Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Two Tugs Dockside

Two hardworking tugboats wait at dockside in this small oil study.

Two Tugs, oil on panel, 6 x 8 inches, plein-air

One is still running its engine, judging from the puff of smoke. Hazy sunshine comes in from the left, allowing me to lose the edges in the lower right of the picture. The pinkish priming color peeks through in a few places, but the rest is mostly gray. 

Monday, May 29, 2023


In Australia an unusual society of octopuses has congregated in Jervis Bay, which observers have dubbed "Octopolis." 

Octopuses are normally relatively solitary, so this tendency to group together is not fully understood. 

Marine biologist Peter Godfrey-Smith reports that he's noticed a lot of "ornery" behavior that resembles fighting, boxing, bullying, and even shooting shell projectiles underwater. He's not completely sure if this is just territorial squabbling or something else. 

More at Earth Touch Network.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Russell Flint on Color Harmony

Russell Flint, Cordoba, watercolor

In his book Water-Colour for Beginners Sir Frances Russell Flint warned that a painting will lack color harmony if it has too many colors in it. He said: 

"You must aim at getting tone and harmony in your work, although it may not be easy. All pictures may be divided into masses of bright color or light, medium-strength color, and shadows. It may be difficult to trace the exact places where they occur in a picture, but they are there all the same. It is obvious that when you are working out of doors on a bright sunny day all the colors will be strong and bright in tone, and even the shadows and middle tints will be strong too. The opposite occurs on a dull day, when the whole scene is changed to one of low tone, when both colors and shadows will be soft and subdued. In each case the colors will harmonize and all complement each other in tone. Mix the colors of these two scenes together and the result is a discordant picture which will be unnatural and unbalanced."

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Resources for Art Styles

One positive outcome of the growth of generative AI is an awakened interest in art styles: how to learn about them, recognize them and name them. 

For example, I had never heard of chainmail art, but here's an actual piece by Dave Austin. It's made by hand from metal wire, link by link.

Here are some examples of AI-generated images inspired by chainmail art, courtesy Twitter user Anonymouse, who has compiled helpful lists of styles of art and photography to use as inspiration.

Anonymouse has got about five collections so far on various Twitter posts. In his collection #2, for example, he's got ASCII Art, polar panorama, mosaic style, and Fresnel Effect.

Another rich vein of styles is Aesthetics Wiki, which defines and illustrates everything from Barbiecore to Dark Gatsby. This online community seems to be fueled as much by cosplay, anime art, and toys as it does by AI, but apparently the team at Midjourney took a lot of inspiration from these communities when they were developing their tools.

Every art school—and especially every design school—should offer classes that explore these art and photography styles, putting them in context without judgment. 

Have you found other resources for learning about art styles? Please share them in the comments.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Me vs. Chatbot: Ask Us Anything

Would you like to have your art question answered in a future YouTube video?

The idea is to see who answers better: real me, or Jimbot, the AI chatbot, who is trained on all my blog posts, books, and magazine articles. (In the “fake” chatbot version, it’s actually me reading the lines, but everything I say is scripted by my digital double). Send your question for either or both of us at this Speakpipe link.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Big Rhodies, Tiny Panel


Big, showy rhododendrons are flowering in our backyard right now.

I tried to fit them onto a tiny wood panel, just 3.5 x 5 inches using casein.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

The Tragic Fate of Florence Munnings

Sir Alfred James Munnings, Portrait of Florence Munnings, at sunset (1912),
oil on canvas, 21 x 24 in. (53.4 x 61 cm.), via Christie’s.

Florence Carter-Wood and Sir Alfred Munnings (1878-1959) married in 1912, but the marriage ended tragically.
"When not in pursuit of the hunt, Munnings was in demand elsewhere, traveling up and down to London and Suffolk after their marriage. Florence, left in Cornwall, was neglected. Her friendship with a young captain in the Monmouthshire Regiment, Gilbert Evans, drew closer in these years – to the point in April 1914 when he realized the potential seriousness of their growing affection and decided that his only recourse was to leave England by joining a Royal Engineers Survey of Nigeria. Amid suspicions that she was pregnant by Gilbert, she took her own life on 24 July 1914. Munnings thereafter left Cornwall, and never mentioned her again."
Quote from Christie’s via the Sunnyside blog

Monday, May 22, 2023

Tickets Now on Sale for Lightbox Expo 2023

I'll be going to Lightbox Expo in Pasadena, CA, an event that connects fans of films, games, animation, and illustration, with the people who design them. The next one is coming up October 27-29, 2023.


