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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. Beaux-Arts Instruction (Part 2 of 4)


This is part two of a four-part series examining practices and principles taught the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in the 19th century. (Part 1 here). This post is excerpted from an article by Earl Shinn, an American student in Jean-Léon Gérôme's atelier. Shinn wrote about his experience in an 1869 issue of The Nation.


Students painting from life at the École 
A Week-Long Academy
Students in the École who had graduated from cast drawing and drawing from the nude model were finally allowed to paint in oil from life. The resulting study was called an "academy." The model would typically be standing in a classical pose, lit from high north windows. Students would spend a full week on each study. Here, Shinn outlines how that week was spent.

Figure study or "academy" in oil
by Jean-Hippolyte Flandrin (1808-1864)
"What is really the week’s affair to the Beaux-Arts man is his 'academy.'

"On Monday he hits the pose, which is always vigorously pronounced and spirited, on the model's part, when first assumed; the dash that may be thrown into the attitude while the figure is perfectly fresh can never be caught up again if missed at the beginning.

"By Tuesday the artist has become absorbed in the complications of light and shade.

"On Wednesday the master comes, and perhaps rejects nearly everything that has been done, disfiguring and blotting the sketch from one margin to the other. The model, drooping upon his dais may bear little resemblance to the elastic attitude of the drawing, and the student is accused of attempting to idealize. 'You have been trying to modify nature from your reminiscences of the antique; you have ennobled the head, braced the shoulders,' etc. The study is altered, in the spirit of realism, until all the stark and pitiful ugliness of the model's lassitude is expressed.

"One of the difficulties of a life 'academy' is that, although the example before you is a moving, changing object, now braced, now drooping, now turned a little to the right and now a little to the left, your copy of it is expected to show all the purism of the photograph.

"If you were putting the same model into a historical picture, you would be expected to elevate the attitude and expression; and you would then begin to hear from your critics a great deal about the difficulty and responsibility of borrowing from nature, what to take and what to leave.

"'Only Phidias and Da Vinci,' I have heard declared,  'and perhaps Michelangelo, deserved to have received the revelations of anatomy.' If, on the other hand, you were copying the antique, you would have the full luxury of refining your line and your form, with no limitation of time and with
a rigid model. The life 'academy,' then, is expected to avoid the imaginative qualities of [a] picture, and to win, from a constantly deteriorating example, the accuracy which is so fascinating a quest in copying from statuary. A felicitous study is therefore a very desirable treasure, and old forgotten ones by [Thomas] Couture or [Hippolyte] Flandrin are preserved in the ateliers where those painters have studied, used as paradigms by teachers, or sold as something of unique value in the color-stores.

Albert Edelfelt (1854-1905)

"Another trouble is the variation in the color of the air on different days. 'The patron has accused me,' an energetically protesting youth will cry, 'of seeking the silver tint of Terborg; it was as far from my thoughts as silver from my pocket. But I established my key of color on Thursday, when there was a solid gray rain like slate-pencils; and the Italian turned blue and chattered; and how will you expect the tones of Titian in such a climate, my brothers?'

"On the closing day of the week I have known an incorrigibly gay lad to exhibit a canvas almost completely expunged by the blottings of the professor. 'This was to have been my masterpiece. I meant it for the altar of the church where I was baptized, whether as a St. Michael or a John in the Wilderness. The outline was good until Auguste changed it into a caricature of the Prince Imperial.'"

According to Albert Boime, "An experienced pupil could capture a head in a single session, but the others would often require several days. During the first session, the beginner sketched the head or figure, and then traced the drawing to canvas. When confronted with the live model, the pupil proceeded in much the same way as in rendering the head, only now he drew his pencil or charcoal sketch directly on the canvas. In the second session he traced the painted outline and established the principle masses of shadows in a diluted mixture of turpentine and red ochre. On the third day he prepared his palette carefully and rendered the flesh tones, as well as the hair and accessories. Finally the last session was devoted to completing the ébauche with respect to the tout ensemble." 
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Excerpts from The Nation, July 22, 1869, Page 68. "ART-STUDY IN THE IMPERIAL SCHOOL AT PARIS" by Earl Shinn
Final quote from The Academy and French Painting in the 19th Century by Albert Boime
More examples of academies at LARA (London Atelier of Representational Art)
Three excellent book sources:
The Lure of Paris: Nineteenth-Century American Painters and Their French Teachers
The Studios of Paris: The Capital of Art in the Late Nineteenth Century

Previously on GurneyJourney:
Beaux-Arts Instruction (Part 1)

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2. Beaux-Arts Instruction (Part 1 of 4)

What kind of instruction did the students receive at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in the 19th century? This begins a four-part series about the concepts and criticism in the atelier of Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904), based on a rare first-hand account of an American student who reported his experience in 1869.



A Visit from the Master
A visit from Jean-Léon Gérôme was a special occasion for students in the Ecole des Beaux Arts, occurring only once a week. When the master was not in attendance, the students harassed each other, dueled with mahl sticks, and joked around.

On a typical morning, they went about their normal routines, making coffee, and, according to a student who was part of the class, "arranging themselves in the tobacco-smoke, setting palettes, filling pipes, trimming crayons, moistening bits of bread, and wringing them into erasing-balls in the corners of handkerchiefs."

Gérôme arrived exactly on schedule, removed his hat, and placed it on a peg reserved just for him. The students came to attention and the Italian model perked up.

He started in one corner of the room and went systematically from student to student, standing or sitting in their place, and regarding their drawing or painting with full attention and unsparing criticism.

