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Creator of "Dinotopia"! This daily weblog by James Gurney is for illustrators, comic artists, plein-air painters, sketchers, animators, art students, and writers.
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1. New Sketchbook Cover

It's always fun to paint the lettering on a new sketchbook cover. This one's called "Entrance Ramp" after the first painting in the book. I drew the guidelines with a white Supracolor Watercolor Pencil and a ballpoint pen.

I'm using One-Shot lettering paint (chrome yellow) on a Pentalic watercolor journal.
----
Previously: Your sketchbook covers
Titles on sketchbook covers

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2. Edelfelt's Sketchbooks

The Finnish National Art Gallery has released online the sketchbooks of Albert Edelfelt (1854-1905).


Since the 104 sketchbooks are in chronological order, you can trace the journey of his mind and see the people he met and the moments he lived.

The books begin in his youth and reflect his early exposure to academic drawing at the Drawing School of the Finnish Art Society. He also studied with Adolf von Becker and later with Jean-Léon Gérôme at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts in Paris (1874-1878).


There are babies newly born and relatives on their death bed, both common subjects of 19th century artists.

Edelfelt had a special gift for painting children. His sketchbooks reflect unselfconscious moments of children's lives, such as musical evenings, and kids at play. 

Albert Edelfelt, Boys Playing on the Shore, courtesy Google Art Project
Here's one of his finished paintings of children, for which he is justly revered not only in Finland, but around the world.


Don't miss his copies of Sargent in #19, dissections ub #22, studies at the Prado in #27, and testing out a watercolor set in #100 (above).
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Thanks to the Finnish National Gallery for making these works accessible to the public, and thanks to Finnish illustrator Ossi Hiekkala (check out his work) for letting me know about it.

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3. Lovell's Frozen Companion


A friend sent me this unusual painting by Tom Lovell (1909-1997). Apparently Lovell came across the strange true story about two gold miners in Greenland. One of them couldn't take the weather and died. His companion buried him under the woodpile because the ground was frozen. After a while the survivor went a bit crazy with loneliness. Every once in a while he brought the frozen corpse into his little cabin as a dinner companion. He wasn't much for conversation, but he brought back memories of the good old days.

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4. GJ Book Club: Chapter 17: Portrait Drawing

On the GJ Book Club, we're looking at Chapter 17: "Portrait Drawing" in Harold Speed's 1917 classic The Practice and Science of Drawing.

Now we arrive at a solid chapter that is full of Speed's best thoughts about how to approach a portrait. He's not only talking about drawing, but about painting, too. I'll paraphrase Speed's points in bold, followed by further comments and links to previous GJ posts that discuss the topic further.

1. An individual's personality affects the outward appearance of their face, both the overall form and the features.
This leads to a question I've often pondered when I'm riding the subway or looking at criminal's mugshots. Can you read a person's biography from their face alone? How much are our innermost lives written on our faces?

2. The real object of the portrait painter is to seize on these unique characteristics of the sitter, even if they are shy and self-conscious about those qualities.
Speed says, "Some close study of individual characteristics must be the aim of the artist." Recent studies of face recognition have shown that the way we remember faces is by cataloguing the ways they deviate from the norm. We keep a mental catalog of their unusual qualities.


Caricaturists know this (above by David Boudreau) and they're experts at emphasizing those deviations.


King George V by Joseph Solomon
3. Some people think that emphasizing the uniqueness of the sitter goes against the goal of capturing their ideal beauty, but if you don't focus on this, you'll lose the likeness.
In Speed's words: "Catching the likeness, as it is called, is simply seizing on the essential things that belong only to a particular individual and differentiate that individual from others, and expressing them in a forceful manner."

4. No two people look alike; even if the differences are slight, we can recognize someone after a long time or from far off.
We've all noticed this when we see someone we know in a crowd way off. We're also attuned to recognizing very slight differences in body posture and walk cycles, too, which is why a walk cycle is a central job of designing an animation character.

5. We record the memory of a face not as a collection of individual details, but as a gestalt, or an overall impression.
He says it's important not to dwell too much on any one feature, but to develop the whole subject as a general impression and get that right before honing into the details. You can see this in quick portrait sketches (above) or unfinished paintings by master portraitists.

6. Your eye has to be "fresh" to recognize these differences. If you've been looking at your picture for too long, you lose sight of the uniqueness of the subject. 
The best illustration of this is this video, which will blow your mind if you haven't seen it before. Look at the cross in the middle of the frame, as unaltered photos of celebrity faces flash by. They will appear to be distorted caricatures, but they're not. Your "fresh eye" is seeing them as distinct and unique variations.  

