Monday, March 30, 2015

Walter Launt Palmer Exhibition in Albany, NY

American impressionist Walter Launt Palmer (1854–1932) was known for three themes: snowy forests, Venetian lagoons, and opulent interiors. To all three of those subjects he brought an evocative feeling for light and color.

An exhibition of Walter Launt Palmer at New York State's Albany Institute of History and Art features all three of those themes. The show just opened and it will be up through August 16.

The museum has one of the largest holdings of his work, and they'll be showing oil and watercolor paintings, pastels, and drawings, as well as letters and photographs. 

When he was just 24 years old, Palmer studied landscape painting with Frederic Church. He shared a studio with Church in New York City from 1878-1881.  

Walter Launt Palmer made many trips to Europe. He met John Singer Sargent, William Merritt Chase, John Henry Twachtman, Robert Frederick Blum, and probably a lot of other guys with three names. 

After seeing the young Sargent's sketchbooks, Palmer wrote home, "He is but 17 and has done a lot of work, very little in oil." 

Palmer was the one who recommended that Sargent should study with Carolus Duran  [Edit: Palmer gave up his place in Carolus-Duran's atelier for the younger artist, whom he had met two years earlier in Florence.] Palmer was so impressed with the younger painter's bold and vigorous style that he tried a similar approach himself for a while. 

Palmer's winter scenes were constructed with a combination of outdoor studies, photographs, and memory.

Online resources
Exhibition: "Walter Launt Palmer: Painting the Moment" at Albany Institute of History and Art through August 16. (Note, not all of the paintings in this post are in the show.)

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Remembering John Renbourn

John Renbourn, the eclectic guitarist who co-founded Pentangle, died at his home in Scotland on Thursday. I sketched him during a concert that he gave with Robin Williamson in 1995 in a little country church at Copake Falls, New York.

Remembrance on National Public Radio

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Portrait of Inventor Dominic Wilcox

(Link from YouTube) Dominic Wilcox is an artist, designer, and inventor who builds working prototypes of delightfully bizarre concepts, such a stained-glass driverless car, GPS shoes that guide you where you want to go, and a hearing device that reverses right and left inputs.

This video introduces us to his thought process, and we get to meet his parents. Mr. Wilcox wrote a book called Variations on Normal illustrated with his comic sketches.

Dominic Wilcox's Binaudios for magnifying faraway urban sounds
Edit: Frank Palmer sent this photo of "WWII acoustic aircraft detection system similar to that of Dominic Wilcox’s “Binaudios” but pre-dating him by about 75 years. These were used by the Brits, Germans, Japanese and others early in the war before the detection of enemy aircraft was taken over by radar."

Here's Wilcox's website.
(Thanks, Bryn and Frank!)

Chuck Jones Exhibit in Texas

The Fort Worth Museum of Science is currently presenting an exhibition of the animation art of Warner Brothers director Chuck Jones.
"Chuck Jones brought to animation an unparalleled talent for comic invention and a flair for creating animated characters with distinctive and often wildly eccentric personalities. Jones perfected the quintessentially suave and wisecracking Bugs Bunny, the perpetually exasperated Daffy Duck, the hapless but optimistic Elmer Fudd, and created the incurably romantic Pepé Le Pew, and the eternal antagonists Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner."
Chuck Jones said, "Eschew the ordinary, disdain the commonplace. If you have a single-minded need for something, let it be the unusual, the esoteric, the bizarre, the unexpected."

"What's Up, Doc?: The Animation Art of Chuck Jones" through April 26 at the Fort Worth Museum of Science in Texas. After that, it will continue at the EMP Museum, Seattle, WA; the Minnesota History Center, in St. Paul, MN, and the Huntsville Museum of Art, Huntville, AL.

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