Sunday, October 22, 2017

Flatness and Depth in Painting

This scene was on the back cover of David Drake's paperback collection of military science fiction short stories called "The Fleet Book One." 



To make the typical '80s air battle look more incongruous, I imagined it taking place at a low altitude over farmland. I set up the scale by introducing the fighter craft in the foreground, and then repeating them way back in the scene. I also softened the colors and compressed the lines of the croplands as they went back to the horizon.

When I was in art school, many of the teachers spoke dogmatically about the importance of making the painting reinforce the flatness of the picture plane. But that idea never really interested me very much. The flatness of the picture plane is a given. It's easy to make a painting look 2D—colored stuff on a rectangle of canvas.

The real fun for me starts when the surface starts to fall away and pulls me back into infinite depths.
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Read more:
Modern art theory: "The Importance of Flatness"
Previous post on "Houding" (a theory of pictorial depth from classical Dutch theory)
Amazon: The Fleet Book One


Saturday, October 21, 2017

Learning from the Famous Artists Course

The Norman Rockwell Museum produced this new video about the Famous Artists Course (Link to video)


The clips include color video of some of the faculty of 1950s American illustrators, along with Walt Reed, who was one of the faculty helpers, and Elwood Smith and Howard Cruz, who took the course.

Norman Rockwell in his Stockbridge, Massachusetts,
studio surrounded by his many studies for Art Critic. Bill Scovill 1955
Their exhibit "Learning from the Masters" will be on view through November 19.
You can still get secondhand copies of the Famous Artists Course.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Flagg Draws a Model

In this 1934 video, James Montgomery Flagg (1877-1960) draws a female model while talking about the importance of perceiving the skull underneath. (Link to YouTube).


In the video he lays down a few preliminary structural lines, and then at 2:04, the video makes a jump to a nearly finished drawing. Flagg dramatically signs the drawing, turns to the camera, and as he puffs on a cigarette, he says: "If you're searching for a beauty, and you want her to last, pick yourself a good skull."



Flagg was a star illustrator from 1900 through World War I (for which he designed the famous 'I Want You' poster) and on beyond WWII. He was known for his lightning portrait sketches, but he also had a reputation for being cantankerous.


His model is Ilse Hoffmann, whom he describes as the 'wood-nymph or elfin' type, but not the 'classic' type:
"Flagg had a long-term relationship with another one of his models, Ilse Hoffmann, the daughter of Hans Heinrich Lammers. His biographer has argued: 'Half Flagg's age, Ilse was a complex and unhappy woman. Enraptured with her beauty, Flagg felt perpetually compelled to paint her, in spite of her being a poor model because she hated to pose. He was dazzled by her physical grace, her humor and intelligence, by her good taste and her coquettish manner.' He described her as the great love of his life and was devastated when she committed suicide in 1945." Source
Flagg, Portrait of Ilse Hoffman
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Read More
Online: Bio of Flagg at Spartacus Educational
More about the love life of Flagg
Book: James Montgomery Flagg
Video by British Pathé
Thanks, Sascha Karschner

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Biopunk Truck

I painted this image for Thomas Easton’s science-fiction story “Down on the Truck Farm” (1990). 


In this biopunk future, living vehicles are genetically engineered out of the organic parts of animals:
"The genimal's legs were mounted high, above the wheels, their joints reversed; as they ran, they pushed against the tires, spun the wheels on their bony hubs, and propelled the vehicle down the grassy greenways that had replaced paved roads early in the Biological Revolutions."
To paint the setting of giant marigolds and pumpkin plants, I set up my easel outside in the garden.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Few Tips for Accuracy


A few days ago I visited the old mill town of Greenwich, New York and painted this streetscape.


In the video (link to YouTube), I share some tips for getting accuracy using the traditional pencil-measure method.
Gouache tutorial
How to Make a Sketch Easel
My videos are also available as DVDs at Kunaki
Music by Kevin MacLeod 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Decadent Dollhouses

Carrie Becker is a photographer and a sculptor of miniatures who produces exquisitely detailed interior scenes. 


In "Barbie Trashes Her Dreamhouse," she presents rooms of a hoarder's home stuffed to the gills with clutter.


After completing a masters program in sculpture, Becker traveled through rural Kansas, exploring and photographing the interiors of abandoned houses.


She used this inspiration as she outfitted each tiny room, implying the backstory to her imagined alternate reality.


