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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Pencil Sketching, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 112
1. Sketching Bohème

Last night we saw Puccini's La Bohème at the Metropolitan Opera. We had the privilege of sitting in the front row, with an unobstructed view into the orchestra pit. I sketched bass clarinetist James Ognibene mainly during the scene changes and intermission.

During the show itself there was so much to look at in Zeffirelli's magnificent staging that I couldn't tear my eyes away from the sets, with the cast of 240 extras, plus a donkey and a horse, in the streets of Paris during Act 2. Plus it was too dark on my sketchbook page to see much of what I was doing. 
But during Act 3 there was enough spill light from the stage to jot down quick silhouettes of Mimi, as performed by Romanian soprano Anita Hartig. 

The portrait of the cellist at the lower right was sketched in extremely dim light, so that I couldn't make out any details. I could only state basic planes of light and shadow, using water-soluble colored pencils and two water brushes, one filled with water, and the other with fountain pen ink.

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2. Frank Eats a Cantaloupe

Here's a page from my pencil sketchbook. It's a candid moment drawn from life, as my nine-year-old son Frank ate a cantaloupe.

0 Comments on Frank Eats a Cantaloupe as of 3/21/2014 8:51:00 AM
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3. Farm Kitchen

Here's a sketchbook study of the kitchen at my friend's farm, drawn in graphite pencil with gray wash. They told me over coffee that they're expecting their first lambs of the season in two weeks.

11 Comments on Farm Kitchen, last added: 4/11/2013
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4. Opera Sketch Report

Last night we attended the Metropolitan Opera's performance of Rossini's little-known comic opera Le Comte Ory.

The seats were orchestra center, third row back, a generous gift of a friend who couldn't use them that night. We could see every flick of the eyebrow of the singers.

We arrived a little early and I sketched the patrons chatting. I used a black Caran D'Ache colored pencil in a Moleskine pocket sketchbook.

Even though the story takes place during the Crusades, Bartlett Sher's production conceives the action as an opera within an opera, set loosely in Rossini's time. Catherine Zuber's eclectic costumes mix medieval headdresses with hip panniers of the eighteenth century. 

During the break between acts I sketched people in the lobby. One gentleman reviewed the playbill, his glasses hanging down below his nose, while others sipped champagne. When Liszt conducted the opera, he said it "bubbled like champagne," and distributed bottles of champagne to the audience, a perfect gesture for this effervescent opera.

Adèle was played by 27-year-old South African soprano Pretty Yende, whose Met debut was last week in this opera. These drawings, all made during the show, are about two inches high. The house lights were so dim that I could barely see what I was doing, so I was working by kinesthetic memory, and concentrating on big shapes.

In the story, the amorous Count Ory, played by Juan Diego Flórez, adopts a variety of disguises to woo ladies whose husbands have gone off crusading. In the second act he and his men gain access to the castle by pretending to be female pilgrims lost in a storm. 

On the way home, the subway was jammed as tight as I've ever seen it. Everyone was bundled for the icy wind.

It has been the coldest week in New York in 17 years, but Rossini had us warmed up from the inside out.
Review in New York Times
The sketchbook was a gift from my pals over at White Cloud Worlds/WETA in New Zealand.

11 Comments on Opera Sketch Report, last added: 1/27/2013
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5. In the Train Station

This guy was so busy with his iPad that he didn't notice me sketching him.

Drawn in a Moleskine notebook using a black watercolor pencil and two water brushes, one filled with water, and the other with ink. I switch back and forth between all three of those tools throughout the drawing.

7 Comments on In the Train Station, last added: 1/21/2013
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6. Video Guy

At an Irish concert, I sketched the video guy. Man vs. Tech.

15 Comments on Video Guy, last added: 12/22/2012
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7. Handel's Messiah

Last night I enjoyed a full performance of Handel's Messiah at the Vassar College Chapel in Poughkeepsie, New York.

I sat up front, right near the cellist David Bakamjian, who was playing an instrument from 1780. I sketched the central group of performers with the pipe organ in the background, using a water-soluble graphite pencil.
The singers of the Cappella Festiva and the Vassar College Choir really threw their heart into it, and together with the fine playing by the professional baroque orchestra (complete with trumpets from the period) the effect was triumphant and glorious. With three hours of concert time, there was lots of time to sketch.

10 Comments on Handel's Messiah, last added: 12/10/2012
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8. Lime Rock Races

(Direct link to video) I made this little video about a sketching trip to the car races yesterday at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut.

Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty closed out the Grand-Am road racing championship with a 2 3/4 hour sprint in their Gainsco Corvette, which I sketched on location in watercolor and colored pencil.

Here's the view we had of the track, painted in watercolor. The skid marks in the foreground were from incidents in the qualifying rounds, but the two yellow flag incidents that started the race happened right in front of us.

