market 1978. Yuri Podlyaski, 20.5 x 31.8 cm

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Enid Yandell's Athena Sculpture

Enid Yandell (1869-1934) was an American sculptor who studied with Rodin and MacMonnies. When she was just 27 years old, she was commissioned to create a monumental sculpture of Pallas Athena for the 1897 Tennessee Centennial Exposition.

According to Wikipedia: "Yandell created the statue in her studio in Paris. She based the design on the Pallas de Velletri, found near Rome, Italy, in the eighteenth century, which was itself a copy of an ancient Greek statue. It depicted Athena with one arm raised victoriously and the other arm with upturned palm in a gesture of welcome. The 40-foot sculpture was shipped to Nashville in sections by ship. The statue was assembled in Nashville and stood before the exposition's Fine Arts Building, which was built as a full-size replica of the Parthenon in Athens."

"Like other statues in the exhibition, Yandell's Athena was made from staff, a non-permanent building material. The sculpture was never cast in bronze and within a year it deteriorated to pieces. The Nashville Parthenon was rebuilt in permanent materials, and still stands today. An entirely different Athena statue by Alan LeQuire, unveiled in 1990, stands inside the Nashville Parthenon."

Friday, April 22, 2022

Gerber Baby Art

The Gerber baby food company is still using simple charcoal drawing that was produced almost a hundred years ago.

The company's website says: "In 1928, Gerber held a contest to find a face to represent a baby food advertising campaign. Artist Dorothy Hope Smith entered her simple charcoal sketch of a tousle-haired, bright-eyed cherub of a baby with endearing pursed lips. In her entry, Smith noted that she would finish the sketch if she won. 

"Her drawing competed with elaborate oil paintings, but the judges fell in love with the baby face Smith drew, and when they chose it as the winner, they insisted that the simple illustration remain a sketch. The image of this happy, healthy baby was soon to become the face that launched a brand, a face recognized and loved across the globe."

"Indeed, the illustration became so popular that Gerber adopted it as its official trademark in 1931. Since then, the Gerber Baby has appeared on all Gerber packaging and in every Gerber advertisement."
Read more at the Gerber baby food website

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Two Ways to Paint a Branch

Two ways to paint a branch: 
1. Brush travels away from the trunk... 
2..Or toward the trunk. Which do you do?

Don't miss the new video on YouTube.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

To Convey Drama, Use Contrasts

 In this new YouTube video, I paint a dramatic townscape in watercolor.

I emphasize contrasts between light vs. dark, warm vs. cool, wet vs. dry, large vs. small, and Georgian vs. Gothic.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Enrico Meneghelli (1853-1912)

Enrico Meneghelli (1853-1912)

Enrico Meneghelli was born in 1853 in Northern Italy. He emigrated to America, where his paintings were exhibited in New York and Boston.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Kittelsen's Trolls

Troll who thinks about how old it is from 1911 

Theodor Severin Kittelsen was an illustrator of Norwegian folk tales. 

Troll at Karl Johan Street, 1892

His sketches of trolls influenced how we imagine these beings.

Boy meets forest troll

Man stabs forest troll

Sea Troll

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Dormant Dragon

The Dragon Griaule was over a mile long, draped over an alpine landscape. But the creature was not quite dead.

It's a cover for Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine for a story by Lucius Shepard “The Man Who Painted the Dragon Griaule.”

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Unifying Shadow Shapes

The goal is to keep the shadow together as one shape. The edge of the shadow is cool on the upper right, where it picks up the color of the sky.

Rabat, Malta, watercolor. 
The shaded buildings on the left are warm where they receive reflected light from the warm illuminated buildings.

But compared to the light tones in the distance, the shadow is one basic tone, and I try to downplay the detail in the doorways and windows in the shadow area to keep it simple.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Gradients in Japanese Prints

Bokashi is a Japanese technique for hand-applying a gradient to a moistened printing block.

According to Wikipedia, "The best-known examples of bokashi are in the 19th-century ukiyo-e works of Hokusai and Hiroshige, in which the fading of Prussian blue dyes in skies and water create an illusion of depth."

"In this print by Hiroshige, bokashi is used in the foreground, at the horizon, in the sky, on the priest's robes, and in the square cartouche."

Thursday, April 14, 2022


A florilegium is a book that gathers botanical art and other observations. 

Florilegia date back to the medieval period, and were popular through the 1700s, where they served as records of exotic, lavish, and beautiful flowers collected by wealthy individuals. 

Perroquet Rouge by Georg Dionysius Ehret

One of the great early botanical artists was Georg Dionysius Ehret (1708-1770). He grew up in a botanically-oriented family and became friends with Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus, who developed the modern nomenclature for plants and animals.