After the viral success of her Barbie-themed project, she worked on a theme called "Lilliputian Entropy," showing European-style rooms fallen into disrepair. 
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Monday, October 16, 2017

Video Portrait of C.F. Payne


American illustrator and teacher C.F. Payne is the feature of a new hour-long documentary called "C.F. Payne: An American Illustrator."


Payne is known for his award-winning Time covers, MAD magazine caricatures, and children's book illustrations, which he has produced over a span of nearly four decades. "It's not a race. It's a marathon. You just keep working."

His whimsical and affectionate portraits of celebrities and sports stars usually start with sketchy drawings. Many of his editorial assignments have to be completed under extremely short deadlines. 


In the documentary he talks about the pressures of a freelance lifestyle, and we also get the benefit of hearing the perspective of his wife and two sons. 


One of the themes that runs through the documentary is Payne's love of baseball. He paints a giant cutout of legendary player and commentator Joe Nuxhall to decorate the stadium of the The Joe Nuxhall Miracle League Fields


The film lets us see over his shoulder as he produces some of his multi-media paintings. But this isn't a technique video, and we don't really get the details of his materials or working process, nor does he explain his specific approach to caricature. 

However, if you buy the bundled version, you get a couple of demo videos along with the main feature. In those demos, C.F. Payne goes in detail about his process. 


 C.F. Payne: An American Illustrator is a portrait of a regular, hard-working guy, a good video to share with a young person who might be contemplating a career as an illustrator.

Payne is committed to drawing every day and always improving his ability. "I drew all the time as a young person," he says. "I love making art. It's the place I love to be."


Teaser for "C.F. Payne: An American Illustrator" from Tony Moorman on Vimeo.
Facebook page for the film
C.F. Payne: An American Illustrator is available on Vimeo for $4.99

Sunday, October 15, 2017

British Realism from the 1920s and '30s

The National Galleries of Scotland are currently hosting an exhibit called True to Life: British Realist Painting in the 1920s and 1930s.

The Yellow Glove by James Cowie (Scottish, 1886 - 1956)
For a long time, realism from the early 20th century was overshadowed by the fashion for abstract and pop art, but recently it has undergone a revival, driven by an enthusiastic public and a group of dynamic curators.

A City Garden, 1940, by James McIntosh Patrick
© The artist's estate / Bridgeman Images.
The curators observe that artists of the period were working in a particular mode of realism:
"...precise, hard-edged and graphic, and with minimal narrative detail, as opposed to loose and painterly. The Germans call it Neue Sachlichkeit [New Objectivity], and the Americans call it Magic Realism. British art of this sort doesn’t have a name, which is maybe one reason why it doesn’t win much attention. Art history tends to award points, as it were, to artists who introduce change. So the first artists to go abstract, or use film, or go minimalist, are viewed as important."
Many of the artists lived through the warring madness of the early 20th century. They used their realist training to offer moving statements about their times and about the universal truths of the human condition.

Why War? by Charles Spencelayh, 1938, oil on canvas, 94 x 115 cm.
Spencelayh's painting "Why War" shows an older man in his sitting room, with its souvenirs of previous conflicts, including a gas mask and helmet from World War I, the "war to end all wars." The headline on the newspaper says "Premier Flying to Hitler." His books, tea, and violin bring scant comfort to the ominous prospects of the coming conflagration.


The curators say that an exhibit like this would have been hard to put together before the days of the internet because the works were sold through galleries, and the trail of custody was not well known. But thanks to the website ArtUK, which documents all the paintings in public collections in Great Britain, it has become possible to know where they ended up.
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The show will be on view through October 29, 2017
Online essay: Short statement from the curators
Catalog: True To Life: British Realist Painting in the 1920s and 1930s
Previously on GurneyJourney: Magic Realism
Thanks, Sue Arnold, for telling me about it.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Science Fiction Exhibition Opens in Athens

© Tristan Fewings / Getty Images
“Into the Unknown: A Journey Through Science Fiction” is now on view at the Onassis Cultural Center in Athens. 
"Throughout the exhibition a total of 800 exhibits will be on display, some of which are rare and valuable, such as the Harkonnen Capo chair which was created for the film Dune by Hans Gyger, the original designer of the iconic Alien, and sketches by the artist and special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen who became widely known for creating the Earth-attacking monster in the 1957 film, '20 Million Miles to Earth'." (Source)

The Museum will host a full slate of classic films and other programs associated with the exhibit, which will be up through January 14.
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Friday, October 13, 2017

Paul Richer's Artistic Anatomy

It's Friday the 13th, so let's start with a spooky image.


