Saturday, April 22, 2017

Mark English at the Marriott Lounge

I'm in Kansas City for Spectrum Fantastic Art Live. The artists are all hanging out in the lounge eating tacos and sipping beer. 

It's fun talking shop with some of the legends of the business, such as Mark English (born 1933), who helped define the world of contemporary illustration that I entered when I started out. 

Mark is still painting, mainly for galleries now. He says he still has his gouache paints, but he's using house paint lately. And he's not the only one. If you're painting large and you want a very opaque paint that's not expensive, house paint has wonderful working properties. And you can get any colors you want. 

Marriott Lounge, gouache, 5 x 8 inches
What attracted me to this scene was the cool light coming from the lighted panels behind the bar, contrasted with the warm light bouncing up off the floor. 
My bestselling video tutorial is Gouache in the Wild
Take a tour of my sketchbooks on my new app Metro North—three versions to suit your device:

Friday, April 21, 2017

Weird limited palette

I love weird limited palettes. This one is purple, cad yellow deep, raw sienna, and white. (Link to FB vid) From the Metro North app.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Bakery Case

Painting the bakery case at a little deli.
(Link to video)
This is another page from my new Living Sketchbook app, "Metro North" Pick up for yourself.

Three versions to suit your device:

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Four Professions Portrayed

Portraits of the professions of florist, writer, musician, and barber, where the faces are composed of the tools of their trades. 
In the style of Arcimboldo (Wikipedia link)

Chicks, Hens, and Eggs

For this sketching adventure, we start out in the barn, where the young chicks are in the incubator box.

A year later those same chicks have grown up into laying hens.

The pen I'm using for the written notes is a Noodler's Ahab fountain pen with Higgins sepia ink. The Ahab is an excellent low-cost refillable fountain with a flexible nib. 

This is just one page from my new Living Sketchbook app, "Metro North" Pick up for yourself. Three versions to suit your device:

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Controlling White Values in a Still Life

Many subjects have a range of whites, none of them pure white.

In this diner still life, there's the white paper placemat in shadow, the placemat in light, and the white "PEPSI" lettering painted on the near side of the glass.

And then there are white highlights. The highlights are lighter than the values of the placemat, but even still they aren't pure white.

Highlights are specular reflections of the various light sources. As a consequence, they take on the relative color of the source: cool for the highlights of the window light, and warm for the highlights of the artificial indoor light. That's why I mixed a little yellow into and a little blue into my lightest specular highlights.

Controlling the white values in a painting means keeping even your brightest highlights a little down from pure white, and always comparing one white against another. Mixing accurate values is one of the features in which gouache excels.

This is just one page from my new Living Sketchbook app, "Metro North" Pick up for yourself. Three versions to suit your device:

(Link to video on Facebook)

Monday, April 17, 2017

Metro North App is Here

(Link to trailer on YouTube)

The Living Sketchbook, Volume 2: Metro North app is now available. It's a complete immersion into my recent sketchbook, with high-res scalable images of every page, plus audio commentary and behind-the-scenes videos, all for just $4.99.

Here's what customers are saying already:
"So much eye candy and information for the price of a fancy coffee!"
"Boom. That was easy. Spent more than that on a beer yesterday!"
—Rock P.
Pick up a copy of Metro North for yourself. Three versions to suit your device:

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter

Happy Easter! Here's a gouache sketch of some bunnies at the farm. 

I used a special gouache technique for this one, painting into a wet, dark under-layer, which makes soft edges much easier. The bunny sketch is just one page of the Metro North app, which releases for iOS and Android phones and tablets tomorrow. 

It will include high-res images that you can explore in immense detail, plus custom audio and video elements, immersing you in the adventure of creating each painting.

The first volume of the "Living Sketchbook" series became the top selling new app in Android's Art and Design category, and it's a must for any art lover, painting student, or sketching fan.
Shari Blaukopf of Urban Sketchers says: "There is a lesson to be learned with every sketch in James Gurney's The Living Sketchbook — whether it's about light, colour, materials or composition. Spending time with each sketch and being able to zoom in on them with your tablet allows you to really think about how they were created. And videos that accompany many of the sketches enrich the experience because you see the sketch develop from large colour blocks down to final details. And of course hearing James narrate his thought process — whether it be about his limited palette choices or the characters he meets while sketching — is what makes it come alive for me. It's done with warmth, humour, honesty and a vast wealth of knowledge."
Check out Volume 1—Living Sketchbook: Boyhood Home
For Apple phones and tablets at the App Store
For Android devices at Google Play

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Car Noir

I'm standing in the bright spring sunshine, painting a moody night scene.

That's because I try to paint both what's in front of my eyes as well as what's behind them.