7. Look for great qualities in the old masters, and then seek those qualities as you observe living examples in nature.
Another point Speed makes is to get to know the person's biography first, at least the main qualities of his temperament that are likely to have influenced his or her face. Another way I think of this is, what is their central metaphor? What is the basic story they keep telling about themselves? Do they present themselves as a victim, a clever trickster, a lover, a thinker, or a rogue? Speed says, "The habitual cast of thought in any individual affects the shape and moulds the form of the features. So I would say, chat it up with the person, and if possible keep them talking throughout the sitting. If they're sitting there like a wooden statue, there's no way you'll capture their true likeness.

8. Get the exact proportions correct first. The metrics have to be right.
We saw this in an earlier post when I interviewed one of the artists for Madame Tussaud's.


Portrait by Boldini

9. Speed's criticism of the "striking" portrait. 
Speed says, "Probably the most popular point of view in portraiture at present is the one that can be described as a "striking presentment of the live person. This is the portrait that arrests the crowd in an exhibition. You cannot ignore it, vitality bursts from it, and everything seems sacrificed to this quality of striking lifelikeness. And some very wonderful modern portraits have been painted from this point of view." 

He then goes on to question this fashion. I'm not sure exactly who he had in mind, but it might be Boldini, who did many such striking portraits, and they're related to the bravura of Hals. I doubt that Speed is criticizing Sargent, but he might be.



9. Speed outlines two methods for developing the portrait:
a) Mass in the impression, then finish the eyes first and then finish the rest of the face, moving outward from the eyes. Some contemporary painters advise actually constructing the face outward from the eyes, a more radical version of what Speed is proposing—but this method, I believe, is prone to errors in construction.

b) Block in the overall impression and develop areas throughout the face all together, finishing up the eyes later in the process.



10. Speed's classifications of portrait styles:
a) The quiet and sober portraits of Holbein (above).
b) "Seeking in the face a symbol of the person within." He gives the example of G.F. Watts (below).

Watts portrait of Wm. Morris
c) "Treating the sitter as part of a symphony of form and color." Example, J. McNeill Whistler.

11. Speed cautions against capturing momentary expressions (or contemporary fashions).
He traces this to the ability of the camera to capture a smile. Speed says you wouldn't want to live with a person who is smiling all the time (creepy), so you wouldn't want to live with a portrait like that, either. What would Speed think of modern portraits, where the fashion nowadays is to show the subject grinning? A "fixed smile is terrible," Speed says.

No one can hold a smile very long. That's why someone needs to count down "3, 2, 1, Cheese!" when we take a smiling photo. (See my previous post on Smiling Presidents)


Feel free to offer your comments on any of the points mentioned above, or other points I may have missed.

-----
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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5. Entrance Ramp

At sunrise I'm standing at the bottom of an entrance ramp leading down into a parking lot in Kingston, New York. It's not a place that tourists would ever go. 


Entrance Ramp, casein, 5 x 8 inches. 
Instead, ordinary people come here on their daily routines. At this hour it's mainly older guys arriving for fitness sessions at the YMCA and patients showing up for appointments at the nearby radiology lab.

Off in the hazy distance is a tangle of street lights, utility poles and cell towers. The sun is coming up hot. A few pools of cool air settle in the shadows around my ankles.
I limit my casein colors to three (plus white): raw umber, golden ochre, and cobalt blue. The underpainting of tinted Venetian red adds a contrasting hue. (By the way, using a contrasting colored underpainting is a legal way to sneak in an additional color in the "Outdoor Market Challenge.) 


Halfway into the block-in. The blue-yellow limited palette mixes with the red of the underpainting.


Covering the surface with grayish opaques is like putting out a fire. A few red embers still glow. 

Now I can concentrate on the close value contrasts and the oppositions of warm and cool colors.


I'm glad I've got my night-painting Department of Art shirt on, because I'm standing a little ways into the road. 

As I paint, I wonder about strange stuff, like why poles are never vertical, and who chose those ball-shaped street lights, and what the sounds would have been like here 100 years ago. I think this sunken parking lot was once the basement of a bustling factory.

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6. Diner Portrait in Gouache

This guy eats his bacon at a diner table near me. 

Gouache, 4 x 5 inches
There's a soft light from the right, and a bright edge light from behind. He has a dark mustache, dark eyebrows, graying hair, no teeth. Maybe he's on his way home from the Hemingway Lookalike Contest.

