Sunday, December 31, 2023

Cornelius Mazurka

Cornelius Mazurka once conducted a seventy-five-piece consort of brassmen and hadros in Ruhmsburg. For many years he lived in a partially collapsed tower of the ruined bridge over the Jubila River. 

He remained among the ruins living a hermit's existence, along with his dinosaur partner Henriette, after most citizens fled from the city. He maintains a collection of antique instruments, though no one plays them but himself. 

During their journey to Chandara, Arthur Denison and Bix convince him to pack up his instrument collection and leave the city so he can start life again.

Friday, December 29, 2023

Turkey Consciousness

Naturalist Joe Hutto, who raised a flock of imprinted turkeys, says that they are extremely smart and aware communicators.

“But their ability to understand the world goes much further than just communication. I came to realize that these young turkeys in many ways were more conscious than I was”

In this nature video, he replays the experiment from his book Illumination in the Flatwoods. He raises a bunch of wild turkeys, allowing them to imprint on him so that he's their parent. The exercise—which must have taken total commitment for the better part of a year—gives us a rare insight into the umwelt of some very impressive wild animals.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Honoring a Hatchling

Dinotopians enjoy a mini parade to celebrate a new hatchling.

It was done as a comp for a possible FAO Schwarz toy catalog cover, but never went beyond this stage.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Super Zoom

How they found out Carlson was drinking on the job in Solar Corp’s Quad 28.

He's drinking a home brew of Banisteriopsis caapi from the planet Xenon.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Background Painting with Ice and Snow

This background painting is from the Ralph Bakshi / Frank Frazetta animated movie “Fire and Ice.”

The left hand side of the composition is painted on an acetate cel so that the animated characters can walk through the middle of the scene. I used some airbrush in the back layer to soften the transitions, because I didn't want the background to compete with the figures.

Painting these backgrounds was an amazing experience because when I saw my paintings projected on the screen in the context of action and music and intercutting, I felt like I was living inside my pictures.

Monday, December 25, 2023

Making an Alpine Maquette

To create the painting “Thermala: Alpine Hideaway” I needed some reference for the lighting. 

I made a rough base from styrofoam, then draped some plaster-impregnated burlap over the base. 

I then built up a very rough model of an alpine castle from modeling clay and cardboard.

This was the work of no more than three hours—and I threw it out when it was finished
The painting appears in Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2024.

Friday, December 22, 2023

Troxler's Fading

Look at the little black cross at the center of this soft color field. Try not to move your eyes. Notice what happens to your perception of the colors in the rest of the area.

Did the colors mostly fade away to gray? It's caused by a neural adaptation that reduces your attention to a non changing stimulus. This happens because: 

"the neurons in the visual system beyond the rods and cones have large receptive fields. This means that the small, involuntary eye movements made when fixating on something fail to move the stimulus onto a new cell's receptive field, in effect giving unvarying stimulation."

 Source: Wikipedia on Troxler's Fading

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Thomas Cole's Reaction to Photography

Thomas Cole, Youth, from Voyage of Life, oil on canvas

Thomas Cole (1801-1848) lived less than a decade after the invention of photography, but he already recognized what a game changer it would be for his fellow artists. He assessed the impact when writing to a friend:

"I suppose you have read a great deal about the daguerrotype. If you believe everything the newspapers say, you would be led to suppose that the poor craft of painting was knocked in the head by this new machinery for making Nature take her own likeness, and we have nothing to do but give up the ghost . . . This is the conclusion: that the art of painting is creative, as well as an imitative art, and is in no danger of being superseded by any mechanical contrivance."

I wonder how he would respond to the challenges and opportunities presented by today's art-generating machines. 


Quoted from the book: The Painter and the Photograph

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Ray Tracing and Path Tracing

Ray tracing and path tracing are both techniques used in computer graphics to simulate the behavior of light. 

Ray tracing is a rendering technique that simulates the behavior of light by tracing the paths of individual rays. In classic ray tracing, a specific algorithm calculates the reflection, refraction, and shading of light rays as they interact with surfaces in a scene. This technique has been widely used in computer graphics to generate realistic images that accurately represent the behavior of light. 

Path tracing is a form of ray tracing where the rays are traced across multiple bounces to take the contribution of indirect lighting to the scene. Path tracing is more computationally intensive than classic ray tracing, but it can render all lighting in a more physically correct way. 

As a result it's better for capturing caustics, global illumination, subsurface scattering, indirect lighting and the soft shadows that occur in real-world environments.

The game Cyberpunk 2077 RT Overdrive lets you switch from one to the other, and the subtle differences are only really apparent when you see the same scene rendered with different techniques.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Jacek Malczewski's 'Melancholia'

Jacek Malczewski (1854-1929) was a Polish symbolist painter.

