Saturday, August 31, 2013

Still Life in a Diner Booth

Our timing was lucky on Tuesday and we got my favorite booth at the Red Hook Diner, the one with neon sign in the window that says OPEN.

Barbara brought the coffee right away and took our breakfast order. That left me with 22 minutes before the scrambled eggs would come.

I used black and white casein for most of the painting and then brought out the watercolor to give the highlights a warm and cool touch.

I was using Richeson / Shiva casein
1/4 inch flat brush 
Moleskine watercolor notebook
Waterman Phileas red fountain pen 
Lots of info on casein at Richeson's FAQ
Previously: Creamer in Casein

Friday, August 30, 2013

Video Contest: Plein-Air Persistence

When you leave the comfort of your studio to draw or paint outdoors, disaster waits at every turn. Out in the weather and in public places, all sorts of obstacles rise up to block you. 

Overcoming those challenges requires a hero's heart and plenty of persistence. Sometimes a good sketch is snatched from the jaws of failure, sometimes not. As Winston Churchill, a great champion of plein-air painting once said, "Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It's the courage to continue that counts."

"Plein Air Persistence" is the theme of the next GurneyJourney contest. The format is a YouTube video, one minute or less in length. The deadline is midnight, October 22th. There is no fee to enter, and everyone is eligible.

Rettakat suggested creating categories, so here's how I'd like to break it up so that young people and animators have their own fair chance:
1. Youth (17 years old or younger)
2. Animation (digital CGI, hand-drawn 2D, stop motion, claymation, FX heavy, etc)
3. Live Action (normal video mostly filmed in camera, including time lapse and cosplay).

The videos can be any genre: comedy, instructional, documentary, superhero, biographical, or fictional. A video can be created by one person or by a team, such as a school classroom.

Entry Information
• I will select up to five finalists in each category.
• A popular vote via blog poll starting October 24 will choose each category's winner.
• Enter by sending me an email to gurneyjourney (at)
• Please put in the subject line of your email: "Plein-Air Persistence"
• In the body of the email, please include your full name, your email, a link to your website, and the link to your YouTube video.
• Your video must be new and original, and uploaded between now and the deadline.
• Please make sure you have the rights to the music and images you use.
• By submitting, you agree to allow your video to be used promotionally.
• If the video is in a language other than English, please include subtitles.

• Each #1 winner will receive one copy of their choice of my in-print books, signed and remarqued, sent anywhere in the world, plus the laurels of being featured on GurneyJourney (over 178,000 page views in the last 30 days).

EDIT after posting: Eric Rhoads, publisher of Plein Air Magazine has stepped forward to say: "Great idea! To take this to the next level we will put a story about it in PleinAir Magazine, circulate it in our weekly newsletter Plein Air Today, put it on and show it at the Plein air convention in front of an audience of 800+ Plein air artists from around the world next April in Monterey. This is going to be fun. You have our support!" To which I say, Thanks, Eric!

EDIT later: Jack Richeson and; Company has generously donated gift certificates for Richeson products worth $250 and $150 as prizes for the first and second highest overall vote getters. That's so generous--thanks, Darren! 

EDIT: Liliedahl video productions is donating three gift certificates worth $250 each so the winner in each category can pick from any of their 100+ art instruction videos.

Good luck and remember Churchill's words: "Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm."
Check out my YouTube channel
Previously on GurneyJourney:
Winner of the Color and Light video contest
Imaginative Realism video contest finalists
Gamestoppers  (with 44 amazing comments)
Plein Air Painting Disasters (Interviews at Plein Air convention)
Subaru Ad

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Lionfish Shampoo Winners

Your votes are in (1193 of them), and I would like to congratulate Candice Broersma, Katie Small, and Michelle Spalding for being the top three winners in the Lionfish Shampoo Label contest.

I'll be sending out the signed Dinotopia goodies to them. We have also just received word that ImagineFX magazine, the leading journal of the imaginative arts, took such an interest in the contest that they will be publishing the work of the top three. Woohoo!

I'll be contacting the other top ten finalists about sending each of them a signed goodie, too.

And for the rest—there were about 80 entries in all— I must tell you that I've never seen a contest with such a strong level of entries. It was incredibly difficult to narrow the field down to just 10.

Many of you asked about the next GurneyJourney contest (whew!). Jeanette and I have a really cool idea for one and I will announce it tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mick Ellison's Maquettes

After watching my new video "How I Paint Dinosaurs," paleoartist Mick Ellison sent me the following description of how he makes maquettes, and he was kind enough to permit me to share the information with you:

Reference maquettes by paleoartist Mick Ellison
"I make quick maquettes from paper by cutting up my sketches and filling them out with tape or newspaper... here's a quick pic of one I'm using for that Andrewsarchus illustration I'll be working on."
Reference maquette of Sinornithosaurus by Mick Ellison
"And here's the maquette I did of Sinornithosaurus using those rooster hackles I mentioned to you. You can get them online at fishing supply places like the Caddis Fly Shop, or if you ever find yourself down in the feather district along 38th Street [of New York City], I go to the Feather Place. I found that dipping the ends in Duco worked best for easy manipulation/placement and they set securely after several minutes."