Art Sperl Disposal: "You propose it, we dispose it."
I lean over my coffee and shoot a glance from under my hat brim. This is portrait painting in the wild. The guy never looks up. He doesn't notice me painting him.
----
Previously: Portrait Noir

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7. Joy Ride in a Paint Box


After leading the Allies to victory in World War II, Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965) became an ardent outdoor painter. Never has painting had such an enthusiastic and eloquent champion.

"Painting is a companion with whom one may walk a great part of life's journey."

"When I die and go to heaven, I want to spend the first million years painting – so I can get to the bottom of the subject."

"We must not be too ambitious. We cannot aspire to masterpieces. We may content ourselves with a joy ride in a paint box. And, for this, Audacity is the only ticket."

"Painting is the same kind of problem as unfolding a long, sustained interlocked argument... It is a proposition commanded by a single unity of conception."

"Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse."




"Armed with a paint-box, one cannot be bored, one cannot be left at a loose ends, one cannot 'have several days on one's hands.'"

"Painting is complete as a distraction. I know of nothing which, without exhausting the body, more entirely absorbs the mind. Whatever the worries of the hour or the threats of the future, once the picture has begun to flow along, there is no room for them in the mental screen. They pass out into shadow and darkness. All one’s mental light, such as it is, becomes concentrated on the task. Time stands respectfully aside, and it is only after many hesitations that luncheon knocks gruffly at the door."
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Most of these quotes are from Churchill's slim but inspiring book Painting As a Pastime, and many of them can be found on the website Art Quotes

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8. Prehistoric Times Reviews "Tyrannosaurs"

Prehistoric Times, the magazine of all things dinosaurian, reviewed my recent tutorial video Tyrannosaurs: Behind the Art. 


"Jim's new video tutorial gives you front row seats at the creation of two Tyrannosaur paintings for Scientific American magazine, including one. Super talented illustrator James Gurney fully explains his process as he reconstructs two recently discovered relatives of Tyrannosaurus rex, as if you were sitting right there with him. Working closely with scientist Stephen Brusatte, who discovered one of them, he shows his process including thumbnails and color comprehensives. He shows how he uses photos and models, as well as outdoor studies, as he moves ahead to the final oil illustration."

"He explains both his methods and his thinking with an emphasis on the techniques for portraying feather and foliage textures, thereby creating a believable reconstruction of a scene that is imagined based on scientific evidence. Jim Gurney shows how he chooses his colors, what brushes he uses at each stage, and how he prepares his board for painting. The production is packed with information that will fascinate dinosaur artists as well as all other artists. I promise you will be most impressed."

—Mike Fredericks, editor, Prehistoric Times
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Available as an HD download from Gumroad (credit cards) or Sellfy (Paypal).
and as a DVD from the manufacturer Kunaki, or on Amazon.com

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9. Pinterest

Do you do Pinterest? If so you might want to check out my Pinboards on Gouache and Casein painting.

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10. Co-op Truck

"Co-op Truck," black and white gouache, 5 x 8 inches.
I have a half hour while they unload the food co-op truck, so I set up my sketchbook on a garbage can. The driver waits in the shade, leaning against the truck.


The preliminary drawing has accurate measurements, but it is very rough and incomplete, just a map of the big shapes.


I lay a light wash over most of the scene (lighter than it appears here), using some warm and cool colors from my watercolor set. This is to lower the tone just a bit from white so that I can come back up to white with the gouache.

I begin to define the dark values. I want to push the values to very light and very dark, not too many middle tones.


The driver comes over to take a picture of the sketch with his cell phone.


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11. Embodied Cognition

Embodied cognition is an emerging idea in neuroscience which explores the connection between the mind and the body.


Contrary to the older view dating back to Descartes that the mind and body occupy separate realms, and that aesthetic activity is a largely disembodied experience, embodied cognition holds that the body is not only intimately connected to brain activity, but that it plays a strong role in shaping it.

Tom Lovell, 1949 illustration for Redbook, courtesy Jim Pinkoski 
The implications for practicing artists are profound. Recent studies have shown that the act of observing a painting of people participating in an action engages mirror neurons in our own brains. That activity in turn is greatly influenced by similar experiences that we have had.

"Performing an action requires the information to flow out from the control centers to the limbs. But observing the action requires the information to flow inward from the image you're seeing into the control centers," says science writer Kat Zambon. "So that bidirectional flow is what's captured in this concept of mirror neurons and it gives the extra vividness to this aesthetics of art appreciation."

