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Creator of "Dinotopia"! This daily weblog by James Gurney is for illustrators, comic artists, plein-air painters, sketchers, animators, art students, and writers.
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1. New puppet design with incredibly fluid movement



(Link to Video) Barnaby Dixon has come up with a clever new way of articulating a puppet.

Not only can the little fellow dance with his feet and move his arms and head, he can point, grab things, and even scratch his face.

"My philosophy for puppetry is to get the fingers and the hands operating as directly as possible," says Dixon.

The hand articulation is cleverly built, using fine cable articulation, with a spring running inside the cable tube to cut down on friction. Here's another video explaining how the hand mechanism works.

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2. CG Short about Aristocratic Anime



"Symphony of Two Minds" is a short film about CG animation finding its own style amid a variety of influences. (Link to YouTube)

It begins with two cartoon characters eating a meal in an aristocratic dining parlor. They remark on how sophisticated their world is. It is visually sumptuous indeed, with hand-held photographic camera work and richly rendered textures.


But the low-class young man hasn't fully elevated himself from his origins in a hyper 2D anime universe, and he keeps experiencing flashbacks to it.

Director Valere Amirault says: "How do we choose to mix influences when dealing with a medium as new as CG animation? From live action independent movies to Japanese anime, CG animation is still a new form of media trying to find its own style, to differentiate itself from traditional cartoons."
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Via Cartoon Brew

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3. Facebook Live meets a manual typewriter

Yesterday Jeanette and I decide to try out an experiment.


It's the day before graduation at Bard College. Students are roaming around campus with their parents. We place the typewriter on a table in the student center, and I arrange the sketch easel.

We hope the typewriter will lure someone to pose for an impromptu portrait. First Cullan, and then his mom, try it out.

We set up the iPad to webcast the action via Facebook Live. The first session has audio issues due to problems with our old iPad (sorry). We switch over to an Android cellphone, and then it works fine. Here's the 16 minute webcast. (Link to video).


I start sketching Jeanette, but abandon the start and turn the page when Kathleen sits down. I lay down a few lines in watercolor pencils, then launch off with brush and watercolor to place the main shapes. With progressively smaller brushes, I place the smaller details.

Kathleen, watercolor and gouache 
Thanks to everyone who joined the webcast and left a comment. Let me know in the comments what you'd like to see on a future webcast. Thanks to Kathleen, Cullan, and Joe for lending a hand and being such good sports.
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My next video tutorial "Portraits in the Wild" comes out June 13. It's full of moments like this.

"Gouache in the Wild" HD MP4 Download at Gumroad

Subscribe and follow and you won't miss a future webcast.
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4. Doing a Demo Now on Facebook Live


I'm about to do an experimental demo on the new platform Facebook Live at 2:55 EST.

It will be a clash of technologies: iPad meets typewriter meets sketchbook. Tell your friends!

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5. Harold Speed Talks Brushes

Welcome to the GJ Book Club. Today we'll cover pages 237-242 of the chapter on "Materials," from Harold Speed's 1924 art instruction book Oil Painting Techniques and Materials.

I'll present Speed's main points in boldface type either verbatim or paraphrased, followed by my comments. If you want to add a comment, please use the numbered points to refer to the relevant section of the chapter.

In this section of the chapter, Speed discusses the brushes for oil painters.

1. You can use cheaper paints when you're a student, but even if you're poor, you shouldn't skimp on brushes.
I totally agree with Speed on this one. He says "A cheap brush is useless from the start and has, luckily, a very short life as they wear very badly. The best brushes last much longer."

2. Cleaning brushes. "Soap and water cleans them most thoroughly and is the best way of cleaning them. But it is a most tedious process after a hard day's work."
Here's a previous post on "How to Clean out a Brush"

3. After washing them out, the brushes "should be lovingly sucked to bring the hairs together." 
Never heard that one before. One would want to make sure to remove all the lead, cobalt, barium, and cadmium first. Or maybe pass on that idea.

4. "When thoroughly dry they have plenty of spring in them, whereas the slightest dampness gives them a flabbiness."
He's talking about bristle brushes here. It's really true. Damp brushes are flabbier.

5. Flats and Rounds: Flats are better for "laying a perfectly even tone, but give a nasty thin sharp edge...For figure work and form expression generally, one wants a brush that will lay the paint in even, flat tones without thin sharp edges." 
He's referring to flat brushes with rounded corners, alternately the modern filbert option, which has a flat cross section but a rounded tip. The image above shows a set of Simmons filberts.