Gérôme, Pygmalion and Galatea
"Observe," he said, looking at a very neat drawing by a student, "Your muscles are inlaid against one another. They are carpentered. There is a something—that is not the vivacity of flesh. Go next Sunday to the Louvre and observe some of the drawings of Raphael. He does not use so much work as you, yet one feels the elasticity of his flesh, packed together of contractile fibers, based upon bone, and sheathed in satin. You tell me you will express that texture afterward. I tell you Raphael expressed it from the first stroke!"

Raphael Sanzio (1483-1520)
Study of David after Michelangelo
"Your color rages," he said to another student. "That of the model is lambent. Besides, your figure is tumbling, it is not on its legs. I will save you labor by telling you the simplest way of correcting this. Turn the canvas upside down and draw it over. The error is radical."

To another, he said: "You do not yet understand the continuity of forms in nature. You accent too highly. That is vulgarity. For instance: it appears to you that the internal and external vastus, when gathered in at the knee, cause a break in the outline, like the cap of a pillar. Similarly under the calf. You are deceived, and should use your eyes; the accent is not in the line, it is in the shading beside the line, and even there far more slightly than you think. Here again, the vein crosses the forearm. You make a hideous saliency. Nature never, absolutely never, breaks a line."
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The excerpts are from The Nation, May 6, 1869, Page 352. "ART-STUDY IN THE IMPERIAL SCHOOL AT PARIS" by Earl Shinn
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Thesis about Earl Shinn by Daniel Timothy Lenehan
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Three excellent book sources:
The Lure of Paris: Nineteenth-Century American Painters and Their French Teachers
The Studios of Paris: The Capital of Art in the Late Nineteenth Century
The Academy and French Painting in the 19th Century

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3. Foreground Miniatures



Michael Paul Smith takes photos of his favorite town, called Elgin Park. The pictures look like snapshots from some midcentury utopian town.


Most of his photos involve some cars parked on the street and buildings and trees in the background. There are no people. 
The photos are actually taken in the present day. There's no digital trickery involved. Everything is shot in-camera. The cars and street are miniatures, propped up at tabletop height. 

Mr. Smith doesn't use a fancy camera, just a cheap point-and-shoot. These cameras work well, though, because the small apertures don't give away the trick with shallow depth of field. The great thing about this method is that you get all the lighting, reflections, and occlusion shadows for free, because the models are in the same light as the background. 

Mr. Smith is an excellent modelmaker, and he has made hundreds of cars and dozens of buildings.

This video takes you behind the scenes, where he generously shares his process—and his backstory.

Use of foreground miniatures in "The Aviator"
The use of foreground miniatures is an old visual effects technique from early days of moviemaking. It's still used by low-budget filmmakers and the occasional big budget film. (here's more info on that from Vashi Visuals).


In this shot for "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," the ship was only 20 feet long, and the people were standing way back in the shot.

Photos of Elgin Park via Studio 360
Film by Animal Media Group
Vashi Visuals
Book: Elgin Park: An Ideal American Town (8.5"x11" landscape hardcover book

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4. Dinotopia: World Beneath Episode 4

It's Podcast Tuesday! Here's the newest episode of the serialized audio dramatization of Dinotopia: The World Beneath.




You can listen to the episode with the play button above or by following this link to Soundcloud.


"Trust old Crabb," says Lee as they approach Black Fish Tavern by the light of the moon. 

Oriana proves herself to be a valuable member of the expedition. Producer Tom Lopez had fun elaborating the colorful characters.

The Podcast Series
This acoustic adventure was produced by Tom Lopez, mastermind of the ZBS Foundation, with an original music track by composer Tim Clark.

The Christian Science Monitor called this production "A dazzling soundscape that does full justice to Gurney’s wondrous lost world… perfect family listening.”

Episode 5 arrives in a week. Each short episode will only be live online for one week, and then it will disappear.

If you'd like to purchase the full two-hour World Beneath podcast right now and hear all fifteen episodes back to back in a feature-length production, check out The World Beneath at ZBS Foundation website for the MP3 download. It's also available as a CD.

The Book
You can also order the original printed book from my web store and I'll sign it for you. (It ships via Media Mail within 24 hours of your order. US orders only for the book, please). The book is also available from Amazon in a 20th Anniversary Edition with lots of extras.

The Museum Exhibition is now on view
Many of these paintings are now on view at the Dinotopia exhibition at the Stamford Art Museum and Nature Center through May 25. I'll be in attendance at events on Feb. 28 and March 1. Gentleman-cartoonist Jared Cullum is organizing a gathering of GurneyJourneyers for sketching and coffee before or after the events on Sunday.

Read more about the events here on this blog.

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5. Phil May (1863-1904)


"Shave, or hair cut, sir?" "Corns, you fool!
Phil May (1863-1904) was an English cartoonist known for his deft and economical pen-and-ink caricatures. He grew up around the theater, so he was familiar with music hall actors and types. 

Benevolent Lady (distributing tract to inebriate, who has refused to accept one), "Do take one. If you read it, it will do you good."
Drunk (pulling himself together), —"Madam, I writes 'em."

He went to London and was so poor for a while that he slept on park benches, and he got to know all the varieties of gutter snipes. He portrayed them with a kindly wit and a sympathetic eye.

"Mos' 'stronary thing! a' most shertain th'was shome coffee in it."

He was so prolific that a publication came out using just his pictures, "Phil May's Illustrated." His cartoons of drunks and street characters made him wealthy and famous. 

Portrait of Phil May by J. J. Shannon
He liked to wear colorful outfits. According to John Lavery, "The last time we met he came to his studio door wearing the loudest suit I had ever seen. Seeing my look of surprise, he smiled and said, 'Come in and listen to it, dear boy.'"

