Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Month-long field study

John Henry Hill (1839-1922) painted this oil study near Nyack, New York during July of 1863. It occupied him “nearly every afternoon in the month while our civil war was going on.” 

Painting an extended field study like this means working in light conditions that change drastically by the hour. This is especially true in a woodland setting, where the light and shadow projected down through the trees sweeps rapidly across the scene. 

The detail shows a section of the work about six inches square. Such extensive studies were common among the so-called "American Pre-Raphaelites." These painters followed the landscape theorist John Ruskin, who advocated: “Go to Nature in all singleness of heart, and walk with her laboriously and trustingly, having no other thought but how best to penetrate her meaning, rejecting nothing, selecting nothing, and scorning nothing." 
More about John Henry Hill
Book: The New Path: Ruskin and the American Pre-Raphaelites
Thanks to the Metropolitan Museum in New York, which offers a high resolution file of the painting on its website, and has the painting on view in its new American wing. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Monet and Rodin at work

(Video link) An archival film shows impressionist painter Claude Monet chatting amiably and then (at 1:06) painting his lily pads in Giverny. Monet keeps an unlit cigarette in his mouth, dangling above his beard and his spotless white suit. A white suit is an unusual color to choose for plein-air painting not only because of the risk of getting it dirty, but because it causes so much glare. 

(Video link) Rodin cuts a different figure, looking restless, camera conscious, gnarly, and charming all at once. He only seems at home when he gets out the hammer and the chisel (at 1:25). He wears no eye protection, blinking each time he strikes with the hammer, and catching marble chips in his beard. Those chips have got to hurt when they get in your eye.

And now for something completely different.... rare footage of Queen Victoria and Gladstone. Thanks, EZ Goodnight!

Thanks to Nick Wallace Smith, who has other archival films of artists and dancers.

Monday, February 27, 2012

"Blown Covers" Blog Launch

Francoise Mouly, art director for the covers of New Yorker magazine, has launched a blog called “Blown Covers.

She’ll be sharing the behind-the-scenes stories of the making of the New Yorker covers, showing some of the “covers you were never meant to see.” She is also inviting anyone in Blogland to contribute ideas to themes that she presents each week on Monday.

Today she invited people to submit ideas for March: “In like a lion, out like a lamb.”

Anyone who submits should “mix your metaphors, make it current and push the limits.” If you win, there's no guarantee of getting on the cover, but she's "always on the lookout for new ideas."

Mouly will soon be coming out with a book called “Blown Covers," continuing the New Yorker's tradition of showing the interesting stuff that didn't get into the magazine.
Previously on GurneyJourney: New Yorker Unfinished Cover Contest.

Whitcomb Demo

Jon Whitcomb, the king of American glamour illustration in the 1950s, shares his step-by-step method for how to paint a head in transparent wash:
Step 1. “Over softly penciled outlines, Whitcomb paints a light gray tone, which begins to establish the shadow area of his picture. After this has dried completely, he paints a medium gray tone over it, but stops short of the edge of the first wash. This light edge — you can see it on the forehead and neck, tends to soften the division between the light and shadow areas.”

Step 2. “Whitcomb establishes the over-all tonal effect early. First he paints a light wash over the entire skin area, the eyes, and teeth. Then, with ink, he paints the blacks: hair, eyebrows, eyes, nostrils, and corners of the mouth. He has left the light-struck areas of the hair white because he is still working in bold, flat areas of tone, with no serious effort yet at modeling.”
Step 3. “Now that the light and dark areas of the drawing are definitely established, the artist starts working within these areas to model such forms as the jawbone, nostrils, lips, etc. Observe how he uses the graded wash to suggest the rounding of the forehead. He also starts modeling the hair in the light areas, leaving the white of the paper for the high lights.”
Step 4. “The modeling is completed, but Whitcomb has not lost his strong, simple pattern of whites, blacks, and grays. Notice the subtle modeling on the girl’s lighter cheek. Some edges of the hair he has softened with a damp brush. With small touches of opaque white and grays he has added sparkling high lights. He has softened the edge between light and shadow on chin and neck with touches of thin opaque.”
Demo is from the Famous Artists Course
More Whitcomb samples online at Leif Peng’s Flickr Set
By the way, I've made it easier to leave a comment by permitting comments from people with no Blogger account, and also by removing the Captcha step. Apparently Blogger has improved their spam detection filters, so those impediments are -- hopefully -- no longer necessary.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Couple at Diner

Yesterday, Bryan asked if I approach people to sit for an on-location sketch, and if I show them my sketchbook. 