6. Fashion for soft haired brushes used for flowing strokes (in the 1920s).
Speed notes that some of the inspiration came from studying Frans Hals, who apparently used such brushes. Speed generally prefers stiffer hogs' hair bristles.

7. "Always work with the biggest brush that will do what you want."
Then choose the next size bigger. Speed notes that a big flat brush is really several brushes in one, because you can use the corner and the edge for very different strokes.

8. "The brush makers have an absurd habit of making the size of the handle fit the size of the brush, instead of the size of the hand that will have to hold it." 
He continues, "Very small brushes need a very firm grip to control them as they are only used for very delicate work. And yet they are often given a handle no thicker than a match."

I totally agree, and I've always wondered about this, too. Pencils, pens, knives, and golf clubs have constant sized handles. Why don't brushes?

9. Only German brushes have an indented ring round the metal holder (ferrule) to prevent the tip falling off the handle.
Now crimped ferrules are pretty standard even on cheap brushes.

10. Cheap brushes "appear to have been sharpened off to make them a good shape, after being roughly put together; instead of the good shape being the result of a careful placing of the individual hairs."
Here's a video about how they make Escoda brushes


(Link to video)

More on brushes at:
MacPherson Arts / "Brush Basics"

Next week— Painting Grounds
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In its original edition, the book is called "The Science and Practice of Oil Painting." Unfortunately it's not available in a free edition, but there's an inexpensive print edition that Dover publishes under a different title "Oil Painting Techniques and Materials (with a Sargent cover)," and there's also a Kindle edition.
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6. Video Portrait of Hong Kong


(Via BoingBoing) There's some interesting camera work and sound design in this portrait of Hong Kong by filmmaker Brandon Li.
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If you like this, you'll also like his other film "Tokyo Roar," set against the poem by A.D. Hope.

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7. Spanish Edition of I.R. Coming


Here's something in the works for a July release — a Spanish edition of Imaginative Realism.
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Previously: Luz y Color, "Color and Light" in Spanish

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8. Three Tips for Twilight Painting


Three tips for painting twilight streetscapes in opaques (gouache or casein):
1. Bring a battery-operated LED light so you can see what you're doing.
2. When you start, try to anticipate where the scene will be at peak color, and aim for that in your layin.
3. Paint a big yellow area under windows first and then paint the dark areas over them.
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"Gouache in the Wild" at Gumroad $14.95
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9. Weed Painting Challenge


“A weed is but an unloved flower.” ― Ella Wheeler Wilcox

It's time for the next GurneyJourney painting challenge. Let's paint some weeds.

Ivan Shishkin, Aegopodium, Pargolovo (study) 1884, 35x59 cm
Fidelia Bridges, Thistle and Landscape
How does the challenge work?
We've done this before with gas stations, graveyards, and outdoor markets (Links take you to results). 

This time we'll paint some weeds on location. Everyone can upload their examples to this special Facebook event page. I'll choose a Grand Prize winner and five Finalists. Each receive a coveted "Department of Art" embroidered patch, and the Grand Prize winner will also receive a free tutorial download.

I hesitate to call it a "contest" because there's no entry fee and the spirit is more about cooperation, community, and camaraderie than competition. We're all at different levels of skill and experience, but we're all out there braving the elements and trying out new painting ideas.

Ivan Shishkin Grasses
How do you define a weed?
• By "weed" I mean any naturally growing herbaceous plant. For example: wildflowers, cattails, vines, lily pads, grasses, dandelions, ferns, mushrooms—really any natural plants. 

• That excludes anything planted, cultivated, or tended by humans, such as nursery or garden flowers or food crops.

• Nothing too big: no woody plants and no trees. 

Ivan Shishkin A Woman Under an Umbrella
• Must be painted outdoors with the weeds in situThe weeds can't be cut and brought indoors or painted from photos. 

• The scene can include a landscape background, but the emphasis should be on the foreground with the plant carefully observed, with some botanical detail. 

• You can put a piece of white or black board behind a weed if you want to isolate it against a simple flat background. But I'm not looking for botanical studies so much as weeds in natural (or man-made) settings.

• OK to include some trash, insects, signs or other things you find around the weeds.

William Scott The Butterflies' Haunt--
Dandelion Clocks and Thistles
What media are OK?
• All painting media accepted, such as oil, watercolor, acrylic, gouache, acryla-gouache, alkyd, casein, or water-soluble colored pencils. 