Alex led the race for a while near the end, so I painted his car out front. He finished in third place, the third straight podium finish for the team.

Before the race we enjoyed hanging out with Grand Marshall Sam Posey, a celebrated race driver, TV commentator, architect and artist.

Report on the race on the Gainsco site
Wikipedia on Sam Posey
Previously on GJ
Last year's race with Alex Gurney
The Delta Wing

2 Comments on Lime Rock Races, last added: 10/2/2012
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9. Demo Portrait of Fernando Freitas

On Monday I shared a lecture and demo to a full house at the Academy of Realist Art in Toronto. 

(Video link) The model for the demo was Mr. Fernando Freitas, co-founder of the Academy. Since I only had 25 minutes to do the drawing, I used the same technique that I like to use for sketching people "in the wild" in restaurants, subways, or concert halls.

Materials: Caran D'Ache watercolor pencils and a Niji Waterbrush on a smooth Fabriano Watercolor Pads.
Check out my other videos or subscribe to the GurneyJourney YouTube channel so you can see new videos before anyone else.

Thanks to Fernando, and to everyone who came to the talk at the Academy of Realist Art in Toronto, especially the folks who came all the way from Ottawa. And thanks, Lenny Dass, for shooting the video.

Previously on GurneyJourney: First visit to ARA in April 2009

8 Comments on Demo Portrait of Fernando Freitas, last added: 8/3/2012
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10. Bata Shoe Museum

The Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto explores just one theme: footwear. 

The exhibits take up four floors of the museum, with displays showing the history and cultural variation of shoes, sandals, slippers, boots, and even snowshoes. 

Two strengths of the displayed collection are the footwear of Native Americans and fashion shoes from 1920-1950. 

The Native American room has moveable benches, but sketchers might want to bring their own stools for the other rooms.

I drew the sketches with: Caran D'Ache watercolor pencils and a Niji Waterbrush in a Moleskine Watercolor Notebook.
If you go, here's a tip: Pick up a "second person free" coupon, which appears in the tourist booklets.

11 Comments on Bata Shoe Museum, last added: 8/2/2012
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11. Classic Art Instruction: The Crowd-sourced List

A week or two ago, I shared a list of my favorite classic art instruction books from Dover Publishing.

In the comments, I invited you to suggest the classic art instruction books (more than 50 years old) that you thought was particularly helpful.

Here's the list you suggested below. The links take you to Amazon pages where you can read more about each title.

On the left is a poll. Please vote for your favorite books. You can vote for more than one.

An Atlas of Animal Anatomy for Artists by W. Ellenberger et al. 

Animation by Preston Blair  

Atlas of Human Anatomy for the Artist by Peck 

Bridgman’s Life Drawing by George Bridgman 

Carlson’s Guide to Landscape Painting by John F. Carlson 

Composition of Outdoor Painting by Edgar Payne

Constructive Anatomy by George Bridgman  

24 Comments on Classic Art Instruction: The Crowd-sourced List, last added: 7/17/2012 Display Comments Add a Comment
12. On the Train

Wouldn't you be nervous if you were riding on the train, minding your own business, and some guy in a Mobil shirt kept staring at you and scrawling something in his book?

I think I made this guy a little uneasy. But he was cool. He sat there with the light streaming in through the window. I drew in a rough outline and then used the watercolor set to establish the big shapes.

He put on his sunglasses. I used my water-soluble colored pencils to draw his tattoos.

I broke the ice when I showed him the sketch. He loved it. Then he showed the amazing tattoos on his arms, which honor his mom and dad. I showed him some of my farm sketches.

It turns out that he is a farmer. I asked him what kinds of animals he's got. "You name 'em, I've got 'em."  By the end of the train ride, he gave me his card, and invited me to come over and sketch his peacocks and emus.

16 Comments on On the Train, last added: 7/5/2012
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13. Horn Player

Jeffrey Lang, one of the great horn players of our time, did a dazzling rendition of the Mozart Horn Concerto last week at the Bard Performing Art Center in New York.

I knew I only had about 15 minutes to sketch his performance (it's a short piece), so I dove in with water-soluble colored pencils and brush pens, which I held discreetly in my left hand. I had all the stuff ready to go when the piece started so that I didn't have to dig around and break anyone's concentration.

4 Comments on Horn Player, last added: 11/5/2011
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14. The Idea Monster

Last week I visited a design firm called FRCH Design Worldwide, located in Cincinnati, Ohio.

This company of nearly 200 people takes up several floors of a gorgeous old brick building in downtown Cincinnati. The designers work in the realms of architecture, interior design, and graphic design to create total environments in the retail, restaurant, hotel, and theme park arenas. By coordinating all their creative expertise, they’ve designed retail stores for the Disney theme parks, or restaurants for American Girl.

