Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Closeups of Animal Eyes

Photographer Suren Manvelyan captures extreme closeups of animal eyes, showing the textures of the iris and the shapes of the pupils and the arrangement of lashes.

Rabbit eye, photograph by Suren Manvelyan

Horse eye

Chimpanzee eye
Website of Manvelyan

Monday, May 30, 2022

Why Are Reflections of Bright Lights So Elongated?

Nina Garcia emailed: "The other day I was on a walk around my neighborhood pond when I noticed some interesting things about the view."

She continues: "I am trying to understand two things:
1. why is the light that is reflected in the pond so elongated compared to the reflection of the trees?
2. why does the reflected light go straight down (rather than away or towards a vanishing point if that makes sense)?"

Answer: In his 1903 book Light and Water: A Study of Reflexion and Color in River, Lake, and Sea, Sir Montagu Pollock uses this photo to illustrate an observation of reflections on gently rippled water: "The gentle movement of water in the distance elongates and exaggerates the upright lines of the buildings. In the foreground, the individual ripples become visible, breaking up the reflection of the mountains horizontally."

He explains the elongation of the reflection of the buildings by setting up a series of mirrors to represent the far wavelets, and then tilting them toward and away from the observer. Since the area they reflect shifts vertically, they have the effect of stretching the reflected image straight downward.

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Brass Band

Ceratopsians enjoy hosting brass bands and leading spontaneous parades.

Friday, May 27, 2022


Chromostereopsis is a depth illusion where intense warm vs. cool colors appear to sit on different planes relative to the viewer. 

In the illusion above, it appears to my eye that the red is a little lower or farther away. But others report the opposite effect, and some people don't see any depth illusion. 

Mindhacks explains that "red and blue are at opposite ends of the light spectrum," and as a result, "different wavelengths of light will be focussed differently on the back of the eyes. This may also be why some people report that their glasses intensify the effect."

More at Mindhacks

Thanks, Ron Harris

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Our Mythical Hope

Katarzyna Marciniak, who is on the faculty of the University of Warsaw, has edited a hopeful book about how myths and legends can provide inspiration and solace in the life of children. 

It includes an article about Dinotopia by Bettina Kümmerling-Meibauer. 

 The online book is available for free at this link

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

The Horse Pictures of Eduard Thöny

Eduard Thöny (1866-1950) was known for his excellent draftsmanship. 

He loved to include equestrian subjects and often put his horses in dramatic action poses. 

In 1890 he visited Paris to study the historical paintings of equestrian specialist Edouard Detaille.

Die allerhöchste Auszeichnung für Künstler (The Highest Award for Artists) 

In 1899 he made an incisive caricature of the famous artists Anton von Werner and Adolph von Menzel).

See more examples of Eduard Thöny on Wikimedia Commons. (1866-1950)

Previous post on Eduard Thony's Caricatures

Detailed German Wikipedia entry about Eduard Thöny.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

The Real Face Behind the Legend


Left: Sculpture of Marcus Aurelius. 
Right: Hidreley Diao reconstructed what the actual guy might have looked like.

Hidreley Diao has also imagined what Alfred E. Neumann might have looked like if he were a real kid.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Models and Costumes for Dinosaur Boulevard

The kid rolling the Hula Hoop across the parking lot was a neighbor wearing a castoff opera costume.

We made the robe for the Stegosaurus traffic helper out of muslin, and we painted black and red diamonds on it with acrylic paint.

Our store has got some large, luscious art prints of Dinosaur Boulevard that you can frame and hang up in your place of honor to proclaim yourself as a true Dinotopian.


Sunday, May 22, 2022

How Oberhardt Achieved a Speaking Likeness

William Oberhardt (American, 1882-1958) was known for his charcoal portraits, always drawn from life, always of men. 

How did he achieve such convincing likenesses, where the subject seems animated and on the verge of speech?

The answer is that he engaged his subjects in a spirited conversation. He wanted to make sure that the sitter had a delightful experience, and he tried to bring out their best in the conversation. 

Most of his drawings were achieved within an hour. After laying out the overall gesture he would focus on completing the eyes early in the process, because he knew he needed to get them right or the whole effort would be futile and he would have to start over.