ARTIST: 'My good man, may I have the honour of sketching your likeness? I am Mr. Phil May."
RUSTIC:  'Oh! are yer? Then, this time you'll be Mr. Phil Mayn't."
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Phil May on Wikipedia

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6. Window-shading


This small oil study by James Perry Wilson was left unfinished, allowing us to see how he did it. After a careful line drawing, he painted from background to foreground, completing each area before moving on to the next.


This photo shows J. P. Wilson at work on an outdoor study, with two panels side by side in a special frame so that he could paint a panorama. This one also seems to be completed area by area. 

The method is sometimes called "window-shading," because it resembles unrolling the final canvas like pulling down a window shade. It was a common practice for painting museum dioramas, for which Wilson is best known.
Francis Lee Jaques painting the Peabody Museum's Alaskan Brown Bear diorama,
Courtesy Peabody Museum of Natural History and Michael Anderson
According to Michael Anderson of Yale's Peabody Museum, Wilson would have seen the practice used by his colleagues, such as Francis Lee Jaques: "From the horizon, Jaques would typically paint down and from left to right, though not always. Sometimes he would skip around painting an area to completion and then going to another area, painting it to completion and so on. Jaques typically painted the birds first and painted the background around them later."

Both artists would have done a tight color comprehensive of the overall scene first, and used that as a guide.


Frederic Church painted this study of the view from his home Olana in winter. I would bet that he painted it area-by-area from background to foreground. 

Window-shading is a fast way to work, and it can yield almost photographic results. It's a good way to paint fast under challenging conditions, such as winter landscapes or sunsets. 


Ilya Repin used a similar method in this study from costumed models. Over a preliminary line drawing, he applied the paint to achieve a finished effect area by area, like a coloring book or paint-by-number. There's no block-in.

There are several advantages to this method. In oil, especially with an oil-primed board, you can make use of the white of the board for small highlights that show through thin textures of paint.  
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Previously on GurneyJourney: Area-by-Area Painting

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7. Dynamic Downshots of Devambez


André Devambez (1867—1944) was a French artist who was fascinated by the bird's eye view.


His most famous painting is called "The Charge," which shows a confrontation between demonstrators and police on the Boulevard Montmartre. The black cluster of demonstrators in the lower area flees in a disordered mass from the regular line of the police, while spectators watch from the margins.


Devambez studied with Jean-Benjamin Constant and Jules Lefebvre in Paris. In this scene he shows the welcoming parade for President Woodrow Wilson. Blues and browns echo through the spectators and the uniformed horsemen. 


Families say goodbye to departing soldiers at Gare de L'Est railway station during the mobilization for the Great War. The fence in the middle keeps back the edge of the crowd.


Devambez also illustrated children's books. Here's a rout in a Medieval battle, with fleeing soldiers in animated poses in the foreground. Again, he sets up contrasts between big groups of figures.


He both wrote and illustrated for children's book, and in that sphere, his work was more fanciful.


Devambez also produced many illustrations in "Le Figaro illustrated" and was always fascinated by new modes of transportation—airplanes, automobiles, trains, and ships.

Biography of  André Devambez
More at Art Inconnu



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8. A Composition by Robert Fawcett



Have a look at this picture, and try to self-monitor how you experience it.


The editors of the Famous Artists Course included this illustration by Robert Fawcett (1903-1967) along with an explanatory diagram to demonstrate some design principles. They say: "The scroll is the important point of interest in this picture. Robert Fawcett has skillfully used lines to direct our eye to it. The line formed by the arm of the foreground figure draws our attention almost irresistibly across the upper right of the picture, down to the scroll, and finally to the head of the king. Notice how we are forced to look back and forth from the king's head to the scroll."

I think it's a successful composition, but I don't agree with their analysis of why it works. To me the driving force of the picture's abstract design is the contrast between clutter and emptiness. At first I saw the busy detail surrounding the blank space, and I thought the empty space was a 2D shape left for design reasons.

A split second later, I realized that it was a piece of paper being held up by a soldier in chain mail, and that I was looking at the back of the paper. Once I saw the angry face of the seated figure, and I understood that he was a king, it dawned on me that he was being faced with a challenge by the knight, perhaps showing the Magna Carta to King John.

With the story in mind, my eyes scanned the picture driven by its human premise. I looked at the ecclesiastical figure, whose characterization isn't very well developed. I checked out the face of the soldier, and couldn't get much from him either. My eye then went to the various weapons on display to see if there was a foreshadowing of violent action.

Although I'd need to see an eye-tracking scanpath study to be certain, I'm quite sure my eyes never followed the pathways diagrammed by the FAC's editors, and I never spent much time in parts of the picture that had no story purpose.

My point is that I don't believe it when composition teachers suggest that my eyes are passively moving through a picture, led purely by design considerations. Design does play a role, but if there are faces and a human story, the viewer is operating on a much higher and more active level.

Your experience of the picture may have been totally different from mine, and I'd be interested to hear from you in the comments.
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Books: 
Robert Fawcett: The Illustrator's Illustrator
Famous Artists Course

Previously on GJ: Eyetracking and Composition
Eyetracking and Composition, part 1
Eyetracking and Composition, part 2
Eyetracking and Composition part 3

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9. A Visit to the Dinotopia Exhibition

Yesterday we visited the Dinotopia show in Stamford, Connecticut in preparation for the events that are coming up in a couple of weeks.



Over 50 original paintings are presented in several big rooms of the museum. For those who saw the Lyman Allyn show in eastern Connecticut a couple of years ago, this is a completely different show—all different artwork.


Most of the major paintings are here, such as Dinosaur Parade, Dinosaur Boulevard, Skybax Rider, and Waterfall City. Some of the paintings are paired with the original reference maquettes.