I arrived about an hour early for my lecture presentation. There was a nice café across the street, so I thought I’d do a sketch of the old red building that houses the company.

Instead of just doing a straight architectural portrait, I wanted to come up with a clever idea for a fantastical sketch. But my mind went blank, as if some monster robbed all the good ideas out of my head.

Then I thought: What if there actually was an Idea Monster that stole good ideas? It would sit blocking the road, and kidnap all the fresh, original ideas that came rolling along. It would let through only the stale, tired old clichés.

Luckily there’s a way to get rid of the idea monster. If you leave a row of Skittles candies on the sidewalk, that lures away the monster away, so he’ll go bother someone else.

Well, it just so happens that in the lobby of FRCH, they have a candy machine with free Skittles. So maybe that’s the secret to all the innovative ideas at FRCH!

By the way, here’s how the sketch looked at an early stage, with just loose watercolor washes, before the linework.

Main website for FRCH
Read more about my visit to FRCH on their blog “Creative Fuel.”

4 Comments on The Idea Monster, last added: 11/8/2011
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15. Armand Cabrera and Garin Baker

Whenever I hang out with fellow painters, I want the moment to last forever. I want to put something on paper as a record of that meeting.

So a few days ago, when I sat down with Armand Cabrera and Garin Baker at a Chinese restaurant, I did these quick watercolor pencil portraits while we waited for our meals.

Of course, they were talking and moving around, not holding still, and I was trying to add something to the conversation. So my concentration was chopped up finer than the Kung Po chicken. But I love drawing under those conditions.

Here's how they really look. They've known me for a long time, so they tolerate my fiendish habit. They put up with being sketched. Garin threatened to get me back next time.

Armand Cabrera website
Armand's blog "Art and Influence" (with a report on the weekend)
Garin Gaker website
Previously on GJ:
Plein-air Painting with Armand Cabrera
Color workshop at Garin's Studio

4 Comments on Armand Cabrera and Garin Baker, last added: 11/15/2011
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16. Bennett School for Girls

The Bennett School for Girls is a hulking ruin at the outskirts of Millbrook, New York. 
It flourished for a time, but eventually went bankrupt and was abandoned in 1978. 

Over the last 40 years it has gradually become swallowed up by vines. Sections of the roof and outer balconies have fallen from rot.

Inside, the floor has collapsed in places, making exploring it rather treacherous. It was scheduled to be torn down last fall, but Millbrook is having a hard time figuring out how to come up with the money for demolition.
Photo essay at Opacity.com
Photo of interior by Milfodd on Flickriver
Bennett College on Wikipedia

11 Comments on Bennett School for Girls, last added: 1/31/2012
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17. Information Saturation Reviews

The blog "Information Saturation" has published reviews of Color and Light, Imaginative Realism, and The Artist's Guide to Sketching.

"Color and Light is not a “how to” per se, but rather more of a reference book including a basic history of the usage of the title subjects, modern application, and differing approaches for each. Although the principles Gurney details may be applied to any medium, there is a chapter solely about pigments as found primarily in (oil) paints, which also touches on other tactile mediums such as markers, pastels, etc....

"I like the fact that he is anything but absolute in his discussion of different aspects of color and light; that is, he will discuss different opinions of each and leave the reader to figure out his or her particular stance on the matter. I also like that he consistently describes the scientific explanation for everything he mentions, from the chemical composition of pigments to the angles of reflection and refraction of light in various situations."

Full review of Color and Light.
Order Color & Light signed on JamesGurney.com or from Amazon.


"Imaginative Realism is a wonderful tool for any artist seeking a scientific method by which to go about the creative process. This is a great book for getting your imagination going, and also for breaking a painter out of the studio and into hands-on research and reenactment. I believe that for me personally, I loved this book because it provided a new perspective for me, and also put concepts I’d already been practicing into words....

"The main idea of this book is as follows: in order to paint the fantastic, you must first start with the mundane. Use real-life references

6 Comments on Information Saturation Reviews, last added: 2/12/2012
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18. Couple at Diner

Yesterday, Bryan asked if I approach people to sit for an on-location sketch, and if I show them my sketchbook. 

Here's a recent example of one where I didn't ask, they didn't notice, and I never showed them. They were pretty far away across the restaurant. He was bent over his cellphone and she was talking to him, waving her wrist around in big circles as she made her points. Once in a while he would grunt a syllable in response, but he never looked up from the phone until his scrambled eggs arrived.

