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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. Night Creatures


Here's a gouache painting I did over 30 years ago when I was putting together a portfolio of science fiction samples. It has never been published before.


I imagine encountering these night creatures in a dark bar. I accidentally offend them by asking an innocent question about their feeding tentacles. I apologize, and they return to their drinks, the veins on their temples throbbing for a while.

That's my little treat for you on Halloween!

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2. Juanjo Guarnido's Rock Video


Juanjo Guarnido, the Spanish illustrator who co-created the comic Blacksad was formerly a Disney animator. Last March he launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to direct an animated music video for the Swedish rock band Freak Kitchen. The resulting video features a lot of Guarnido's hand-drawn 2D animation. The effect is aggressive, abrasive, and outrageous: perfect for the spirit of the band. (Link to video)
Via Cartoon Brew

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3. Painting a Texas Townscape in Watercolor


Here's a short video showing the making of my watercolor townscape in Bryan, Texas. (Direct link to video)

Camera:
The video is shot with a very compact point-and-shoot camera mounted to a street pole with a flexible tripod that can grab onto just about anything.

Paints:
Homemade sketchbook pochade easel using adjustable torque hinges
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Full length tutorial DVD from Amazon: Watercolor in the Wild

HD download at Sellfy
 (Paypal) or Gumroad (credit cards)

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4. Keanes to Be Subject of Tim Burton Film

Walter and Margaret Keane
Walter and Margaret Keane were known for the popular prints of big-eyed children in the 1960s. Though he claimed to have painted the pictures, she created them secretly behind the scenes. Their story will be featured in an upcoming Tim Burton biopic.
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Article in the Guardian: "The big-eyed children: the extraordinary story of an epic art fraud"
Walter Keane on Wikipedia
First look at the Tim Burton film
Thanks, Bryn

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5. OK Go's "I Won't Let You Down"



The alt rock band OKGo, known for its innovative long-take videos, has released a new one called "I Won't Let You Down." A camera on a drone octocopter tracks the four band members as they move around on Honda motorized unicycles. The drone follows them outdoors and then moves aloft to show an array of Japanese schoolgirls dancing Busby-Berkeley-style with colorful umbrellas. (Direct link to video)
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I haven't seen any behind-the-scenes video, but Billboard deconstructs the video here.

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6. Plein Air Watercolor of a House


While I painted the house in Austin, Texas, I made this one minute video to show the basic sequence of steps. (Direct link to video)
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Full length tutorial download "Watercolor in the Wild" 
DVD available with exclusive slide show.

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7. Saturday on the east side of Austin

People told us to go see the weird side of Austin, Texas, so we walked around Sixth Street on Saturday morning. The dance clubs, comedy joints and sports bars had shills out front trying to lure people in with cheap drinks.

People sketches in Austin, Texas by Jeanette Gurney
But they weren't getting customers. The street reeked of vomit and urine and spilled beer from the night before. There was a head shop with a window full of old clown toys, and a gift store with cute skeleton trinkets and a girl trying to sell tickets to the Museum of the Weird. But no one was buying.

Ballpoint pen sketches by Jeanette Gurney, "20% observation, 80% memory."
There were too many tourists and the sun was blazing hot, so we walked east. We found some shade and quiet up on Seventh and Waller at a bus stop in front of a family services agency. Young mothers held their new babies. A few dads pushed strollers past us, stopping to smile when they went by, but not saying much.


I looked across Seventh to an average house. There was something strong and dignified about it that spoke to me. The owner came out at one point to pick up a couple of beer bottles that someone had left on his front lawn the night before.


Any house that you might choose at random is like a stage set for a thousand family dramas. Between its four walls play all the stories of life—the wonder of new love, the laughter and tears of raising children, the frailty of old age.


Big trees shaded the house, and wires connected it to the worries of the wider world. As I worked on my little painting, I tried to see the sketchbook page as its own little microcosm, a self-contained world.


