Saturday, July 30, 2022

Spontaneous vs. Controlled

Nita Engle (American, 1925-2019) was a watercolorist who combined wild spontaneity with a controlled focus.

In her book "How to Make a Watercolor Paint Itself," she says: "My method of working consists of two parts: a wild, spontaneous phase, in which I aim to create a field of texture that will give the illusion of, say, water, a daisy field, trees, or whatever; and a realism phase, in which I select small areas, usually in the foreground, and add careful detail so the viewer's eye will read the rest as reality."

"In the first phase I apply the water and paint and follow it wherever it leads with no censoring....After the paint is dry, the thinking phase begins."

Book: "How to Make a Watercolor Paint Itself" by Nita Engle

Friday, July 29, 2022

Dinotopia Sand Sculptures

Congratulations to Karen Fralich on your award-winning Dinotopia-themed sculpture in the Revere Beach sand sculpture festival.

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Thursday, July 28, 2022

Mick Moloney, 1944-2022

Sad to hear of the passing yesterday of Limerick-born Mick Moloney, Irish music historian, raconteur, singer and banjo player, sketched at a concert a few years ago. 

He loved to tell the stories and sing the songs of Irish immigrants in America through his recordings, teachings, and publications.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Raymond de la Nézière, Animal Artist

Raymond de la Nézière (1865-1953) was a French illustrator and comic artist with a gift for capturing expressive poses in animal caricature.

He began drawing and painting from a young age, encouraged by his mother, who was a painter and potter. 

In his early years he painted in oil and then began using more gouache and watercolor.

He illustrated many books and sketched all sorts of animals, sometimes in naturalistic poses, and sometimes anthroporphized as human types.

He also participated as a hunter and a horseback rider.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Egyptian Painter's Palette

Most Egyptian pigment palettes were for cosmetics, but this one, dating back 3400 years, apparently belonged to a painter.

Egyptian palette, 3400 years old, photo by History Defined.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Fire and Ice Background

A background for the Bakshi / Frazetta film "Fire and Ice" (1983), cel vinyl and acrylic paint. 

Tom Kinkade and I tried to translate Frazetta's style of muscular, twisting forms into animation backgrounds. 

We added depth and atmosphere using airbrushes. To make a soft edge on the rays of light, you could set up a floating straight stencil. Our Paasche airbrushes were powered first by loud compressors and then oxygen tanks.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Weird Science of Visual Perception

This was a cover feature I proposed for ImagineFX Magazine . They never used it, but I still believe it would be an awesome subject for artists. 

Birdman, oil. I used mainly four colors: viridian, permanent alizarin, yellow ochre, and cerulean.

Knowing about the science of eye-tracking, color vision, afterimages, and image processing helps us a lot as image-makers.

Read my previous posts on Visual Perception

Friday, July 22, 2022

The Role of Prediction in Perception

Stored Sunlight, 5 x 8 inches, watercolor and gouache

"The mind is a prediction engine, and nowhere is this more true than in visual perception." 

Comparison with photo taken after the fact

In his book "The Mind: Consciousness, Prediction, and the Brain," by E. Bruce Goldstein details current research about how the process of visual perception. 

What happens when we see is that the brain creates a top-down model of the world and continually checks it against the input coming from our senses.

"The mind encompasses everything we experience," he says, "and these experiences are created by the brain--often without our awareness. Experience is private; we can't know the minds of others. But we also don't know what is happening in our own minds."

This podcast interview with Goldstein lays out the issues well.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Worlds Within Worlds

Hosta, plein-air gouache, 6 x 8 inches.

My new video on YouTube linked in bio ends with this quote from painter and teacher Richard Schmid:
"The grandest and simplest things contain worlds within worlds. Seeing them is a matter of the right point of view, and your painter's eye is the special portal to such sights."

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Staying Focused During a Plein-Air Session

Here's a new YouTube video that I call "This Botanical Study Nearly Broke My Brain."

The idea is that the hardest thing to do when you're painting outdoors is to be patient, to slow down and observe both the big shapes and the small details. If you can do it, worlds within worlds will open up. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Frederic Church's Area-by-Area Process

This plein-air oil study by Frederic Church was left unfinished, which gives us a glimpse into his process.

Bavarian Landscape; Frederic Edwin Church (American, 1826–1900)
USA; brush and oil, pencil on academy board.; 27.3 x 30 cm (10 3/4 x 11 13/16 in.)

Church first outlined big areas of the scene in pencil over a sealed and toned paper surface. He then covered them in oil paint from the top to the bottom. 

This area-by-area method of painting is sometimes called "window shading" because it's like pulling down a window shade.

