Friday, July 22, 2016

Reminder: Food Truck Challenge

Reminder: The Food Truck Painting Challenge is ongoing. The goal is to paint a vehicle used for mobile catering. It's free to enter and the deadline is August 15.

This is an old milk wagon that I sketched when I was an art student.

Read all the entry requirements and parameters of the Food Truck Painting Challenge. (link fixed)

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Pencil Accents

Here's a sketch of a barn in upstate New York. 

After a quick lay-in where I carefully measure all the perspective and spacing, I lay down some big washes on thin watercolor, very slightly warm and cool, with a few orange color accents.

The pencil then describes textures and details, from the fine wires on top of the ventilators to the rough texture of the shingles. I like to use two pencils, such as an HB and a 2B pencil, one for the light lines and the other for the darker accents.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Fine Art and Illustration

Blog reader Gary Gowans asks: "Where do you draw the line between fine art and illustration? How about galleries? Does it matter? I have been painting just short of photo realism and am in several good galleries BUT, I love the illustrators of the Golden Age as well as like Fuchs, English, and Robt. Heindel to name a few." 

Answer: Yes, Gary, it matters, because words matter. Words shape the way we arrange the furniture inside our minds. I believe that you can love the great illustrators while you paint for galleries.

I try not to draw a line between fine art and illustration, because both terms are impossible to define and the distinction is meaningless.

By "fine art," some people mean gallery art. For some people the term suggests a branch of art that's supposedly free from commercialism.

Having been involved in all sorts of art-making, I can attest that gallery art can be liberating, because you can paint whatever you want, especially when you're getting started. But once paintings start selling, things change, and the gallery career can become the most commercial of all. Gallery artists are always reminded of what's selling, and what's not, and are pressured by the marketplace to repeat successes more than any other kind of art.

There's nothing wrong with making art solely with the intent to sell it. We've all got to make a living. And it's possible for a gallery artist to be unaffected by thinking about sales and prices, but it's not easy. Are you going to keep doing those experimental things that you love doing when that last show got no red dots? 

The least commercial art form I've ever experienced is magazine illustration, where the individual work of art has no measurable influence on the ultimate commercial success of the larger work, namely the magazine. If any art is "fine" in the sense of being non-commercial, it is illustration.

“Illustration” is a term that means different things to different people. It can mean: 
1) work that’s commissioned.
2) work that tells a story.
3) or work that is reproduced. 

Those are very different criteria, and none of them should be grounds for disparaging artwork. There have been great works of art that fit one, two, or even all three of these measures. Work has been commissioned by publishers, and before that by popes and kings, often formatting them very specifically for altar pieces or tombs. Artists have always been capable of inspired work under such conditions.

Work that tells a story includes all great artwork, not just painting, but also movies and novels. How could that not be the highest calling? And work that is reproduced just brings it to a larger audience, as the phonograph has done for music. Live musicians don't disparage musicians who make recordings, so why should art that's printed be any different?

So let yourself love whatever artwork speaks to you. Whatever kind of artwork you do, throw your heart into it. Now I guess the next question is: So are we all artists, then? Too late to call ourselves artists, because musicians and actors have stolen that term!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Gender Contrasts

Third Place, Illusion of the Year, 2009
What can you say about the gender of these two faces? 

They're sort of on the borderline, but if you had to say one was male and the other was female, what would you say?

Most people say the face on the left is female and the one on the right is male.

This is just an illusion because they're both the same androgynous face. The only difference is that the contrast of the features is increased in the face on the left, and the contrast is reduced in the face on the right.

According to the psychologist Richard Russell, who created of this illusion, "Contrast is an important cue for perceiving the sex of a face, with greater contrast appearing feminine, and lesser contrast appearing masculine."

He observes that cosmetics in women serves to heighten this difference, increasing the contrast, particularly around the eyes and mouth. "Female facial beauty is known to be closely linked to sex differences," he says, "with femininity considered attractive. These results suggest that cosmetics may function in part by exaggerating a sexually dimorphic attribute—facial contrast—to make the face appear more feminine and hence attractive."

Monday, July 18, 2016

Jason Morgan reviews Imaginative Realism

(Link to YouTube) Professional wildlife artist Jason Morgan does a page by page walkthrough of Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn't Exist. Thanks, Jason!
Order a signed copy of Imaginative Realism from our website (USA only)

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Physiognomy: Comparing People to Animals

Can you guess a person's personality by the shape or appearance of their head? Do some people look like animals, or some animals look like people?

Those were questions asked by people in the field of Physiognomy. Here Italian scholar and playwright Giambattista Della Porta compares a sharp-featured man with a hound, in De humana physiognomonia, in 1586.

To Della Porta, another man's face resembles that of a bull. (More examples from Della Porta are at Public Domain Review.

The question kept appearing since the days of the ancients: Does the face determine someone's destiny, or does the face reflect the life they've lived? 

Leonardo rejected the first proposition but accepted the second. He said, "Lines caused by facial expressions could indicate personality traits. For example, he wrote that "those who have deep and noticeable lines between the eyebrows are irascible."

Charles Le Brun
In the late 1600s, French painter Charles Le Brun did a series of drawings of physiognomic heads, comparing a variety of metrics such as the axis of the eyebrows and the angle of the eyes, and he drew parallels between they faces of certain human characters and those of animals. 

He was also fascinated with the way emotions played out on the face in humans and animals. Le Brun was influenced by the idea that the area around the eyebrows were of extreme importance, based on the discovery by Descartes of the pineal gland at the base of the brain. Descartes believed that spot was the seat of the soul.

The interest in this topic lasted well into the 19th century. In 1866, James W Redfield published Comparative physiognomy: or, Resemblances between men and animals

Though in recent times physiognomy has been discredited in scientific and academic circles, the idea still surfaces in the work of artists who design anthropomorphic (human-animal) characters