Throughout the exhibition are display cases showing some of the Museum's fine collection of dinosaur bones and trackways, Pleistocene mammals, and invertebrate fossils, as well as fossilized plants (above). Throughout the exhibition, you can see original specimens similar to the ones that inspired the fantasy world. 


At the Farm to Table Supper on February 28, I'll be taking guests through the show on a private tour, telling some of the stories behind the creation of the paintings. This will be an informal event (with very delicious artisanal food), and will be a memorable event for a fantasy or art fan of any age.


On Sunday, March 1, I'll be leading a hands-on Fantasy Drawing Workshop. We'll be drawing with water-soluble colored pencils. Materials will be provided. I'll do a very brief digital presentation and demo, and then let the attendees get to work. 

Curator Kirsten Brophy took us behind the scenes to select specimens and still life objects that we will borrow from the museum's collection and set up in the workshop room. This will be a rare chance to draw from real specimens.


They have also got some exquisite bisque sculpts by Jonas Studios of mammals, and we'll borrow a few of those, too. If you're interested in the workshop, you might want to act today, because I'm told there are only two spots left.

If you want to see a Dinotopia exhibition in your region, please contact your local art museum's curator or director and tell them you want to see "Dinotopia: The Fantastical Art of James Gurney" travel there, and that you'll rally your friends, too. A couple of GurneyJourney readers have actually done this and we're in discussions with their city's museums, so it can really happen.

Info and links
The exhibit will continue until May 25.
Purchase tickets for the Feb. 28 Farm to Table Supper at this link or call Madeline Raleigh at 203.977.6546.

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10. Art and Family


In this 1866 cartoon by George Du Maurier from Punch, the caption says, "Mrs. Fred doesn't care how long she sits for her 'dear Fred,' so long as her 'darling Freddy' is in some safe place where he can't get into mischief."

A cartoon by Charles Dana Gibson shows the artist painting away while his wife or girlfriend waits nearby.

Balancing art with family can be a challenge. We artists owe a lot to those around us for their long-suffering patience. I understand how some artists need a separate studio, but I've always had my studio in the house, and I feel lucky that I could have my family around when I was working. Before we had kids, Jeanette would often read to me while I was painting. 

Jeanette Reading, 1985, Oil on panel, 8 x 10 inches
When my kids were little I set up a play space in the studio near the painting table. We always had toys and art supplies for them, and they built forts in the attic storage spaces. 

We brought along sketchbooks for them when we traveled as a family. One time in Venice the kids from the neighborhood invited them to join into their soccer game. 

In the studio, when I was occasionally in "concentration-mode," and my wife or kids asked me a question that I couldn't focus on, I tried to explain that it was OK for them to talk, but that I couldn't respond. 

It was pretty rare that I had to banish them from the studio, and that was usually when I was writing or concept-sketching or doing a radio interview. One time while I was talking to a paleontologist on the phone, I had to explain why there was a squeak toy going in the background.

Do you have a story of how you have reconciled the pull of your artwork with the needs of your family? Please share it in the comments!
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Previously on GJ: The Muse and the Marriage

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11. World Beneath Podcast, Episode 3

It's Tuesday, time for the newest episode of the serialized audio dramatization of Dinotopia: The World Beneath.

The Christian Science Monitor called this production "A dazzling soundscape that does full justice to Gurney’s wondrous lost world… perfect family listening.”

You can listen to the episode with the play button below or at this link to Soundcloud



Arthur, Will, and Bix weigh the dangers of inviting Oriana on the expedition to explore the World Beneath. 

Once the expedition team is assembled, they head down the Cargo Chute on a raft.

The ride takes them through the bowels of Waterfall City and emerge below the cascade.


The best way to enter the caverns is through one of its submerged entrances. No one knows those better than the scavengers of shipwrecks at the Black Fish Tavern.

The Podcast Series
This acoustic adventure was produced by Tom Lopez, mastermind of the ZBS Foundation, with an original music track by composer Tim Clark.

Episode 4 arrives in a week. Each short episode will only be live online for one week, and then it will disappear.

If you'd like to purchase the full two-hour World Beneath podcast right now and hear all fifteen episodes back to back in a feature-length production, check out The World Beneath at ZBS Foundation website for the MP3 download. It's also available as a CD.

The Book
You can also order the original printed book from my web store and I'll sign it for you. (It ships via Media Mail within 24 hours of your order. US orders only for the book, please). The book is also available from Amazon in a 20th Anniversary Edition with lots of extras.

The Museum Exhibition is now on view
Many of these paintings are now on view at the Dinotopia exhibition at the Stamford Art Museum and Nature Center through May 25. I'll be in attendance at events on Feb. 28 and March 1. Read more about the events here on this blog.

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12. Ten Principles of Fair Use

The College Art Association has just released a guidebook about the special circumstances when it's OK to use someone else's copyrighted artwork.

Called the "Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts," the short, free, PDF is the result of years of work from the Association's legal experts.

Here's a quick summary of 10 main principles that are covered in the document.

1. You don't need to worry about Fair Use if permission is already granted, such as work designated by a Creative Commons license, or work in the public domain, such as images published before 1923.

2. If you're writing a review or an analysis of a given work, you can show the work or quote necessary parts from it, as long as you give appropriate credit. Generally speaking, this kind of use is permissible if it involves "criticism, comment, teaching, or scholarship."

3. If you're a teacher, you can display a copyrighted work as part of a specific curriculum for a specific group of students.

4. If you make art, you can adapt or reference copyrighted material if you use only what you need, and alter it into a new medium, generating new artistic meaning.

5. It's generally OK to use copyrighted work if the use is transformative, meaning that it "adds something new, with a further purpose or different character."

6. Museums can show copyrighted works as part of their curatorial mission, as long as it's credited, and not downloadable in high resolution form.