"You can move along pretty quickly after you get the hang of it. I like this shot because it looks like the dinosaur is wearing feathered trousers!"
Mick Ellison's pencil drawing in progress
Mick wrote the following blurb about my video--thanks, Mick!
"How I Paint Dinosaurs is a fascinating, detailed look into the making of the masterful dinosaur creations of James Gurney. I loved following his creative process, from the initial ideas, through the scientifically informed and accurate paleo-reconstructions, to the final stunning artwork. I found this video to be extremely informative and creative, and I have to say that I was completely inspired to draw dinosaurs!"
 —Mick Ellison,
Sr. Principal Artist
Department of Paleontology
American Museum of Natural History

"How I Paint Dinosaurs" by James Gurney, digital download, 53 minutes, HD 720p. (Via Paypal)
or at Gumroad via credit card. How I Paint Dinosaurs
And thanks to Mark Frauenfelder, founder of BoingBoing for doing a post about the new video
Edit: For other maquette building techniques, wee also the previous post on Sea Monsters, and on Microraptor

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Washington Square Arch

Here's a watercolor painting I did last Saturday of the famous Washington Square Arch in New York City. It took about an hour and it's about 5x8 inches.

Here's the setup. The blue wedge was something I made for the OPEN webcast later that day. I worked at sight-size and did some careful measuring at the beginning.

When measuring I find it helps to squint through one eye and to hold the pencil on the same plane as the drawing, so that the measurements in the scene can directly translate to the drawing.

I realize this isn't a very complete explanation of measuring for those who aren't familiar with the practice, but if you like, perhaps I can have a go at that topic in a future post.
Attention Lionfish Shampoo fans: The Flickr gallery of all entries is now live at the end of the following post.
Previously: Go Vertical

Monday, August 26, 2013

Lionfish Contest Results

I recently announced a contest: "How would an Art Nouveau designer (such as Alphonse Mucha or Henri Privat-Livemont) design a label for an imaginary product called "Lionfish Shampoo?"

You came through with AMAZING entries, and today I am excited to share the results. It was impossible for me to pick just five winners, so I decided to choose my favorite ten finalists—which was not easy.

I am going to let you, the blog readers, help me narrow them down to the first, second, and third. Please vote in the poll in the column at left. It's OK to enlist your social media to pimp votes, but remember, voting closes in two days. Instead of giving away just three prize packages of signed Dinotopia goodies, I'll be sending something to everyone in the top ten.

Candice Broersma

Devin and Josh Korwin

Eric Wasshem 
Jaimie Whitbread

Jari Paananen

Katie Small

Matthew Mulford

Michelle Spalding

Patrick Waugh

Pui Che
Please vote in the poll at left to select your favorite from the finalists above.

Below is a gallery of all the entries I was able to process. If I have overlooked your entry, please send it to me again as a JPEG attachment, and I'll try to add it. 

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.
Thanks, everyone for entering, and doing such beautiful work. Don't forget to vote in the poll in the column at left.
Previously: Lionfish Contest announced

Sunday, August 25, 2013

How I did a webcast on Concert Window Open

Last night I did a live streaming webcast via Concert Window Open. In this blog post I'll share how I approached the opportunity. I'll offer suggestions for how you can do your own CWO webcast from the comfort of your own home if you would like to try it, too.  

I was the first visual artist to present on this new monetized performance venue, which so far has been primarily used by musicians, and which (full disclosure), was co-founded by my son Dan. Tickets were just $1 or whatever people felt like giving. Concert Window gives the artist 2/3 of the income generated by the show.

I was webcasting from Concert Window's headquarters in New York City because my own bandwidth is a little too limited.

Here's the watercolor painting of a Moroccan teapot that I did during the 30-minute timeframe. 
Over 110 people join in from places as far away Shanghai, Indonesia, Germany, Costa Rica, Mexico, Ireland, the Bahamas, as well as all across the USA and Canada. It was a laid-back friendly interchange, like hanging out with friends, and it went by fast! I learned a lot from the experience—and still have a lot to learn. 

Tech Equipment
I immediately ruled out using the standard set-up that musicians have used so far, namely the laptop camera and onboard mike. Positioning my MacBook Pro's webcam to shoot the art would have blocked my view of everything, and made seeing the screen impossible. Also I wanted better sound.