I had to think about paint and the tools and techniques, but I was trying to ride those tools into the world of the picture. I was trying to pour cement on sidewalks so that a kid could skateboard on them, and build a porch so that someone could sit there to drink lemonade and escape the heat.

Waller Street, Austin, by James Gurney, watercolor, 5x8 inches
For me the joy of painting is trying to get beyond the paint, to be able to enter the tiny universe of the image.

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8. Steakhouse Step-by-Step

Here's a step-by-step watercolor sequence. I'm standing on the corner of 24th and Main in Bryan, Texas, looking east across the railroad tracks to the Longhorn Steakhouse. 

The watercolor sketchbook is held up to standing height by a pochade easel on a fully extended tripod.

I'm attracted to the tight grouping of telephone poles and the gray light. The lay-in is drawn with a blue water-soluble colored pencil, which will partially dissolve. Note the eye level or vanishing point is below the level of the tracks.

I wet the entire sky, covering it with some overall warm color, then the light gray cloud shadows, and as it starts to dry up, the distant blue sky. Then I cover the big planes of the shadow, leaving a few white accents.

 The poles and small details go in with Payne's gray and a round brush.

The whole painting takes an hour and a half. I shot some video, too, so I'll edit that and upload it next week.

Now...off to paint in Austin!
------
Materials:
Homemade sketchbook pochade easel using adjustable torque hinges

72- Minute Instructional Video: "Watercolor in the Wild"
More info about the HD download at Sellfy (Paypal) or Gumroad (credit cards)

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9. Sunset at the Super 8

 
Jeanette and I painted the sunset from the parking lot of the Super 8.

Sunset at the Super 8, by James Gurney, gouache, 5x8 inches
A raucous flock of great-tailed grackles crossed the sky beyond the net of power lines. The day ended in a blaze of golden light.

Jeanette Gurney - Texas Avenue - 8x5 inches, watercolor
Jeanette faced across Texas Avenue, where construction cranes had been working all day building new apartments for the Texas A&M students. A few people driving by us on their way to and from the Sonic Drive-in stopped and rolled down their windows to say howdy.

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10. Banana Demo

Yesterday I painted a half-hour still life demo in gouache for the Painting 1 class at Texas A and M, where I'm here this week as artist in residence. 

James Gurney at Texas A&M, photo courtesy Felice House
The subject is a banana sitting on a red piece of paper. Painting a high chroma object strongly lit against a high intensity background is the same assignment that the students have done earlier. So they get to see me wrestling with the same issues that they have faced. 



Every color that we see is a combination of the color of the light and the actual color of the surface (or "local color"). In this case, the down-facing planes in shadow are receiving reflected light from the red paper, shifting those color planes toward orange. 

As the top planes turn toward shadow near each end of the banana, they catch the blue window light, which mixes with yellow to make green. 


I make an effort to vary the edges around the form from soft to hard to soft. Nearly the whole painting is done with 3/4 inch and 1/2 inch flat brushes. I turn the brushes edge-on for the thin lines, and use the corner of the brush for the dots.

Painting by James Gurney. Photo by Felice House
Gouache colors include: white, lemon yellow, cadmium yellow medium, cadmium red, burnt sienna, ultramarine blue, and cobalt blue.

These are the only colors I have on the trip. Traveling with carry-on luggage means cutting back the colors so that they fit in the 3-1-1 TSA bags.

The palette surface is a metal pencil box primed and then painted white with enamel spray paint. The palette is held to my lightweight sketch easel with Neodymium magnets.

The students ask great questions throughout the session. Many of them are using what they're learning from these painting exercises to inform them in their 3D digital lighting projects.

Seated to my right is the professor of the class, Felice House. She says that the assignment "The Banana on Red" is a teaching project that originated with her first painting teacher at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, named Sheila Provazza.  

Whew! After that it's time for lunch and art talk with some of my student pals from the Department of Visualization. This week is going so fast for me and Jeanette and we're having a blast. 

