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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. Jervis McEntee Exhibitions

Jervis McEntee, The Woods of Asshockan, Catskills (1871), St. Johnsbury Athenaeum
Jervis McEntee (1828-1891), was a painter of the Hudson River School who has been largely overlooked until now. His work is being featured in two different museum exhibitions this fall, one in Kingston, and the other in New Paltz, New York.


The first exhibition is called "Jervis McEntee: Kingston’s Artist of the Hudson River School" and it's at the Friends of Historic Kingston gallery.


The Kingston exhibit is a small show, but it has a variety of attractions, including easel paintings, location studies in oil, pencil sketches, photographs, letters, and other documentary material, all of which puts McEntee in a historical context.


McEntee began studying with Frederic Church in 1850, and learned from him a love of painting faithful small studies of forest scenes, sunsets, and trees. They traveled together on painting junkets to Mexico and other locations throughout their lives. 


The son of an engineer who helped develop the bustling D&H barge canal that terminated in Kingston, McEntee himself avoided industrial subjects, and gravitated instead to the bucolic scenes that were fast receding in 19th century America. 

His circle of friends included notable writers, actors, architects. Among his artist friends were not only Frederic Church, but also Sanford Gifford, John F. Weir, and Worthington Whittredge. 

McEntee and his wife occupied one of the legendary Tenth Street Studios in New York, a fertile meeting ground for artists and illustrators in late 19th century America. 


In addition to his paintings, McEntee contributed a detailed daily journal of his observations about nature, art, and daily life. His journal was recently digitized by the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian, and is available free online. 

He was frequently depressed as his fortunes ebbed. The journal makes for fascinating reading, because he had the same problems with galleries that contemporary painters do. On January 4, 1883, he wrote: "Beginning to be worried with money anxieties. They don't send my money for my picture sold in Brooklyn nor reply to my inquiries. I can't stand being asked for money when I have none."
Jervis McEntee, View Facing the Catskills, 1863, oil, Private Collection
The second exhibition just opened at the Samuel Dorsky Museum on the campus of the State University in New Paltz.

Jervis McEntee, Autumn Reverie, 1880, oil on canvas, David and Laura Grey Collection
It's a larger exhibition with more finished paintings, borrowed from the Metropolitan Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, and many other public and private collections.

Kingston Exhibition: "Jervis McEntee: Kingston’s Artist of the Hudson River School" is at the Friends of Historic Kingston gallery at 63 Main St. in Kingston and will run through October. The museum is only open Fridays and Saturdays from 11 am to 4 pm through Oct. 31, 2015. There will be "Noontime Conversations" by noted artists and art historians held on Fridays during the month of September.
The catalog of the Kingston show is called Jervis McEntee: Kingston's Artist of the Hudson River School. It's 62 pages, softcover, with contributions by Lowell Thing and Jane Kellar.

New Paltz Exhibition: The New Paltz exhibition is called "Jervis McEntee: Painter-Poet of the Hudson River School" It will be on view at the Samuel Dorsky Museum in New Paltz through December 13.
The New Paltz show catalog is titled Jervis Mcentee: Painter-Poet of the Hudson River School. This 130-page monograph presents new scholarship by exhibition curator Lee A. Vedder along with contributions by Kerry Dean Carso, a scholar of the historic Hudson Valley and professor at SUNY New Paltz; and American studies professor David Schuyler, the leading historian on McEntee.
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Jervis McEntee on Wikipedia

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2. Corriedale Sheep


(Link to SoundCloud file) At the Dutchess County Fair in Rhinebeck, New York, I painted a portrait of a Corriedale ewe named Iris as her owner described the qualities of this breed of sheep.

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3. Pixar's Free Online Tutorials



Pixar has released a free online course to explain the science and technology behind its approach to making computer-generated animated films. The interactive course covers most of the math-based aspects of the production pipeline, such as character modeling, environment modeling, combinatorics, animation physics, and surface rendering.

Here's the intro video (link to YouTube), which amusingly shows a lot of handmade skills (such as sculpting clay and drawing with markers—and relatively primitive technology, such as an Ektagraphic slide projector.