Sunday, May 21, 2023

Paul Joanowits

Paul Joanowits Bashi-bazouks before a Gateway, 
oil on panel, 46 by 35cm., 18 by 14¾in.

Paul Joanowits, also known as Pavle "Paja" Jovanović, was a Serbian realist painter who lived from 1859 to 1957. He painted more than 1,100 works during his lifetime. 

Paul Joanowits, Sword Fighting

His painting "Sword Fighting" shows to men training a young boy how to wield a sword. Joanowits traveled to Morocco, Egypt, Greece, Turkey, Italy, and Spain and was inspired by Serbian history and everyday life of his people.

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Francesco Hayez

Francesco Hayez (1791 - 1882) was an Italian artist best known for his historical scenes and portraits.

He would plan his portraits with pencil drawings.

He produced many self portraits.

Francesco Hayez on Wikipedia

Friday, May 19, 2023

Dog Art Exhibition in London

There's an exhibition of dog art this summer in London all summer which includes  The Old Shepherd's Chief Mourner by Edwin Landseer and Brizo by Rosa Bonheur.

Brizo by Rosa Bonheur

Portraits of Dogs: From Gainsborough to Hockney’ will be on display at The Wallace Collection from 29 March to 15 October 2023

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Artists' Reactions to the Eiffel Tower

Many artists and writers in France were not enthusiastic about the Eiffel Tower, which was presented as a marvel of iron construction at the World's Fair in 1889.

Here are some of the reactions:

Léon Bloy called it: “this truly tragic street lamp”
Paul Verlaine: “this belfry skeleton”
Francois Coppée: “this mast of iron gymnasium apparatus, incomplete, confused and deformed”
Guy de Maupassant: “this high and skinny pyramid of iron ladders, this giant ungainly skeleton”
Joris-Karl Huysmans: “this hideous column with railings”

It was meant to be a temporary structure but it has become a famous symbol of Paris. 

A group of influential artists and architects lobbied against it. Ernest Meissonier, the first president of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts joined with Charles Garnier, architect of the Paris Opera, and academic painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau to publish a letter that said: 

"Will the city of Paris continue to associate itself with the baroque and mercantile fancies of a builder of machines, thereby making itself irreparably ugly and bringing dishonor to itself? Because the Eiffel Tower that even the commercial Americans didn’t want, will without a doubt dishonor Paris."

But the architect Gustave Eiffel stood his ground:

"What are the reasons given by the artists for protesting against the maintenance of the tower? How useless, how monstrous! What a horror! We’ll talk about usefulness later. Let us concern ourselves, for the moment, only with the aesthetic merit, on which the artists are more particularly competent. I would like to know on what they base their judgment. Because, mark it, sir, my tower, nobody saw it and nobody, before it was built, could say what it will be."

More at JSTOR Daily 

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Portrait Society Seminar 2023


The annual Portrait Society Seminar began with the Faceoff event, where 18 artists painted portraits of 6 models in a 3-hour time span. I painted Alexandria using casein.

Photo by Robin Damore

It was fun to meet people at a book signing and customize each book with sketches.

Photo by Robin Damore

On Saturday I was part of a discussion about painting from living, speaking models. I shared the panel with Mary Whyte and Michael Shane Neal. 

Throughout the weekend, pairs of painters stood on stage in the main ballroom painting three-hour portraits of fellow artists who acted as models. This time the model was Judith Carducci. On the left is Jeff Hein's portrait halfway through, and on the right is the painting by Rose Frantzen. 

Manufacturers showed and sold their wares, including brushes, paints, and panels. Here, Daniel Keys lays in a painting of irises on a Raymor panel.

I did a presentation about executing a rapid block-in in various media, and demoed a portrait sketch of John from the San Francisco Bay Area.

A small gallery displayed the two-dozen or so finalists in the Art of the Portrait competition. One of the winners was a portrait by Frances Bell of her fellow artist Andrew Festing. "Many of the artists I'd like to talk with are long dead," she says, "so this portrait celebrates a rare exception for a contemporary painter, a moment to coexist in a studio over warm conversation with a wonderful artist."

The Portrait Society not only celebrates traditional portraiture, but also figural painting in a broader sense. This painting by Sean Layh of Australia shows Icarus from the Greek legend fallen on a stony beach, surrounded by curious seagulls. The artist says the inspiratin comes from two works of non-fiction literature: Jan Morris's Farewell the Trumpets and Chantel Delsol's Icarus Fallen.

