Friday, September 30, 2022

Andreas Paul Weber

 Andreas Paul Weber was a German illustrator with a weird, unique style.

YouTube illustration historian Pete Beard created this fascinating tribute to Weber:


Thursday, September 29, 2022

'Laughter' by Filipp Maliavin

Filipp Maliavin (1869-1940) started out as an icon painter in the Orthodox monastery, but he enrolled in the Academy in the 1890s.

Filipp Maliavin Konstantin Somov
Maliavin's graduation piece "Laughter"(1898) received a strong negative reaction from critics because of its bold, abstract use of color and its raw emotionalism. 

"His work was too different, too bright, and it had no plot - it did not fit the contemporary art scene at the time." (Source)

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

'Sea Painting is Memory Painting'

Frederick J. Waugh said, "Sea painting is of necessity memory painting, even while the artist is directly facing it with his canvas." 

Frederick J. Waugh Seascape

"When the water is in movement, the painter can capture it only by fixing firmly in his mind just what it has done and is likely to be doing again in a particular instant. The waves will not wait. They must be caught and held by the eye before being transmitted to the brush."

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Combining Drawing and Painting

Monday, September 26, 2022

A House on Wellington Street

In this new YouTube video, I paint a house on Wellington Street, Dun Laogharie, Ireland.

The house is a mix of old and new, residential and commercial, inspiring me to use a combination of techniques: watercolor, gouache, pencil, and pen.

Pilot Fountain Pen 

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Book Recommendations


Thanks to YouTuber Ross Draws for including Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter in your recommendation of favorite art books. 

Also, I'm grateful to Little Squeesh for putting in the good word for my book.

If you live in the USA, you can get Color and Light signed with free shipping at my website. It's our store's bestseller.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Sparkles of Sunlight

Here's the view of the inner harbor, looking south from the West pier of Dun Laoghaire, Ireland.

My goal was to create the sparkles of sunlight by dragging a brush across the paper, leaving little bits of pure white showing through, plus I added a few dots from a gel pen. 

It's almost impossible to get the random quality and the brightness of sparkles if you try to do it with white gouache.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Dame Street, Dublin

I do a quick impression of Dame Street in Dublin using watercolor, gouache, and fountain pen.

I start very loosely in watercolor and work my way to the Little Nigglies, knowing I can fix mistakes in gouache.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Bathers at Seapoint

Swimmers ease into the Irish sea at Seapoint, County Dublin.

As I try to translate the moment into watercolor and gouache, my granddaughter watches quietly.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Catching a Ride on a Turnip Cart

Arthur Denison catches a ride to Chandara on a Triceratops-powered turnip cart.

From Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara

Monday, September 19, 2022

Waves Breaking at The Forty Foot

People swim all year round at The Forty Foot, a historic bathing area on the southern tip of Dublin Bay. 

I keep shifting my gouache-painting setup to avoid being hammered by the waves as the tide comes in.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Restoring Klimt's Lost Masterworks

Gustav Klimt's mural paintings were destroyed in World War II, so they're only known from blurry black and white reproductions. But thanks to machine-learning restoration programs, they've been restored to full color. 

Jurisprudence (left) and Medicine

According to Smithsonian:

"To create the images, Google Arts and Culture and the Belvedere Museum in Vienna developed a tool that culled information about Klimt’s use of color from disparate sources. As Shanti Escalante-De Mattei reports for ARTnews, the data set included contemporary journalistic descriptions of the Faculty Paintings, 1 million pictures of the real world and 80 full-color reproductions of Klimt paintings from the same period. Google engineer Emil Wallner spent nearly six months coding the artificial intelligence (A.I.) algorithm to generate color predictions."

Saturday, September 17, 2022

The Dancing Pig (1907)

If you haven't yet seen the film "The Dancing Pig" (Le Cochon Danseur)  you're in for a treat. Link to YouTube

This is the colorized, music-added version of a 1907 film that was originally a silent, black-and-white burlesque film released in 1907. It was probably based on a Vaudeville act. In the short film, a woman dances with an animatronic pig. She humiliates the pig, and then he (apparently) exacts his revenge by eating her offstage. 