The act of drawing or painting engages the brain in even deeper ways. Lora Likova, PhD, of the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco, is working on art-based interventions with blindfolded and sight-impaired subjects to better understand the integrative process between the body, the mind, and the perceptual system. 

She says that drawing is “an amazing process that requires precise orchestration of multiple brain mechanisms, perceptual processing, memory, precise motor planning and motor control, spatial transformations, emotions, and other diverse cognitive functions.”

It's no wonder then that talking while drawing requires such mental effort—unless a person is practiced enough at it that the neural pathways have had time to develop in the more automatic centers of the brain.
Auditory mirror neurons
This is true not only for artists but for musicians. Appreciating the art of another artist practitioner engages our brains in deeper ways, especially if you are an experienced practitioner. 

My son is an accordion player, and I've noticed that when he listens to another accordionist playing, my son's fingers are twitching slightly.
Previously on GurneyJourney: Brain Scans of Artists While Drawing
Irish Music from the Hudson Valley by Dylan Foley and Dan Gurney

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12. New Painting Challenge: Outdoor Market

Eugene Galien Laloue (1854 - 1941) Paris, le marché aux fleurs 
Gouache on board, 8 1/4 x 13 1/4 inches
We had such an enthusiastic response to our last Gouache Challenge that many of you asked for another opportunity.

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

Helen Allingham Market Stall in Venice, watercolor
The August Challenge
Paint an outdoor market on location with a limited palette of opaque water media. The limited palette is just three colors of your choice plus white.

Norman Price, Eastern European Market, gouache
What kinds of outdoor markets?
Any outdoor place where people are selling things: fruit or flower markets, farmers' markets, roadside stands, craft fairs, flea markets, yard sales, swap meets, sidewalk sales, fish markets, Chinese wet markets, Latin-American mercados, and Arab souks.

On Location
It must be painted on location and it must be a new painting done for this challenge. In addition to a scan of the final painting, your entry must include a photo your painting in progress in in front of the motif.

Alfred Glendening Parisienne Flower Market
Paints
Any of the opaque water media are acceptable: casein, gouache, Acryla-gouache, or acrylic. Sorry, for this challenge there's no oil and no dry media. You can combine with transparent watercolor and watercolor pencils as long as they're the same colors, but there should be at least some opaque passages. 

The Limited Palette
The reason for the limited palette is to keep your painting harmonious, which can be difficult with such a kaleidoscopic subject.

Here are some suggestions, giving equal time to different companies: 
Holbein gouache: Viridian, Cadmium red deep, and Yellow ochre plus white
M. Graham gouache: Ultramarine blueCadmium yellow deep, and Burnt umber plus white
Winsor and Newton gouache: Perylene maroon, Cadmium yellow, Cobalt blue plus white
Richeson casein: Cobalt blue, Light red, Golden ochre, and white
Feel free to come up with your own, you don't have to follow these suggestions.

Deadline
It's free to enter. You can enter as soon as you finish the piece, but no later than the deadline: Monday, August 31 at midnight New York time. Winners will be announced on Wednesday September 2. 

Edward Seago, Moroccan souk
What and How to Enter
Just shoot two image files: 1. Your finished painting and 2. A photo the painting on the easel in front of the subject. Your face doesn't have to be in the photo unless you want to.

Upload the images this Facebook Event page (This way I don't have to deal with email, and you get to present your images your way). If you don't have a Facebook account, please ask a friend with an account to help you. Please include in the FB post the list of the three colors you chose (plus white), and if you want, a word about your inspiration or design strategy, or an anecdote about your painting experience. 

Prizes
I'll pick one Grand Prize, three Finalists, and six Honorable Mentions. Those 10 will be published on GurneyJourney. The Grand Prize winner and Finalists will receive an exclusive "Department of Art" embroidered patch. In addition, the Grand Prize winner receives a video (DVD or download) of their choice. Everybody who participates will have their work on the Facebook page, too.
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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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13. GJ Book Club Chapter 16: Proportion

On the GJ Book Club, we're looking at Chapter 16: "Rhythm/Proportion" in Harold Speed's 1917 classic The Practice and Science of Drawing. The following numbered paragraphs cite key points in boldface. If you would like to respond to a specific image or point, please precede your comment by the corresponding number.

