Thursday, April 19, 2018

A Chat with a School Bus Driver

(Link to video on Facebook) Driving through Maryland we noticed the school buses parked behind this house. It still had an old TV antenna on top.

In the video, you can hear the voice of Cindy, who hung out with us for a while and told us what it was like to drive the buses.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Portrait Society This Weekend

I'm doing a few oil copies to get in practice for the Portrait Society Conference in Washington, DC this week. This is based on Velazquez's portrait of Miguel Angelo, the barber to the Pope.

Here's my Portrait Society schedule:
Thursday April 19: 4:30p–7:30pm Artist-to-Artist Face-Off
Friday, 9:00a–10:00a. Composition: The Eye, the Mind, and the Story.
Saturday, 10:30a–12:30p. Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn't Exist

After that I'll be doing an event at the Yellow Barn Studio in Glen Echo, Maryland. 
That event will take place on April 22nd from 5:00pm – 8:00pm, and will include two lectures and a demo. There may still be some spots available.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Painting a Red Mazda on Location

My car needs a tuneup, so I leave it off at the dealership. I make a cup of coffee and sit down at the edge of the showroom.

A red Mazda MX-5 Miata RF is parked in the middle, facing out toward the light. (Link to video on YouTube) Two or three hours? Time enough for a quick painting.

I choose a page in my sketchbook with an insistent yellow casein underpainting. It challenges me to cover every area of the picture with opaque gouache.

This scene has a brighter range of values than most scenes. The light outside is very bright compared to the dark areas on the car. To capture that I have to bleach the lights and make the darks darker than they appear.
Get your Gear On
Gouache tutorial available at Sellfy and Gumroad.
How to Make a Sketch Easel
Pentalic 5" x 8" Aqua Journal
M. Graham gouache set
Pocket plein air brush set

Monday, April 16, 2018

Juana Romani, model turned painter

Juana Romani (1867 - 1923/24) was born with the name Carolina Carlesimo in Italy. Her mother brought her to Paris, where she began working as an artist model as a child.

She decided to pursue an art career herself, studying with Ferdinand Roybet and Jean-Jacques Henner.

Salomé by Juana Romani
She became known for her portraits of female subjects.

The influence of Henner and Roybet can be seen in the soft frontal lighting, which melts into profound shadows at the edges of the form. She painted directly on the canvas without much preliminary sketching.

Unfortunately her last years were not happy. She suffered from mental illness and lived in a psychiatric hospital, where she died forgotten.
Book: Women Artists in Paris, 1850-1900
Juana Romani on Wikipedia 

Sunday, April 15, 2018

How Hollyhocks trap color

Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1942) was an artist, garden designer, and writer. She wrote playfully about how flower petals can focus and intensify color in the center of the blossom.

Hollyhocks - Gustave Bienvêtu (1850-1916)
"The loosely-folded inner petals of the loveliest Hollyhocks invite a wonderful play and brilliancy of colour. Some of the colour is transmitted through the half-transparency of the petal's structure, some is reflected from the neighbouring folds; the light striking back and forth with infinitely beautiful trick and playful variation, so that some inner regions of the heart of a rosy flower, obeying the mysterious agencies of sunlight, texture and local colour, may tell upon the eye as pure scarlet ; while the wide outer petal, in itself generally rather lighter in colour, with its slightly waved surface and gently frilled edge, plays the game of give and take with light and tint in quite other, but always delightful, ways."

This color effect happens not only in hollyhocks, but also roses and peonies.
Watch how to paint this effect in my video "Flower Painting in the Wild,"available as a DVD from Amazon and as an HD download from Gumroad and Sellfy.   

The quote is from "Some English Gardens" by Gertrude Jekyll

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Floor Tile Optical Illusion

A company in the UK created this pattern of floor tiles to create the illusion of an undulating surface. It could help discourage people from running in the hallway.

via Oddity Central

Friday, April 13, 2018

Nicolas's Questions

Nicolas is a high school student who chose me for his research subject. I sent him some published interviews to cover the FAQs, and then told him he could ask me two uncommon questions. Here they are:

Drawing in scratchboard that I did in high school
1 - What was your biggest challenge in your art career and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge has been the change from analog to digital technology. I embraced certain aspects of the new tech, but resisted others. I learned a way of doing video production and social media, but I stayed with physical tools and materials for my art. This decision has allowed me to have originals to exhibit in museum exhibitions and to sell in gallery shows. Your generation will have to decide how your art-making will respond to the developments in artificial intelligence, which will offer with very powerful tools, but it will undermine your confidence. In a fundamental way I think it will force each of us to consider what makes us human and how we want to spend our finite time on earth.