But none of my cameras or mikes plugged into USB ports. So I invested in a USB mike and document camera, knowing I could also use them for video voiceovers and art school presentations as well as web streaming. I researched what was available, and chose the IPEVO Point 2 View USB Camera
 ($62), because of its clear image, and its ability to be spot focused and positioned at any angle, but you might also consider the IPEVO Ziggi-HD which has a built-in microphone, higher resolution, and exposure controls, but I haven't tested that model.

I also bought an MXL MXL-TEMPO-SK Microphone which has a great reputation for voice capture.

I built a quick triangular wedge stand for the sketchbook to hold it up so that viewers could see the motif behind it.

Regular blog readers will be familiar with the other art supplies, but I'll give links for all the gear at the end of this post, as promised. A big favorite was my pencil box, which was hand-forged by Tony Swatton of the Men-At-Arms YouTube channel.

Dealing with Questions
One advantage visual artists have over musicians in this format is that it's possible to have a conversation with viewers throughout the presentation. Viewers were able to ask questions in a scrolling comment panel to the right of the demo screen. Although the comments and questions flew by because there were so many of them, my wife Jeanette sat next to me and read them aloud (she says she's sorry she couldn't get to them all). The questions were great! I responded as best I could while painting.

I did several Facebook posts in the days and hours leading up to the event, and mentioned it a few times on blog posts and YouTube videos. I set up a FB events page, but honestly I don't know how to use that right. And I haven't gotten started Twitter, so I probably missed an opportunity there. I also didn't do email marketing, which would have reached more people. Nevertheless, I'm told we set some sort of record for attendance and comments.

The timeframe
The 30 minute timeframe has been the target set by the musicians so far, and it was suggested as a goal, so I tried to stick to it. But it's not set in stone, and certainly open to discussion (see poll at left). To me the advantage of the short timeframe is the same as the TED lecture 18 minute rule: it focuses the brain. But you can't really do much of a painting in 30 minutes, and it might have been good to take time after the painting for pure Q&A and maybe flipping slowly through the sketchbook.

What kinds of art-making might work with this venue?
• Someone with a gift for live storytelling, such as a creature designer or storyboard sketch artist could tell an improv story (with suggestions from the audience) while sketching the action.
• A comic artist or animator promoting a new graphic novel or feature film could show fans how to draw the main character, while answering questions.
• Any kind of handmade art form could work, such as throwing a clay pot, glassblowing, basket weaving, knitting, cooking, or welding--as long as the progress is visible and exciting throughout the time.
• Since all you need is a fairly strong web connection, you could do a webcast from an outdoor cafe, and show a plein-air painting being done on location.

The vibe
This is a fledgling medium, like the invention of television, so the experience is new and exciting for everyone. It's very personal. I'm glad people were forgiving of the shaky camera, the focus adjustments, and the pauses that were inevitable with a one-camera setup controlled by the presenter.

What I would do differently next time
• Maybe a 30 minute demo, followed by 10 minutes of going through a sketchbook slowly (with Q&A) and 10 more minutes of pure Q&A.
• Minimize handheld camera moves. It's probably good to change angles a couple of times, but otherwise bring stuff to the camera if possible instead of vice versa.
• Stay close to the mike.
• Shorten answers as question load increases.

Edit: Here are results of the poll we conducted on the blog.

Links and Resources
Concert Window Blog
Dan Gurney's writeup after the show
Ratings and reviews on my webcast
 MXL MXL-TEMPO-SK Microphone

Art Supplies
Moleskine watercolor notebook
Caran D'Ache watercolor pencils
Waterman Phileas red fountain pen 
Niji water brush filled with fountain pen ink
Schmincke Watercolor Pocket Set,
Super magnet for holding down the cup

I hope to do another webcast in a couple months, so let me know in the polls at left what you'd like! And I hope my fellow artists will sign up to do one. It's free to set up. Thanks again everyone who checked in. I appreciate your generosity, and for those who missed it, I'll see you next time.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Logo Animation from Mud and Cardboard

If you ever need to animate your logo for video, you have two choices: spend thousands of dollars on a high-tech digital motion graphics that will look fake and dated in five years, or make it yourself for next to nothing out of cardboard, wire, and mud. (Direct link to video)

Here's me and Jeanette behind the scenes during filming.

With a lot of filmmakers looking for practical, in-camera effects, this is the best way to get logo animations grounded in reality.

This analog technique is also a good way for artists using CGI to quickly and cheaply generate reference of real effects little nuances of wind vortices in smoke, cast shadows, etc, which would be hard to imagine in purely digital simulations.

What I plan to do with this re-usable frame is to shoot it in a few different environments, such as in front of a roaring bonfire or in the middle of a fern garden.

Here are some of the real animated logos for inspiration (link to video).