If you can, please come on by College Station tonight for my Dinotopia lecture. I'll be glad to meet you or sign whatever books you bring afterward. 

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11. The Business of Art


I've been sharing several different lectures and discussions with the students in the Visualization Department here at Texas A&M as part of my weeklong residency here. Yesterday in Sam Woodfin's figure drawing class I covered sketching with colored pencils and ideas about color, light, and composition.


I also took them through a new talk called "The New Art Economy: Living Off Your Dreams." This illustrated lecture is about the changing business paradigms for independent content creators. We looked at the big trends in media and the effects of digital production, digital distribution, and social media, and what that means for people like me who are learning my way around the new business models as old ones become obsolete or increasingly marginalized.

One of the takeaways was this: If you want to be a self-publisher, you not only need to learn about painting and drawing, but also about writing, photography, video, animation, marketing, publicity, graphics, sales, and shipping.

It's a sobering, but also an inspiring and empowering talk with lots of statistics and practical tips. We finished with a lively discussion about the trends in popular culture media, and I learned a lot from the students.

Today I'll be visiting Felice House's painting class to do a lecture and demo about observational painting.

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12. Ticking Clocks and Tracking Eyes

I'm excited to be visiting the Texas A&M. I did a couple of radio interviews in the morning, and then painted this 45-minute gouache sketch of the old clock in downtown Bryan. I used four colors: white, ultra blue, burnt sienna, and cad yellow.

I had lunch with professors Ann McNamara of Texas A&M and Donald House of Clemson University, both of whom share my fascination with eye tracking as it relates to artists.


I was thrilled to have a chance to try out the eye tracking tech setup at the Visualization Lab. Here, graduate student Laura Murphy is calibrating the system. She's checking alignment points on stereo images of my face as I look at a test screen.

Below the computer monitor are the two infrared sensors of the FaceLab 5 system. The sensors track both the exact direction of my eyes and the direction of my head so that the system can record exactly where I'm looking within the display monitor. 

The monitor has a photo of grocery store shelves crowded with products and overlaid info tags that pop up in response to where I'm looking, part of an augmented reality experiment they presented at Siggraph this year.
---
I'll be spending time with students of the Department of Visualization in their classes today and tomorrow, and I'll give a free digital slide lecture about picturemaking and worldbuilding in Dinotopia in the Geren Auditorium in the Langford Architecture Center, Building B, Thursday at 7 p.m.
-----
Previously on GurneyJourney:
Eyetracking and Composition, part 1
Eyetracking and Composition, part 2
Eyetracking and Composition part 3

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13. The Character and The Values

Students at the French academies didn't get a whole lot of instruction from the teachers. Most of the masters came into the drawing and painting classes once a week at most, and sometimes their feedback was brief and enigmatic.


John Lavery (1856-1941), A Scottish art student who spent three winters under William Bouguereau's supervision at the Academy Julien, recalled that he received just one sentence from the master. 

After looking at his drawings from the nude and asking him a number of questions, Bouguereau kindly said: "Mon ami, ça c'est comme bois; cherchez le caractère et les valeurs" ("My friend, it is like wood; look for the character and values.") 

William Bouguereau, Biblis, to be auctioned in NYC at Sotheby's Nov. 6 

Sir John Lavery, Miss Auras, The Red Book
Lavery admitted that he had a tough time learning French, so he probably missed out on a lot of the art talk in Paris. But looking back on his training, he said, "The rest of my training came and continued to come from what I saw rather than from what I heard."
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14. Lecture in Texas This Week

I'll be in Texas this coming week as an artist in residence at Texas A&M in College Station

The university is a leader in research, and the Department of Visualization is working on some exciting interdisciplinary projects with game-based learning, eyetracking, interconnectivity and digital animation.

If you'd like to see my lecture about the worldbuilding and picturemaking of Dinotopia, I hope you can come to the Geren Auditorium on Thursday, October 23 at 7:00 pm. 

