Friday, March 27, 2015

Announcing the Friday Book Club

Most of what I know about painting and art history I learned from old books, and every once in a while I like to reread them, because learning is a lifelong process.

That led to an idea. What if we created a free forum on the blog where we could all compare notes about a favorite book?

What book to start with? It could be a biography, an art history book, or an art instruction book.

And it should be broken up into chapters. We're all busy, so we can read and discuss just one chapter a week. I'd like to suggest we begin with Harold Speed's "The Practice and Science of Drawing."

Harold Speed (1872-1957) was Royal-Academy trained portrait painter. His teaching method focuses on solid principles that have stood the test of time. Check out some of his drawings and paintings at the National Gallery website. Edit: And there's a slideshow of his work at BBC (thanks, Glenn)

Like Solomon J. Solomon and some of the other great teacher/practitioners of his day, Speed expresses an insightful respect for the old masters. One thing I like about his concept of "mass drawing" is that it offers the student a natural transition between drawing and painting.

Harold Speed, Edward Grey, 1st Viscount Grey of Fallodon
Harold Speed "Drawing" (Dover Edition)
The Practice and Science of Drawing is easy for everyone to acquire, and it's available in many different forms. It is available as an inexpensive softcover edition from Dover, which I like because I can jot notes in the margins. You can also get a free Kindle edition. Or you can read it online in a free edition. Finally, there's a Project Gutenberg version (Thanks, DMR), which is not only digitally scanned, but also reviewed by real humans.

This isn't going to be a workshop. I'm not the teacher, nor will I be comprehensively summarizing the points of the chapters. I'll just share my basic take-away from each reading, and I may show an example of how those thoughts affect — or have affected—my own practice. I'm expecting to learn from you and from the discussion. I will try to answer a few questions, but I'm hoping that members of the forum can help shoulder some of the Q and A.

We'll discuss a new chapter every Friday. The discussion will take place in the blog comments. Let's get started a week from today with the Preface and the Introduction. That's your assignment, and mine, too. Those who have time can do practice exercises related to each chapter as we move through the book.

If someone wants to set up a Facebook or Pinterest group for posting artwork, that would be great, and I'll link to it. (Edit: Here's a Facebook Group Page -- Thanks, Allen Morris, and here's a Pinterest link, thanks Carolyn Kasper. Keita Hopkinson also created a GJ Book Club Facebook page here.) I may stop by for a quick visit, but I'll probably focus most of my attention and comments on the blog so that the forum and discussion will be archived and searchable.

Let me know in the comments what you all think of the idea.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

High-tech glasses may help remedy color blindness

The normal perception of color depends on having distinct sets of color receptors, including green cones and red cones, each of which has a peak sensitivity to a slightly different wavelength of light.

Simulated cause and effect of color blindness—Images courtesy EnChroma
When their signals are interpreted by the brain, they allow red and green colors to be easily distinguishable.

The photo on the left represents normal color vision, and the one on the right simulates the way things look to people with red-green color blindness. The charts shows how the gap between the green cones and red cones are narrowed in people with red-green color blindness.
Normal and Deuteranoptic vision, courtesy

Another way to think of it is that for people with color blindness, the red and green signals are making noise on the same channel. It's like having two radio signals going at the same time. You can't make out what they're saying on either station, and red and green end up being mixed up. People with color blindness have the necessary healthy receptors. The only problem is that they're too close to each other.

To address this problem, engineers at EnChroma developed special filters which fine-tune the light going to each of those closely nested receptors. The result is a genuine experience of red, green, purple, and pink colors where they weren't visible before.

The promotional video (link to YouTube) shows the emotional effect of color-blind people trying on the glasses and seeing colors for the first time.

Because there are many kinds of color blindness, EnChroma is careful not to claim that this is a universal cure, but it appears to provide a helpful boost for many deutans. EnChroma/Valspar offers a free online color blindness test to see if they might be suitable.

Reviewers on Amazon say that the glasses sometimes take a while to get used to, and that you have to learn the names for unfamiliar colors. There are also concerns about the build quality and brittleness of the lenses.

Read EnChroma's more in-depth explanation 
Color blindness test

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Suggested Donation Interview

James Gurney, Jay Braun, Tony Curanaj, and Edward Minoff

Tony Curanaj, sketched by Jeanette during interview

Earlier this month, Jeanette and I visited Grand Central Atelier in Long Island City, New York.

Tony Curanaj and Edward Minoff, two instructors there, are also the hosts of "Suggested Donation," an art talk podcast, and they interviewed me as well.

Their interview with me is now live at this link.

We got the tour of the GCA's new teaching space. They just moved into a spacious industrial building, filled with casts and sculptures and figure paintings.

Building on their success in the Water Street Atelier and Grand Central Academy, they have built a community of artists dedicated to upholding classical traditions.
Grand Central Atelier
Suggested Donation podcast interview with James Gurney

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Aug(de)Mented Reality, Part 3

Hombre McSteez, also known as Marty Cooper, strikes again with a new compilation of madcap plein-air animations (Link to YouTube).

Cooper creates the films by shooting a series of stills with his iPhone. He draws the cartoon creatures with paint pens and a Sharpie on many sheets of transparency film held up in front of real scenes.

World Beneath Podcast, Episode 8

It's Tuesday, time for Episode 8 of the serialized audio dramatization of Dinotopia: The World Beneath. Here's the link to the MP3 file on Soundcloud, or you can click the play button below:

Will Denison prepares his skybax for a dangerous mission into the Rainy Basin. 

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 9 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.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Five Tips from Carl Evers

Carl G. Evers (1907-2000) specialized in painting ships and boats at sea.

He painted some of the most convincing water effects since Montague Dawson and Frederick Waugh. He primarily worked with watercolor and gouache.

Evers was born in Germany. He studied art in London at the Slade School, and worked as an illustrator in Sweden and then in the USA. In two rare articles, he offered some valuable picture-making secrets.

1. "I see the painting complete in my mind before I put pencil to paper. If I couldn't see the picture in my mind, I couldn't draw it!"

2. "If the painting is for a client, I first offer a thumbnail sketch for approval. I then redraw it half the size of the final composition to work out the perspective and all the details to full size."

3. "I make a complete pencil drawing, including the design of the waves and the details of the ship. Even the sky shading is indicated. I finally trace it down on the watercolor board for completion."

4. "The camera is a valuable research tool for me and is by no means a competitor. Painting permits portrayal of the essence of an event or scene without the distracting details invariably caught by the camera."

5. "The water surface cannot be copied from photos since the composition, as always, is my own, and waves and reflections must be designed to fit the pattern."

• Sources for this post: The quotes are from American Artist magazine, July, 1977 and an old Walter Foster book "How to Paint from Your Color Slides and Photographs (#64)" 1965. (There are only two page spreads on Evers in this book)
BooksMarine Paintings of Carl G. Evers, published by Ballantine. (It's cheap and full of great reproductions.)
Marine Painting: Techniques of Modern Masters, (Two Evers paintings, sketches and some discussion of his methods.) Thanks, David.
• Web sources: 
Lines and Colors (good survey and capsule bio)
Past Print (emphasis on his industrial illustrations)
Today's Inspiration (overview)
Leif Peng's Flickr Set (scanned tearsheets)
J. Russell Jinishian Gallery (capsule bio and original art).