• No limits on palette of colors.

Deadline
• You can enter as soon as you finish the piece, but no later than the deadline: Friday, June 24, 2016 at midnight New York time. Winners will be announced on Sunday, June 26.


William Henry Hunt Birds Nest and Primroses
Fidelia Bridges
Thistle in a Field
Submission Guidelines
• Free to enter

• It must be a new painting done for this challenge. In addition to a scan of the final painting, your entry must include a photo (or video) of your painting in progress in front of the motif. 

• Please include somewhere in the title or description the name of the weed, either a common name or Latin name.

• Upload the images to this Facebook Event Page. If you don't have a Facebook account, please ask a friend with an account to help you. Please include in the FB post a mention of what medium you used, and if you want, a word about your inspiration or design strategy, or an anecdote about your painting experience.

• In addition to the Facebook event page, you can use the hashtag #weedpaintingchallenge on Instagram or Twitter to see what other people are doing. 

• If you end up doing more than one entry, please delete your weaker entry so that we end up with just one entry per person.

Aaron Draper Shattuck Leaf Study with Swallowtail
Prizes
I'll pick one Grand Prize and five Finalists. All six entries will be published on GurneyJourney, and all six will receive an exclusive "Department of Art" embroidered patch. In addition, the Grand Prize winner receives a video (DVD or download) of their choice. Everybody who participates will have their work on the Facebook page, too.
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Check out the previous results for gas stationsgraveyards, and outdoor markets.
Own the 72-minute feature "Gouache in the Wild"
• HD MP4 Download at Gumroad $14.95
• or HD MP4 Download at Sellfy (for Paypal customers) $14.95
• DVD at Purchase at Kunaki.com (NTSC video) $24.50
GurneyJourney YouTube channel
My Public Facebook page
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10. Group Portrait in a Diner

Yesterday I painted a group portrait in our local diner. I captured a video snapshot to give you the atmosphere of the moment: (Link to YouTube)


I used gouache with a severely limited palette: raw sienna, brilliant purple, cadmium yellow deep, and white, plus some white Nupastel stick to convey the effect of the window glare. The sketchbook is a Pentalic watercolor journal. (Links take you to Amazon pages)


The gouache has a very receptive matte surface that takes the pastel well. You can rub it in firmly with your fingers if you want the rough texture to disappear and look like airbrush. If you put on too much pastel, you can lift it off with a kneaded eraser.

The next full length tutorial video will be "Portraits in the Wild," which releases June 13. It follows me on similar painting adventures portraits of people in the real world, with in-depth coverage of watercolor, gouache, casein, and oil techniques. If you haven't already, check out my video "Gouache in the Wild" today.
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If you do other social media, please follow or subscribe. I often put different stuff on those channels:
Instagram @jamesgurneyart
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Facebook @JamesMGurney
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11. Harry Beckhoff and the Clear Line Style

The new issue of Illustration magazine (Issue 52) has a feature on American illustrator Harry Beckhoff (1901-1979). Although he studied with Dean Cornwell and Harvey Dunn, he didn't pursue the style of painterly brushstrokes and impastos.



Instead, he defined his forms with flat shapes, whose internal forms are defined by thin lines. The emphasis is more on silhouette and line than it is on texture and lighting.


His style is more reminiscent of the ligne claire ("clear line") style of European comic artists like Hergé (Tintin), and of illustrators like Pierre Brissaud (1885-1964) or André Marty (1882-1974).

As with all of the articles in Illustration magazine, this one is comprehensive (47 pages long) and amply illustrated (89 images, most color).


There are a lot of examples of his photo references and his preliminary sketches, which were famous for being exquisite and tiny. The one above is typical, no bigger than a business card.

The bio by publisher Dan Zimmer fills an important gap in American illustration history. Even though Beckhoff was busy and in demand, his work isn't well enough known. There's no book on him and there's not even a Wikipedia page for him. 

The new Illustration magazine (Issue 52) also contains the articles "The Art of John La Gatta" and "Artists for Victory." 
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Read more
(Print)
There is a good chapter about Beckhoff in Fred Taraba's book Masters of American Illustration: 41 Illustrators and How They Worked.