2 - Is there something you wish a Master told you when you were just starting that you only know right now?
I'm having a hard time answering this question without giving you motivational clichés that you've surely heard before. And if I try express them, I can't help questioning them at the same time. I could say "Follow your dream," but I didn't have a dream clearly in mind when I was in high school. I could say "Do what makes you happy," but really a lot of what one has to do is ditch digging and drudgery. Developing the patience for that aspect of your life is important too. I could say: "All problems yield to effort, or work hard." But that's something I already knew in high school. The truth is that I never had a master when I was starting out, and I never really sought one out. I just had a couple of distant heroes that I wrote letters to and a couple of helpful teachers, and they gave me enough encouragement to keep me on my path. I'm a strong believer in self teaching and am inherently skeptical of the master/pupil relationship. I would recommend reading Ralph Waldo Emerson on this topic if you're also the kind of person that likes to set your own compass.
Previously: High School Drawing
Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay on self reliance

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Harry Anderson Book

American illustrator Harry Anderson (1906-1996) is the subject of a new monograph that's now available.

Anderson was a specialist in painting women, children, and romantic themes for the popular story magazines. He was allergic to oil paint, so he used casein and gouache instead. 

The new book opens with a biography starting with the artist's early struggles during the Great Depression to his adjustment to the collapse of illustrated story magazines in the 1960s. 

The book reproduces both original artwork and tear sheets covering a variety of genres from Anderson's career: story illustration, advertising illustration, religious art, cowboy paintings, landscape, and still life. The reproduction quality and production standards are top notch as always. 

The Art of Harry Anderson is the latest in the series of books about prominent 20th century American illustrators by The Illustrated Press, including Jon Whitcomb and Tom Lovell, and Dean Cornwell. Because all of these books are printed as limited editions of 1000 copies, when they sell out, they become hard to get on the secondary market.
The standard edition is $44.95 USD, and there's also a special edition for $64.95 that comes in a custom slipcase and is limited to 100 copies (two copies left). Both editions are 224 pages, hardbound, 12 x 9 inches. You can preview the entire book online or order it at the Illustrated Press

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Do your eyes play tricks on you?

Do you see things exactly as they are, or do your eyes play tricks on you? Check this diagram:

Are the horizontal blue bands tilting up or down? Are they straight or do they twist and bend? Or are they straight and level?

If you hold something straight up to the diagram, you can verify that the blue bands are actually straight and level.

This optical illusion by Victoria Skye is a variation on the famous "Café Wall Illusion," in which rows of black and white tiles are slightly offset to the right and left to create a strange tilting effect.

Optical illusions remind us that our eyes — really our brains — do indeed deceive us. That's why we need to use the methods of checking lengths and slopes if we want to achieve accuracy in our drawing. 
Read more
Previous post (2009) on the Cafe Wall illusion
An interactive version of the Café Wall illusion with sliders that lets you change parameters
Pop Culture Cafe about the Skye illusion
Explanation of the illusion by Richard Gregory

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Canada Post Honors Illustrators

Canada Post has released a stamp set that honors five illustrators: Will Davies, Blair Drawson, Gérard DuBois, James Hill and Anita Kunz.