One of his most famous works is a troubling, dreamlike image called "Melancholia," (1890-94). The painting depicts a chaotic scene in a painting studio:
"On the top left you can see the faint figure of the artist concentrated while working at easel. A chaotic crowd of allegorical figures flows out of the canvas at which the painter is sitting and into the space of the painting. Through the clothes and props held in their hands, the billowing column refers to the tragic history of Poland in the 19th century."

"Among the floating crowd you can see representatives of many social categories, insurgents, priests, children, desperate women, convicts in chains, scythemen and Napoleonic soldiers. The dominant props include weapons, scythes mounted on edge, bayonets, sabers and guns, some people hold violins, books, hourglasses and paintbrushes instead of weapons."
"The crowd seems to be heading towards the illuminated window, but only a few, decrepit old men reach the window sill and are unable to cross it. [At] the window stands a mysterious female figure in black robes, the title Melancholia, who prevents dozens of procession participants from penetrating the space symbolizing freedom."

"As a professor at the Krakow Academy of Fine Arts, the artist repeatedly told students 'Paint so that Poland is resurrected,' thus clearly defining the meaning and purpose of his own work.

(Source: Polish Wikipedia)

Monday, December 18, 2023

Wrath of the Sea Serpent

When Seafood Fights Back, gouache on board, 11x14”

This leviathan is a variation of my larger sea monster painting. In this one I wanted the viewer to see the head of the creature first and then to glance down and take in the unfolding disaster.

In the larger version, I thought I could make the viewer would feel more involved and unsettled by having the body of the beast moving through the foreground. The tradeoff is that we're farther from the destruction. 

Leviathan, gouache, 9x12 inches

I recently shared an earlier sketch which brings us close to the action, but the scale and the threat aren't as clear. 

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Video Ads for the Famous Artists Course

The Famous Artist School marketed its correspondence course with print ads and direct mail, but also with these video ads in the 1950s.

The presentation may seem stilted and corny. I'm struck with how comfortable we've all become when talking to a camera. 

But what they're selling has real value, even to this day, so I'm glad you can still get your hands on those old course instruction binders

Thanks to the Norman Rockwell Museum for digitizing them and sharing them.

Friday, December 15, 2023

Nekron's Glacier

This yawning maw is the entrance to Nekron’s glacier kingdom.

It's an establishing shot from the Bakshi / Frazetta’s animated film Fire and Ice, cel vinyl paint, 11x14”

Thursday, December 14, 2023

The Value of Copying

In 1983 I did this oil study of the sculpture of Menelaus Carrying the Body of Patroclus (also known as Ajax Carrying the Body of Achilles). This sort of grisaille copy is fairly commonplace in today's Bargue-based ateliers, but I was working in a vacuum because the contemporary atelier movement had not yet developed.

I had left art school and set up my own curriculum because nobody on the art school's faculty seemed to know anything about the academic method. I found my answers in books. One of the most useful books was "The Academy and French Painting in the 19th Century."

The author Albert Boime points out that there were several goals of academic copies, ranging from technical to almost spiritual. The practice was far more than a superficial exercise. Yes, I was learning about light and form of course, and deepening my understanding of gesture and anatomical form and composition.

But it was more than that. By copying the masters of the Renaissance and of the Greek and Roman period, I felt as though I entered a deep sympathy with them that I didn't feel from just looking at them. Classical musicians understand this sympathy, because to play Beethoven or Mendelssohn well, you don't just play the notes. You have to try to understand them and enter their mind.

Unfortunately not all art students are encouraged to copy, so they don't get to share in this enriching practice of mind-melding with great artists of the past.


Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Warrior Woman

Warrior Woman, an oil painting for a paperback cover, plus one of the tone paper studies I did for it.


Monday, December 11, 2023

A House in Gouache


Playing a little here with lightening and unifying the tree masses to make that dark shadow shape stand out. Gouache, 5 x 7 inches. 

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Verdi's Otello

 Verdi's Otello, sketched from Parterre Box 27, Seat 1 at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Friday, December 8, 2023

A Background from Fire and Ice

Here's a background painting from the 1983 animated movie Fire and Ice, painted with cel vinyl on board. 

The round hole and the twin horizontal holes are for aligning the acetate animation cels. This was an extra long BG, designed for a horizonal camera move to follow small figures running along the icy path.


Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Couture's Satire of French Society

In Thomas Couture's 1873 painting "The Thorny Path," four men struggle to pull a cart driven by an angelic figure.

According to the Philadelphia Art Museum, the image is Couture's satire on the decadence of French society during the 1870s. They note that the carriage is pulled... 