Here's a recent example of one where I didn't ask, they didn't notice, and I never showed them. They were pretty far away across the restaurant. He was bent over his cellphone and she was talking to him, waving her wrist around in big circles as she made her points. Once in a while he would grunt a syllable in response, but he never looked up from the phone until his scrambled eggs arrived.

What I was thinking about as I was drawing was not just the contrast of poses and shapes and colors. I was also interested in trying to convey the relationship between the people, as it appeared to me from their body language.
Previously: Caught Looking
Dead Air Syndrome

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Suit Dynamics

Men's suits get interesting when the pose moves out of neutral. I sketched the same speaker as he shifted back and forth between two poses during his talk. 

The jacket and pants hang fairly straight in the left pose. But as he put his hands in his pockets, new points of tension emerge. Folds radiate from the red arrows at the button and the hand. A long pipe fold on his pants leads all the way down past the knee. Because he lifted his shoulders, folds also radiated from his shoulders. 

In this illustration by Austin Briggs from the Famous Artists Course, the leaning-back figure has folds radiating from the shoulder seam, the knee, and the crotch. But the back is fairly smooth.

There's no substitute for drawing from the costumed model to learn these dynamics, which change not only with the pose, but also with the type of fabric and the construction of the garment.

Friday, February 24, 2012

"I Paint" by Thijme Termaat

(Video Link) Thijme Termaat took two years to develop this 3 minute time lapse / stop motion epic, where he paints a series of paintings, stepping in and out of the illusion that flows from his brush. By wearing the same shirt and holding the same pose as the camera makes big jumps in time, he appears to bring the painting along in magical leaps.
Thanks, Frank.

Kids and Art

A lot of school groups and families have been visiting the Dinotopia exhibition at the Woodson Art Museum in Wisconsin, as reported by Rob Duns of WAOW News. (Video link in case the player doesn't work)

Teachers have brought out model ships and dinosaurs to explain Arthur Denison's voyage to the lost island in the 19th century.

There's a book with a binding covered with the dinosaur footprint alphabet, bronze corner pieces, and bits of ferns sticking out from the bottom. Is it really Arthur Denison's journal?

I was about 10 years old when my family took me to the DeYoung art museum in San Francisco. With five kids, my family didn't go to art museums very often, so it was quite a novelty for me. Luckily, there was an exhibit going on of Norman Rockwell's paintings. I was only tall enough to see the shoes in his paintings. But what shoes! They seemed to have a life and character all their own. 

At the exhibit, my dad bought the book 
for me, and for the next few years, I studied every word over and over, especially the section in the back where Rockwell explained in great detail exactly how he made his pictures. Since I never met any real professional artists as a child or youth, and there was no Internet, that book was my lifeline, and I still have it. Maybe in a future post I'll show a few of my very lame early attempts to use the the Rockwell method.

Anyway, I just want to say that I'll look forward to meeting museum-goers of all ages at the Woodson museum next week, but I'll especially be looking for that 10 year old who is just like I was. I'll be visiting Wausau on March 1-3.
Dinotopia exhibition at the Woodson Art Museum, Wausau, Wisconsin

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Aardman's upcoming pirate movie

Aardman Animation, the makers of Wallace and Gromit, is putting the finishing touches on The Pirates! Band of Misfits, which may be the most technically ambitious stop-frame animated film yet.

(Video linkThis short trailer gives a peek behind the scenes at the unique logistics required for making the 3D theatrical feature. Aardman, which made Chicken Run and The Curse of the Were Rabbit with the clay-mation technique, switched over to all digital for Flushed Away. 

With this film they've returned to the physical stop-frame process, though they're using pre-fabricated mouths rather than forming the mouth shapes in clay each time. The mouth shapes were designed on the computer and printed out with a 3D printer. 

As this little making-of trailer explains, the filming process is incredibly time consuming, taking 18 months to shoot, with up to 40 separate set-ups going simultaneously. Director Peter Lord says, “It’s really three-dimensional chess. It does your head in.” 

The movie is set for release in late March (Europe) and April (USA) 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Industrial robot sketches human portrait

Gizmag reports on a robot-turned-artist:

"Pity the poor industrial robot. It spends countless hours toiling away at mindless manual labor, never getting a chance to explore its creative side. Well, next month at the CeBIT digital technology trade show, one such robot will get the opportunity. When visitors to the Fraunhofer display take a seat on a provided stool, one of the company's industrial robots will create a pencil sketch of them, then hold up the finished product for everyone to see."