(Online sources)


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12. A Vision of Augmented Reality



Where are we headed with augmented reality? This short film by Keiichi Matsuda presents an unsettling vision of a possible future. The film superimposes digital animations over a mundane live action video showing a person's point of view as they ride a bus and shop for food. (Link to Vimeo)

Apps address us as personal assistants. Rewards and bonuses tally up like in a video game. Ads and offers leap out from products. Guidelines appear on sidewalks. The person interacts with this hybrid reality by using voice and hand gestures.


At the website Hyper Reality, Mr. Matsuda says: "Our physical and virtual realities are becoming increasingly intertwined. Technologies such as VR, augmented reality, wearables, and the internet of things are pointing to a world where technology will envelop every aspect of our lives. It will be the glue between every interaction and experience, offering amazing possibilities, while also controlling the way we understand the world. Hyper-Reality attempts to explore this exciting but dangerous trajectory. It was crowdfunded, and shot on location in Medellín, Colombia."
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via Cartoon Brew

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13. Keeping Gouache Wet on the Palette

Following on the discussion yesterday, blog reader Glenn Tait shared a do-it-yourself option for keeping gouache wet longer on the palette.

He says: "I have tested different 'Sta-Wet' palette options with gouache and found the following to be very effective.

Glenn Tait's DIY 'stay-wet' palette tests
"Take a piece of soaked micro fiber sponge and tightly wrap it with baking parchment paper. I placed mine in a medium sized watercolour tin box so I could take it on location.

"It works really well, especially with the tube squeezed colours. The mixed colours don't last as long due to their being thinned out more. Even after a couple of hours working outside on a windy day the colours were still fresh.

"I did a test to see how long they would last inside. I was surprised that they were still fresh after about 10 hours and usable up to 13. My test chart is included below along with some photos of the sponge.



"The sponge is the type used to put under dish racks to absorb excess water - I picked this one up at a Dollar store. The sponges come in different colours, this one was a medium gray which worked nicely as a palette surface colour, as opposed to the typical yellow cellulose sponges from regular Sta-Wet palettes.

"Another advantage is that when the micro fiber dries it doesn't twist out of shape or go hard like the cellulose tends to do."

Thanks, Glenn!
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Links to materials
Quilted micro-fiber dish cloth
Waffle weave dish cloths (gray)
Baking parchment paper
Watercolour tin box

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14. Your Questions on Gouache

A lot of you have asked me questions about gouache, so I've gathered up the answers here for the benefit of everybody:

Carlos says, "After watching Gouache in the Wild, I'm finally going to buy some gouache tubes. I was wondering if the same colors list you posted on the Watercolor in the Wild post serves as a guide to build my first set."


Carlos,  those colors would serve you well. Basically a high-chroma yellow (such as a Permanent Arylide Yellow), a bright red (such as Flame red), and then earth color versions of yellow and red, such as yellow ochre and burnt sienna or Venetian red.

Then you'd want to get a couple of blues. I like cobalt, ultramarine, Prussian, and cerulean, but I rarely take more than two of them at a time into the field. I also like having Viridian and a brilliant purple. Again, these are mainly for limited palettes, or if for some reason I need high chroma (saturation). And of course you'll need white. And black, especially if you ever want to paint in pure black/white grisaille.

Concept sketches for Scientific American "Ascent of Mammals."
Watercolor, gouache, and water-soluble colored pencils.
Mary says, "I sketch in watercolor with a minimal kit (Maria's tiny card-sized kit) and would love to be able to bypass colored pencils if possible. Do you think it's possible to sketch as quickly and realistically without them?"

The answer is yes, definitely. Painting with pure watercolor is totally fine and you can get any effect you want with a brush alone. You might want to use the brush both wet and dry -- the drier brush, splayed out, will give you all the textural effects you might otherwise get with a pencil. The only problem with those extremely tiny kits is that you can't mix generous washes of either transparent or opaque watercolor for skies or other large areas.

Vodka Fashion says, "I just stared implementing gouache in my paintings. My question is, do you travel with the actual tubes, or have you made a gouache travel kit? I tried making a travel kit, but the paints dried out."
I travel with a small set of tubes in a plastic bag, anywhere from two tubes (black and white) to about eight or 10 tubes. Sometimes I carry just a limited palette of three colors plus white. That forces me to do what I can with those colors. Although you can squeeze them into a watercolor-type palette, in advance, let them dry, and then rewet them, they don't reconstitute into the smooth consistency that they had when they came out of the tube. And there's the problem of them breaking up. If you just want to solve that breakup problem, you can mix them with more of the water-soluble glue-like binder gum arabic, which you can get in liquid or powdered form.