7. Academic libraries and art schools can preserve digital copies for purposes of study, again as long as they're properly credited, and not released in high resolution form.

8. If you deliberately repurpose the work of others, you should be prepared to explain the artistic objective, and you should not claim to be the creator of those derivative elements.

9. Judges consider whether the derivative work is commercial or educational in nature, and whether the derivative work undermines the market for the copyrighted work.

10. None of these are absolute rules. Like principles of freedom of expression, there are plenty of gray areas, and judges may rule one way or another, depending on many factors. My personal disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer; these ten basic principles I've summarized here are necessarily oversimplified; they're not the last word on my personal opinion; and I recommend you read the whole document.

In an appendix to the publication, Peter Jaszi puts the principles of the Copyright Code in context by explaining how the rights of the creator are balanced against the needs of the culture at large:

"The goal of US copyright law is to promote the progress of knowledge and culture. Its best-known feature is protection of owners’ rights. But copying, quoting, recontextualizing, and reusing existing cultural material can be critically important to creating and spreading knowledge and culture. That is why there is a social bargain at the heart of copyright law. That bargain is: Our society offers creators some exclusive rights in copyrighted works, to encourage them to produce culture. The compensation that creators receive from exploiting their copyrights is important as an incentive to this ultimate end; it is not an end in itself."
Free PDF: Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts
Wikipedia on Fair Use
Thanks, Animation World Network

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13. Benjamin Constant and Orientalism


Benjamin-Constant
The Montreal Art Museum has opened an exhibition of Orientalist painters, focusing on Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant (1845-1902). A journey to Morocco when he was a young man inspired him to paint exotic scenes of harems and desert soldiers.
José Villegas Cordero, The Slipper Merchant, 1872. Oil on canvas. 19 x 25.6 in. (48.2 x 65 cm)

The show includes works by other Orientalists, including José Villegas Cordero (above), Henri Regnault, Mariano Fortuny, Georges Clairin, Jean-Paul Laurens, and.... 


.... a watercolor portrait by José Tapiró y Baró, who was featured on GurneyJourney last year.

Benjamin Constant, The Favorite of the Emir, (Washington, National Gallery of Art)
The sexual and cultural politics give the contemporary art historians plenty to write about. The show is arranged thematically, with such topics as: "Colonial Diplomacy in Morocco" and "The Harem, Fantasies and Lies."

Leaving all that aside, for artists attending the exhibition, the works have a lot to offer in purely painterly terms. Benjamin Constant's paintings were mostly large-scale works, often seen from a low eye level, with bold colors and patterns.

1902 article in Brush and Pencil about Benjamin Constant gives an example of how art historians a century ago were more attuned to subtleties of the picture-maker's art:
"His skill was devoid of trickery, which may not be truthfully said of the skill of such men as Fortuny and Madrazo of the Spanish school, Boldini of the Italian, or Makart of the Austrian. His methods were always 'legitimate,' but there were few subtleties of brush work which were not revealed to him. While he received most of his art instruction in the Atelier Cabanel at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, he was the pupil of Rembrandt more than of any other master. His painting of flesh had often the 'fatness' and firmness noticeable in most of the work of the great van Ryn. The peculiar technique obtained by dragging one tone of a color over another, or one color over another, is identical in many instances in the painting of both. The modern artist, however, seemed to strive to obtain brilliancy of effect through variety of color and through the contrast of varied textures more often than his seventeenth-century master. In this he was signally successful."

Links
Museum website Marvels and Mirages of Orientalism: From Spain to Morocco, Benjamin-Constant in His Time January 31 to May 31, 2015
The Globe and Mail describes the show as a "spectacular must-see."


Catalog: Benjamin-Constant: Marvels and Mirages of Orientalism


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14. Touching the Art at the Prado


Diego Velazquez, Forge of Vulcan, Photo Daily Mail
The Prado Museum in Madrid has adapted several classic paintings so that visually impaired people can touch them. Sighted visitors can don blindfolds to experience them that way too.


The images were enhanced with a low bas relief using a 3D printing technique called Didú.

Museum site: Touching the Prado
Daily Mail: Gallery unveils specially created versions of classic paintings that blind people can 'see' by touching them

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15. Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends

Sargent, Dr. Pozzi at Home (detail), 1881. Hammer Museum, Los Angeles
A new exhibition of John Singer Sargent's paintings of friends and fellow artists just opened at the National Portrait Gallery in London, where it will continue through May 25.

Sargent, The Fountain, Villa Torlonia, Frascati, Italy, 1907,
Art Institute of Chicago
Curated by Sargent expert Richard Ormond, the show includes Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose and many other landmark paintings.

"John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) was the greatest portrait painter of his generation. Acclaimed on both sides of the Atlantic, he was closely connected to many of the other leading artists, writers, actors and musicians of the time. His portraits of these friends and contemporaries, including Auguste Rodin, Claude Monet and Robert Louis Stevenson, were rarely commissioned and allowed him to create more intimate and experimental works than was possible in his formal portraiture. 
"This major exhibition of over seventy portraits spans Sargent’s time in London, Paris, Boston and New York as well as his travels in the Italian and English countryside. Important loans from galleries and private collections in Europe and America make this an unmissable opportunity to discover the artist’s most daring, personal and distinctive portraits." 
Good news, Statesiders! It will expand to 90 works when it continues at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, June 30-October 4. 

And yes, there's a catalog: Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends

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16. Visualizing Sound Waves



In the music video "CYMATICS: Science Vs. Music," Nigel Stanford and his band perform a song on drums and keyboards. The sound waves of the instruments are visualized through a series of analog physics experiments. Although the effects look digital, they're not. Everything is captured in camera.