Thanks, Kohalakat


Jakub Schikaneder was a Czech artist known for creating an atmosphere of melancholy. In his paintings a figure is often seen walking alone in winter in the old section of Prague. In the painting, edges are softened and surfaces are understated. The dusk light seems to be fading, suggesting the transience of human life.

Many artists in Europe used the word "Stimmung" to describe this poetic quality in a painting. "Stimmung" is a German word that means "mood" or "tuning." It's a noun form of "stimmen," which means to tune one's voice, but it refers not only the outward voice, but the inward voice of the soul. As such it has deep musical and poetic associations beyond the visual arts alone.

(Above: Frantisek Kupka, "The Way of Silence")
In the book Prague 1900, Petr Wittlich writes that Stimmung "refers not only to the particular emotional content of these paintings, but also to a certain philosophical undertone." Stimmung was seen as a special personal quality "preferable to normal sensory impressions: it was that additional element that inscribes miraculous signs of the world on the soul and is accompanied by feelings of exaltation and passion."

Previously on GJ
Dusseldorf school
Wikipedia on Schikaneder
Wikipedia on Kupka 
Wikipedia on Stimmung

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Art Renewal Center

In 1977 businessman Fred Ross was stopped in his tracks by a painting called Nymphs and Satyr at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts. The painting was by William Bouguereau, an artist that he never read about in many years of his art history studies, except perhaps as an example of everything that was wrong with painting in the nineteenth century.

The encounter with that painting set him on the course of uncovering and celebrating other artists who he felt had been unjustly neglected in the official art histories. With that beginning, he and other experts and artists in the field founded the Art Renewal Center, a website and organization that is dedicated to raising awareness for traditional realism.

The Art Renewal Center uses several means for accomplishing this goal:

1. An online museum with over 63,000 75,000 images, many high res. The most popular artists are Bouguereau, Alma Tadema, and Gerome.

2. A list of art schools which the ARC endorses.

3. An annual Salon competition with $50,000 in cash prizes. (By the way, the deadline is March 1, so there's still time to enter this year).

4. A series of essays and philosophical statements, sometimes rather polemical, by Ross and others regarding realism and modernism.

5. A collection of original Bouguereaus that Ross has gathered and loaned for museum exhibits. He recently helped with the publication of a definitive 2-volume catalog, William Bouguereau (2 Volume Set)

6. An archive of assorted treatises contributed by readers on traditional techniques and philosophies.

7. A list of about 75 contemporary "Living Masters" who have applied for and received that designation by a panel of judges. (As of yesterday, I'm excited to announce that my work has been included in the list. You can go there and get free high res files of my work for non-commercial use.) Any artist may apply for Living Master status.

8. A set of scholarships for students pursuing classical realist training.

9 A website store for books and ARC Salon catalogs.
Art Renewal Center on Wikipedia

Monday, February 20, 2012

Lincoln Memorial

In honor of Presidents Day, here's an ink wash drawing that I did in Washington, DC of the Lincoln Memorial.

One urban legend about Daniel Chester French's sculpture is that the hands spell out Abraham Lincoln's initials in sign language. Lincoln's left hand supposedly forms an "A" while the right hand forms an "L."

Although the Park Service denies the story, it's possible that French did indeed intend it, because French had a deaf son and he was familiar with sign language. He might have wanted to honor Lincoln's support of Gallaudet University, a university for the deaf.
Wikipedia: Lincoln Memorial

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Mystery Graphics

Here's a montage of sticker graphics that I photographed on an outside wall a couple years ago. Who can guess where I took the picture? 

The first person who names the correct town or city in the comments wins two free signed and remarqued posters. (The two-sided posters for Imaginative Realism and Color and Light). One guess per person, please.
Addendum: Michael has guessed the correct answer: Laguna Beach, California.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Illustrating the Lost Continent

Here's a little teaser video I produced to show you how I make my dinosaur paintings.

(Link to video) A few weeks ago, Scientific American magazine asked me to paint two dinosaur scenes for an article called "Dinosaurs of the Lost Continent," about the amazing recent discoveries of paleontologist Scott Samson in southern Utah. The illustrations will appear in the next (March) issue of Scientific American.

I'll tell you more about the making of those paintings in future blog posts, but I want to let you know that I'm currently working on an hour-long video (DVD and download) to show the process in great detail. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Tiny chameleon and wasp

Who says lizards and bugs aren't cute?