This video, for example, takes a look at the lighting factors and surface qualities that contribute to the color of an object. (Link to YouTube) The presentation seems intended for school-age learners rather than fellow professionals or mega-geeks. Each segment is presented by someone from the department in question.

Missing from the presentation is the softer science of Pixar's process, such as how they approach story development, character design, and acting for animation. I hope they include those topics in future teaching modules.

Via Design Taxi

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4. GJ Book Club: Chapter 21, Conclusions

For the GJ Book Club, let's consider the concluding chapter in Harold Speed's 1917 classic The Practice and Science of Drawing, and reflect back on the book as a whole.

Lady Diana Bridgeman, Harold Speed (British, 1852-1957).

Speed begins this final chapter talking about the camera, and the merits and dangers of mechanical accuracy. This is an issue that hasn't gone away, and that people in our community still discuss today.

I'll put Speed's quotes in boldface, followed by my thoughts.

1. There may be times when the camera can be of use to artists, but only to those who are thoroughly competent to do without it.
Speed suggests that truth achieved by mechanical accuracy may be a valuable stepping stone toward true art, but we should use a standard other than accuracy alone to measure our response to art. Art is not merely a collection of objective facts, but rather "records of a living individual consciousness." Whether one traces a photo or some other procedure to achieve mechanical accuracy, one must not lose sight of the driving emotion that guides the choice and placement of elements, and that shapes the rhythms of the artistic statement.

2. The training of his eye and hand to the most painstaking accuracy of observation and record must be the student's aim for many years.
Despite his caution to see beyond mechanical accuracy, Speed argues that accurate drawing is an absolute prerequisite to the kind of evolved subjective vision he advocates. Students must strive for unflinching honesty or sincerity. Seeking originality for its own sake is a trap, leaving the young artist chasing the fashions of the moment, or contenting himself or herself with an easy substitute for the fine craftsmanship that is more difficult to attain.

3. Individual style will come to you naturally as you become more conscious of what it is you wish to express.
Speed argues that young artists should be wary of adopting readymade techniques or design conventions borrowed from other artists. More often than not, those outward stylistic gimmicks don't fit the subject you're painting nor the mood you're trying to evoke. Everything must begin with an artist's idea, and style is simply the most direct means to communicate that idea.

4. Appendix: Phi Proportions
I wish an editor had suggested that Speed delete this appendix—or save it for another book, because I think it contradicts Speed's entire argument leading up to it. After decrying readymade compositional formulas, he proceeds to introduce a readymade mathematical formula for design. It strikes me as an afterthought alien to the rest of Speed's argument. Longtime blog readers know where I stand about via the Golden Ratio (also known as "phi"). You can read my thoughts in my blog series "Mythbusting the Golden Mean" or, if you like, another website called "The Myth of the Golden Ratio."

Final thoughts
Looking back on the book as a whole, I'm struck with how much this book is about aesthetics. When I first encountered the book as an art student, I was primarily interested in materials, methods, and techniques but what I take away from the book at this stage in my life is the importance that Speed rightly places on the thinking, feeling, and intention behind the technique.

I have newly marked up my print copy with pencil notations in the margins, and I have been inspired by the many fresh perspectives that you as blog readers have brought to each chapter to deepen my appreciation of Speed's book. For those who discover this book club weeks or months later, please feel free to add your comments. I'll be able to review it and publish your comments any time, and keep this book club constantly in session.

The next book for the GJ book club will be Speed's book on painting, the sequel to this one on drawing. In its original edition, it's called "The Science and Practice of Oil Painting." Unfortunately it's not available in a free edition that I know of, but there's an inexpensive print edition that Dover publishes under a different title "Oil Painting Techniques and Materials." We'll start up with that book in three weeks, on September 18, which gives you time to pick up a copy.
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The Practice and Science of Drawing is available in various formats:
1. Inexpensive softcover edition from Dover, (by far the majority of you are reading it in this format)
2. Fully illustrated and formatted for Kindle.
3. Free online Archive.org edition.
4. Project Gutenberg version
Articles on Harold Speed in the Studio Magazine The Studio, Volume 15, "The Work of Harold Speed" by A. L. Baldry. (XV. No. 69. — December, 1898.) page 151.
and The Windsor Magazine, Volume 25, "The Art of Mr. Harold Speed" by Austin Chester, page 335. (thanks, अर्जुन)

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5. A Day at the County Fair

Here's what I pack in my bag for a sketching day at the Dutchess County Fair in Rhinebeck, NY.