From Canada Post's website:
Will Davies (1924-2016) was a legend in the world of Canadian commercial art. His work combined a passion for beauty and the human form with uncanny technical skill. His ability and love of his craft are captured in this glamorous lifestyle portrait from one of the many romance novels he illustrated.
Blair Drawson was an illustrator for many of North America's most notable magazines before he decided to focus on writing and illustrating books – including nearly a dozen of his own – as well as painting and teaching courses in his craft.
Gérard DuBois has not looked back since relocating from France to Montréal to become a freelance illustrator. His expanding body of work ranges from book and magazine illustrations to commercial projects and exhibitions of his paintings.
James Hill (1930-2004) was one of the most sought-after illustrators in North America from the 1950s to 1970s. A prolific artist who appeared in major publications, galleries, and ad campaigns, he focused the last 25 years of his life on fine arts, wilderness landscapes and portraits.
Anita Kunz is one of the most iconic illustrators of our time, known for her bold and irreverent illustrations and provocative portraits of famous figures. Internationally acclaimed, she is a popular speaker and has been published and exhibited in many countries.
Read More
Canada Post announcement
CBC News: He designed over 500 Harlequin romance covers — now there's a Canada Post stamp in his honour
Thanks, Doug Goodale

Monday, April 9, 2018

Painting the view out the window

(Link to Video on YouTube)
It's a rare snowfall in April. I want to paint the view out the diner window while showing a little of the interior space as well.

The challenge is to figure out how to represent the relative tonal values. Even though I'm seeing a lot of dark values outside the windows when my eyes adjust, it helps me to make everything outside lighter than it appears. Gouache lends itself well to this kind of painting, because it lets you precisely control values.

Beyond that, it's a matter of getting the perspective right and then working out a way to use the brush to suggest the infinite randomness and complexity of the the scene outside.

Gouache tutorial video download "Gouache in the Wild"
Gouache in the Wild on DVD 
Check out my new Facebook Group page, "Sketch Easel Builders."

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Ups and Downs of Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz

Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz (1857-1893) traveled from her native Poland to Paris to reach her dream of becoming a portrait painter. 

Self portrait by Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz
After years of hard work, she started winning competitions and getting her work exhibited at the Salon and the Royal Academy. She won second place in a competition sponsored by the Académie Julian, where she hoped to study. But she faced serious setbacks. 
"She didn't have much money and her living conditions were poor in spite of the fact that she supported herself teaching music and drawing. On occasion she would find clients for her paintings, but they did not fetch much at the time. The death of her father in 1884 left her without a livelihood. It was then that Rodolphe Julian helped the young artist by exempting her from study fees and by hiring her as the leader of one of his workshops."
Unfinished self portrait by Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz
In the mid 1880s, two people close to her died: her good friend Klementyna Krassowska and her fiancé Wojciech Grabowski, throwing her into a deep depression.
"She spent a few months under the care of her friend, the painter Maria Gażycz. In 1892 in Paris she married Antoni Bohdanowicz, who was a doctor. They both returned to Warsaw the same year. Bilińska intended to open a painting school for women in the capitol of Poland, which would have mimicked the practices of the Parisian academies. However the project was stopped short when the artist fell ill with a heart condition, which led to her untimely death."
Read more
Book: Women Artists in Paris, 1850-1900
Biography of Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz (source of the quotes)
Wikipedia on Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Von Hayek's Animal-Painting Academy

German impressionist painter Hans von Hayek encouraged his students to paint animals from life.

Painters at von Hayek's art colony in Dachau
Von Hayek arranged for his students to visit farms, where farmhands would hold the animals relatively still.

According to Wikipedia, "One of his students, Carl Thiemann, wrote in his memoirs that the local farmers frequently complained about them trampling the grass and leaving oil paints behind."

Hans von Hayek
These art lessons took place in the Dachau district of Germany before it had its wartime associations.

Hans von Hayek
Von Hayek studied at the animal painting academy of Heinrich von Zügel.

Von Hayek had many famous students, including Hugo Hatzler, Hermann Stenner, Julie WolfthornAnna Klein, and Norbertine Bresslern-Roth, who I mentioned in a recent post.

Women painters were attracted to the colony because they weren't allowed into the State Academy in Munich until 1926.

Hans von Hayek sketching
The artists took their sketchbooks everywhere and often traveled by bicycle to their destinations.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Sketch Easel Hinge Solution

Blog reader Mel Barranco wanted to build a Sketch Easel, but had limited tools. Despite that limitation, he figured out some clever design solutions that I'd like to share with you.