Speed begins by introducing the idea that mathematical proportions may lie behind the design principles of older artists. He says:

1. There appears to be no doubt that the ancient sculptors used some such system.
Speed doesn't mention which system, or which proportions, whether phi, pi, square root of 2, Vitruvian or what? I, for one, am skeptical, and would want to see proof beyond the superimposed diagrams; I'd need to see actual texts from the artists themselves that specifically discuss the question of which system they supposedly used. There's more in my series "Mythbusting the Golden Mean." Speed himself says that art probably shouldn't be reduced to a mathematical formula. Then he asks a key question:

2. The question we are interested to ask here is: are there particular sentiments connected with the different relations of quantities, their proportions, as we found there were in connection with different arrangements of lines and masses? Have abstract proportions any significance in art, as we found abstract line and mass arrangements had?  

Speed answers his question in a simple way that makes sense. In his words: "unity makes for sublimity, while variety makes for the expression of life." Here I don't think he means "sublimity" from the point of view of Edmund Burke's concept of the sublime as apocalyptic or terrifying, but rather more as calmly reverential.

3. Nature seems to abhor equalities, never making two things alike or the same proportion if she can help it. All systems founded on equalities, as are so many modern systems of social reform, are man's work, the products of a machine-made age.

Pepsi headquarters building, 1960

I wonder what Speed would have thought of modern architecture, which made a virtue of even repetition of forms. Speed says, "although you often find repetitions of the same forms equidistant in architecture, it is seldom that equality of proportion is observable in the main distribution of the large masses."

4. Diagrams.

The remainder of the chapter discusses the many diagrams of even spacing (reverential, sublime) versus uneven spacing (life and variety).

Feel free to offer your comments on any of the points mentioned above, or other points I may have missed.

-----


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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14. The Artistic Revival of Austin Brigs, Part 2

Note: We'll do the Harold Speed Book Club tomorrow.

Yesterday we read how Austin Briggs took time away from his busy illustration career to spend four months in the Gaspé Peninsula painting from nature. In this Part 2, he'll tell us how this sabbatical paid dividends when he returned.


"My landscapes became more alive and convincing and I knew that I was no longer dependent on other artists for a point of view. In a way, that landscape painting trip to Canada was my declaration of independence."


"While on the Peninsula I used my camera a great deal to record information which I believed I could use later. I was right as you can see here. I painted this sample illustration upon my return from Canada with a feeling of confidence. In painting this picture, I relied entirely on my personal reactions to a subject and on my stored up experience in actually observing and painting from nature."


"My studying began to pay off handsomely because many assignments I received required some landscape in the background. In doing this job for the Woman's Home Companion, I felt that I could see the actual sunlight and shadow on the men as they advanced through the jungle."


"The sky pattern in this Cosmopolitan illustration is one remembered from my Gaspé trip."


"Here is another example of the useful information you can store away in a photograph and eventually use. The shadow pattern in the photograph served as a springboard for the structure of this illustration for The Post. Notice the manner in which the figures follow this pattern. As a result, the picture appears to be 'of a piece.'"


"Here is one illustration from a serial done for The Post. The locale was Charleston, South Carolina and for a long time I struggled to illustrate the story with the help of photographs and studio props The job just wouldn't come off, so I went to Charleston and in a short time had plenty of information as well as a personal knowledge of the countryside."

"This picture was planned with the landscape of a nearby hill in mind. After I had worked out my arrangement, I moved my easel and the model to the hill and painted directly from nature. The sky is as it appeared on the day I painted it and adds much to the mood of the picture. I heartily recommend painting on location whenever circumstances permit it — particularly if the picture is predominantly a landscape. Keep in mind, however, the necessity of integrating the figures into the landscape, rather than slavishly copying the landscape as it appears.
-----
We'll do the Harold Speed Book Club tomorrow.
Previously:
The Artistic Revival of Austin Briggs, Part 1
Quoted from Famous Artists Course (1954 Edition) Lesson 16.
Austin Briggs Flickr set by Leif Peng

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15. The Artistic Revival of Austin Briggs, Part 1

One of the most inspiring stories of a mid-career revival came from the mid-20th century illustrator Austin Briggs (1908-1973), who told how he rediscovered painting from nature:

"Some years ago," he says, "I became very discouraged with my work. I was studying the work of other illustrators, which, in the beginning, was very helpful."

"But my own work had no individuality. Every few months as I became aware of a new illustrator's work, my style changed and not one of my pictures looked as though it was painted by me — especially the backgrounds and the landscapes. What had happened was that my ability to observe and learn from nature was dying from disuse."

"Finally it dawned on me that I should get away from the influence of other artists and work directly from nature to develop my own personal reaction to the visual world. Having decided this, I took an immediate vacation and went to the Gaspé Peninsula in Canada for four months. There I sketched any and everything — from nature."