Paul Richer (1849-1933), a French teacher of anatomy, produced this demonstration of what lies behind the face.


Knowing about the structure and position of the skull helps make a portrait look solid. 


Richer also wrote books on anatomy, most of which are still in print.


He was a leader in trying to understand the physiology of human movement.


He visited patients in mental hospitals, sketching the writhing subjects, and working with doctors to understand why people moved as they did.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Using Cel Vinyl Paint

Nasan Hardcastle asks: "Have you ever experimented with cel-vinyl paint before? Do you know much about the process of using it in a more painterly application?"
Establishing shot for Fire and Ice by James Gurney
Yes, when I worked as a background artist on the animated movie Fire and Ice, we used cel vinyl paint. This is the same paint used for the flat colors used on the back of the animation cels.

I painted about 600 paintings for the film at a rate of about 11 a week. Not all were highly finished or detailed, though.



This spooky forest background consists of two layers. The segmented trees and mushrooms are painted on a foreground layer of acetate. That way those foreground elements can overlap the animation layers.


Cel vinyl is very opaque, with strong adhesion and and a tough emulsion. It's formulated to work well on acetate. Regular acrylic will generally bead up on acetate.


Cel vinyl is still made by the Cartoon Colour company. It comes in liquid form in bottles. The colors are premixed and consistent. We squeezed them out onto a butcher tray and painted mostly with sable and synthetic round and flat brushes.


I used cel vinyl here in a very painterly way. I started with big brushes and used the airbrush to help separate the foreground from the background. In this case the layers are all part of the same painting on illustration board. The figures (lower right) are registered on top of the painting.


Cel vinyl tended to clog the airbrushes, and it destroyed the Winsor and Newton Series 7 brushes that we used.



Most of the backgrounds are remarkably small, about 9x12 inches. This establishing shot of Nekron's glacier was a little bigger, about 11x14 inches.


This gargoyle  spews out animated lava. Each sequence needed a different color mood: in this case red light from below and blue light from above.

James Gurney, Establishing shot of Fire Keep, about 16 x 20, cel vinyl.
Although we had a wide range of colors available, we restricted the palette for each sequence, and that probably got me started thinking about gamut mapping and color scripting.

James Gurney and Thomas Kinkade at Ralph Bakshi’s animation studio in 1981.
Here I am working on that volcano painting. The other background painter was Tom Kinkade (misspelled Kincade in the credits). Later in his career he returned to cel vinyl paint for his cottage scenes, though I haven't gone back to it.

Of all the paints I use now, I'd say Holbein's Acryla Gouache is most similar to cel-vinyl, in that it's an opaque, water-based medium with a closed, matte surface when it dries.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Can you learn to draw from an AI teacher?


Can an artificial-intelligence algorithm help you learn to draw objects in perspective? (Link to YouTube)

How2Sketch "automatically generating easy-to-follow tutorials for arbitrary 3D objects" and keys them to the proficiency of the learner.


Here's the video abstract produced by the authors. The authors have metrics to show that the method is getting effective results, and users have reported that they are very happy with the learning process.


You can download the paper, the code, and tutorial sequences for free at the How2Sketch website.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Streetscape in Monochrome



Here's a fun color experiment: dull-reddish orange over a lime green underpainting. Very weird combination, a bit unlike anything I've tried before. (Link to YouTube)

I wanted to keep the shadow values up around 50% to get that look of an old photo. I also lightened the values of the illuminated areas to be all close in value. 

You'll see the sighting grid in action again, and I'll do a whole video on how to make and use that device in the future.
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Own the 72-minute feature "Gouache in the Wild"
• HD MP4 Download at Gumroad $14.95
• or HD MP4 Download at Sellfy (for Paypal customers) $14.95
• DVD at Purchase at Kunaki.com (Region 1 encoded NTSC video) $24.50

Monday, October 9, 2017

Integrating a Figure into the Background

BadCoyote asks: "Do you have any advice for artists struggling to match foreground characters and background elements into a seamless pic?"

Vibert
1. Overlap an element in front of the main figure. 

Sorolla
2. Be sure lighting is consistent on the figure and the background. 

Sorolla
3. Cast a shadow on the figure from some other element in the scene. 

Siemiradzki
4. Match color balance between figure and ground and vary the lighting in your scene. 

Signorini
5. Selectively soften some edges, and link some tones with the background.
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Read more on GurneyJourney:
Five Ways to Extend a Story
Repoussoir figures
Topic: Composition