Other news
For those of you following the "How I Paint Dinosaurs" video— we've now got the digital download also at Sellfy that accepts Paypal. You can access it directly at this link. It's also available via credit card at Gumroad and as a DVD at Kunaki

Friday, August 23, 2013

Painting a Donkey and a Horse from Life

YouTube week continues as I bring you along to the farm to paint a donkey and a horse. (Direct link to YouTube).

Good news on the "How I Paint Dinosaurs" video. At the suggestion of some international customers, I set up the digital download with another portal called Sellfy that accepts Paypal. You can access it directly at this link, or use the embedded button below.

It's also available via credit card at Gumroad and as a DVD at Kunaki.

Don't miss my Concert Window live drawing demo event Saturday, Aug. 24 at 7:00 pm.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Sketching Birds and Dinosaurs

At the county fair I had some wonderful encounters with avian dinosaurs. (Link to YouTube Video)
Here's the drawing that you saw me make in the video. By the standards of most animal drawing, I was pretty lucky to have the turkey pose that long.

I was impressed with how sweet tempered and curious this bird was. She was really interested in my brush pens.
Live Stream: This Saturday at 7 Eastern in New York City at Concert Window Open.
New Video: "How I Paint Dinosaurs"
Art Supplies:
1/4 inch flat brush 
Moleskine watercolor notebook
Caran D'Ache watercolor pencils
Waterman Phileas red fountain pen 
Camera: GoPro HD Hero at 2 second intervals

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Painting Kirkside Park

Here's a quick video showing you a casein painting of a couple of old willows in a park. (Direct link to video)
I'm using a fuller palette here than usual: titanium white, ivory black, cobalt blue, cerulean blue, chromium oxide green deep, alizarin crimson, light red, golden ochre, and cadmium yellow light.

I also used a few touches of water-soluble colored pencils over the dry paint, with notes drawn in a fountain pen. I like this combination of painting and drawing materials because it's fast and you can get textures and effects that you can't get with drawing or painting media alone.
Sign up for my pay-what-you-want live stream this Saturday in New York City at Concert Window Open.
Here's the tech:
I was using Richeson / Shiva casein
1/4 inch flat brush 
Moleskine watercolor notebook
Caran D'Ache watercolor pencils
Waterman Phileas red fountain pen 
Camera: GoPro HD Hero rotating on a kitchen timer at 2 second intervals
Lots of info on casein at Richeson's FAQ about casein

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Release of "How I Paint Dinosaurs"

Today I'm proud to announce the release of my first art instruction video. Here's a trailer to tell you about it. (Direct link to YouTube trailer)

How This Video Came to Be
Over the last few years, three different art video companies have asked to film my working methods, but I turned them all down because I wanted to learn how to do it myself. That way, I felt I could deliver a better result to you.

That's why it took a while to produce this and bring it to market. I had to learn a lot first. I wanted to shoot detailed video coverage of the entire process, not just one or two days of it, and I knew that an outside team couldn't do that if they just dropped into the studio for a short period of time. 

What's in the Video
The video follows the making of these two paintings from start to finish over a two month period from assignment to delivery. It covers the research, thumbnails, maquettes, line drawing, color planning, priming, and the final oil painting. 

I know not everyone is into dinosaurs, but if you paint any kind of imaginative realism, I think you'll find the method helpful. I have more videos in the pipeline about plein-air painting in watercolor and casein, which I'll tell you more about later.  

"How I Paint Dinosaurs" runs about 53 minutes, short enough to watch multiple times, but long enough to cover everything. I tried to apply everything I learned from your 81 comments to my post asking you what you like (and don't like) in an art video.

“Any artist who has been treated to James Gurney’s previous books will be delighted with his newest offering, How I Paint Dinosaurs, an over-the-shoulder look at how this remarkable dinosaur artist achieves not only realism but a true sense of drama in portraying these animals for National Geographic Magazine and others. Gurney not only knows dinosaurs but is a master painter of light and shadow, and he shares his techniques in an easily understandable and informal way. I learned much from watching this.”
---Mark Hallett, paleoartist

“What do Leonardo Da Vinci, Charles R. Knight, and Jim Gurney have in common? True art, texture, and no photo manipulation software. Who needs a time machine to see life in the Mesozoic? Just let Jim paint it for you. Here is how True Magic is done. Now it is your turn to learn to make magic.”
Michael K. Brett-Surman, PhD., co-editor of The Complete Dinosaur (Life of the Past)

How to Order
The DVD is currently available at, where you can order directly and have it shipped to you. (International customers, please remember, it's region-encoded NTSC for U.S.A and Canada.)

You can also preorder the DVD from I just set up the page there, and they'll have copies soon.

At Gumroad where you can download a video file right now. (Edit: I would like to sincerely thank all of you who have added a little extra to your Gumroad payment. I really appreciate it!)

Paypal customers can also get the digital download at Sellfy (link to product description page) by clicking on this button: buy