"During my vacation on the Gaspé Peninsula, I did this painting of sailboats. While painting many pictures like this, I began to experience a very personal reaction to forms and the play of light on them. In fact, I became so interested in landscapes that they became, and still are, an integral part of my work, almost a trade mark you might say."

"Here is another landscape done after returning from the Gaspé Peninsula. By now I knew that the points of view borrowed from other artists were not suited to my temperament. Indeed they were damaging and antagonistic."

"As you can see, in this landscape I began to realize a positive and individual reaction to nature."
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Tomorrow: What happened next.
Quoted from Famous Artists Course (1954 Edition) Lesson 16.

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16. Your Gas Station Paintings

We had a tremendous response to the Gas Station Challenge. I put out a call a few weeks ago for you to paint a gas station on location in black and white gouache. One of the reasons I suggested that subject was because I figured no one would have any such painting already completed.

Thanks to everyone who took part. You braved biting flies, extreme heat, rain, and station owners who were suspicious or who thought you were crazy. Some of you painted outdoors for the first time, or painted in gouache for the first time. And there were some old pros stepping up to the plate. 

It was really hard to pick the winners, but here 'goes.

Grand Prize
The Grand Prize Winner is Randy Raak's painting of the "Dino Mart" in Golden, Colorado. I would have loved this one even without the dinosaur because it captures such a sense of place, with the new retail construction on the hills above the station. The perspective is really good, and the values are carefully observed. Translating bright colors into gray tones is a challenge. 

Randy says "The painting is 9" x 11" on 140# rough watercolor paper, completed 100% on location during five, two hour sessions."

 3 Honorable Mention Winners

Olivier Martin is one of three Honorable Mentions for this interesting study of a Parisian gas station. 

He had a lot of complicated forms and lettering to sort out, and he did so with real affection for the detail.


He said that it was hard to find a quiet place to paint in Paris, and that his position was a "little bit strange for people who pass on the street, but next to this tree I was in calm."

The second Honorable Mention goes to Eelis Kyttänen for his boat fueling station. He picked an unusual subject and viewpoint. He carefully observed the values of the shadow side of the building, which makes the lighting very convincing.

Here he is showing the painting from the bridge where he painted it.

But just to show that not all paintings have to be highly detailed, I'm giving the third Honorable Mention to Dave Lebow for this pump study (below). I like the way he described the curving forms of the modern pump catching the shimmery hot light from the surrounding environment. 

This is a good example of the selectivity you can get with gouache. He focused on the pump, and did some of his drawing over the opaque paint. He softened the edges of the distant buildings and trees. It's an artistic effect without calling attention to itself.



Soft edges take conscious effort in gouache, especially if you use full opaques in the hot sun. I also like the way he included a vehicle, knowing how briefly they stay next to pumps.

Pictures of Merit
Braelyn Snow did this study of a single pump. She chose to remove it from the surroundings so that she could spend her time focusing on the variety of surface textures, including the reflection of the hose on the chrome side.

She says, "While I was working at the vacant Apple Pie Inn, a van drove up beside me and the driver asked what I was doing. When I told her, she told me she was the owner and had been worried I was up to something suspicious. Apparently the other two pumps had been stolen. After I assured her I would not steal the pump, only paint it, she gave her blessing and drove away. This is why I like to call ahead when I know who to ask!"

Daniel New also chose to concentrate on a single pump. That way he could describe the decaying plastic covering the advertising sign, the bent metal pieces, and the eroded stickers.


In the part-way finished painting, you can see how he built a lot of those details over flat base tones. 

I was surprised how many of you painted from your cars, but judging from the droplets on the window, this was a rainy day.

Jared Cullum captured the full scene with all its detail: the signs, the plantings, and even the cars. The result gives a strong feeling of being there. 


He deserves special commendation for doing the painting while babysitting and adapting the stroller into an easel.


Matt Sterbenz painted this night scene. I find this study moody and compelling, with the solid black night sky on the right, and the glow of light under the canopy raising the values of all the darks. It feels like a weird space station, and it would be fun to go back there with full color.

Like a spy, Matt dresses in black and works from his car in a super portable setup. He's kind of a night-painting ninja who might strike anywhere anytime!


Evidently, Larry Kitchen has a lot of experience with gouache. He lays down those lines very professionally and gets the perspective right. 

Larry says, "There really is something great about going out on a cool summer morning to catch a scene."

This painting by Nicholas Elias picks up on the weird forms of the superstructure above the pump, with all those fire prevention nozzles. 