"...not by animals but by four male captives who represent different ages and states of society. The naked old man leading the procession is flabby from indulgence; the troubadour following him, a symbol of young love, parodies the medieval ballads popular in nineteenth century France. The old soldier bends his head in self-reproach, and the young student writes as he walks, symbolizing the educated nobility's ignorance of the realities of daily life. The thistles and thorny plants along the road suggest the painfulness of their journey. The decrepit figure seated at the rear of the carriage with a bottle of wine in her basket foreshadows the courtesan's future. Finally, Couture signed his initials on the stone figure at center, which seems to be laughing at the entourage."

Couture developed an alternate version set in the open plain with the city in the distance.

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Fun with Reference

When I need a model, I set up a mirror and some charcoal paper, and I draw.

With a wig and a costume and a scowl, I can be anybody—in my imagination at least.

During a break I forget to take off the wig, much to the amusement of FedEx man, who chooses that moment to come by the house.

The final painting appears as a gatefold in Nintendo Power magazine to promote the game Dinotopia: Timestone Pirates.

(Link for more info.)


Sunday, December 3, 2023

World Beneath Audio Adventure / Cassette Version

For the retro enthusiast, cassettes are the best way to listen to a audio dramatization because they're so portable and fun to use, and they remember where you left off. 

They're a great way to wean your kids away from screens and show them the tech you used when you were their age. 

And this production is one of the best audio adventures, with a full cast, music by Tim Clark, and rich sound effects by ZBS Studios.

Friday, December 1, 2023

French Braids

Am I listening to the sermon? Well, sort of. I'm monitoring the droning sound with half an ear.

But really, most of my conscious attention is devoted to understanding the amazing weaving of those French braids. She tells me later that she wove them all by herself by feel, without even looking in the mirror.

Aren't humans amazing?

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Bio Video from the Art Shutter Channel

 Look what came up in my YouTube feed: a nice introduction and overview of my work.

Thanks to the folks who put this together. There are a lot of artists out there deserving of attention, and I don't take for granted that someone's going to be spending time looking at my stuff!

James Gurney: Painting Worlds Beyond Reality

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

The Magic of Water

…and Leonardo said, “Water is the driving force of all nature.”

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Henry Webster Rice

Henry Rice (1853-1934) started out as a carriage painter like his father before becoming an artist. 

He studied under Ross Sterling Turner, specializing in genre art, landscapes, and marine views. 

His work included scenes from everyday life, such as markets, domestic settings, interiors, and street scenes.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Henningsen's Lamplighter

Erik Ludvig Henningsen (1855-1930) was a Danish painter and illustrator known for his Social Realist paintings depicting the poor and exposed groups in the 1880s and 1890s. Born in Copenhagen, he showed early artistic talent and was admitted to the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 1873, where he graduated in 1877. 
Erik Ludvig Henningsen (Danish,1855-1930) The Lamplighter

He was part of the group Bogstaveligheden, which aimed to create a better society through humanitarian ideals. Henningsen's artistic career was marked by his preoccupation with the rights and living conditions of the unemployed, women, workers, children, and the elderly.

Friday, November 24, 2023

The Leviathan


Sea Monster study, gouache, 9x12 inches

An experiment in biomechanics spirals out of control, and the leviathan slips out to sea.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Aaron Blaise Demos Procreate Dreams

In this new video on the Proko channel, Disney-trained animator Aaron Blaise demonstrates the new animation software called Procreate Dreams, which is released today.

Aaron began working on the animation of the giant ogre stepping over the building during our "Colossal Characters" event at Lightbox Expo. He drew a few key poses, each held for eight frames. In this video he adds intermediate drawings to smooth out the action, taking care to emphasize the weight and balance of the figure. 

Procreate Dreams has been receiving accolades for its convenience, versatility, and speed, and Aaron does a great job teaching how to use it. Proko says: "You'll see him use cool features in the app like onion skinning and a timeline to animate the ogre walking over a city. This demo is a practical look at how Procreate Dreams simplifies frame-by-frame animation, making it straightforward for anyone interested in animating.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

One Way to Simplify

The goal here is to simplify. 

I'm interested in the truck but not the setting. I ignore the fence in front of it. 

Extracting the truck and putting it against white lets me focus on the little reflectors, the graphics, and the wheels.


Friday, November 17, 2023

Classic Diner Still Life

Ketchup, sugar, cream, and napkin holder: a scene in the diner.

Heritage Auction Today

A little later today, Heritage Auctions will conduct a sale of American art that includes landscapes by Bierstadt and Homer Dodge Martin, and illustrations by the likes of J.C. Leyendecker (above) and Maxfield Parrish.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Creating a Sci-Fi Paperback Cover

How does a sci-fi manuscript become a cover? 

After reading the manuscript I produce lots and lots of thumbnail sketches.

Then I make more comprehensive sketches (not shown here), and sometimes some suggestions for typography in the form of tracing paper overlays.  