Sidney Dickinson by William Oberhardt

To convey an individual likeness, he focused on the unique attributes of the person's face. He preferred to portray celebrities because "they are free from the inhibitions that the average man is heir to. The celebrity usually realizes that lines, plans, and wrinkles cannot be removed without loss of individuality, the individuality that has made him prominent...The trouble is that some people don't like their own faces. When that happens, I admit, the cards are stacked against you. No matter how much of the milk of human kindness you mix with your pictorial effort, you're fighting a losing game because a portraitist cannot redesign a face and still preserve a likeness."

The new issue of Illustration Magazine has a 23 page article with dozens of examples of Oberhardt's portraits, both in charcoal and oil, together with many notes about his process, including extended excerpts from several articles by Oberhardt himself. 

There's also a very detailed article on pulp illustrator Earle Bergey.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Motor Grader


A motor grader from the 1970s, sketched on the job site in gouache.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Is Opera Rose Fugitive?

Is the pigment called opera rose lightfast or fugitive? I had always heard it was extremely fugitive, but experts don't agree. 

Opera rose is a quinacridone pigment defined as PR122. According to the authoritative website Handprint, it's very reliable. In fact Handprint rates it as a "Top 40" pigment. They say: "after 800+ hours of sunlight exposure, the samples show no fading or discoloration."

Here's how they explain it:

"Quinacridone magenta PR122 is a lightfast, semitransparent, staining, dark valued, intense violet red pigment, offered by more than 20 pigment manufacturers worldwide. The ASTM (in technical report D5067-99) rates the lightfastness of PR122 in watercolors as "fair" (III, "may be satisfactory when used full strength or with extra protection from exposure to light"), but other manufacturer and independent tests rate it higher. My 2004 lightfastness tests of the nine paint brands listed above, which show color variations that suggest several different pigment particle sizes or pigment suppliers, revealed very little or no color degradation, after 800+ hours of direct sunlight exposure, in both heavy and diluted applications. This puts the pigment solidly in the "excellent" (I) category (BWS 7+)."

"For context, compare these samples to naphthol red (PR170), a pigment with a well established "very good (II)" rating, or with quinacridone rose (PV19), which is considered to have "excellent (I)" lightfastness. This is such a glaring discrepancy that the ASTM test must be flawed or unrepresentative in some way. Because Michael Wilcox relies on the ASTM documents for his pigment ratings, he has been critical of this pigment without any corroborating evidence of its fallability. I suggest you do your own lightfastness test on PR122 paints until a consensus emerges, but at present I see absolutely no reason to avoid this splendid pigment." 

I haven't tried it yet in a controlled fade test, but I've used the color in a painting. You can watch the whole 12 minute YouTube video here.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Painting Peonies at NYBG

In this new video on YouTube I paint tree peonies at the New York Botanical Garden. 

I use transparent watercolor and a little gouache to capture the delicately gradating pink and red tones of these impressive flowers. (Link to YouTube)

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The Kitchen by Carl Larsson

Two sisters operate the butter churn as the clean dishes are laid out to dry under an open window.

Carl Larsson The Kitchen (1890s), watercolor

In his book Ett Hem, Carl Larsson says: "The kitchen is the only room in the house that still 'makes sense.' You see, this kitchen is extremely plain but it's clean and arranged pretty attractively for its purpose."

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Signing with a Paint Bottle


Impressionist Lisa Palombo signs her paintings with acrylic paint in bottles.

She says: "I use a variety of bottles like this one and fill with acrylic paint that is watered down. Sometimes I drip and splatter with them too."

In this video at 10:50, you can see how it looks as she applies it.

Thanks, Lisa

Monday, May 16, 2022

An Artist in His Studio

View from an Artist's Studio by Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret

 "Paris spreads away to the horizon her great seed plot, sown with innumerable houses, so small in the distance that one might hold them in the palm of one hand. Paris, vision at once monstrous and sublime, colossal crucible wherein bubbles increasingly that strange mixture of pains and pleasures of active forces and fevered ideals." —Paul Gsell


Charles Bargue and Jean-Léon Gérôme

The Lure of Paris: Nineteenth-Century American Painters and Their French Teachers

Series on GurneyJourney:
"Beaux-Arts Instruction" Series: Part 1Part 2Part 3

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Dandelion Study

Taraxacum oficinale (dandelion) in various growth stages painted in gouache yesterday for the Plein-Air Invitational event at the New York Botanical Gardens.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Wind in Stone

One of the joys of the art of sculpture is conveying invisible forces with the medium of solid rock.