It's everything I need for sketching in watercolors, colored pencils, and gouache. There's a 5 x 8 inch watercolor journal, plus devices for capturing video, stills, and audio. All of this fits onto my belt.



I start off in the cow barn, where the milkers are taking a morning nap before their judging. Without a chair, I paint standing.  

Holstein named "Jacket," gouache by James Gurney
I use a limited palette of three colors of gouache: yellow ochre (Holbein), perylene maroon (Winsor Newton), and viridian (Winsor Newton)—plus white (M. Graham). Viridian serves as my "blue." I can get a nice black with the maroon and the viridian. 

By the way, this would be a good limited palette to try for the "Paint an Outdoor Palette on Location" challenge (link goes to Facebook page where you can see entries so far).

1. Underdrawing in water-soluble colored pencil.
2. A wet block-in without white approximates the final colors.
3. Introducing opaque white, and defining the forms of the body. 
4. Dark spots and definition of small forms and details.


In this audio clip (link to Soundcloud file), Jeff Pulver of Pleasant View Farm, describes what a judge looks for in a dairy cow.


After the painting session, we watch the draft horse pull. It requires immense power for the team of two Belgian geldings to pull 8500 pounds of concrete.


The Dutchess County Fair will continue through this Sunday in Rhinebeck. If you live nearby, check it out—it's the second largest fair in New York State, with one of the largest displays of farm animals.

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6. Fallen Birch

Study of fallen white birch, pencil, James Gurney
Pencil is the medium of choice when I'm more interested in form than in light or color. In this case, I was fascinated by the way the white paper-like bark peeled off the rotting log. This is a page from a 9x12 sketchbook that is devoted just to nature studies.

I usually use two hardnesses of graphite: HB and 2B and switch between them.

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7. Draft Horse Portrait

Sofie the draft horse, gouache, by James Gurney
Yesterday at the barn I painted this portrait sketch of Sofie, one of the four Belgian draft horses. She had just gotten her shower in advance of her appearance today at the Dutchess County Fair. I used a limited palette of black, white, ultra blue, raw sienna, and yellow ochre.

The image is the size of a playing card, about 3 x 3.5 inches.

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8. Painting an Excavator in Gouache


John Deere Nortrax 80C Excavator, gouache, 5 x 8 inches
I painted this track excavator yesterday at a construction site. It's a study for a concept painting of a giant robot which will be part of an upcoming video tutorial called "Fantasy in the Wild."


Here's what the painting looked like at an early stage. I measured everything out pretty carefully, but then blocked in the colors loosely.


The new video is going to be a lot of fun. I'll be doing two different imaginative-realism paintings entirely on location. Each one is based on details drawn from the scene around me. In this case I've been going to this construction site on weekends when the machines aren't working, so I can really study all their workings up close. 

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9. Baby Tattoo 10 Year Exhibit


The Oceanside Museum of Art opened an exhibition yesterday called the Baby Tattooville Carnival of Astounding Art, which looks back on ten years of the pop surrealist art gathering inspired by Bob Self.

Detail of 2009 Baby Tattooville Art Jam
I was an artist guest at Baby Tattoo in 2009 and 2011, and participated in the Art Jam, a group painting event. Here's my contribution, Happy Buddha as a gold spheroid.


I did about 50 little drawings for the guests that attended in 2009, and one of those drawings will be part of the exhibit, but I'm not sure which one. 
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The show will be up until January 3, 2016.