The prizewinners at the banquet hailed from many different countries, including Australia, Ukraine, Taiwan, and Japan. 

The winner of the $50,000 Draper Grand Prize was Paul Newton, who painted this self portrait during the Covid lockdown.

The next gathering of the Portrait Society of America will be in Atlanta a year from now.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Sargent's Favorite Model

Between 1906 and 1912, John Singer Sargent painted many oils and watercolors of his beloved niece  Rose-Marie Ormond, documenting the ideal summers he spent with her and other relatives during her teenage years. 

Rose-Marie married a promising young art historian, but their lives were to be cut short by tragedy, and the story is documented in a book by Karen Corsano and Daniel Williman.

"Wed in 1913, young Robert and Rose-Marie were 'raised in the cult of the beautiful,' moving in refined circles of artists, scholars, and connoisseurs. Corsano and Williman use the couple’s correspondence records to eloquently chart the tragedy that WWI brings to their lives, and to the entirety of the European Belle Epoque. Robert perishes in the trenches as an infantry sergeant in 1917, and Rose-Marie bravely works as an army nurse until she too is killed, by German bombs, in 1918." 

"The authors’ final chapters reconsider Sargent’s postwar work (including the mural masterpiece, Triumph of Religion) as memorial to his beloved family and to the era of beauty and refinement cut short by the Great War." ― Booklist

The book is called John Singer Sargent and His Muse: Painting Love and Loss
Thanks, Paolo!

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Sisyphus Animated

Sisyphus is an short film made by Hungarian animator Marcell Jankovics in 1974. 

(Link to YouTube)

According to the Greek myth, Sisyphus must undertake the nearly impossible task of rolling a huge stone up the side of a mountain. His story is visualized with simple contour lines and presented in a single, unbroken shot.

Saturday, May 13, 2023

A Face is Easier to Recognize When It's Moving

Over the last few decades, researchers have learned a great deal about how we recognize faces. Using neuro-imaging techniques, scientists have pinpointed the regions and pathways in our visual systems that help us recognize people we know or celebrities we've seen on the screen.

Recently a group of authors in The Frontiers of Psychology made the following observation: "Most of what we know about face processing was investigated using static face images as stimuli. Therefore, an important question arises: to what extent does our understanding of static face processing generalize to face processing in real-life contexts in which faces are mostly moving?"

The scientists classify facial movement in two categories: static movement (head turning or nodding) and elastic movement (speaking, changing expressions).

Where babies look in a face changes depending if the person is moving or static and how old the baby is.

The paper summarizes findings in other scientific studies, for example:

1. Faces are much easier to recognize when presented in a video. If you play the video backwards, recognition performance drops off drastically.

2. Smiling faces are easier to recognize.

3. Babies begin developing neural strategies for processing movement as early as three or four months old, and the first year of life is crucial for developing these skills.


Read the free paper online: On the facilitative effects of face motion on face recognition and its development by Naiqi G. Xiao et al.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Repin's Portrait of Murashko

Ilya Repin (1844–1930) Portrait of Mykola Murashko ,1882, Oil on canvas, 48.5 x h58.5 cm

Mykola Ivanovych Murashko was a Ukrainian painter, devoted art teacher, art critic and art historian who belonged to the Russian movement of Peredvizhniki or Itinerants. He was also the founder and the first director of his own private drawing school in Kyiv which was supported by many well-known artists, notably Ilya Repin, a friend from the Academy.

Mykola Murashko (1844-1909) on Wikipedia

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Way back in the theater

Sometimes I get a seat close to the performer, and other times I have to sit way back.

When that happens, I try to capture a lot faces made from dots and dashes. Maybe they’re more expressive that way.

I'm on my way to the Portrait Society Seminar.

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

'Conscious and Precise Observation'

Hills in Settignano by Telemaco Signorini (1835-1901)

Telemaco Signorini, one of the principle members of the Macchiaioli, said: "Do you know what in our view is great art? It is not what historical culture or imaginative talent demand from the artist but a conscious and precise observation of the infinite forms and character of the countryside surrounding us.

Monday, May 8, 2023

Whitcomb's Tips on Idealizing Women

Golden Age illustrator Jon Whitcomb explained what elements he would change to idealize a woman's face, explaining "what makes a pretty girl pretty." 