Scientists recently announced the naming of Brookesia micra, the smallest known chameleon on an island near Madagascar. It's seen here on the tip of a match. Biologists overlooked it before because it doesn't move much. From Science News

But the chameleon is a giant compared to the fairy wasp, one of the smallest insects, seen here next to a paramecium and an amoeba at the same scale. It only has 7,400 neurons, but that's enough to allow it to fly on its delicate wings, find food, and lay its eggs. From the Discover blog
Thanks, Roger.

"Content Aware" Photoshop

(Video Link) Adobe Photoshop shows off its "content aware" features, which make it possible to move elements around with only a rough selection. The photo-editing software removes the original element and fills in the background using intelligent analysis of adjacent pixels.
Via Best of YouTube
Adobe Photoshop Extended CS5 Upsell
By the way, thanks, Susan Fox for mentioning GurneyJourney on your blog!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Meissonier's "The Brawl"

Ernest Meissonier’s painting “The Brawl” (La Rixe) was the star of the 1855 Paris Salon. 

According to a description from a 1904 book, “The scene represents a quarrel in a tavern between two bravos. The period is the early part of the seventeenth century. Tables and chairs have been overturned, and cards, the probably cause of the trouble, lie scattered on the floor. 

"The assailant has drawn his dagger and struggles to free himself from two companions, as they with difficulty prevent his rushing upon his adversary, who, restrained by a third peacemaker, attempts to draw his sword. 

"The violent movement, the fierce struggle of the angry men, the intense expression, not only of the faces but of each limb and muscle, are powerfully rendered by the artist, who, it is said, painted this stirring scene to silence the critics who had declared him unable to depict action.”
The painting is 18 x 22 inches and is in the Royal Collection 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Science Visualization Winners

Science Magazine recently announced the award winners of their International Science and Engineering 2011 Visualization Challenge, recognizing art that portrays phenomena that can't be seen by the naked eye.

One of the finalists in the illustration category was "Tumor Death — Cell Receptors on Breast Cancer Cell" by Emiko Paul. Science magazine says that Paul deliberately designed the image to look like something from a Lovecraft novel or a horror movie:
"This image, modeled using 3D software then painted in Adobe Photoshop, depicts the war on cancer in a manner that makes clear who the bad guys are. Paul drew on microscopic images of breast cancer cells—seen here looking like creatures with long tentacles—for inspiration. But her illustration also depicts a possible weapon against these malignant tissues: an antibody developed by researchers at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, called TRA-8 (the green, globular structures)."

Another finalist was Joel Brehm's "Variable-Diameter Carbon Nanotubes." These tiny structures are far too small to see with the naked eye or even to photograph under a microscope, so the image is entirely constructed. Science reports:
"The tricky part, Brehm says, was making the nanotubes look small even though they'd been blown up to poster size. To do that, he added a granular texture to the honeycombed stalks and also brightened their edges. Those small touches, he says, made the tubes look more like objects viewed through an electron microscope."
Science Magazine's Illustration winners
More on Joel Brehm 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Dinotopia Exhibit: Coverage and Fun Stuff

Last Friday,  Team USA's Snow Sculptors finished carving a Triceratops and rider outside the Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin, which is currently hosting an exhibit of 61 original paintings from Dinotopia.

The museum celebrated the 10th anniversary of its activity area, called the "Art Park," with cookies and Dinotopian art projects. They let patrons try on a set of special shoes with dinosaur footprints attached to the bottom so that guests could write in the Dinotopian footprint alphabet.

One visitor wrote in the guest book:
“Thank you so much for bringing the Dinotopia exhibit to the museum. These books were my life as a child. Seeing the art in person brought back so many emotions that I cried several times. I’ll be back to meet the artist."  
There are lots of activities scheduled for the run of the exhibit, which will last until April 7. I'll be in attendance March 1-4 for lectures, workshops, and gallery walk-throughs. Hope to meet you there.
Here's some of the press coverage:
There's more information at the Norman Rockwell Museum's website about hosting the Dinotopia exhibit at your museum.
Woodson Art Museum
Previously on GJ:
Woodson Dinotopia Museum Show opens

Monday, February 13, 2012


Floaters are ghostly specks, dots, or lines that drift across your visual field. They’re most often visible in front of a smooth blue sky or a blank computer screen.