With his sculpture "West Wind," Thomas Ridgeway Gould (American, 1818 – 1881) achieved the impression that thin fabric is stretched over a human form and blown by the wind. 

According to Wikipedia, "His West Wind, originally sculpted in 1870, stirred controversy in 1874 when it was denounced as a copy of Canova's Hebe (below), with the exception of the drapery, which was modelled by Signor Mazzoli."

"Animated newspaper correspondence followed this charge, and it was proved groundless. Gould declared that his designs were entirely his own, and that not a statue, bust, or medallion was allowed to leave his studio until finished in all points on which depended their character and expression."

"West Wind was later shown in the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876, and all told Gould subsequently made seven copies in two sizes."

Friday, May 13, 2022

Pre-Priming with a Color Blur

You can pre-prime a page with casein in a sort of abstract color blur, then make it into something.

New YouTube video: “Painting Skunk Cabbage.”

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Painting in the Swamp

Let's visit a mosquito-infested swamp to paint some skunk cabbage.


Watch the new YouTube video. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Drawing Daisies

A daisy a not single flower. What appears to be a flower is actually two types of flowers: a yellow disk floret at the center composed of many tiny individual flowers, and white petal-like florets arranged radially.  

When drawing buttercups and daisies it helps to lightly draw both ellipses, with the stem coming up to the center.


Diagram is from Drawing Made Easy, a book that I recommend for beginning artists, available from my store.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Leyendecker's "First Long Suit"

One of the original paintings for sale in today's Heritage Auction of American art is First Long Suit by J.C. Leyendecker.

The mother sits misty-eyed as a tailor sizes up a young man for his first long suit. Leyendecker took great care with the textures of the fabric and the surfaces for the furniture.

The magazine cover came out in September, 1937, at the height of Leyendecker's prowess as a painter.

Heritage Auction of American art
 is today, May 10. The auction includes J.C. Leyendecker, Maurice Sendak, N.C. Wyeth, Norman Rockwell, and Maynard Dixon.

Thanks, Meagan McMillan

Monday, May 9, 2022

Taking the Right Advice

Early in his career, Andrew Wyeth did this painting of his neighbor Walt Anderson walking through a field. 

Andrew "showed the painting to his father, N.C. Wyeth, who told his son to put a gun in the subject’s arm and a couple of hunting dogs in the scene.

"'When he left, [Andrew's wife] Betsy told him, ‘Don’t listen to him, he’s wrong,’ ” Jamie Wyeth said. “The father, N.C., was worried that his son wouldn’t be able to sell a painting like that, but he completely missed what his son was doing, and Betsy, at that young age, realized what he was doing – a lone figure walking away from you.'"

"That painting became 'Turkey Pond,' a 1944 egg tempera that served as precedent for 'Christina’s World' four years later."
--Quotes from Jamie Wyeth

Sunday, May 8, 2022

François Pompon

French sculptor François Pompon was born this day in 1855. 

At an early age he assisted Rodin, and Rodin said "you will be a great artist."

But success came later in life for Mr. Pompon, when in 1922, at age 67, his sculpture of a polar bear won widespread acclaim.

Pompon became celebrated during the Art Deco era for his simplified contours and smooth surfaces.

Read more about François Pompon on Wikipedia.

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Exhibition about Lincoln Memorial Opens at NRM

Daniel Chester French in his studio

The Norman Rockwell Museum has opened an exhibition about Daniel Chester French and the Lincoln Memorial.

John C. Johansen (Danish-American, 1876-1964) Daniel Chester French in the Chesterwood Studio, 1926

The Museum partnered with nearby Chesterwood, the home and studio of sculptor Daniel Chester French, to assemble a trove of sculptural maquettes and artwork that detail how the memorial was conceived and executed.

John Russell Pope (1874-1937) Design proposal for a Monument to Abraham Lincoln 
(Mayan temple style), 1912.

One of the initial ideas for the building to house the memorial shows a stepped pyramid at the end of the Mall.

Among the artists attending were Shawn Fields, who illustrated a children's book called Monument Maker Daniel Chester French and the Lincoln Memorial, and Garin Baker, who created a massive mural about the making of the Monument called "28 Blocks." 

I'm represented by a grisaille sketch I did at the location, the first time I saw the impressive monument.

The other rooms of the museum are filled with extraordinary paintings by Norman Rockwell.

Norman Rockwell Museum