To me, there's something epic and mysterious about a white Lincoln Town car—especially one parked near a trash can and a basement entrance. I want to make it look like it's lit by a streetlight.

Here's the easel view as I'm starting out. Clockwise from upper left: Pocket travel brush set, watercolor journal with a casein "sunburst priming" and russet watercolor pencil layin, casein paint: white, yellow ochre, raw umber, black, and ultramarine blue.

Here's a 1-minute video that takes you behind the scenes: Link to video on Facebook.
Total painting time: 1 hour.
Info on Casein Painting in the Wild
Get the same paint kit I'm using: Jack Richeson Gurney's Casein 6 Pack with Brush Set
Music by Kevin MacLeod, Incompetech

Friday, April 14, 2017

Sketching in Low Light Conditions

Sketching with an LED hat
Madill Studio asks:
"Hi, James: Speaking of low-light conditions, do you have any observational tips on how to check values in such conditions (think low-lit cafe or similar). Also curious if I get a battery operated lamp for night sketching, what would be a good lumens range?"

You're right. When you're sketching in ultra low light conditions without a light of your own, it's hard to judge values accurately. It's even harder to evaluate subtle color variations.

It's also very challenging if the relative level of illumination varies a lot between the subject and your work. This is a common problem when sketching in a theatrical performance. Your eyes take a while to adjust from the bright stage to the dark sketchbook.

Lecturer sketched in dim light
with a brush pen.
If you're in a place where you can't use a light, here are some tips:
1. Shift to monochromatic colors. You can use black and white or two colors you're familiar with.
2. You can do a "notan" sketch and avoid halftones altogether, using a brush pen.

There are adjustable book lights such as the Lemonbest booklight (200 lm or 450 lumens). Book lights clip to your work and they stay stable.

For a brighter light, there's the Zebralight headlamp, which is good if you need more light outdoors.

I did these shapewelding sketches in a dark concert setting. Light shapes go to white and are grouped with other light shapes. Dark shapes weld together.

I painted these oil sketches after the sun had just set. There was still enough ambient light to see the colors on the palette and the painting.

LED hats illuminate your field of view, but they might be distracting to other people in indoor conditions. You can also get a Light unit with 5 LEDs that clips to the brim of your hat, in case you like to change hats.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

David Farquharson

David Farquharson (1839-1907), The End of the Day's Fishing, 56 x 91.5 cm

This oil landscape by David Farquharson (Scottish/English, 1839-1907) has a marvelous sense of scale and depth. 

A few observations:
1. Note the tiny fishermen figures on the right side of the picture.
2. Also, the tiny slivers of light reflecting off the water in the middle ground.
3. The foreground is illuminated and the middle ground is shadowed, the reverse of many grand landscape painters.
4. The corners of the composition are "dodged" or "blocked"—that is, darkened to keep the attention in the middle of the picture.
5. Well orchestrated atmospheric perspective. The dark colors in the extreme distance are lightened and cooled.
More about atmospheric perspective in Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

SciFi Exhib Opens Soon in London

Dinosaur Parade, Waterfall City and four other Dinotopia paintings just headed off today on a journey that will take them to London, Athens, Denmark, and beyond.

They'll be on a multi-year tour, part of an exhibition called "Into the Unknown: A Journey through Science Fiction." 

The multimedia show will include original art and sculpts by people like Ray Harryhausen, HR Giger, Syd Mead, and Moebius, alongside film clips, books, props and other pop culture items. 

Into the Unknown: A Journey through Science Fiction will be at at the Barbican Centre in London from June 3 through 1 September, 2017.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Fluid and Particle Showreel

I love the mesmerizing complexity and interactivity of this CGI fluid and particle showreel from Digital District. (Link to YouTube)

Monday, April 10, 2017

Choosing an Interpretation

How do you keep from being overwhelmed by nature when you're painting in the wild?

When I start a session, I usually make some decisions right away about how to simplify a subject. Even if my goal is to capture the perspective and the forms pretty much as I see them, I often make some decisions about interpreting value and color. 

For example, here's the scene I'm looking at next to the gouache painting I do from observation:

I choose to flatten the tones of the far trees and translate the actual colors into more basic warm and cool colors, sacrificing a lot of blue and green.

I hoped that transposing the color scheme into this elemental range would capture my feeling about this farmyard surviving another winter, ready to awaken into spring.

I made another sacrifice as well. (Link to video) The only sketchbook I had with me was full, so I had to paint one sketch over another. Doing this requires "seeing through" the paper to the painting on the other side of it, and finding it all with the brush.
This video is a sample from "The Living Sketchbook, Vol. 2: Metro North," which releases one week from today. Check out the first volume, "Boyhood Home," available now at the App Store and Google Play.