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10. Russian Books on Academic Drawing and Painting

The revival of academic drawing and painting in America and Europe has largely been guided by the republication of the book by Charles Bargue and Jean-Léon Gérôme.

But there are other ways of approaching the teaching of academic drawing, most notably the Russian tradition, which has more of a focus on spirit and construction, rather than the outward appearance of the form. I discussed some of the differences between the two approaches in an earlier post when I interviewed Professor Sergey Chubirko who teaches at the Russian Academy in Florence.

For those interested in Russian academic methods, there are two recent books by a living Russian master named Vladimir Mogilevtsev. He is the head of the Drawing Department of the Russian Academy of Arts (also known as the Repin Institute) in St. Petersburg.

Mr. Mogilevtsev's primary books are Fundamentals of Drawing (first published in 2007) and Fundamentals of Painting (2012). They were published in Russian, but they have been translated into English, and I've had a chance to read through a PDF version of the English edition, alongside the Russian print editions.

I was interested in the drawings, of course, but even more interested in the thinking behind the drawings, and these books provide an excellent window into the mind of the Russian academy.


The way the book is organized is that there's a step by step sequence that plays out on the right hand page. On the left hand page is a commentary, along with examples by masters of the past, often including Russian artists such as Repin, Serov and Fechin. 

In both the drawing and painting books, Mr. Mogilevtsev places great emphasis on beginning with a strong concept of the subject, analyzing what feeling the subject evokes in the artist, and thinking how best that can be expressed.

He also analyzes the form into its blocky forms, the skeletal foundation, and the individual muscles beneath the skin. The examples from old master drawings, sculptures, and paintings clarify his observations, and deepen the appreciation of the way our predecessors solved similar problems.


Fundamentals of Painting follows a similar structure, with extended step-by-step demos, beginning with a head portrait, a half-figure portrait with hands, a standing nude and a copy of a Rembrandt.

The quotes from the text are refreshing:
"Sometimes students complain that they don't like a scene. This is a sign of laziness and limitation of an artist's imagination. There is a person, and a person is the whole world. Revealing this world is a huge task for any artist."

Sketches and finished portrait by Valentin Serov

There's a lot of emphasis on planning with sketches to capture the quality of the subject that attracted the artist, and in maintaining that perception throughout the arduous process. The text emphasizes seeing the whole, contrasting warm and cool, and establishing a hierarchy of details, with not all details being equal.

In their print form, Fundamentals of Drawing and Fundamentals of Painting  are available from Amazon, but the print copies are currently only in Russian. They're big books (13 3/4" x 9 3/4"), and the quality of the reproductions is outstandingly good. Currently, if you buy them in this form, they will send you the PDF of the English translation. The English translation is also excellent. I'm told the English print editions are soon to come, and I'll update this post when they become available. 

I have also been told by the publisher that the drawing book is in the process of being translated into French, Italian, Spanish and Turkish languages. They also already have a Chinese translation a Finnish version.

I also highly recommend Academic Drawings and Sketches (Fundamentals Teaching Aids) (shown at left). Instead of showing a couple of drawings taken through a long series of stages, this is a large collection of finished examples of Russian academic figure drawings. They're mostly nudes, drawn by the instructors and students over the last 25 years.

It also includes some more informal sketchbook drawings of fellow students and landscapes. This book is mostly pictures, with high quality reproductions. It has minimal text at the beginning, an introduction by Vladimir Mogilevtsev in both Russian and English. The captions in this book are in both Russian and English. Academic Drawings and Sketches  is 168 pages, softcover, 9.5" x 13.5".

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11. GJ Book Club: Chapter 20 "Materials"



On the GJ Book Club, we're looking at Chapter 20: "Materials" in Harold Speed's 1917 classic The Practice and Science of Drawing.

In this chapter, Speed talks about a wide range of drawing media and the capabilities that each one offers. I'll outline the main points of the chapter so that you can refer to them in the comments if you want.

1. Speed advises trying all kinds of drawing media out to explore their range of expressive possibilities. Then, he suggests that we should seek those qualities of the subject that are suited to the capacities of the medium. 