Suzy Powell says: "So you just rewet? Where I live we have 00000% humidity. Haha (West Texas)
No, I don't rewet dry gouache except as a last resort. I've used gouache in low humidity and it does dry quickly. It can get very frustrating on a hot day in the sunshine in a desert, in which case oil would be a better medium. But for gouache, using a damp paper towel under the paint you squeeze from the tube will help it last longer. You can also extend the time by misting your palette with a little water from a spray bottle. But once it's totally dry or used up it's best to reset the palette by cleaning it off and starting with freshly squeezed paint. Don't keep dabbing at the spot where the paint used to be.

Matt Urbanowicz says: "I wanted to ask about the colours bleeding: I have a problem that while painting in gouache or poster colours when adding layers I tend to pick up and smudge the colours from the layer underneath, even when it's dry. Am I doing something wrong?
Matt, yes, gouache will tend to pick up if you put a wet layer over a previous layer, especially if you work it with the brush at all. The fact that the surface can be reactivated can be a good thing if you want to soften edges after the fact. But if you don't want those previous layers to come up, there are two remedies. The first is to lay down every stroke quickly and without any extra brushing. Make it your motto to "Make every stroke count." Or "Think twice, touch once."

If that doesn't work, you can use Acryla Gouache or Casein, which have a closed surface when they dry.
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15. Playstation


Who remembers NBA2K on the PS2?

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16. Ascent of the Mesozoic Mammals

Scientific American's online magazine has just released a new article about the mammals that lived during the time of the dinosaurs. 


For the cover of the magazine, we needed a dynamic image that showed how capable and specialized some mammals were. So we decided to show the flying squirrel-like Volaticotherium.



There were a lot of choices for the inside spread. Mesozoic mammals weren't all little shrews and mice. There were all sorts of amazing forms. I sketched up a lot of options in thumbnail form using watercolor and colored pencils.



One of my favorites was the badger-like Repenomamus. The fossil was found with the bones of a baby dinosaur inside its rib cage. Here are some black and white gouache sketches to help work out the composition.


I documented the making of the artwork in a free YouTube video called "The Mammal that Ate Dinosaurs. I also produced a comprehensive 35-minute digital download that you can get from Gumroad.

I show all the development stages, including thumbnail sketches, color comps, maquettes, field research, and the final painting in oil. My voiceover explains all the methods in practical terms, along with the thinking behind them.



This video reinforces some of the concepts and methods in previous videos, but it also includes new material, such as:

• The use of an air-dry clay for quick maquette building
• Techniques for rendering fur textures
• Ways to suggest rainy day conditions
• How to render whiskers and veins on an oil painting.


The production is packed with useful information that will interest not only the dinosaur artist, but anyone who paints creatures of any kind. The edit is fast-paced and entertaining enough to be worth watching again and again.



The Scientific American article appears in the June issue, but you can purchase it online now.

The Mammal that Ate Dinosaurs: Behind the Art 35:51 minutes run time, downloadable 1080p HD mp4 file.
For more info about how you can own the full video, follow the links below:
Sellfy: Buy now
Gumroad: Buy my product

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17. Al Jaffee, Mad's 95 Year Old Cartoonist



Al Jaffee invented "Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions" for Mad Magazine



He also came up with the popular "Fold-In" feature. He's is 95 years old and still going strong. In fact he was recently honored as having the longest working career of any cartoonist ever. Here's a video profile from the Gothamist. (Link to YouTube video)


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18. Dancing and Painting in the Gardens


The opening of "Impressionism: American Gardens on Canvas" was a big success yesterday at the New York Botanical Gardens. Members of the Michael Arenella Dreamland Orchestra played Jazz Age favorites and demonstrated some hot dance licks in vintage costumes. (Link to YouTube video)

We spent about an hour studying the exhibition of American Impressionism curated by Dr. Linda S. Ferber, including inspiring pieces by Sargent, Chase, Twachtman, Hassam, and Dewing.
Garden Walk by James Gurney, oil on canvas mounted to board, 12 x 16 in.
You can see the original on display in the gift shop.
I painted a view toward the Conservatory. The walkers strolling along a peony border were based on five models who were kind enough to pose for me.


One of my models was Michael W. Haar. He practices the old-school art of barbering, and he's one of a bunch of people in New York City who wear vintage clothes and live a retro lifestyle 365 days a year.