The lecture is free and open to the public. 
Link to the event listing at the Texas A and M Website.
Google Map location

And if you can't make it, don't worry—I'll be posting along the way about my sketching adventures in the Lone Star State.

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15. Book Review: The Drawing Club

Every Thursday night in Los Angeles, a group of artists gets together to draw from the model, but this is no ordinary sketch group.

Characters by Mike Swofford from The Drawing Club
Organized by Art Center teacher Bob Kato, attendees of the Drawing Club work from costumed models who are set up with props and set pieces to suggest a specific character. Themes include such classic types as "The Detective," "French Maid," "The Samurai," or "The Rock Star."

The Thursday night sessions are mostly short poses ranging from 5 minutes to a half hour, and they have long poses on Sundays.

For example, here's Steve Jacobsen modeling as The Chef.

"The Chef" by Brett Bean from The Drawing Club
And here's one of the drawings by visual development artist and character designer Brett Bean.

The Drawing Club is not a class; it's more of an open workshop. Anyone who pays the $20.00 entry fee can attend, and the regulars include a lot of master animators and character designers from Walt Disney Feature Animation or DreamWorks Animation who are looking to brush up on their drawing skills. There are also plenty of students, and a spirit of experimentation.


Bob Kato recently released a book of some of the work that has come out of the Drawing Club. The 9x9 inch softcover edition is 144 pages long, and is lavishly illustrated with examples from 66 different artists.

The text by Mr. Kato is full of encouraging tips for going beyond what you're actually observing from the live model. He suggests a variety of media: pencil, markers, brush-and-ink, watercolor, and digital.

Mr. Kato explains how each artist approaches the challenge differently depending on the kind of work they do.
"Story artists like models to do quick, daring poses because they're looking for gestural movement as it relates to storytelling. Their sense of design is heavily invested in the communication of the moment, rather than what media looks best....The character artists, on the other hand, are always looking at the model like a raw ingredient that will be turned into their own version of the character. When the model shows up in costume and starts posing, they look at the shapes made by the costume and character and get to work redesigning...to make the character funnier, scarier, happier, or sadder. They take the pieces apart—a gangster's hat, tie, overcoat, drooping cigarette, and gun—and create their own version."

Book: The Drawing Club: Master the Art of Drawing Characters from Life
Website: The Drawing Club

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16. Snapshot Sketches


I did these watercolor sketches when I was exploring Salida, Colorado. Each sketch is 3 inches across and took 5 or 10 minutes. 

I might do a few of these to explore possible motifs. The main thing I'm looking for is the basic value organization. Painting a small monochromatic "snapshot" helps me cut through the clutter to see the essence of the image.

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17. Painting a Busy Street Scene

How do you convey the bustling motion of a city street in a painting?

Jules Bastien-Lepage The London Bootblack, 52x35 inches, Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs
Jules Bastien-Lepage attempted the effect in the background of "The London Bootblack" from 1882. Bastien carefully observed the action on the street and sketched his impression. He told the Irish painter John Lavery,
"Always carry a sketchbook. Select a person—watch him—then put down as much as you remember. Never look twice. At first you will remember very little, but continue and you will soon get complete action."


In his book "The Realist Tradition," Gabriel Weisberg notes that:
"Bastien-Lepage seems to have been anxious in the bootblack picture to convey a sense of the movement and flashing color of the setting. Areas of white priming on the canvas were left exposed and others were scraped down 'according to a new method.'....'His idea was to lay on the colour rather more than an eight of an inch thick, and when it was quite dry he would shave off the surface, and thereby obtain beneath a delightful quality of surface."
For the figure, Bastien-Lepage found a suitable—but fidgety and reluctant—model on the streets of London, and prevailed on him to pose. He painted the figure with a premier coup method that observers likened more to Whistler or Sargent:
"I was much surprised to see how very near Bastien-Lepage stood to his model, who was not even raised on a platform. The boy was only six feet from the canvas. Bastien-Lepage walked backwards and forwards a great deal, using very long brushes, which he held at the extreme end."
Another painter who tried to capture the impression of a busy street scene was Giovanni Boldini in his large painting "A Night on Montmartre." More about Boldini and this painting at my previous post "Boldini at the Clark Institute."