Rembrandt, ink and wash drawing
2. He warns against falling into the trap that oil paint can present, which is to use the medium to deceive the eye with the the pursuit of ultra-realism. “Art is not a substitute for nature,” he argues, “but an expression of feeling produced in the consciousness of the artist, and intimately associated with the material through which it is expressed in his work.”

This same sort of argument has recently been applied to the realistic potential of CG animation. The idea is that the ultra-realistic computer simulations can take away from the capacity that the animation medium has to create stylized shape and movement, which can have more psychological and emotional resonance. The unquestioning pursuit of imitation of nature can blind an artist to the conscious choices that an artist must make.

I only partially agree with Speed on this point. As much as I love stylization and caricature, I also believe that extreme realism is anything but a "meretricious deception," and achieving it is not easy, especially not in paint. Even if one's goal were to hold up a perfect mirror to nature in oil paint or digital animation, that would only be possible with a sophisticated awareness of the limitations of even those tools. And ultra-realism is capable of conveying subjective emotions, depending on the spirit and skill of the artist.



3. Central to Speed’s argument is that every art medium has a limitation, whether it be stop motion animation, black and white film, charcoal pencils, pen and ink, or sanguine. Great masters, he says, “represent nature in terms of whatever medium they worked in, and never overstepped this limitation."

4. I do agree with Speed that students are well advised to approach oil painting with self-imposed limitations, such as monochrome or a limited palette. Such limitations are liberating.

5. Then, Speed lists each of the drawing media: lead pencil, silverpoint, charcoal, red chalk (sanguine), black Conté, white chalk, lithography, pen and ink, and paper. Reading his descriptions of each of them was inspiring to me, as I haven't tried several of them, such as silverpoint and lithography. 
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GJ Book Club on Pinterest (Thanks, Carolyn Kasper)
GJ Facebook page
Original blog post Announcing the GJ Book Club

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12. Rötig's Wild Boars

Georges-Frédéric Rötig,
Wild Boars in a Wood Under Snow, gouache
Georges-Frédéric Rötig was a French artist born in 1873 who painted many kinds of animals, including lions, deer, and pheasants. But he especially enjoyed portraying wild boars, a popular game animal in France.

Georges-Frédéric Rötig, Wild Boar Studies, pencil
He sketched extensively in various media from living and dead specimens, using gouache, oil, and pencil.


Here are some studies in oil. It's a good idea when painting a living animal to start several poses. That way when they move from one to another, you can switch to the one you're seeing at a given moment.

Georges-Frédéric Rötig, Wild Boar Studies
Georges-Frédéric Rötig, Boars in the Sunshine After the Rain,
gouache, 8.7 x 15.4 inches
With all these studies at hand for reference, Rötig could compose his paintings and put the boars in any position.

Georges-Frédéric Rötig, Wild Boars in the Snow, gouache
He studied with Jules Lefebvre, Benjamin Constant, and Jean-Paul Laurens. He showed in the Salon, winning various prizes including the Rosa Bonheur Prize in 1913. Rötig died in 1961.

Georges-Frédéric Rötig, Boars, gouache
There's a page about him on the website of the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, Wyoming, which has one of his paintings.
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Another great painter of wild boars was the Dutch artist Rien Poortvliet.

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13. Viscous Forms Melting in CGI

There's something mesmerizing about watching little dragons made of semi-viscous cookie batter falling helplessly into heaps and melting into each other. (Link to YouTube)

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14. Reminder: Outdoor Market in Gouache

Eugene Galien Laloue (1854 - 1941) La Gare de l'Est. 
39 by 69.5cm., 15 1/2 by 27 1/4 in. gouache on paper
In case you missed the announcement late last month, I've issued the challenge to paint an outdoor market in gouache using three colors and white.