If you've tried to build one, you'll know that one of the design challenges is that the adjustable torque hinges don't fold all the way flat. His workaround was to replace the protruding adjustment screws with "Chicago Screws" (Thanks, Glenn), normally used for binding papers.

He bought the wood from a home improvement store and he didn't have a saw at home, so they cut it for him. 

He inset the hinges so that they're flush with the work surface, and anchored the hinges with aluminum flat bars on the back surfaces. The home improvement store let him use their hacksaw for the aluminum.

Thank you, Mel! It's a clever build solution and you can read all about it on his blog. If you would like to share your Sketch Easel project with the GJ community, please check out my new Facebook Group page, "Sketch Easel Builders."
Blog post: How to Make a Sketch Easel
Your Sketch Easel Designs
Your New Easel Builds
Other resources:
"How to Make a Sketch Easel" on Gumroad
How to Make a Sketch Easel DVD on Amazon

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

20 Best Art-of-Animation Books

Most animated films come to market with a lavish art book that sneaks a peek at the creative work that went into making them.

These books can be inspiring references for artists and illustrators, not only for the artwork they contain, but also for the way they tell the story of the collaborative journey.

Here's a selection of the 20 Best Art-of-Animation Books from studios such as Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks, and Sony Animation.

The Art of Disney Pixar Inside Out 
Translating the abstract emotions of a young girl into characters that also have feelings and motivations was a big design challenge. In his introduction, director Pete Docter explains that he wanted the book to take us through the same experience the crew went through in developing the film, starting with rough concepts, design refinements, animation thumbnails, and lighting studies. The art mostly speaks for itself, but it is credited by name and medium, and there are occasional captions to explain context. 176 pages, $40.00 retail. Currently $23.21 on Amazon.

The Art of Finding Dory
Pixar's 2016 feature returns to similar undersea worlds that we saw in Finding Nemo, but this time with a new technological and creative toolset. The key creatives chime in with detailed captions to share the challenges they faced throughout the production. The book includes a rich sampling of storyboards, character models, and set designs, and they even show some of the many photos they took during research trips. Artists and art media are credited. 176 pages, $40.00 retail. Currently $14.55 on Amazon.

Art of Puss in Boots
DreamWorks Animation developed a richly atmospheric backstory world for Puss in Boots, who was spun off from the Shrek series. The book introduces the characters first, and then presents the various locations. The final section takes a single sequence of the film, the "Cat Cantina," and examines it from the perspective of all the departments along the pipeline. Captions credit artists (sometimes multiple contributors to a single image), along with the medium used, and there are captions interspersed to explain the thinking behind the art. 152 pages, $39.95. Currently $54.00 on Amazon.

The Art of The Boxtrolls
To prepare for their 2014 stop-motion animation feature "Boxtrolls," Laika Animation hired artists to draw, paint, and sculpt the quirky world of Cheesebridge, with the expressive characters that live above and below its cobblestone streets. The book includes a variety of concept art: set design, character silhouettes, puppet builds, and prop crafting. The book is divided by the various realms of the story. There's lots of inspiration if you're a sculptor or a 3D maker. 160 pages, $40.00. Currently $23.99 on Amazon.

The Art of Big Hero 6
This art book shows how Disney Animation took a little known Marvel franchise and developed it into an animated feature. The subject is divided into World, Characters, and Cinematography. The contributions of a wide range of talents is laid out along with explanatory captions from various contributors. One page spread takes time for a fascinating lesson about realism vs. stylization, and there's a color script at the end. Most of the art is digital. 160 pages, $40.00. Currently $30 on Amazon

The Art of The Croods
Director Chris Sanders has always been an artists' artist, and this book features many of his drawings of a prehistoric world. There are also character and set designs by other DreamWorks and guest concept artists, such as Carter Goodrich, Christophe Lautrette, Dominique Louis, and Shane Prigmore. The book is divided by Characters, World, and Anatomy of a Scene. The writer, Noela Hueso, is a former editor of Hollywood Reporter who brings her expertise about animation to the captions and chapter openings, making it more than just an art book. 176 pages, $34.95. Currently $26.28 