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From the book: The Realist Tradition: French Painting and Drawing 1830-1900 by Gabriel Weisberg
Book: Jules Bastien-Lepage, 1848-1884




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18. Question: Age Range for Dinotopia

Blog reader James Jones asked: "I'm a college student in Idaho studying to become an elementary teacher. I was just wondering, when you created the world and artwork and subsequently the story of the Dinotopia series, did you have a specific age range in mind for the series? I personally discovered the books in the 4th grade and have loved them ever sense, but I was wondering if they were meant for a slightly older audience."


Hi, James,
I don't buy into the "target age range" mindset of contemporary publishing. I wrote Dinotopia fundamentally to amuse myself as an 30-year-old adult who was rediscovering dinosaurs and utopias. I was also a new dad when the idea came to me, so I was aware of the magic that picture books had for young kids. And I was thinking of making the kind of book that I would have enjoyed when I was 10 or 12. At that age I didn't really like very many children's books, but instead loved the old illustrated adventure books by Twain and Stevenson and Verne.

A book should be like a swimming pool, with a shallow end and a deep end. The few "children's" books that I did like when I was young, such as the Winnie the Pooh books or The Little Prince, had layers of meaning that fed me as I got older. I don't see why book can't have meaning for a person at different stages of their lives.

In fact, I was deeply touched yesterday to receive a letter from a young filmmaker who has carried the book along with him overseas as he has grown from child to adult. He says:

"Dinotopia began as the favorite book of a little boy fascinated by dinosaurs. It later evolved into a personal inspiration for a young man just starting to dream about how he might make his mark on the world. I'm now happy to report that, as I approach my thirties, it has evolved into professional encouragement for how to keep that childhood spark alive while pursuing a creative career....and all the discipline, terror, heartbreak, exhilaration, and wonder that come with it. Thank you for that gift; I hope that some of my work can one day provide just just as much inspiration to even one little child somewhere."
----
Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time 


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19. Video Chat for Outdoor Painter Magazine

(Link to video)
Here's a short video chat I did in Wyoming for Bob Bahr of Outdoor Painter magazine. He asked me about gouache, casein, watercolor, and our cross-country sketching adventure.


Here's the painting I was working on when I did the interview.
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SKB Foundation, a weeklong painting workshop in Wyoming in September
Outdoor Painter article
"Watercolor in the Wild" at Sellfy (Paypal) or Gumroad (credit cards)

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20. Armand Baltazar's Illustrated Trilogy "Timeless"

Armand Baltazar, an artist and senior designer at Pixar, just inked a deal with HarperCollins for a three book illustrated series called "Timeless."


According to the Hollywood Reporter, the trilogy is "in the vein of Avatar and Harry Potter. The story centers on a boy — joined by a motley gang of friends — who is seeking to rescue his father from a Roman general after a 'time collision' has thrown together the past, present and future."

I asked Armand to share some insights into the inspiration, tools, and process behind his illustrations.

He says: "I would describe the look and feel of Timeless as an homage to my heroes from the golden age of illustration: NC Wyeth, Dean Cornwell, Norman Rockwell, Joseph Clement Coll to name a few, with classic influences that range from Ilya Repin, Anders Zorn, to Mariano Fortuny."

"I started out wanting to paint everything in oil-paint, but having to hold down a demanding full-time studio job made painting late nights and weekends too demanding and impractical. So now the majority of the work for the book is a blend of traditional and digital media."

"I begin with thumbnails. sometimes working all the way through to refined drawings or value comps. But often I'll resolve lighting design in my color keys. I will either scan the thumbnails and drawings into the computer or rough in a watercolor and gouache pass across the top and then scan that in."