What I was thinking about as I was drawing was not just the contrast of poses and shapes and colors. I was also interested in trying to convey the relationship between the people, as it appeared to me from their body language.
Previously: Caught Looking
Dead Air Syndrome

9 Comments on Couple at Diner, last added: 2/27/2012
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19. Zugel Dog Drawing

Even if you let a sleeping dog lie, you’re lucky if you get 15 minutes on one pose before it shifts to another.

That makes Heinrich von Zugel’s pencil study is especially impressive. Note the planar breakdown of form in the shoulder, which almost looks like a cube. His form analysis is based on a deep knowledge of anatomy, as he was a professor of animal painting at the academy in Munich.
Teachers: You might still be able to sign up for the educator's workshop that I'll be giving this Saturday at the Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin from 10-11:30 AM. The event is part of the Dinotopia exhibition, which will be going on through April 7. 

2 Comments on Zugel Dog Drawing, last added: 3/3/2012
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20. TSA Area

If you're stuck in an airport for a while, and you have a sketchbook with you, a great place to sit is near the security screening area.

People get into all sorts of interesting poses as they're putting themselves back together.

Traveler's Tip: In Chicago O'Hare airport, you can sit at the entrance to the E/F gates of Terminal 2. There's a Starbucks perfectly positioned with cafe tables that have a good view in that direction.

11 Comments on TSA Area, last added: 3/15/2012
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21. Art Books

I remember when I used to comb through new and used art bookstores looking for anything I could find on 19th century painters or Golden Age illustrators.

Here's a sketch from about 1985 of my wife Jeanette reading to me from a book on John William Waterhouse.

Before computers and the internet, finding a good art book was like uncovering a vein of gold. In those days, you couldn't find much on Bouguereau, Meissonier, Gerome, or Waterhouse. Sargent was just beginning to come into the light. It seemed worth spending $50 for a book, even if it had only two or three good color reproductions. I would stick yellow tags on the best pages, with the name of the artist written in small letters so I could find them again.

The casual availability of images now is both a blessing and a curse. It makes me treasure each image a little less, perhaps because I haven't spent so much effort on the hunt. Still, I'm grateful to be able to find so many digital images in cyberspace. But I have faith that there's much more to be discovered. The internet may be a million miles wide, but it's only an inch deep when it comes to some artists who have yet to arrive from obscurity.

15 Comments on Art Books, last added: 3/26/2012
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22. Diner Soundtrack

Sometimes in a crowded restaurant or movie theater, I like to defocus my brain and try to listen to all the conversations going on around me at once.

Usually I can't distinguish more than phrases, snapshots. In this case, I sketched one group at one table, but the snippets of dialogue came from other people all around me.

Jotting down actual dialogue is good practice for writers, and it's a good way to get a sense of the zeitgeist.

10 Comments on Diner Soundtrack, last added: 3/30/2012
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23. Menzel's Brother

I find this combination of drawings immensely moving and inspiring.

Adolph von Menzel drew his brother Richard in 1848. One of his hands lies flat on a table, the other is closed, with his face resting against it. He has just combed his hair. His eyes are far away in thought. He is patient with his brother's request to hold still for a little while. Richard would have been accustomed to his brother drawing all the time.

Here is Richard again in 1860. He sits sideways on a chair, facing away, with his neck tie sticking out on one side and his hair on the other. He has grown a big mustache and the hair on top is thinner. His cheek seems a bit hollow.

 The third drawing shows Richard on his deathbed in 1865, just five years later. His hair is mostly gone now, his features are sharper, and there is a heavy growth of beard. His eyes are closed and sunken in death. The lines describing the white fringe of cloth move like a seismograph. 

Adolph lived for another forty years after Richard's death. He made these drawings only for himself -- no one saw his portfolios of thousands of drawings until after his own passing.

6 Comments on Menzel's Brother, last added: 4/23/2012
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24. Beware the Bog Men

Along the shores of the Hudson River, the railroad line isolates muddy coves. That's where the bog people live.

At high tide they look like the roots of trees washed down by floods. But as the tide goes down and the sun goes down you can see their glistening eyes watching you. 

Plein-air painters working unaware along the shore sometimes feel a tendril wrap around their ankles. So when I sketched this guy, I kept my escape route always in view. 

12 Comments on Beware the Bog Men, last added: 5/8/2012
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25. Violinist

Here's a sketch I did last night at a concert of the Bard College Orchestra. I was sitting about four rows back. 

Since some of you have asked about materials, here's the lowdown: I was using a black watercolor pencil and three waterbrushes. One was filled with Higgins Eternal ink, another had plain water, and a third contained blue-black fountain pen ink. The sketchbook was a Moleskine watercolor notebook.

Previous concert sketches on GJ:
Horn Player
Mirko Listening
Club Passim Gig
Concert Sketching
Shapewelding Sketching 
The Cello and the Pencil

11 Comments on Violinist, last added: 5/11/2012
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