And it looks like he's got a cool palette rig to hold the sketchbook vertically.

Finally, Jeff Simutis, an experienced architectural painter, painted this old gas station. Nice relaxed handling throughout, with a lot of affection for that false front.

Jeff is using a gray scale called Rankin's Perception Kit that helps in judging values.

Thanks again to everyone for taking on the challenge. There are a lot more entries, and you can see them all at the Facebook event page. I'll be contacting Randy, Olivier, Eelis, and Dave about getting their "Department of Art" prize patches.
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17. Tip: Keep Gouache Fresh in Jars


Tip: Tubes of gouache stay fresh if you keep them sealed in big glass jars.
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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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18. Gas Station in Gouache Contest Deadline Tonight

Gouache billboard art from Charlie Allen's blog.
Today at midnight is the deadline for the "Gas Station in Black-and-White Gouache" assignment. I've been posting the entries so far on a Facebook event page, so you can see and comment on what everybody has been doing, all around the world. I'll add the rest of the entries by tomorrow morning.
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Gas Station Contest Announcement

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19. Transparency and Reflections

The blue and white placemats are printed with ads for local businesses.

 
Reflections, gouache (black, white, ultra blue, raw umber), 5x8 inches
The creamer and the juice glass distort the patterns of the placemats in different ways. One reflects them, and the other refracts them. 

To the left of the base of the juice glass, there's an arc of light, a caustic projection of window light.


Here's what I'm looking as I put in my order for the turkey burger deluxe (+ grilled onions, lettuce, tomato and a side of fries). When Ann brings the plates steaming from the kitchen, I lift up the art studio and set it on the napkin holder.
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20. Six Greedy Loafers


Albert Dorne,, one of the founders of the Famous Artist’s School correspondence course, shared his thumbnail sketches for a magazine illustration called "Six Greedy Loafers."

The finished picture was used to illustrate a story about an old farmer on his deathbed surrounded by his six lazy sons.


1. In his developmental sketches Dorne first thought of the symbol of vultures sitting around the bed, and wanted to make the sons actually look like vultures with long, scrawny necks and beaky noses. His first sketch tried for that feeling of macabre whimsy.

He says: “As I studied the sketch, it no longer appeared very exciting to me. Despite the outstretched necks, the figures didn’t seem to be doing anything in particular.”




2. Then he thought of the sons as pallbearers alongside a coffin, but he worried that the arrangement put too much emphasis on the foreground, and spaced them out too equally.


3. He had a breakthrough as he decided to put the sons in a group leaning over the bed. They make a dark, angular mass that contrasts with the light, horizontal shape of the old man. He added the cat to frame the scene from the left. The bottle, the bedspread, and the folds of the bed are all related to the compositional movement.


4. In the next version, he got rid of the black cat and brought two of the figures to the left. Covering up the old man’s face adds to the feeling of mystery. But Dorne was now worried about the empty space in the middle and the feeling that the base of the picture was dropping off to the right.



5. In the final arrangement, (which like the others was drawn without reference to models or photography) he tightened up the elements, added the chest of drawers in the background and the rug in the foreground.

Done concludes: “For me, this job teaches an important point. And that point is: Choose an appropriate, effective symbol—here it was the vultures—and stay with it. Regardless of how much you rearrange or discard, never lose sight of the basic feeling or symbol you want to communicate.”
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Recent book, well illustrated and written: Albert Dorne: Master Illustrator

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21. Crash Course on Light



Here's a quick overview of the science of light at the subatomic and astronomical level.

Crash Course. (Link to video) Thanks, Robnonstop

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22. GJ Book Club: Chapter 15: Balance

On the GJ Book Club, we're looking at Chapter 15: "Balance" in Harold Speed's 1917 classic The Practice and Science of Drawing. The following numbered paragraphs cite key points in boldface. If you would like to respond to a specific image or point, please precede your comment by the corresponding number.

The chapter called “Balance” might better have been titled “Opposition” because central to Speed’s philosophy is that the picture should contain a contrast between compositional forces. As he says:

1. In art we have the same play of opposing factors, straight lines and curves, light and dark, warm and cold colour oppose each other.

He points out that these opposing forces generally don’t balance evenly, especially in an exciting subject, where you want one side to be winning.


2. The opposition between straight lines and curves.
The first thing that came to mind was the drawings of the two Disney animation legends Bill Tytla (top) compared to Milt Kahl (bottom), the former made up more of rounded shapes, and the latter with more of a preponderance of straight lines. Both were master animation draftsmen, and if you look closely they both alternated straights and curves.