The experiments include a Chladni PlateSpeaker Dish, a Hose PipeFerro Fluid, a Ruben's Tube. In the climactic shot, a stunt double dons a heavy Faraday suit next to a Tesla Coil. He safely attracts a high voltage arc, and jumps to make the arc skip to the ground. Those foregoing links take you to a series of behind-the-scenes videos that show how it's done, or you can read about it here.

Stanford says the video was inspired by the idea of synesthesia. "This got me thinking that it would be cool to make a music video where every time a sound plays, you see a corresponding visual element, " he says. "Many years later, I saw some videos about Cymatics - the science of visualizing audio frequencies, and the idea for the video was born."

Director Shahir Daud and cinematographer Timur Civan restrict the video to a limited palette of grays, and they alternate real time with slow motion.
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Link to the video on Vimeo and YouTube
Cymatics on Wikipedia
Nigel Stanford's new album: Solar Echoes

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17. The Sleeping Dogs of Cecil Aldin


Cecil Aldin (1870-1935) was a British illustrator who loved to draw dogs.


He illustrated a book called Sleeping Partners featuring his dogs "Cracker," a white bull terrier, and "Micky," a dark Irish wolfhound. 


Micky was the tolerant type who would let his buddy walk all over him.


One of Aldin's teachers was Frank Calderon, who wrote one of the best books on animal anatomy. 


Aldin drew for the Illustrated London News, where he developed a following that later translated into print sales.


He used his own dogs and those of his friends for models. 


He called his own dogs "The Professionals" and visiting dogs "The Amateurs."


He would let them run loose in his big studio and wait patiently for them to settle into a sleeping position. He often did a quick outline from life and then elaborated it from memory later.



Aldin's dogs became so famous from his drawings that they received their own fan mail. When at last the bull terrier died, The Times wrote an obituary:
Cracker, the bull terrier, for many years the beloved companion and favourite model of the late Cecil Aldin, died July 31st, Mallorca. Deeply mourned.
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On the Web

Books

Sleeping Dogs on GurneyJourney

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18. Embassy in Yemen Closes


Sad to see that the USA removed its ambassadors from Sanaa, Yemen today. It was just a few years ago that they had one of my paintings there as part of the Art in Embassies Program.

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19. Lessons from a Kickstarter Campaign

Last summer, Cherngzhi (Erwin) Lian of Singapore conducted a Kickstarter campaign to create "The Perfect Sketchbook"a pocket-size gem with artist-grade cotton watercolor paper and a built-in gray scale. The campaign was successful, raising $53,850, just over the goal. 
  
"The Perfect Sketchbook" Kickstarted by Cherngzhi Lian
But that is just the beginning of the story. What it took to execute a successful Kickstarter effort from start to finish is a tale of hard work and smart business that should inspire anyone who is thinking about crowdfunding.

Gurney: Have people used your sketchbook in any ways that particularly surprised or impressed you?

Cherngzhi: Absolutely! Our backers were really impressed with the quality of these sketchbooks and I reckon that The Perfect Sketchbook presented a unique opportunity for many who didn’t dare venture into quality watercolor paper. Generally speaking, most avoided 100% cotton watercolor paper because it is usually a lot more expensive than generic 20% cotton watercolor paper. Many of our backers were particularly surprised by how light these sketchbooks weigh and were delighted with the way that cotton paper responds to heavy washes and ‘lifting’.



Gurney: What did you learn from doing a Kickstarter project? Were there any unexpected difficulties or things you would do differently?

Cherngzhi: There were many things I learnt from this Kickstarter. For a start, I am not a celebrity of any sort and do not have a huge following. In an effort to rally for support, I resorted to approaching friends, strangers, famous artists, interest groups, art councils, art publications, and possibly anyone related to Art, travel, sketching and watercolor. It was not the easiest thing to do and rejection was common. I persisted and reminded myself that it was a rare opportunity where I can mass-produce something great, and persevered. When the fund was at $28,000, I thought that the campaign would fail. I wrote the greatest number of emails at that stage but it did not correlate to the fund's momentum. Although daunting, I kept going at it, even during the last 4 days when I was more than US$10,000 away from target. I thought it was game-over. Miraculously, the funds came in big during the last 4 days and we eventually managed to surpass the target of US$50,000, finally finishing at US$53,850. It was not easy and I slept little during the 45 days of our campaign.


The Project would have never made it without the support of all my backers. Every contribution along the way fueled my motivation, and my conviction in the success of the project increased with the number of backers and contributed funds. I fought harder, and we eventually made it. My backers were the true drivers of The Perfect Sketchbook, as without them, this project would not have taken off. I am truly grateful.

After the funding was complete, I dealt with a lot of special requests. This was challenging because Kickstarter's customer management system is not meant to handle changes and special requests. The increase in fees for raw materials, shipment, wiring and postage also worried me throughout the project. There were so many hidden costs that we were not able to foresee. We also ran into a few production issues, but these were readily resolved by my experienced manufacturer, Bynd Artisan. For that matter, I am really lucky to have partnered with them. It was amazing that they made most of The Perfect Sketchbooks by hand.



Gurney: I'm curious about logistics of the Kickstarter fulfillment. What services did you enlist to help fulfill your pledges?