“Gurney’s new "Living Sketchbook" app combines multiple creative disciplines (painting, writing, filming, audio) into one seamless artistic experience that anyone can use with ease. Well, done!”
Scott Burdick.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Camera Technique Stretches Time

An unusual camera technique developed by Jay Mark Johnson combines multiple viewpoints and moving objects into a single image with a stretched background. 

The slit-scan camera technique, which he calls "photographic timelines," freezes and compresses moving objects. The faster they move, the more they're compressed.

This is the reverse of what we're accustomed to seeing, namely detailed, stable backgrounds with blurred moving objects.

Johnson's technique also works wonders with dancers, distorting their forms like melting glass or taffy.

Via Singularity Hub
Explanation of the method on Design Boom.
Jay Mark Johnson's website

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Interpreting in Pen and Ink

How would you translate this photograph into a pen and ink drawing? 

Here's the way Charles Maginnis, a writer from 1903, analyzed the problem. 
"First of all, then, does the subject, from the point of view at which the photograph is taken, compose well? It cannot be said that it does. The vertical lines made by the two towers are unpleasantly emphasized by the trees behind them. The tree on the left would be much better reduced in height and placed somewhat to the right, so that the top should fill out the awkward angles of the roof formed by the junction of the tower and the main building. The trees on the right might be lowered also, but otherwise permitted to retain their present relation.The growth of ivy on the tower takes an ugly outline, and might be made more interestingly irregular in form."

"The next consideration is the disposition of the values. In the photograph the whites are confined to the roadway of the bridge and the bottom of the tower. This is evidently due, however, to local color rather than to the direction of the light, which strikes the nearer tower from the right, the rest of the walls being in shadow. While the black areas of the picture are large enough to carry a mass of gray without sacrificing the sunny look, such a scheme would be likely to produce a labored effect. 

"Two alternative schemes readily suggest themselves: First, to make the archway the principal dark, the walls light, with a light half-tone for the roof, and a darker effect for the trees on the right. Or, second, to make these trees themselves the principal dark, as suggested by the photograph, allowing them to count against the gray of the roof and the ivy of the tower. This latter scheme is that which has been adopted in the sketch. It will be noticed that the trees are not nearly so dark as in the photograph. If they were, they would be overpowering in so large an area of white. It was thought better, also, to change the direction of the light, so that the dark ivy, instead of acting contradictorily to the effect, might lend character to the shaded side. 

"The lower portion of the nearer tower was toned in, partly to qualify the vertical line of the tower, which would have been unpleasant if the shading were uniform, and partly to carry the gray around to the entrance. It was thought advisable, also, to cut from the foreground, raising the upper limit of the picture correspondingly." 

A few observations:
• The drawings use short strokes and open, airy darks, rather than long lines and black areas. 
• A lot of his thinking has to do with the organization of tone. 

Other pen-and-ink artists who used a similar impressionist approach are Daniel Vierge, Joseph Pennell, and Ernest Peixotto.

The new app: Living Sketchbook, Vol. 1: Boyhood Home takes you deep into moments like this. It's available for iOS on Apple phones and tablets at the App Store and for Android devices at Google Play.
"When I found out about his app, I thought to myself: “Why didn’t I think of that?” It embraces technology and allows users an opportunity to get closer to an artist’s sketchbook. There are buttons that brings out the voice narrations with occasional videos of how he has painted on-site. Imagine a talking sketchbook with videos.”
—Erwin Lian, The Perfect Sketchbook

Friday, April 7, 2017

Drawing Animals: Advice from 1907

"The only materials needed for sketching from live animals in the field are two pencils, one soft and blunt, and one fairly hard and well sharpened; a sketch-book, preferably of the loose leaf kind, of small size; and a soft eraser."

So begins a 1907 article on animal drawing in the children's magazine St. Nicholas Illustrated Magazine for Boys and Girls.

The authors admit that a highly finished drawing of a live animal is very difficult to achieve in the field. Instead they recommend making a series of quick sketches that concentrate on the main outlines of the pose.

After drawing the main outline, the observer should make notes about key markings or coloration.

If you get nothing else, "first get the slant of the figure and the angles formed by the head and neck, legs, wings and tail, and then, if the bird is still before you, proceed with the smaller details."

Don't waste time on details that you could get from a mounted specimen.

The authors recommend that when the young artist returns home, he or she should fill scrapbooks of assorted outline sketches by cutting out the best examples of each species and putting them together with other similar poses.

Later, when you want to produce a finished picture, you can choose from the quick silhouettes and develop them into a more complete painting or drawing.
St. Nicholas: A Children's Magazine