Rosa hemispherica by Georg Dionysius Ehret

An excellent book that covers the history, practice, and science of botanical art is Botany for the Artist by Sarah Simblet. Published by Dorling Kindersley, it covers most kinds of plants with clear drawings of various seed structures, flowers, and branching forms.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

AI Art and Name Emulation

There has been an avalanche of advances in generating images from simple text prompts. In particular several people have asked me what I think about the question of name emulation using autonomous art tools. 

So here are some notes:

Since we’re in an age of innovation in machine-learning-driven art, we need to develop a bill of rights for the practice, especially when it comes to name emulation and use of trademarked properties.

Prompt: "A stunning photograph of a Pikachu wearing a cape, 8K HD, incredibly detailed"
by Cybertroniss using Dall-e2. Based on the Pokรฉmon media franchise. 
Pikachu originally designed by Atsuko Nishida and Ken Sugimori,

Let’s assume that generative art via machine learning will eventually be able to perfectly emulate the style of a named artist, creating a pushbutton corpus of work that may be indistinguishable from samples that the artist labored to create by hand or voice.

For the purposes of play and experimentation, some artists will enjoy seeing their name / style emulated (I’m one of them), but others won’t. Living artists should be invited and should be able to opt out. The styles of artists who are dead / public domain / Creative Commons should be fair game.

Artist Studies by Remi Durant. Follow the link to explore various artist prompts

If a machine-generated artwork using name emulation is offered for sale, a living artist should share in the proceeds, and there should be an agreement in advance governing the venture that addresses approvals, distribution, etc.

We need to work this out. Machine learning tech is advancing rapidly. It may soon be able to invent new songs by Bob Dylan and new paintings by Norman Rockwell. To avoid confusion, infringement, and fraud, autonomous works should be clearly labeled so people know whether they are synthetic or authentic.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Leaf Marcescence

Some deciduous trees retain their leaves through the winter.

Normally in autumn a breakaway layer called an abscission zone forms at the base of the leaf petiole and the leaf drops to the ground.   

But it doesn't always happen that way. When it doesn't, the phenomenon is called leaf marcescence. 

According to forest ecologist Lars Brudvig, "Leaf marcescence is common for a number of tree species - most notably American beech and the oaks, but also ironwood, witch hazel, and others." 

It's more common in younger trees—or the younger parts of trees.

"Note that retained lower branches on large trees started growth when the tree was young - so, lower branches can keep 'juvenile' characteristics, like marcescence."


Photos and quotes thanks to Lars Brudvig (@lars_brudvig on Twitter)


Sunday, April 10, 2022

Enrique Simonet

Enrique Simonet (Spanish 1866-1927) studied in Valencia, Mรกlaga, Paris and Rome before traveling to the Holy Land. 

Flevit super illam (He wept over it). 305 x 555 cm 1892 (Prado Museum)

There he was inspired to paint this monumental canvas of Jesus pausing before his final entry into Jerusalem.

"He painted this in Jerusalem, in response to Luke 19:41, in which Jesus approaches the city of Jerusalem. As he looks at the city, he weeps over it – hence the Latin words from the Vulgate – in anticipation of the city’s sufferings to come. This view is from the Mount of Olives, and won medals in Madrid (1892), Chicago (1893), Barcelona (1896), and in Paris in 1900." (Source)

Saturday, April 9, 2022

How Smart is Dall-E 2?

Prompt: “Polymer clay dragons eating pizza in a boat”
Computer-generated image (Dall-e 2 by OpenAI) 

For a several years now, computers have been able to generate images based on a natural-language prompt. 

The resulting images have suffered from problems of logic and global coherence.

For example, here's what you get if you give the computer the prompt “A rabbit detective sitting on a park bench and reading a newspaper in a Victorian setting.” (Latent Diffusion LAION-400M via @loretoparisi)

Where are his legs? His hands? Are those books or newspapers? Is that a coffee table in front of his bench? 

The image doesn't make sense, and we might conclude that the problem comes from the computer not having any experience of living in a body or dealing with the real world. No matter how big the data sets, or how many layers of processing you bring to the task, you can't get past that limitation. 

Or can you? 

Open AI is one of the pioneers of generating realistic images and art from descriptions in natural language. They recently unveiled new software called Dall-e 2, which has pushed the boundaries of what's possible with this technology.

Here's what Dall-E 2 does with the same prompt: “A rabbit detective sitting on a park bench and reading a newspaper in a Victorian setting.” 

The overall logic is much better. Now he has legs and is really sitting on that bench, even casting a shadow. But the image is still not perfect. What's the black loop in his left hand? And why doesn't he seem to be holding the newspaper with his right hand? 

Here's one more example of how the technology is improving, using the prompt “teddy bears working on new AI research on the moon in the 1980s” 

The first version using older tech (laion400m) looks like a paste-up of unrelated elements.

Here's what Dall-e 2 came up with: a pretty believable image with consistent lighting. 

Open AI released this YouTube video to introduce the sofware.