I paint the paintings digitally using Photoshop and Painter. But I use these digital tools in a way that emulates watercolor, oil painting and traditional animation background painting. Using my drawing, and color-key as a guide, I paint from background to foreground."

"I often start blocking in the big graphic shapes of my composition, then my light and dark patterns leaving the shadows as thin simple statements and work towards opacity in the lights. The Flying car painting was painted more like a traditional watercolor saving my lights and working towards darker saturated values and color."

"I work on the painting in the computer using 2-3 simple ugly brushes that give me the tactile quality I'm looking for. I keep the painting flattened and overpaint and cut back over the shapes as I would in oil leaving the history of the brush decisions when possible."

"I especially love doing that when painting characters. Trying to get something that is a mix of Rockwell (painterly) and Frank Duveneck with nods towards impressionist color and light when the scene or lighting design calls for it."

Thanks for the insights, Armand, and best wishes on the project.
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Before landing his job at Pixar, Armand has worked at ImageMovers Digital, Walt Disney Feature Animation, and DreamWorks SKG. He has worked on The Prince of Egypt, The Road to Eldorado, Spirit Stallion of the Cimmaron, Sinbad, Shark Tale, Flushed Away, The Bee Movie, Princess and the Frog, A Christmas Carol, and Cars 2.
Armand Baltazar's website

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21. Short Film about a Magical Sketchbook


"Lila" is a short wordless film that follows a young woman with her magical sketchbook. (Link to video).


Fantasy meets reality when she holds up her sketches next to her subjects. The drawings animate and seem to enter the subjects' worlds.

The film's magic realism, and the idea of a woman mending the lives of others, make it a cousin to a film like Amélie. The videography makes artistic use of warm colors and shallow focus. The filmmaker is Carlos Lascano, a multi-talented artist who is equally at home in comics, animation, photography, and illustration.

If you want to see more by Mr. Lascano, check out the previous films in the trilogy, "A Short Love Story in Stop Motion" and "A Shadow of Blue."

Thanks, Nenko Genov.

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22. School Bus: Step-By-Step in Gouache

Here's a step-by-step sequence of the school bus painting that I showed you recently. The medium is watercolor and gouache.


I used a background-to-foreground approach, starting with the sky, then the trees, then the surrounding setting, and finally the bus and its details. 

(YouTube video) David Rankin of the SKB workshop made a little video about the painting.

Previous post about the school bus painting.

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23. Questioning Landscape Conventions

In his book on watercolor painting, Francis Russell Flint expressed a common rule of composition: "Avoid lines that cut a picture in half, both vertically and horizontally."

View of Madrid, 1987-1994, 72x94 in. by Antonio López García, painted on location

Antonio López García (born 1936) broke the rule with this painting View of Madrid from Capitán Haya. The horizon splits the composition in the center. In my opinion it succeeds because it sets up an opposition between the frenzy of the human-built world and the empty immensity of the sky.

Mr. López García also resisted the common practice of painting the view in romantic dawn light, choosing instead the stark midday sun, which he said is the main subject of the picture. After having painted other city panoramas early or late in the day, and having studied Hopper's use of light, he said he was at first "afraid to show it in broad daylight because it gave the scene a stark, frightening quality."
Irises and Roses, oil on canvas, 1977–80 by Antonio López Garcia
I believe Mr. López García's orientation to tradition and convention is a healthy one. He says: "There's no formula or recipe for this; each artist has to solve it in his or her own way, given their sensibilities and experience. The art of the past can set a high example, but all precedent, and all landscape conventions have to be brought into question and ultimately discarded in order to face the ultimate mystery of nature."
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Quote from the book Antonio Lopez Garcia

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24. Lightweight Sketch Easel


Several of you asked about how to build the lightweight sketch easel that I've been using lately.

One blog reader, who is an artist and a builder with a form of Muscular Dystrophy said, "It's difficult to find art manufacturers that make lightweight equipment for people with disabilities."