Monday, July 18, 2022

Police Dock from Sleightsburgh

Sometimes I start with small bits of paint and teeny brushes....

But then I switch and I end up whomping on loads of pigment with big brushes.

That's what happened yesterday along Rondout creek in Kingston, NY.

View of the police dock from Sleightsburgh, gouache over casein priming.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Kelsey's and Anoosha's Art-Book Videos

Kelsey Rodriguez's YouTube channel has made her a hero for self-taught artists, so I was pleased that she included my book Color and Light among her recommendations in her video on YouTube

Kelsey Rodriguez: ART BOOKS to read instead of going to art school!

Also, Anoosha Syed did a recommended art book video which includes a review of Color and Light.

Thanks, Kelsey and Anoosha!

Friday, July 15, 2022

Light from a Low Sun

Light from a low sun devours all small forms, especially when it's reflected off the surface of still water.

Norrie Point, watercolor, gouache, pastel and colored pencil. 5 x 8 in.

Watch the 1 minute video of the making of this painting on my Instagram channel.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Dinotopia Audio Drama

Strap on your headphones and pack your bags for a trip to Dinotopia via the full-cast audio drama by ZBS Productions. You can listen for free (with a few ads) on Dramafy.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Laloue's Dots and Lines

Eugène Galien-Laloue painted boulevards in Paris using gouache. 

Eugène Galien-Laloue The Statue Of Étienne Marcel, Outside The Hôtel De Ville, Paris
Gouache, 7.5 x 11.12 inches (18.5 x 30.5 cm.)

His way of painting was relaxed but precise, alternating big shapes with small impressionistic dots and lines that suggest detail rather than delineating it.

According to Wikipedia, "Galien-Laloue was in exclusive contract with one gallery and used other names: 'L.Dupuy', 'Juliany', 'E.Galiany', 'Lievin', 'G.L' 'Dumoutier' and 'P.Mattig'".

Monday, July 11, 2022

Using White Pastel over Gouache

 White Nupastel or white Carb-O-Thello can suggest the effect of window light spilling over the edges of forms silhouetted against it. 

I'm experimenting with a way to present video in vertical format for Instagram reels.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Lamplight Fantasies of Delphin Enjolras

Delphin Enjolras (French, 1857 –1945) did one thing, but he did it pretty well.

He nearly always painted well dressed ladies in opulent interiors at eventide lit by electric light.

Sometimes they're by themselves looking at a book, or sewing, or playing with a cat.

Occasionally he'll place them on a balcony or a garden. But there's always that light. There must have been a ready market for these images of casual elegance and radiant illumination.

During his lifetime he witnessed the invention and adoption of electric light, which must have seemed magical, especially when the warm glow of the light was contrasted with the cool light of the sky.

Saturday, July 9, 2022

Wyeth Drawings on Display

Undercover Study by Andrew Wyeth, 1970, pencil

It's a rare treat to be able to see drawings and studies by members of the Wyeth clan.


N.C. Wyeth, seated nude, charcoal, 1900.

The art produced by the Wyeth lineage—N.C., Andrew, Carolyn, and Jamie—grows out of a tradition of academic drawing and close observation. 

In the case of Andrew, Carolyn, and Jamie, it wasn't an atelier or an art school setting where they learned these skills, but something passed down privately through the family.

Andrew Wyeth, charcoal portrait of Martin Leonard, 1936

The Fenimore Art Museum is currently displaying these mostly unpublished and unseen drawings. They're divided into several categories; academic renderings, figure studies, anatomy drawings, observations of the model, and animal sketches.

  N.C. Wyeth, Oisin in the Land of Youth (composition drawing), 1940, graphite

Victoria Wyeth, Andrew's granddaughter, curated the show with the help of her uncle Jamie. 

They offer the benefit of an insider's perceptions. They recall, for example, that Carolyn would walk around in  studio wearing her father's knickers, which were eccentric even in N.C.'s day.

Jamie Wyeth, pig drawing, 1969

There are a lot of kinds of observational drawings on view, so the art student or practicing artist will enjoy the behind-the-scenes glimpses. 

However, I wish there were more imaginative drawings, thumbnails, process pieces and a few finished paintings that would have shown the complete evolution of an idea from first concept to the end result. 

Andrew Wyeth, Undercover Study, 1970, watercolor (included)


Drawn from Life: Three Generations of Wyeth Figure Studies is at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, NY through September 5

Friday, July 8, 2022

Day and Night in Venice

Walter Launt Palmer (American, 1854-1932) painted a similar view of Santa Maria della Salute in the daylight and moonlight. 