This technology scares some working artists and illustrators. @VividVoid says: "DALL-E is breaking my heart. AI art is about to lay utter waste to traditional visual art forms. This will be so much more destructive than what the Internet did to music. It will be a technological conquest of one of the great human avenues of spiritual transformation."

AI skeptic Gary Marcus doubts whether the technology will ever replace artists because it is just crunching big data sets. It's not learning from embodied experience, nor does it understand symbolic or semantic concepts the way a human does. Marcus says: "This whole thread is weaponized cherry-picked PR; the antithesis of science."

Soon after Dall-E2 was released, OpenAI gave me beta access to try it out. On this YouTube video, I share my first experiments with it. (Link to YouTube)

Read more
Dall-e 2 at OpenAI
Podcast: Gary Marcus: Toward a Hybrid of Deep Learning and Symbolic AI 

Friday, April 8, 2022

Casein Colors

Artists’ casein paint comes in all these tube colors.

A couple notes:
• Some people have a hard time getting darks in casein because it dries matte. If you've had that issue, you can use black or try the Shiva colors—violet and green.

• They're quite transparent and can give you deep dark mixtures while still keeping some color identity.

• If you paint on illustration board or panel, you can build up some impasto texture. It generally doesn't crack or chip unless you flex the support or really abrade the surface.

• Don't worry if you can't buy casein where you live. You can use Acryla gouache or just acrylic or gouache instead. What I like about casein is that the paint is midway between gouache and acrylic in the strength of the glue-like emulsion, not too sticky or plastic-y and not too soluble after it dries.

Here are some of your comments from Instagram:

Kristy Hall says: "Like casein better than gouache but it does have a distinctive smell!!??"

jamesgurneyart Yes, the smell can seem sort of medical. They told me it was a preservative to keep the milk-based proteins from spoiling. To me the smell evokes old-school memories of older illustrators doing demos in the 1980s, but I know it may hit others differently.

blackbirdcd "I’ve really enjoyed casein, and I’ve used it a lot for my Space Art livestream. Usually I use casein to emulate the John Berkey style (although I haven’t made my own acrylic/casein mix like he did). The Richeson/Shiva casein is fantastic. I had okay luck varnishing casein but only after applying a layer of clear gloss acrylic.

I've been using Liquitex gloss varnish, especially for dark-keyed paintings.

lorideboerdesigns "Thanks for turning me onto casein, James! You are missing a few of Richeson's newer colors, including Naples yellow, terre verte and I believe there is also now a turquoise one. I am finding that I do need to mix my own browns, as the raw umber seems like it has a bit too much green for my taste."

You're right. My chart also seems to be missing burnt sienna.
Ultramarine blue deepburnt sienna, Payne's grey, and Permasol blue.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Drawing from the Costumed Model

Drawing costumed models a common practice in art schools 125 years ago. This model poses in a Civil War uniform. 

One of the courses taught by illustrator and teacher Howard Pyle (1853-1911) around the turn of the 20th century was "Drawing from the Costumed Model." 

He also taught courses called "The Elaboration of Groups," "Composition and Practical Illustration" "The Treatment of Historical and Other Subjects with Reference to Their Use in Illustrations."

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Through the Swamp


Arthur, Oriana, and Bix travel through a Rainy Basin swamp on a strutter.

From Dinotopia: The World Beneath

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Arnold Lakhovsky

Arnold Lakhovsky (1880-1937) The Shoemakers, 1915

Artist Arnold Lakhovsky (1880-1937) was born in Chernobyl. 

In a Samovar Shop by Arnold Borisovich Lakhovsky

He studied at the Art Academy in Munich and traveled to Palestine, St. Petersburg, Italy, France, and many other countries. 

Monday, April 4, 2022

Teaser for Prehistoric Planet

BBC / Apple TV teased a sneak peek of Prehistoric Planet, narrated by David Attenborough. It mixes what appears to be live-action footage of hatchling turtles with computer-generated dinosaurs.

The dinosaurs are introduced out of focus as they were captured by a lens with shallow focus. The animators showed the killer instinct of the young T. rex as ice timing and storytelling, too. The animation shows a convincing sense of weight and momentum, not always easy to achieve in CGI.

Thanks, Josh Sheppard 

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Documenting Photorealism

Citarella Fish Company, 1992, oil on canvas, 36 x 72 inches, Louis Meisel Gallery

Gallery dealer and art historian Louis K. Meisel has accomplished something extraordinary by documenting nearly every work of an entire art movement.

Many art movements are plagued with copycats and forgeries. But by illustrating or listing each major painting by each artist, he has created a public visual record of the whole field.

His first book was published in 1980, called simply Photorealism, and it contained all the major artists of the field such as Chuck Close, Tom Blackwell, and Richard Estes.

Photorealism Since 1980 continues in the same format. It's an oversize book, nearly two inches thick, well illustrated in color, and jammed-full of work.

Photorealism At the Millennium contains many of the same artists, plus some new ones such as Rod Penner.

His most recent volume is called Photorealism in the Digital Age.