The animation of the giant puppet, combined with the dance moves of the performer, are remarkable. The following comment on YouTube gives further insight and appreciation:

"Looking past what modern audiences may find 'creepy', it's actually an endearing and melancholy story. The pig comes dressed as a refined gentleman to try and court the beautiful dancer; but after rejecting him, she mocks him, humiliates him and strips him to steal his dignity, then dresses him in female costume before going down to just bloomers. I'm guessing there is some underlying symbolism in there somewhere. As for the costume - it seems creepy, though I'd imagine was not intended to; the way old fashioned clowns look creepy to modern audiences. I think it's so well executed that it falls into the category 'uncanny valley.' But the animatronics of the head are incredible by any standard, especially the ability to sneer the jowls back to expose the teeth. Along with the lolling tongue, flapping ears and independently moving eyes, I'd imagine the wearer/ operator had quite a task working all the controls. You can see how one or both arms hang limp as he retracts his hands inside to then reach up to operate the head. I'm guessing he had a limited view through the mouth too. So, considering all the animation/ puppeteering he had to do... whilst dancing, it a wonder how he could even stay on his feet in that doubtlessly heavy suit, let along actually dance! This film is so much more than just a 'creepy' curious spectacle."

Friday, September 16, 2022

Ask Me About This Painting

I'm in Dun Laoghaire, Ireland, and I just did this little plein-air painting. 

Here it is partway finished, and below is the scene that was in front of me. The lighting is invented.

In a few weeks I'll be making a YouTube video about the whole process, and I would love to include your spoken question in the video. 

Please ask about anything to do with this specific image, or about gouache / watercolor painting in general, or whatever art-related topic you want to know my thoughts about. 

You can ask your question on

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Ward Kimball's Advice to an Aspiring Animator

Ward Kimball, one of Walt Disney's senior animators, answered a request from a high school student who wanted to become an animator. His told the young man that he should graduate high school, then get a well rounded art education:

"To be ready for that jungle out there," he wrote, "you gotta be a jack-of-all-trades. By this I mean, you gotta know all the insides and outs of film making. And with animation in mind this means BASIC DRAWING, LIFE DRAWING, DESIGN, LETTERING, ARCHITECTURE, COLOR THORY, MATERIALS AND THEIR USE, PAINTING, MODELING, ART HISTORY, WORLD HISTORY, ANATOMY, HUMANITIES, FILM EDITING, SOUND CUTTING, RECORDING, STORY SKETCH."

"Animation is just not making things move, it is THINKING, THINKING, THINKING."

Ward Kimball (1914-2002) on Wikipedia

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Opaque and Transparent Painting

I painted these two vintage bisque porcelain match holders at my friend Mel B's collection. I think the leering man's face is even weirder than the exuberant baby waving a flag.

The study on the left is painted with casein (an opaque water-based medium a lot like gouache), and the one on the right is painted in transparent watercolor.

Opaque and transparent painting require a rather different mindset and approach.

To paint this head in casein, I had to mix each of the values separately, keeping in mind the slight value shift as the paint dries. The ADVANTAGE of casein or gouache is that it's possible to achieve absolutely flat, smooth passages and control their relationship.

The CHALLENGE with opaques is to blend edges and to achieve softness and variety of tone. The PITFALL is the tendency to lose sparkle and lightness.

I painted the baby in transparent watercolor. The ADVANTAGE of watercolor is that it's fast and direct. Gradations and soft edges (such as the round forehead) are achievable, but they take deliberate and rapid action.

The CHALLENGE is 1) to achieve accuracy and smoothness of value, and 2) to paint around the light accents. The PITFALL is the tendency to get everything too light. The first washes on the forehead looked incredibly dark when I first put them down.

Every painting technique has advantages, challenges, and pitfalls, and you have to know them from experience and keep them in mind at every stage.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Painting my Grandbaby

It's official—I'm a granddad. Here she is at five months old.

I made a YouTube video about painting this portrait in gouache.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Using AI to Guess How a Painting Was Made

Scientists have developed machine-learning system that analyzes existing paintings and reconstructs how they might have been painted.

The authors say:
"The system, which the team calls “Timecraft,” was trained on more than 200 existing time-lapse videos that people posted online of both digital and watercolor paintings. From there, the team created a convolutional neural network that can look at a new painting that it’s never seen before, and figure out the most likely way it was created."

The study is a couple years old now, and with more extensive training data and more computer power, the results would now be a lot higher resolution and more accurate.

Friday, September 9, 2022

Quick Sketch of a Resting Dog

Smooth and I wait at a picnic table outside the Culinary Institute's Egg Café while the rest of my gang goes in and gets supper.

Here he is in watercolor, colored pencils, fountain pen and white gel pen.

I sometimes go straight to watercolor+  because it’s the fastest technique, and you need FAST when you’re sketching live animals.

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Obamas' White House Portrait

The Obama Foundation produced this behind-the-scenes video of Robert McCurdy and Sharon Sprung painting the official White House portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama. (Link to YouTube)

Mr. Obama's portrait shows him in a dark suit against a white background.