3. The rococo art of the eighteenth century is an instance of the excessive use of curved forms.
Speed’s view is that if you’re going to err on the side of straights or curves, it’s better to err on the side of more severe straight lines. (I kind of like rococo design, though).


3. Opposition between flat and gradated tones.
I thought of Maynard Dixon (top) vs. Thomas Hart Benton (bottom). Of course in the Dixon, the tones aren't all totally flat: there's some broken color and a gradation in the sky, but relative to the Benton, it's fairly flat. Note that the lines are straighter in the Dixon and rounder in the Beonton. 

Although Speed wrote earlier in the book about the importance of gradated tones, he said a painting can get messed up with too much ill-considered gradation and that a way to fix it is to replace the gradated areas with flat tones, kind of equivalent to the “Poster Edges” filter in Photoshop.

4. There should be some balance between the extremes of light and dark used in the tone scheme of the picture.

The Levels histogram in Photoshop shows this metric very clearly. Speed is suggesting that if you want to leave some space above the top end of the histogram, you should leave some at the bottom, too, so that the distance between the lightest lights and white is comparable to the distance from the darkest dark to black.

I had never heard before the old rule he refers to, “that a picture should be two-thirds light and one-third dark.” He’s certainly willing to challenge that idea.

5. Opposition between warm and cool colors. 
Speed says: “the further your colouring goes in the direction of warmth, the further it will be necessary to go in the opposite direction, to right the balance.”

This is similar to what our eyes do with chromatic adaptation. When we walk into a room lit by warm light, the “white balance” system of our eyes adjusts to even out the balance. In designing a color script for a film, we can temporarily upset the balance and plan a sequence that’s very much to the cool side, for example, but it should be followed soon after by a contrasting color scheme to provide relief.


6. Opposition between Interest and Mass.
Speed acknowledges here the psychological weight of certain objects, especially figures, which can often balance a large mass such as a tree or cloud.

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Harold Speed (Dover ed.)
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)
GJ Book Club on Pinterest (Thanks, Carolyn Kasper)
GJ Facebook page
Original blog post Announcing the GJ Book Club







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23. Experiments with a Limited Palette

You can make a limited palette out of almost any two colors, as long as one is cool and the other is warm.

Catskill Roadhouse
For this painting I used ultramarine blue and cadmium red scarlet, together with white. It's basically red, white and blue, so you can call it the "American palette." 

Here's a video showing how the painting developed (Link to YouTube video):


With two colors that are near complements, it's fun to work over a surface primed with a color from the far side of the spectrum. I'm using blue and red over yellow. The yellow is about 95% covered up, but where it peeks through, it energizes the color scheme like a pinch of spice.


You might try orange + violet + white over a cyan underpainting, or yellow + cyan + white over magenta. You can also introduce black, either as an accent if you want to deepen the darks, or if you want to use it as a color of its own (such as black + orange + white over blue). 


A two-color-plus-white palette has some advantages:
1. It's extremely fast to set it up and get it running. (I was painting while Jeanette was still fooling with her umbrella.)
2. It's good for beginners because it reduces your choices to light or dark and warm or cool.
3. It puts you into realms of color that you would never think of if you had all the color choices available.

I was using casein, but this method would work for any opaque paint: gouache, acrylic, or oil. If you're doing the painting in gouache, the priming should be done with a paint that gives a sealed surface (such as colored gesso, acrylic, or acryla gouache) so that wet layers don't pick it up. 

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24. The Artistry of Chuck Jones


(Link to YouTube) Film editor Tony Zhou presents this concise summary of what makes the cartoons of Chuck Jones so memorable. Jones developed from a good director to a great one by refining perfectly timed gags driven by memorable characters.

Animation is a medium of movement, and the characters' movements were always original and understated, based on observations of real life.
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The YouTube channel Every Frame a Painting analyzes the techniques of great filmmakers. Check out the episodes on Akira Kurosawa and Jackie Chan.
The book Chuck Amuck:  The Life and Times of an Animated Cartoonist, written by Jones himself, is a good source for his thinking.

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25. Proposed Copyright Law Explained


Illustrator and artists'-rights activist Brad Holland explains the details of the proposed new copyright law, which, if passed, would undermine the rights of artists in the age of the internet (link to YouTube video).

Here's a written article about the same topic by Brad Holland
Submit your letter here.
Sample letters.
Thanks, Will Terry, Bryn Barnard, and everyone else who mentioned this

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