Cherngzhi: In a desperate attempt to raise the required funds, I added many more reward tiers throughout our campaign. After the campaign was over, I worked immediately to fulfill the Giclée prints and hand delivered framed, original paintings to our top backers. To streamline the fulfillment process, we decided early in our project to send rewards separately even when a backer had backed both a sketchbook and a print. My collaborator, Bynd Artisan designated some their staffs to pack The Sketchbooks while Dan Hong (another employee from Bynd Artisan) and I worked on the labeling and sequencing of the packages. All the Giclée prints were printed and processed manually by me. Most of the packages were international and since we couldn’t afford to lose any package, we purchased a tracking option. Apart from the hefty cost of international registered mail, we had to manually sequence every package at the post office so that they are traceable. It was an extremely time-consuming and laborious process. The neighborhood post offices couldn’t handle our volume in a single day, and we ended up making multiple trips to their headquarters in order to complete the fulfillment process.


Gurney: How did you use social media to raise awareness for the campaign?
I have been using Instagram, Tumblr and Facebook to document my travel and sketches for the past two years. At first, I thought it was just a great way to document my thoughts on-the-go and felt that I might be able to refer to them for content if I should one day write a book. Over the span of 2 years, I gathered about 2000+ followers on Instagram. Most of my Kickstarter backers actually came from my own social media circle. Our biggest backer, Dr Ramona from Austria, has been following me on Tumblr, and kindly answered to my call for support.


Apart from my own social media network, there were generous artists like you, James, who were influential and kind enough to the share my project with your audience. This helped extensively with the visibility of my project. Without the internet or social media, this project would have never taken off.



Gurney: What advice would you give to artists who want to manufacture their own product ideas?
I think it’s really important to find a reliable and experienced manufacturer to work with. I was really lucky to have found Bynd Artisan, and their experience in book-making has proven to be invaluable. Extensive research also needs to done on budgeting, because every process along the way tends to cost more than the initial budget. Without economies of scale, you cannot produce something that can compete with other sketchbooks based on price. As an artist, you have the ability to make something out of nothing. However, you will need to be tenacious to reach out to people who value your work and effort. Bear in mind that even when you put in the best materials and effort, there will be a lot of harsh criticism out there. Enjoy the process and remind yourself that it isn’t the end of the world if the project fails. Stay positive and don’t give up.



Gurney: What are your plans for manufacturing or distributing the sketchbook now that the Kickstarter project is over?
A lot of satisfied backers wrote to me with feedback that I should also make a bigger sketchbook. I am currently approaching top-quality paper mills, in hope that they will be willing to collaborate with us to make an affordable A5 [148 x 210 mm or 5.8 x 8.3 in]version of The Perfect Sketchbook. The current pocket-sized sketchbook is a limited edition, and the limited excess from our project is currently only available at Bynd Artisan stores in Singapore.
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Thank you, Cherngzhi, and best wishes for your continued success.
GJ post about the campaign

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20. Dreamland




(Following text quoted from Wikipedia) Dreamland was an ambitious amusement park at Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York City from 1903 to 1911.



Dreamland was supposed to be refined and elegant in its design and architecture, compared to Luna Park with its many rides and chaotic noise.


Among Dreamland's attractions were a railway that ran through a Swiss alpine landscape, imitation Venetian canals with gondolas, a "Lilliputian Village" with three hundred dwarf inhabitants, and a demonstration of firefighting in which two thousand people pretended to put out a blazing six-story building fire every half-hour.



In a bid for publicity, the park put famous Broadway actress Marie Dressler in charge of the peanut-and-popcorn stands, with young boys dressed as imps in red flannel acting as salesmen. Dressler was said to be in love with Dreamland's dashing, handlebar-mustachioed, one-armed lion tamer who went by the name of Captain Jack Bonavita.


There were also two Shoot-the-Chutes with two ramps that could handle 7,000 hourly riders, a scenic railway called Coasting Through Switzerland, gondola rides through a nighttime model of Venice, a miniature railroad, and a simulated submarine ride.



A concession called Hell Gate, in which visitors took a boat ride on rushing waters through dim caverns, was undergoing last-minute repairs by a roofing company owned by Samuel Engelstein. A leak had to be caulked with tar. 

During these repairs, at about 1:30 in the morning on May 27, 1911, the light bulbs that illuminated the operations began to explode, perhaps because of an electrical malfunction. In the darkness, a worker kicked over a bucket of hot pitch, and soon Hell Gate was in flames.


Chaos broke loose as the park burned. As the single-armed Captain Bonavita strove to save his big cats with only the swiftly encroaching flames for illumination, some of the terrified animals escaped, but about 60 animals died. A lion named Black Prince rushed into the streets, among crowds of onlookers, and was shot by police. 

By morning, the fire was out and Dreamland was completely destroyed and never rebuilt.
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Wikipedia: Dreamland
Podcast about Dreamland from the Memory Palace.

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21. The Other Abstract Art Movement

Left: Female Bust by Picasso, 1937. Right: Popeye by E.C. Segar, 1929-1937
While Picasso was experimenting with abstraction in the world of galleries and museums, another abstract art movement was playing out right under people's noses in the realm of comic characters.

Left: Picasso Bull, 1945. Right: Disney Studios Hell's Bells, 1929
In both modes of image-making, artists discovered that a certain power derives from simplification, from stripping away layers of reality and searching for basic psychological symbols. They recognized this power in the older work of the cave painters, the Egyptians, the African mask-makers, and the Japanese printmakers, to name a few.

George Herriman, Krazy Kat, 1918
The forces driving innovation in the two movements was different. In animation, the whole medium was new; there was no grand tradition of painting to overthrow. No one had seen drawings move before. They were alive! Simplification was a practical and economic necessity because they had to be hand-painted by the thousands on acetate cels. It was a collaborative and often anonymous enterprise, yet no less innovative than the work of the easel-painters. 

Cartoon characters in the newspapers had to be reduced to something that could be printed on a mass scale. As the decades passed, comic characters were reproduced more and more quickly at relatively small sizes on cheap paper.