The emptiness of the background removes him from context and focuses the viewer on his expression and posture, because there's nothing else to look at. 

White backgrounds can suggest many things: the contemporary gallery wall, the unwritten page, the mysterious, luminous void. What a white background doesn't suggest is wealth, heritage, power, status, or cultural milieu—all the usual trappings of official portraiture of a former head of state. 

Maybe such associations were impossible in the case of Mr. Obama, and the artist made the best choice, I don't know. 

The idea of the white background isn't new. Photographer Richard Avedon presented many of his subjects against a white seamless. In Avedon's case it often had a leveling effect, cutting through normal distinctions of status or power and making everyone equal. It could even have a clinical flavor that made the viewer examine the way the subject presented himself or herself. 

When director Alfred Hitchcock made the praying gesture against a field of pure white, one wonders why he presents himself that way, and how sincere he is.

When painter James Bama used the white background for his portraits of Western characters, he invited us to study the details of their face and costume, and from those clues to wonder about the character of their working life.


Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Grid Illusion

The photo above is in black and white. But it looks like it's in color because there's a subtle grid laid over it. 

The phenomenon is called the 'color assimilation grid illusion'. [Source] Thanks, Massimo 

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Sketches for Dinosaur Parade

I did a lot of sketches before painting "Dinosaur Parade."

I interpreted the scene in a variety of techniques: red chalk & charcoal, pencil & wash, markers, and oil.

What would the scene look like from high up on a balcony, or from a child's perspective, looking up?
There are probably 100 more like these, all drawn purely from the imagination.

Once I decided on the composition, I located maquettes, models,
costumes, and reference photos to help me visualize the complete scene.

The painting appears in Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time.

Monday, September 5, 2022

Puppet Dog "Smooch"

 Smooch thinks he's Smooth's little brother.

But Smooth isn't so sure. I think he doesn't pass the smell test.

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Image-to-Image Style Transfer

Suppose you made this rough sketch and wanted to finish it in a photo-real or painterly style.

Twitter user @TomLikesRobots is a digital artist who did just that, using the new image generation tool called Stable Diffusion (#stablediffusion), the open-source model which has a powerful feature called Image to Image (#img2img). 

He uploaded the sketch and told the system to render it as "A black and white photo of a young woman, studio lighting, realistic, Ilford HP5 400." The hair style is a little different, and the ear is weird, but the basic pose and lighting is pretty close to the sketch.

Tom says: "Overall, composition is controlled by the sketch and the details are controlled by the prompt. 

This time he told it he wanted it to make the sketch look like "A portrait of a young woman by Norman Rockwell." 

It looks like a painting, but not much like Rockwell—more like a Victorian artist like Charles S. Lidderdale. On close scrutiny it doesn't hold up too well: the blue ribbon and the costume don't make sense, and her left eye has too many eyelashes.

Here's the sketch rendered in the style of Gustav Klimt. It's got a lot of drawing problems that Klimt never would have allowed, but it is somewhat reminiscent of his style.

And here's the sketch as painted by Vincent Van Gogh. Again, we can pick it apart, but it's in the ballpark.

And finally Alfonse Mucha. He is one of the hardest to emulate. It used soft internal transitions and clear outline.

The system was also able to translate the sketch into the features of famous celebrities:

Selena Gomez

Scarlett Johansson

Nicole Kidman

Emma Stone

All of them have big problems with the hair, but they're recognizable, and let's admit the tech is in its infancy and will only get better.

If you're an artist, you might find all this a little scary, threatening, or astounding. I do too! I feel like we've been introduced to a magical genie who can bring whatever we wish into existence.

Some have responded by calling for laws to ban the technology from creating images in the styles of living, working artists. What if someone created a print for sale that was supposedly painted by you or me?

I think we have to be careful how we respond to this apparent threat. Let's keep in mind that the technology is transformative, meaning it doesn't copy/paste images. It creates something new. And artistic styles can't be—and shouldn't be—copyrightable. These tools are here to stay. They're only going to get more advanced, and they're open-source. Also the people who are developing it are artists, too. 

I'm wary of laws or AI bots that restrict the growth of this new art form, or that drive the prompts underground. Instead of involving politicians and lawyers and AI bots, we should encourage a culture of mutual respect and fair play. Perhaps we should encourage generative artists to share their prompts when they use a living artist's name, and never to mislead their audience into thinking the work was actually painted by that artist. Basically, people should give credit where credit is due.

How do you think we should regulate or guide this new art industry?