At left is a simulation from Wikipedia. You can’t look directly at floaters, because they exist at a fixed relationship to your direction of vision. As your eye moves to look at them, they dart away at the same speed.

Floaters are a normal experience for people with healthy eyes, but a lot of them can also be a sign of a retinal detachment or other medical problem. Normal floaters are caused by cell debris from the natural degeneration of the inside of the eye. Bits of protein material are suspended in the gel-like vitreous humour inside your eyeball and drift down like flakes in a snow globe.

10 fun facts about floaters:
  1. There’s a different set of floaters for each eye, and you can see each separate set of floaters by covering one eye and then the other.
  2. You get more floaters as you get older, but young people get them, too.
  3. Young peoples’ floaters tend to look more like transparent worms, older folks' floaters tend to be more like dark specks.
  4. Floaters eventually settle down to the bottom of the eyeball. During the day when you’re vertical, they settle at the bottom of the eyeball. During the night when you’re sleeping, they settle at the back. 
  5. If you tilt your head just right, you can sometimes get them to drift to the center of vision. 
  6. You don’t see the floaters, but rather the shadow they cast on your retina.
  7. Floaters are not optical illusions, but are called entopic phenomena
  8. In bright light, when the pupil is contracted, the shadows cast by floaters are sharper, so they’re easier to see.
  9. The gel-like vitreous humor gets more watery as you age.
  10. In French they’re called “mouches volantes,” which means “flying flies."
Sources: Wikipedia

Sunday, February 12, 2012

ESP Performer

I did this sketch from life of a street performer named Glenn Gazin. He did a mind-reading act in Central Park in New York City. This was back around 1980.

He perfected his act and used it in the nightclub he owned called "The Dive" on West 29th Street. The Dive hosted comedy acts, techno-pop, one-act plays, and horror movies.

A Nightclub called the Dive 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Profile Scanpath

This eyetracking scanpath of a bust of Nefertiti by Alfred Yarbus 50 years ago shows how one person's gaze surveyed this face in profile. 
It seems the ear is an important landmark, but the viewer didn't actually look at the cheek or chin very much. In an isolated object like this, it also appears that the eye is indeed following some contours, though in a jagged, jumpy sort of way.  Source of image

Information Saturation Reviews

The blog "Information Saturation" has published reviews of Color and Light, Imaginative Realism, and The Artist's Guide to Sketching.

"Color and Light is not a “how to” per se, but rather more of a reference book including a basic history of the usage of the title subjects, modern application, and differing approaches for each. Although the principles Gurney details may be applied to any medium, there is a chapter solely about pigments as found primarily in (oil) paints, which also touches on other tactile mediums such as markers, pastels, etc....

"I like the fact that he is anything but absolute in his discussion of different aspects of color and light; that is, he will discuss different opinions of each and leave the reader to figure out his or her particular stance on the matter. I also like that he consistently describes the scientific explanation for everything he mentions, from the chemical composition of pigments to the angles of reflection and refraction of light in various situations."

Full review of Color and Light.
Order Color & Light signed on or from Amazon.


"Imaginative Realism is a wonderful tool for any artist seeking a scientific method by which to go about the creative process. This is a great book for getting your imagination going, and also for breaking a painter out of the studio and into hands-on research and reenactment. I believe that for me personally, I loved this book because it provided a new perspective for me, and also put concepts I’d already been practicing into words....

"The main idea of this book is as follows: in order to paint the fantastic, you must first start with the mundane. Use real-life references whenever possible: adapt plein-air sketches to fantasyscapes; base your original creatures on mixtures of real animals and people, giving them a solid core of anatomy which is believable; create maquettes and lifecasts – either temporary or long-term use – in order to get your lighting and composition as accurate as possible." 

Full review of Imaginative Realism.
Order Imaginative Realism signed on or from Amazon.

"The Artist's Guide to Sketching by James Gurney and Thomas Kinkade is a wonderful reference guide for established artists. This is not a “how to” book; this is a book detailing the experiences and methods of two famous, splendid artists....

"It’s a great book. I believe the best way to explain why is to say that this book will invariably alter your way of thinking about sketching, and place that activity in the spotlight as the key to adventure, imagination, and recording your life and times.... Gurney and Kinkade explore everything from how to get a stranger to pose for a drawing to handling curious onlookers to what materials work best for plein-air sketching. This is an essential reference for any artist, as sketching is the cornerstone of all visual art regardless of medium."

Full review of The Artist's Guide to Sketching
Order Order Artist's Guide to Sketching used at Amazon.