1. Eyes are sometimes moved further apart. This device helps make a face look younger.

2. The eyebrows are raised.

3. The irises of the eyes are enlarged very slightly.

4. Shadows from lighting are edited for simplicity and sometimes left out altogether.

5. Mouths are usually made a little fuller, especially the lower lip.

6. Superfluous lines, like laugh lines and wrinkles, and irregularities of the jaw and nose are ignored.

"The width of the face is narrowed slightly, since in life, your two eyes see a face that is a composite of the image from both. Eyes are roughly three inches apart, so that your left eye sees a little more of the left cheek, your right eye a little more of the right. Your visual impression is that of a thinner face."


From the Famous Artists Course, Lesson 13

Sunday, May 7, 2023

New Book on Perry Peterson

Perry Peterson contributed illustrations to the popular magazines during the heyday of the Saturday Evening Post and Cosmopolitan.

Peterson painted in gouache and casein, and for many years he adapted his style to the printing limitations (black + one color) of the early magazines. That made him a resourceful colorist, and when he moved into full color in the 1950s, he brought a lot of interesting ideas to his pictures. 

His paintings were executed quickly, with bold shapes, dynamic brushstrokes, and strong shadows. He only approached the finished painting after plenty of planning, making use of reference photos of models and props. 

Sometimes he had photos of models taken in a professional studio in New York City, and other times he shot his reference at home with friends and family.

The book starts out with a biography written by illustration historian Dan Zimmer, who began collecting Peterson's originals many years ago. 

At the beginning of the biographical section, he includes many of Peterson's sketches, reference photos, and preliminary studies. After page 26, it's all original art and tearsheets.

The Art of Perry Peterson is 224 pages long, 9x12 inches, hardcover.  

Saturday, May 6, 2023

Illustrating the Coronation of George V

The Illustrated London News ran this painting of the coronation of George V in 1911. 

It was entitled: "He stands surrounded by the Officers of Heralds College"

The artists had to work fast to complete their drawings for the next day’s paper. “Every artist had a little notebook which he took out of the pocket of his frock coat and made dots in, putting down his top hat to do so.” Read more in the previous post: Covering the Coronation

Friday, May 5, 2023

Walpurgis Night

Walpurgisnacht, (or "Walpurgis Night") is a holiday celebrated in Germany and Scandinavia on April 30, the eve of Mayday. 

Albert Zimmermann “Walpurgisnacht”, 1866

In German folklore, it is believed to be the night when nature spirits meet on the Brocken mountain and hold fantastic festivals outside the reach of the Church. 

The holiday is celebrated with singing traditional spring folk songs, lighting bonfires, dressing in costumes, playing pranks on people, making loud noises to keep evil at bay, hanging sprigs of foliage on houses to ward off malevolent spirits, or leaving pieces of bread spread with butter and honey as offerings for phantom hounds.

All these occult revelries have captured the imagination of great artists, philosophers, and composers, such as the Goethe and Felix Mendelssohn. Mendelssohn's secular cantata describes the attempts of Druids in the mountains to practice their pagan rituals in the face of new and dominating religious forces.

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Drawing Over a Painting

I painted this dairy barn in gouache with a quirky technique, using brushes/paint first, and pencils/pens last. 

My new video on YouTube takes you through the process. 
Try out my custom-trained AI chatbot, who is happy to answer your questions about art.

Monday, May 1, 2023

Cornwell's Backgrounds

Dean Cornwell (American, 1892-1960) painted illustrations with solid, memorable backgrounds, which attracted favorable reviews from journalists of his day.


A writer for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle said: "no carelessly sketched-in backgrounds here, flimsy and unstable, a mere set for the figures, upon which the ordinary illustrator concentrates his efforts because he considers they tell the whole story."  

Cornwell would visualize the backgrounds in terms of how he would build them with his own hands, and he recognized the value of knowledge gained through the hands.

Here's how Cornwell put it: "I construct my backgrounds in my mind just as if I were actually building them with bricks and mortar. I follow the same mental processes as does the builder himself." 

Cornwell, a grand-student of golden age illustration teacher Howard Pyle, regarded the art of painting as an natural extension of the manual work of a bricklayer or a carpenter. 

He said: "It has always been a theory of mine that an illustrator must know how to use his hands other than in painting and drawing; he should understand carpentry and building. Howard Pyle used to tell his pupils that they should consider their brains the superior and certainly the equal of those possessed by the men who built the structures he is illustrating."