Here's how my easel looked when I set it up to show some workshop students. It fits on a camera tripod, which allows you to control the height and slope of the painting surface.

The white thing is a DIY nylon diffuser to shield direct sun or dappled light.


Here are the front surfaces (the ones facing me as I work) laid out flat. Each panel is 5.25 inches (13.3cm) by 11 inches (28cm). The panels are 1/4 inch oak plywood finished with Tung oil.

The long dimension of each panel only needs to be about 3 inches wider than the sketchbook in order to support it when open flat and clipped. The whole thing is small enough to fit into my belt pouch when it's folded.


The palette panel (the one on the left in the photo above) has recessed Neodymium magnets to hold mixing tray or watercolor set. The triangle of magnets matches corresponding magnets on the base of the water cup.

The adjustable torque hinges stay open to whatever position you want. You can adjust the resistance of the hinges. I wanted to construct it so that the upper flange of the hinge was recessed to the level of the oak panel.

 In order to recess the hinges so that the sketchbook lays over the hinges and the easel folds flat, I glued two 1.25 inch wide plywood strips along the back side. I also glued a wood base for the quick release plate to add strength and to allow the T-nut flange to be recessed on the other side.


Here's the back laid out flat. The support point is positioned close to the center of the sketchbook page on the other side. The closer it is to that point, the less the whole rig will wobble when pushed with the brush, pencil, or hand.

The diffuser gripper is made of two pieces of plywood with a T-nut on one side and a thumb screw on the other. The two pieces are held together with a hinge and grooved to hold the diffuser bar. The wedge mounting base allows the gripper bar to fold down flat when not in use.

Here it is set up with a camera extension bar coming from a second tripod. I just wrote an article for International Artist magazine about how to shoot and edit video art tutorials.

This sketch easel can be used not just for sketchbooks, but also for small paintings on panels. Here I'm working in casein on an 8x10 panel clipped to the easel. 

Please send me photos with captions of your own DIY sketch easel. My design uses some of the refinements you came up with in the last round (see post called Your DIY Sketchbook Pochades). 
I'll award a prize of a "Department of Art" embroidered patch to my favorite submission. 
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Suggested parts:
Tee Nut
Southco adjustable friction hinge
Nalgene 2-Ounce Jar
1/4 x 1/16 inch Neodymium Magnets
Tung oil
Tripods: Vista Explorer 60-Inch or Velbon Sherpa 200 Tripod
Diffuser: White Rip-Stop Nylon Fabric

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25. The Weenies

If you've never heard of "The Weenies," that's because it's the toy and cartoon phenomenon that almost happened, but got cancelled before it fully rolled out.


The concept was developed in 1983 by Mel Birnkrant, Mike Strouth, and Kiscom, and then purchased by Coleco to be the next big thing after Cabbage Patch Kids.

The project got very far along, with an animated TV special scripted and storyboarded, and toy prototypes and packaging all ready to go, but financial problems at Coleco nixed the project.


One of the artists who created the Weenies, Mel Birnkrant, has written a fascinating blow-by-blow account of how he and his colleagues developed the idea in a cascade of creativity, and the ups and downs of what happened along the way. 

It's a must-read for anyone involved in developing an animated series or toy concept or anyone interested in the behind-the-scenes workings of popular culture in the 1980s.

Mel Birnkrant is one of the foremost collectors of classic comic character toys. His design for the Weenie characters was inspired by the cartoons of the 1930s. 

Birnkrant was a friend of Disney animator Ward Kimball, and Birnkrant himself is a gifted cartoonist who turned down a job offer at the Disney studios when he was starting his career. 

In the story of the Weenies, there are many lessons for artists and animators, such as the effect on the character's personality of a bending-forward spine versus a bending-backward spine.

While you're at Birnkrant's site, you can also check out the story of his better-known toy creation, The Outer Space Men.
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The Story of the Bunville Weenies (online by Mel Birnkrant)

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