Charles Walter Simpson, 1885-1971 Newlyn fish market, gouache
Here's a link to the original blog post, and there are already some exciting entries being uploaded to the Facebook Event page.  The deadline is August 31.
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Own the 72-minute feature "Gouache in the Wild"
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• DVD at Purchase at Kunaki.com (Region 1 encoded NTSC video) $24.50

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15. Hoffbauer's Civil War Mural Sketches



Charles Hoffbauer (1875-1957) painted a series of murals about the Civil War known as the Memorial Military Murals. They're in Richmond, Virginia, and they have recently been restored.

The Virginia Historical Society owns the sketches that Hoffbauer did in preparation for painting the murals. He had studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and followed a fairly typical method of the time. 


He began by studying whatever photographs and accounts he could find of the battles, and he produced thousands of sketches. Here are some of his quick sketches of a drummer boy to get just the right action.

Here is one of his studies from a costumed model standing in for Robert E. Lee, with a grid drawn over the study to allow it to be transferred to the canvas.


Hoffbauer produced the murals between 1913 and 1921. He would have been familiar with the sculptures of Rodin and Remington, and the maquettes of Meissonier. Hoffbauer's clay reference maquettes have a vitality all their own.

The maquettes helped him with perspective and staging. You can see a grouping of maquettes in the right foreground of this photo. Leaned up against the painting are some of the small color sketches he referred to. The low table in the middle contains other sketches, which number in the thousands.


Sometimes the maquettes were pretty elaborate, but it was a great way to work out the groupings and silhouettes. Hoffbauer didn't end up using this composition at all because it shows the backs of the Confederates, and he feared it would be perceived as a portrayal of retreat.


Wikipedia on Charles Hoffbauer



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16. New Illustration History Website

Last weekend the Norman Rockwell Museum introduced a new illustration history website, which provides an rich resource for fans, collectors, and scholars.



The website includes capsule summaries of each period of illustration, starting in the Paleolithic, and going all the way through the 20th century decade by decade. 


Some of the major names in illustration are featured with bios and sample images. There's also a growing collection of essays which will be written by museum staff and scholars of illustration around the world. The list of resources includes blogs, recommended books, college study programs, and interview videos.


For example, in this 2004, video, (Link to video) Illustration historian Walt Reed (1917-2015) talks about how he got started as an educator for the Famous Artists School, how he got to know Norman Rockwell, and how that led him to opening the Illustration House gallery

The scope of the website encompasses genres such as editiorial illustration, comics, cartooning, storyboarding, tattooing, and architectural illustration.

The focus is primarily on American illustrators, and there are a lot of important names that are inadvertently left out (please mention 'em in the comments!). And they have overlooked many genres of illustration, such as natural history, medical, paleoart, concept art, pin-up, imaginative realism, reportorial, editorial, and paperback covers. But I trust they'll fix these gaps—they're just starting out, and they're open to feedback. 

(Link to video) The Rockwell Museum has a lot of other videos and audio interviews in their collection that they're happily beginning to release, such as this video where Mr. Rockwell talks about how he found "plain, everyday people" from his small New England surroundings to stand in for people of all religions in his painting "The Golden Rule."

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17. Portraits by Maurice de la Tour


Maurice Quentin de la Tour (1704-1788) was a French portrait painter. His self portraits often showed himself confident and smiling, radiating charm and equanimity.


Overcoming his parents objections, he left home as a teenager to go to Paris to pursue his craft. His pastel portraits of noble and royal subjects were the delight of the Salon, because he portrayed his sitters as poised and intelligent.



His compositions were remarkably simple, with soft frontal lighting, serene colors, and well crafted surfaces. No one had painted such lifelike portraits in pastel before.



He was known for working quickly, never tiring his models, and charging reasonable prices. In 1750 he was appointed as the royal painter to King Louis XV.



More and more he painted the most exclusive society set in Paris. His prices went up and he became capricious and whimsical, refusing to paint anyone who didn't please him.


He became more and more eccentric in dealing with his models, insisting on never being interrupted—not even by the king himself, and requiring his models to be precisely punctual. He demanded absolute control over lighting, costume, and pose. If the sitter disobeyed, he would punish them by leaving the portrait unfinished.