That square white panel above me is a new windproof diffuser design that I've been perfecting, and I'll share how to build it on a future video.


As I painted, I had fun meeting the many members and guests of the Gardens who passed through.

The exhibition, Impressionism: American Gardens on Canvas, which brings together the two living traditions of flower gardening and outdoor painting, will be up through September 11. They encourage artists, beginning and experienced, to come and make art. If you forget your art supplies, they'll even provide some for you.

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19. Rooster

For some reason I was able to hypnotize this rooster by making a bird call, and that made him cooperate and pose.


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20. Impressionism Opens at the Botanical Gardens this Weekend

The New York Botanical Garden opens its Impressionism theme this weekend, with lots of fun events. I'll be there painting on Saturday, the day of the public opening.


Here's a list of events for this weekend.

May 14 & 15
10 a.m.–6 p.m.

Conservatory
10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Garden guides highlight parts of the permanent collection and special exhibition to add insight to your experience of Impressionism.
Live Music

Visitor Center
12:30, 1:30 & 2 p.m.
Michael Arenella’s Brass Trio makes sure you will be tapping your toes to tunes from the turn of the century—from traditional Sousa marches to ragtime bits.

Tap Dance Performances
Ross Hall
1:30, 2:15 & 3 p.m.
Professional tap dancers from Apartment 33 interpret this uniquely American art form—as vibrant today as it was at the turn of the century! Learn more about the performers below.



Living Tableaus: Leisure in the Garden
12–4 p.m.
Actors recreate scenes of famous Impressionist paintings within the Garden’s collections. Period props are available for visitors to recreate the scenes themselves and pose for pictures to share!

Meet the Artist in Residence
Seasonal Border & Peony Collection
May 14; 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Renowned painter James Gurney sets up his easel at special locations around the Garden, and offers insights into the joys and challenges of painting out of doors. Watch him create inspired works of art from blank canvas to finished masterpiece during the course of the day. He interacts with visitors as he works, sharing inspiration and information on this particular genre.

Cake Contest
May 15; 11 a.m.–4 p.m.
In the Conservatory Plaza, the finest New York bakeries display their most beautiful nature-themed cakes to honor the Garden’s 125th Anniversary. Check out the entries and vote for your favorites, then stop by at 3 p.m. for the cake cutting ceremony and enjoy a complimentary sampling. View a list of participating bakeries below.

Plein Air Painting
Along the Seasonal Walk
12–5 p.m.
Pick up some materials (pencils, charcoal, or pastels) and create your own souvenir of the Garden to take home!

Fascinator & Boutonniere Crafting
Conservatory
11 a.m.–2 p.m.
Make a fascinator hair piece or boutonniere and don the styles of then and now.

Tap Dance Performances
Apartment 33, created by Chloe Arnold, is an eclectic group of tap dancers that moved to NYC from all over the world to pursue their tap dreams. Home to professional tap dancers Chloe & Maud Arnold, Apartment 33 has literally acted as a creative hub and often home for these artists, where the natural dynamic at play has led to the mentoring and development of diverse talents with a common passion. From Broadway to touring and even national television, these success stories are joining forces to celebrate the art that has brought them together: TAP! Pieces performed at NYBG are prepared by Artistic Director and Choreographer Chloe Arnold and Assistant Choreographer Jenna Roe.
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I'll also be back to the Gardens in June 4, 5, and 19.
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21. What artists need to know about utility poles

Commonly called "telephone poles," utility poles carry a lot more than just phone service. 

They also conduct electrical power, street lights, internet, cable TV, signs, surveillance cameras, traffic signals, pedestrian signals, and seasonal decorations. 

Anatomy of a Utility Pole
Things to Look for:
• Functions are stratified by height, like life in a rain forest. Electric power at the highest voltage is carried on the top. In the USA, there are typically three uninsulated aluminum wires (each about 1/2 inch thick) spaced across the top crossbar, held up with three insulators. 

• For every few houses or businesses, there's a set of transformers—three big cylinders. These lower the voltage from the Primary Distribution Zone to the Secondary Distribution Zone below. Inside the transformer typically there's a coil of copper wire wrapped around a steel core, all bathed in oil. These generally don't explode in storms; there's a cigar-sized fuse that's designed to blow.

• Secondary distribution lines are also in threes just below the transformer level. The primary and secondary zones together comprise the "supply space."