I have to arrange the tonal values of the top of the composition so that the type will read clearly. Then the art director puts it all together in the final printed proof, which the sales team takes around to bookseller accounts to get a buy-in before the book is even printed.


Tuesday, November 14, 2023

'The Beautiful Is In Nature'

Streamside in the Catskills, oil, 9x16"

"The beautiful is in nature, and it is encountered under the most diverse forms of reality. Once it is found it belongs to art." —Gustave Courbet

Monday, November 13, 2023

Fortune-Telling Homunculus

To interact with this fortune-telling homunculus, ask it a yes/no question and press down on one of the hands.
Inside the body is a robust internal escapement mechanism, with a flywheel and catchment. The face spins freely for a while and snaps to a stop. If it stops on a smile, the answer is YES.....and if it flips over and stops on a frown, the answer is NO, kind of like the "Magic 8-Ball."

The second sketch imagines her as an old lady character named 'HANNAH,' a name that's not only palindromic, but invertible (almost).

She's up on a pedestal, and she's big enough so that museum-goers can interact with her. Her hands stick out of slots in the vitrine, while her face and figure are protected inside the vitrine.

Pressing down on one hand spins her face one way, and pressing down the other spins the face the other way. Every 10th spin or so, on average, her sidekick Protoceratops sidekick perks up and nods his head for a SUPER YES, or a doleful SUPER NO.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Will AI Eliminate 90% Of Animation Studio Jobs?

DreamWorks Animation co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg made himself unpopular in the animation industry when he predicted a few days ago that AI would make feature film production ten times more efficient and reduce the number of artists by 90%. 

He said: “In the good old days, when I made an animated movie, it took 500 artists five years to make a world-class animated movie,” he said. “I think it won’t take 10% of that. Literally, I don’t think it will take 10% of that three years from now.”

Katzenberg, creator of the failed video app Quibi, is wrong on this prediction for at least four reasons:

1. AI will lead to a proliferation of second-guessing. Since everyone in the organization, including bean-counters and paper pushers, can generate alternate takes at the press of a button, it will be hard for any creative organization to commit to any set of decisions without facing the inevitable chorus of "Why don't we try this instead?" This effect will slow production, not speed it up.

2. Innovations won't come from the top down, but rather from the bottom up. AI techniques will surely lead to artistic innovations, new production methods, and even new art forms. But the animation production pipelines are so well established in studios like Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks that they can't easily adapt to radically new toolsets. The filmmakers to watch are the little breakaway upstarts, the tiny mammals currently running around the ankles of the dinosaurs.

3. In practice they don't take you all the way to the finish line. Even though AI methods seem to magically produce immediate, sexy-looking results that would take teams of people weeks or months to produce, they still require the same kind of human expertise and effort to get really first rate results that the public will accept.

4. The lawyers of the big studios won't let it happen. They're already so nervous about copyright infringement lawsuits that they're trying to stop the internal use of AI in the production pipeline.

Saturday, November 11, 2023

"Much May Be Learned"

William James Stillman - Study on Upper Saranac Lake - Museum of Fine Arts

“Much may be learned about drawing by reference to a good photograph, that even a man of quick natural perceptions would be slow to learn without such help,” a writer said in an 1865 issue of The New Path.

The quote is from JSTOR DAILY.

Wednesday, November 8, 2023


Pausing streamside so that the Triceratops can have a little drink. 

Monday, November 6, 2023

Wilhelm Kuhnert, Wildlife Painter

Wilhelm Kuhnert (1865-1926) was a German painter and illustrator known for his depictions of wildlife, particularly African animals. Born in Oppeln, Germany, Kuhnert showed an early passion for art and nature. As a child, he spent considerable time exploring the countryside and observing animals, which would greatly influence his later artistic career.

Kuhnert's interest in wildlife led him to embark on several extensive journeys, including expeditions to East Africa and India. These trips allowed him to study animals in their natural habitats, making detailed sketches from direct observation and acquiring a deep understanding of animal behavior and anatomy.
Back in his studio, Kuhnert would use his field sketches and reference photographs to create large-scale oil paintings and illustrations. He paid meticulous attention to capturing the unique characteristics of each animal, emphasizing their physicality, texture, and natural environment.

He was well-versed in a broad range of mediums, including oil, pencil, charcoal, and chalk, and he could complete a large oil painting in just four days. Some of his paintings were on canvases eight feet or longer, and he had local craftsmen build immaculate frames for many of these paintings.

Kuhnert's artworks gained recognition and popularity, and he became known for his realistic portrayals of animals. His paintings often showcased the animals with a sense of dynamism and movement. Kuhnert's wildlife paintings were reproduced in natural history books, advertisements, school publications, and scientific texts, and his work shaped a popular understanding of the wildlife, landscape, and terrain of Africa and Asia.