By 1766 he began the regrettable practice of retouching and sometimes ruining his earlier works, and in his later years he suffered a nervous breakdown and mental illness. 
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18. Dancing with a Pig



This 1907 dance routine between a lady and a guy in a pig costume was probably based on a Vaudeville performance. They dance together for a while and then the pig is embarrassed when his clothes come off. They bow to the audience and go backstage behind the curtain.

But the kicker is at the end (Skip directly to 2:00) when a closeup of the pig's face shows him grimacing, waggling his ears, and sticking out his tongue, which is delightfully creepy (Link to YouTube). Thanks, Mel!

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19. Color and Light in Taiwan


Color and Light has been spotted in a bookstore in Taipei, Taiwan. (Thanks, Olina Chang).


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20. Illustrator John Cuneo

Illustrator John Cuneo, portrait by James Gurney
Last weekend I sketched a quick portrait of John Cuneo in water-soluble colored pencils and watercolors. His illustrations in New Yorker and Atlantic Monthly have won a lot of awards, and on his blog lately he has been drawing on menus and sketching what he calls "sad cartoons." 

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21. How Tall is Mickey?

When I first saw Fantasia, I was fascinated by the moment when Mickey Mouse shook hands with conductor Leopold Stokowski.

The scene is in silhouette—a wise choice that made the rendering both simpler and more dramatic. 

I also liked the scene because it made clear how big Mickey was in relation to a human.

I was intrigued by the intersection between the cartoon world and our own. In his cartoon world, Mickey was a stand-in for a human, living in a house and doing all the things that humans do. 

But he's also a mouse, and we know how big mice are. This relationship of sizes seems to compromise between the two frames of reference.


Walt was shown in various marketing images holding or shaking Mickey's hand, and they kept to the same scale relationship. There's even a bronze statue of the two together that keeps Mickey a little less than half a human's height. The old animators, such as Ward Kimball, referred to him as the "three foot mouse."



Other cartoon characters have been shown in this size relationship, such as Gene Kelly and Jerry Mouse in their dance sequence in "Anchors Aweigh" (link to YouTube). The movie Roger Rabbit also kept more or less to this idea.

But Mickey hasn't always been two-and-a-half feet tall.

Costumed Mickey in Disneyland parking lot, 1961, courtesy Yesterland
The costumed characters in the theme parks have to be a lot bigger, even if they're designed around petite people. The size of those Mickeys always bothered me when I was a kid. Mickey or Minnie are a little scary when they're the size of a person.

I would also be troubled by a Mickey coming into our world who was only a foot tall, or six inches tall, or three inches tall. He'd end up in a mousetrap or a cat's jaws.



One real-world Mickey that the Disney organization would probably rather forget, appeared in Laurel and Hardy's film "March of the Wooden Soldiers." The idea was to make all the charming childhood characters appear in a live action movie. There's a scene where a person in a cat costume sits next to Mickey, who is really a monkey in a full-body costume.



Watch the clip (Skip ahead to 25:45) (link to YouTube)



In the clip, the monkey seems to have trouble seeing. Maybe they drugged him a bit to get him to be willing to wear the mask. He claps weakly, then keels over like a drunken sailor. Finally he hurls a brick that hits the cat on the head, and runs off, with the cat in hot pursuit.

A bit creepy — once seen, never unseen.
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Mickey is a trademark of the Walt Disney Company.
Thanks, Mel and Christopher!
Previously: Hustled by Mickey

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22. "Color and Light" at an unbeatable price


Here's a tip for U.S. art teachers who are about to start the fall term. 

Prices on Amazon.com are always low, but they fluctuate up and down by as much as 25%. Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter is at the lowest price that I've ever seen it. It's a whole art education for the price of a chicken-avocado wrap. 

Whether you get a single teacher's copy for yourself or a whole set to use as a class textbook, this is a deal you might not want to miss. 

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23. Fast Food and Big Boxes

Big Box Landscape by James Gurney, gouache, 5 x 8 inches
Painting the "franchise landscape," with its fast food restaurants and big box stores, feels to me like an unexplored frontier, full of exciting possibilities.



