Sunday, May 1, 2016

Article on painting when you're stuck waiting

I don't mind being marooned somewhere, as long as I've got my paints. That's the subject of my new article in International Artist. 

I don't know why, but the less choice I have in selecting a motif, the more successful I am. Maybe it comes of being forced to improvise. 

International Artist (#109, June/July 2016). 

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Maquettes and Imagination at Millburn High

Yesterday I visited the advanced-placement art students in Millburn, New Jersey. Under the guidance of teacher and artist Kathleen Harte-Gilsenan, they built maquettes of a variety of creatures. 

When I got there, they lit and shot them and used them to inspire sketches in black and white gouache.

I did a demo in gouache, painting from a dinosaur maquette. I showed them lots of originals, and took them through some case histories of paleoart jobs, all the way from first thumbnail sketches to maquettes and comps to finished oil paintings.

We were lucky to have a surprise guest: Michael Mrak, gouache painter and Design Director for Scientific American. He brought in some originals from his collection, and he talked about visual communication from the perspective of magazine publishing. 

You can watch a brief video clip of these scenes on my Instagram page, Twitter feed, or Facebook page. While you're there, please subscribe to follow my feed.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Propeller Powered Sled

Here's one of the more unusual vehicles stored in the old barns out behind the Rhinebeck Aerodrome. Basically it's an aircraft engine and open propeller mounted on the back of a 1920s-era body, with sled runners instead of wheels. 

Old timers told me they would take this thing out on the Hudson River ice in the winter and zoom along at 60 miles per hour. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Adventure Sketching in Nepal

After the earthquake in Nepal a year ago, artist Jeremy Collins traveled there with his GoPro cameras to record his adventures.

The video shows how he sketched people, painted murals on buildings, and drew while hang gliding.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Van Dyck Exhibition Report

Last Saturday I visited the exhibition of Anthony Van Dyck (Flemish/English 1599-1641) at the Frick Collection in New York.

Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641) Self-Portrait, ca. 1613–15
Oil on panel Gemäldegalerie der Akademie der bildenden Künste, Vienna

With approximately 100 works on view, Van Dyck: The Anatomy of Portraiture is the most comprehensive exhibition ever to focus on his portraiture, and the largest exhibition of his work in the US in more than 20 years.

Van Dyck was just a teenager when he entered the studio of Peter Paul Rubens. Several of the prodigy's self-portraits are included in the exhibition.

Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641) Lady Anne Carey,
Later Viscountess Claneboye and Countess of Clanbrassil,
ca. 1636 Oil on canvas The Frick Collection;
Henry Clay Frick Bequest Photo: Michael Bodycomb
He absorbed the Rubens training into his pores and combined it with an admiration for Titian that he picked up from time spent in Italy. Those influences fused into an elegant style of portraiture that defined the look of portrait painting in England for more than 250 years.

Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641) Portrait Study of Nicholas Lanier,
ca. 1628 Black chalk, heightened with white chalk, on blue paper
Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh; Lady Murray of Henderland
gift 1860 as a memorial of her husband, Lord Murray of Henderland

The exhibition includes many of his etched and engraved portraits, tiny grisaille likenesses, and a variety of small drawings.

Van Dyck would typically do a chalk drawing of the full figure of the subject to capture their characteristic posture and the throw of the drapery. On those preliminary drawings, the face was only summarily indicated.

Source: WSJ

The drawings show tremendous sensitivity and descriptive ability. They never resort to mindless repetitive crosshatching, and giving no evidence of extensive construction lines, nor is there any sense if hurry or randomness. It's as if he just took his time and got it right the first time.

Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641) Portrait Study of a Man, Facing Right (detail),
ca. 1634 Oil on canvas, with paper extensions along the four sides Private collection
His practice when painting portraits was to schedule a one- or two-hour session for each person and to paint the face on the final canvas. If the canvas was too big, such as in a big group portrait, he would paint separate oil head studies.

After the hour was up he would dismiss that person and bring in another portrait subject. Between sessions, an assistant would wash his brushes and bring him a fresh palette of paints. By working simultaneously on several portraits, he kept a fresh eye on each.

When it came to the final painting, the master generally only painted the heads. Specialists in his studio painted the costumes, backgrounds, and sometimes the hands. Stand-ins modeled for the figure and the hands.

Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641) Hendrick van Steenwijck the Younger (detail),
ca. 1632−38 Black chalk, gray wash; incised for transfer Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
The catalogue for the show, Van Dyck: The Anatomy of Portraiture, is excellent, with numerous closeups and considerable scholarship about his process, all based on primary sources and current research.

Exhibition tips:
• It's OK to sketch in the show, provided you work in a small pad with pencil.
• No photography in the exhibition rooms, and no audio zombies.
• The drawing rooms thoughtfully provide magnifying glasses, so you can get a close look.
• Avoid Sundays, the guards advised me. Because the tickets are free, the crowds are thick.
• The standing portraits are very tall and hung very high. Because of the distance and the inevitable glare, it can be hard to see the faces in the full length portraits, so it might be a good idea to bring some opera glasses.
• There's no café, but you can bring a bag lunch and eat it in Central Park, or find coffee three blocks east at Lexington Ave.
Catalogue: Van Dyck: The Anatomy of Portraiture
The exhibition Van Dyck: The Anatomy of Portraiture will be on view through June 5,
Survey the exhibition in expandable thumbnails at their Visual index
Video lecture by Stijn Alsteens: "Drawing for Portraits"
Previous post: Van Dyck Exhibition in New York

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Sketching in Museums with Kids

Blog reader Joanna Hiltz says, "I've been sketching in art museums with my daughter since she was 4. It's a great learning tool. We will circle the room deciding what we like the most before settling in a nearby bench."

"The process requires her to slow down, be still, quiet and really study it as she works. I love the progress I've seen over the years of Saturday afternoons spent sketching in museums."

"Here's a side by side of one of Iris' (age 5) museum sketches."

"Isn't it interesting seeing what they like and dislike? It's far more unbiased than what adults do as they crowd around the popularized recognizable named artists and breeze by the lesser known. I always say, sketch what interests you the most."

"One time we were walking thru the contemporary wing of the Portland Art Museum, I sat down to sketch a sculpture, and she sketched this... Point taken."

Thanks, Joanna, and way to go, Iris!