• Street lights, yard lights, and traffic signals are wired to the Secondary Zone. Sodium vapor street lights are rapidly being replaced by LED lights, changing the color of the urban night from yellow to cool white.


• The twisted wires running off to buildings from below the transformers carry electrical power. Commercial businesses with high energy demands require thicker bundles. 

• The Communications Zone is the bottom level. It includes both fiber optic and coaxial cables with junction boxes and repeaters. These are usually the thickest cables. They serve internet, cable TV, police and fire alarm systems, and telephone. 

• There's normally more space between the Secondary and Communication zones than there is in the pole I drew at the top of this post. This space is called the the "Safety Zone," and its purpose is to protect telecom workers from high voltages.

• Telephone cables often can't support their own weight, so they hang from, or are lashed to, a thinner, uninsulated support strand, and they droop below that strand for stretches. There are various methods (such as loops) used to relieve stress or to store excess cable. Fiber optic cables sometimes have U-turns to store a longer section of cable without cutting it or breaking it.

• Horizontal rectangular boxes are junction boxes or splice boxes, giving access to the telephone connections. They also hang from the support strand.

• You'll see thin wires connecting to buildings for the phone service from this level. 

• The public or yard sale area is at the bottom. It includes posters and notices that people post on the pole. There are also numbers near the base that identify the pole.

• Poles are black at the bottom from creosote (or a modern substitute) to protect the pole from rotting.

• Support cables run down on a diagonal and attach to a stake in the ground. Draw these lines straight because they are under tension. They keep poles upright by opposing lateral forces. Those lateral forces may come from 1) Turns in the road, 2) Systems of heavy cables branching off to the side, or 3) Dead ends.

• All hanging wires follow a catenary curve between the points of support. These can generally be best drawn with the artwork turned upside down.
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If there are utility service professionals reading this post who can help me correct any errors, please let me know in the comments.
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Read more:
A highly visual book that I recommend: 

Websites:
Archetypical utility pole (parts and diagrams)
Telephone power and CATV poles (more photos and explanations)
Wikipedia on Utility Poles gives an international scope

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22. J.B. Monge Kickstarts Celtic Faeries



At long last, Montreal-based artist J.B. Monge is offering a collectable book version of his charming Celtic Faeries universe. For many years Monge's artwork has only been available in expensive French imports, but now it will come out in a slipcased book, with lots of new artwork and an English translation. The campaign has already funded in little over a day!
(Link to Kickstarter)

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23. Painting a Bakery Case in Watercolor



Yesterday I painted a bakery case in watercolor. (Link to YouTube)

The challenge was to paint the pastries seen through the glass as well as the reflection of the skylights. 

This is difficult because the brain can't see these two overlapping realms at the same time. The camera does it more easily because it's monocular. 

At the pencil stage I laid out the perspective and also the shapes of the reflection areas. Within the area of each light reflection, I raised the values to a higher tint. Since it was transparent watercolor, I had to do this without resorting to opaque gouache.

Thanks to Heather and the Fresh 'n' Easy Café in Kingston, New York

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24. The Ferncliff Gatehouse

Each of the old mansions along Hudson River had a gatehouse. 

Here's the gatehouse for the Ferncliff estate, once owned by the Astor family. It was designed in a Second-Empire style by architect L.A. Ehlers in 1877. 

It was abandoned when I first saw it, and it seemed an ideal setting for a story of the supernatural. I sketched it using pencil and gray wash, because I felt color would have taken away more than it would have added. 

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25. Audio Producer Tom Lopez

Tom Lopez produced the Dinotopia Audio Adventures. They are very faithful adaptations, which translate the visual story into an acoustic one that plays out like a movie in your imagination.

Tom Lopez, aka "Meatball Fulton" of ZBS. Photo by John Kalish for NPR
His production company called ZBS Productions has made a variety of acoustically rich and thematically mind-expanding radio stories about characters like Jack Flanders and Ruby the Galactic Gumshoe.

Yesterday, he was profiled on National Public Radio (This link takes you to the NPR story—it's a great listen).

Free Podcasts
Meatball's Meatballs (list of assorted podcasts where he tells the ZBS story)
Meatball Fulton's behind-the-scenes making of Dinotopia
Meatball Fulton plays interviews with Jerry Garcia, Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix, Mel Blanc, Syd Barrett, Eric Idle and more.
Audio Programs for Paid Download
Dinotopia Audio Adventure (full cast audio dramatization)
Meatball visits my studio for an in-depth interview

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