I brought the video camera along with me so that you could join me in the adventure. (Link to YouTube)


I don't regard a scene like this as either "ugly" or "beautiful." Sometimes I feel like both of those labels can be barriers to observation, to really seeing. And seeing is the thing.



But that doesn't mean that all commonplace subjects are equally attractive. I can't put into words why one view fascinates me and another leaves me cold.
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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 (Region 1 encoded NTSC video) $24.50

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24. Twitter Fun

I'm excited to pass the 1000 followers mark on Twitter, especially since I only very recently tried it out. 

The content that I put there is sometimes a little different from what I put out on Facebook and the blog. Below are the most recent tweets. 

  1. ART TIP: Just have one accent area of light. Two areas divides the power by half. More than two drains the life out.
  2. ART TIP: The shadow area and the illuminated area look best if there's a contrast of color temperature as well as of value.

If you do Twitter, please follow me @GurneyJourney.  

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25. GJ Book Club Chapter 19: Harold Speed on Procedure


On the GJ Book Club, we're looking at Chapter 19: "Procedure" in Harold Speed's 1917 classic The Practice and Science of Drawing.

This is a short chapter, but it's crammed full of valuable pointers about the importance of intentionality in drawing. So I thought I'd pull out a few of my favorite sentences. I'll number them in case you want to refer to those points in the comments.

Byam Shaw criticizing a student's work
1. "It is seldom if ever that an artist puts on paper anything better than he has in his mind before he starts, and usually it is not nearly so good."

[James here] There's a corollary— if I have nothing in my mind when I start, I can be sure of producing nothing worthwhile.

2. "Try and see in your mind's eye the drawing you mean to do, and then try and make your hand realise it, making the paper more beautiful by every touch you give instead of spoiling it by a slovenly manner of procedure."

Drawing by Adolph Menzel
3. "To know what you want to do and then to do it is the secret of good style and technique."

4. "Look well at the model first; try and be moved by something in the form that you feel is fine or interesting, and try and see in your mind's eye what sort of drawing you mean to do before touching your paper." 

[James here] Yes! It's a good idea to sit for a few minutes in front of your subject before you start drawing to collect your thoughts and feelings, imagine the picture you want to make, and focus your energy on how to achieve it.
Drawing by Heinrich Kley. More Kleys on Muddy Colors today.
5. "Be extremely careful about the first few strokes you put on your paper: the quality of your drawing is often decided in these early stages."

Yeah, but don't get nervous.

6. "It is much easier to put down a statement correctly than to correct a wrong one; so out with the whole part if you are convinced it is wrong."

When I have to rub out a section and start over, I always remind myself that Sargent did that many times to get a good portrait.

7. "Do not work too long without giving your eye a little rest; a few moments will be quite sufficient.

A good reason to work standing. You're more likely to back up and look with a fresh eye.

8. "Do not go labouring at a drawing when your mind is not working."

You can tell from across the room (without even seeing the drawing) if an artist is doing a good a drawing by looking at their posture and their level of engagement.
Drawing by John Vanderpoel

9. "In the final stages of a drawing or painting, when, in adding details and small refinements, it is doubly necessary for the mind to be on fire with the initial impulse, or the main qualities will be obscured and the result enfeebled by these smaller matters."

This is why doing a thumbnail can be a good thing; it reminds you of what attracted you at the beginning.

10. "The great aim of the draughtsman should be to train himself to draw cleanly and fearlessly."

11. "Let painstaking accuracy be your aim for a long time. "

12. "Try and express yourself in as simple, not as complicated a manner as possible."

13. "Every student should begin collecting reproductions of the things that interest him."

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The Practice and Science of Drawing is available in various formats:
1. Inexpensive softcover edition from Dover, (by far the majority of you are reading it in this format)
3. Free online Archive.org edition.
and The Windsor Magazine, Volume 25, "The Art of Mr. Harold Speed" by Austin Chester, page 335. (thanks, अर्जुन)
GJ Book Club on Pinterest (Thanks, Carolyn Kasper)
Original blog post Announcing the GJ Book Club

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