But the most important difference was that images in the world of comic characters had to be expressive. People had to love them. They had to convey character and story and personality. Without that, they were dead on arrival. There was no artificial life support system to keep them going. If no one loved them, they died. 





The language of abstraction in the world of comic characters took a while to develop. The Yellow Kid and Little Nemo were among the earliest newspaper characters, and they were still based more or less on the arrangement of a real face. By the time Betty Boop arrives (lower left) in 1930, we're very far from reality.

Mickey's earlier incarnations had dots for pupils floating in a big white shape that could be either the whites of the eyes or a big forehead.


When Fred Moore redesigned Mickey in 1938 for Sorcerer's Apprentice, his pupils became white ovals with smaller pupils inside them. But Mickey always had those two purely abstract circles for ears, which became a problem as Disney Studios strove for more and more realism.

Characters from Pixar's Inside Out. All Disney images ©Disney, Inc.
The give and take between realism and abstraction continues to this day with character designers in the 3D digital animation world deciding how to boil down the characters to their simple essence. The goal is always to make them more expressive, to make their emotions come across better in a story.

The person who first got me thinking about comics as the "other abstract art movement" was toy collector and inventor Mel Birnkrant, who is fascinated by the design of comic characters, especially between 1920 and 1940. In this heretical view of art history, the art of comic characters is not only a legitimate art form, but perhaps the most protean, innovative and enduring form, which transcends all the "isms," and is the central story of 20th century art history.

Mel says, "Isn't it ironic that modern art had to fight so hard to introduce abstraction to the world? When all the while, abstract art had already been peacefully introduced and willingly accepted by an eager public, many years before, in the form of comic characters."
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Mel Birnkrant's essay "Reflections in a Pie-Cut Eye"
All copyrights to their respective holders.

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22. Gibson featured in Illustration magazine

The upcoming issue of Illustration magazine (Issue #46) features the work of Charles Dana Gibson.

Gibson (1867-1944) was an illustrator from the Golden Age whose portrayals of self-confident women became a style icon known as the 'Gibson Girl.' 


Gibson's painterly pen-and-ink illustrations captured the attitudes and postures of the characters he portrayed, often in amusing or awkward situations.

The article by Gary Land tells the story of his life, from child prodigy to celebrity artist. It is well illustrated with 35 images, shot from original art. This issue also a feature article on pin-up illustrator George Petty.


Dan Zimmer, who publishes Illustration magazine, is also about to release a trade edition of his successful Kickstarter project, a book called The Golden Age: Masterworks from the Golden Age of Illustration

It's not a history or a textbook, but a picture book with over 218 color illustrations by 154 different artists. The book is a 9 x 12 inch hardcover and costs $44.95. It will ship in March, and you can preorder now.
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Illustration magazine

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23. Making It Documentary


(Link to video)
Producer Tony Moorman is about to release an hour-and-a-half video about the trials and tribulations of making a living as a professional artist.


The small crew traveled to various artists' studios, and interviewed a large number of people at Spectrum Live in Kansas City and Comic Con in San Diego. The careers of the main subjects, Andrew Bawidamann, Eric Fortune, and Brian Ewing, span the fields of fantasy illustration, rock 'n' roll posters, gallery art, and illustrated logo design.

The video consists mainly of interviews. It's not really a tutorial or instructional format, rather more of a collection of snapshots of various artists' outlooks on creativity and careers. The topics include whether art school is worthwhile, how to remain inspired, and the personal costs of hard work.

The film will be released on February 17th. After that, it will come out on the i-Tunes store, Amazon, VUDU, X-Box, VHX, and Google Play.
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24. World Beneath Podcast Episode 2


Last week we began airing the first episode of the serialized audio dramatization of Dinotopia: The World Beneath. Now it's time for Episode 2.

You can listen to the episode with the play button above or at the Soundcloud link.



In this episode we meet Lee Crabb again, who offers Arthur some advice about traveling into the World Beneath. I painted the standing portrait of Oriana from a live model in my studio. Both are in oil.


When Arthur calls a Round Table meeting, the humans sit on high chairs to be at the height of the dinosaurs. Producer Tom Lopez did an amazing job of creating the strange sounds of all the dinosaur voices.
Enit the librarian operates the pedostenograph machine.


Arthur shows a part of a key that he believes will get him back into the caves. 

The Podcast Series
This acoustic adventure was produced by Tom Lopez, mastermind of the ZBS Foundation, with an original music track by composer Tim Clark.

Episode 3 arrives in a week. Each short episode will only be live online for one week, and then it will disappear.

If you'd like to purchase the full two-hour World Beneath podcast right now and hear all fifteen episodes back to back in a feature-length production, check out The World Beneath at ZBS Foundation website for the MP3 download. It's also available as a CD.

The Book
You can also order the original printed book from my web store and I'll sign it for you. (Ships via Media Mail within 24 hours of your order. US orders only for the book, please). The book is also available from Amazon in a 20th Anniversary Edition with lots of extras.

The Museum Exhibition
Many of these paintings will be on view at the upcoming Dinotopia exhibition at the Stamford Art Museum and Nature Center, Feb. 14-May 25. I'll be in attendance at events on Feb. 28 and March 1. Read more about the events here on this blog.

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25. Dinotopia museum exhibition opens this weekend

"Birthday Pageant" from Dinotopia: The World Beneath, Oil on canvas mounted to panel
A Connecticut newspaper has released a feature article about the upcoming Dinotopia exhibition at the Stamford Art Museum and Nature Center. I'll be attending for subscription events on Feb 28 (farm to table dinner) and March 1 (drawing workshop), and a public book signing event on Sunday afternoon at 3:30. 

The show consists of over 50 major paintings, plus sketches, maquettes, and fossil material. It runs from February 14 through May 25.
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