While visiting Venice in the 1890s, he painted this view on a sunny day, with warm white and orange sails reflecting in the still water, and the alabaster domes gleaming behind. 

He painted the same Venetian landmark by moonlight, with a cool palette and a minimal amount of detail.

Both paintings are included in an exhibit called "Unmasking Venice: American Artists and the City of Water," now on view at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, NY through September 5.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Macchiaioli at the Caffè Michelangelo

Giovanni Boldini loved to paint his fellow artists at work. Here is Giovanni Fattori at work on a landscape painting.

Giovanni Boldini, Giovanni Fattori at the easel, 1866-67, Gallerie d'Italia, Milán.

Fattori was one of the founders of the movement of Italian plein-air painters known as the Macchiaioli. Like most art movements, this one grew out of a social setting, where artists could exchange ideas. Wikipedia puts it this way:  

"In the1850s Fattori began frequenting the Caffè Michelangiolo on via Larga, a popular gathering place for Florentine artists who carried on lively discussions of politics and new trends in art. Several of these artists would discover the work of the painters of the Barbizon school while visiting Paris for the Exposition of 1855, and would bring back to Italy an enthusiasm for the then-novel practice of painting outdoors, directly from nature." 

Macchiaioli at the Caffè Michelangiolo c. 1856

"In 1859 Fattori met Roman landscape painter Giovanni Costa, whose example influenced him to join his colleagues and take up painting realistic landscapes and scenes of contemporary life en plein air. This marked a turning point in Fattori's development: he became a member of the Macchiaioli, a group of Tuscan painters whose methods and aims are somewhat similar to those of the Impressionists, of which they are considered forerunners."

Monday, July 4, 2022

The Soup Machine

This oily, steaming contraption caught my eye one morning as I walked past a construction area. The guys on the road crew called it the "soup machine" and they used it to spray a layer of glue-like tar for joining sections of the road surface.

Gray markers on bristol board, 11 x 15 inches
published in 1982 in The Artist's Guide to Sketching

I came back on a Sunday when the site was deserted. I picked a low angle and silhouetted it against the sky, with the lines of perspective leading back behind the blackened engine mounted on the tank.

To convey the feeling of the smoggy day, I lightened the values of the more distant area. To create the sky gradation, I used a cotton rag that had been charged with black marker dye and gently rubbed across the surface.

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Will and Cirrus Explore the Ruins

During a mission to protect a convoy traveling through the Rainy Basin, Will Denison and his skybax Cirrus discover ancient ruins. 

The ruins contain evidence of the ancient civilization of Poseidos and the weird deities they seemed to worship.

From Dinotopia: The World Beneath

Saturday, July 2, 2022

How I Label My Sketchbooks

I have a bunch of sketchbooks types and sizes, but these are the 5 x 8 inch watercolor books.

I write the title of the sketchbook and the date range on the spine of the book and I number them to keep them in order.

I also paint a fancy title on the front cover of the book using sign-painter enamel. The title is whatever phrase you find on the first page of the book.
This photo appears in the next issue (#146 Aug/Sept) of International Artist Magazine. The article is called "The Artist as Archivist," and it includes top tips on taking care of your original artwork for future generations, conserving it, organizing it, and connecting each painting with key information to help future family members, customers, or curators understand what you've created.

Friday, July 1, 2022

The Stamp Art Was Almost Lost in the Mail

Funny story about these stamps: the original art was almost LOST IN THE MAIL.

To kick off the assignment I did my research in Australia, but I painted it in oil back at my studio in New York. After months of work it was time to send in the original art to Australia to be scanned and placed in their archive. I asked Australia Post how they wanted me to send the painting to them. 

Should I use Fedex, DHL, UPS, or (ahem) the U.S. Postal Service / Australia Post?

They thought about it, and decided to have me send it by the national postal service. It might be bad publicity if they used a private carrier. 

Besides, what could go wrong? 

I shot the art first with my digital camera and then wrapped it carefully and brought it to my local post office. They sent it with all the tracking numbers and insurance. 

For all we knew it sailed along well for a few days, but then got stuck somewhere. Tracking went dark after it left the USA. Deadlines were looming. 

They sent a postal inspector to investigate. He asked officials in the postal network but they had no answers. Was it damaged? Stolen? Forgotten in a warehouse?  No one knew. 

We had to assume it was lost in the mail. The presses were waiting. I sent my digital files, but they were inadequate for the high resolution printing standards they required.

Finally the inspector discovered the art was stuck in customs, which Australia Post didn't control. They cut through the red tape, recovered the painting, and averted the disaster.