The Art of Brave
The forewords by co-directors Brenda Chapman and Mark Andrews introduces some of the challenges faced by the crew in tackling this Scottish coming-of-age story. The book shares many visual aspects of the development: color scripts, storyboards, character sketches, environment art, and 3D sculpts, all set against dramatic black pages. Interviews with key creatives such as animators and effects artists reveal insights on how they navigated the complicated technical processes. 160 pages, $40.00. Currently $31.00 

Surf's Up: The Art and Making of a True Story
This book is more than a concept art collection. It's an ambitious publishing effort, with a boxed, slipcased hardcover, inserted postcards, stickers, and acetate overlays included inside the book. The artists share how they gave individual personalities to the penguins and otters, and the technical artists explain how they figured out how to animate realistic but also expressive water effects. The book includes a DVD video called "Making Waves." 150 pages, $50.00.  Currently $18.57

The Art of Monsters, Inc.
When all you see is the finished film, it's easy to underestimate how many unknowns the crew faced at the beginning. Nowhere is this more true than in this film, where the monsters had to be funny but also scary. The presentation includes many beautiful color concepts in pastel by Dominique Louis, and far-out character and layout ideas by Carter Goodrich, Lane Smith, Nicolas Marlet, Ralph Eggleston, Ricky Nierva, and Tia Kratter. Most of the artwork is in physical painting materials, such as gouache, watercolor, markers, and acrylics. 144 pages, Currently $43.20

The Art of Finding Nemo
Developing this world presented some formidable challenges: getting the fish to have personalities and making unfamiliar undersea environments sufficiently varied and interesting, with convincing physics and effects. The artists are a who's who of leading animation concept talents, such as Peter de Sève, Jason Deamer, Ricky Nierva, Ralph Eggleston, Dominique Louis, and Sharon Callahan, plus some strikingly moody charcoal compositions by Simón Varela.
160 pages, $40.00.  Currently $30.81

The Art of The Incredibles
This Pixar classic went through some surprisingly abstract concept stages. Director Brad Bird encouraged the artists to take unusual liberties to explore way-out visual looks. Styles range from collages by Teddy Newton, to the noir-ish chiaroscuros of Paul Topolis, to the charming character designs of Tony Fucile and Teddy Newton. Lou Romano's semi-geometric color script opens out to a double gatefold so that you can see the whole thing at once. Occasional commentaries by the artists gives context. 160 pages, $40.00 Currently $40.01

The Art of Ratatouille
The concept artists did their homework when they designed a French restaurant in Paris, and the inspired rat who wanted to become a chef. Director Brad Bird admits in his introduction that the film's look was well established before he came on board. The presentation includes a lot of the clay sculpts by Greg Dykstra and the hilarious character concepts by Jason Deamer, Carter Goodrich, and Dan Lee, who passed away during the production. Includes evocative color keys by Dominique Louis after he went digital. 160 pages, $40.00 Currently $30.90

A Bug's Life: The Art and Making of an Epic of Miniature Proportions
One of Pixar's early features, Bug's Life was an artistic and technical breakthrough in its time, with plants that moved in the wind and transmitted light, and characters that were a leap forward from the plastic toys in Pixar's first feature. The book features the moody color concepts of Tia Kratter and Bill Cone. The concept art is mixed with production stills and a text that offers fascinating insights into the early challenges of CG animation.
Oversize, 128 pages, $40.00 Secondary market copies vary greatly in price. 

Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: An Art in Its Making
Snow White was the highlight of Walt Disney's determined effort to assemble and train a group of artists that rivaled the best storybook illustrators in Europe. This book is a catalog from an exhibiion of the collection of Stephen H. Ison, but it includes everything from Kendall O'Connor's powerful storyboard layouts to  animation drawings by Norm Ferguson, Art Babbitt, Bill Tytla, and Grim Natwick. Many of the cel setups and watercolor backgrounds are not credited, either because they didn't know, or they were the work of so many different people. 194 pages, $45.00. Used copies are about $50.00 

Walt Disney's Bambi: The Story and the Film
The fascinating text by two of the 'Nine Old Men,' Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas, chronicles the story of the production. The drawings and paintings are informed by direct study of nature and animals, and the authors describe how the studio worked to enhance the skill sets of all the artists. The shift of style from Tenggren to Ty Wong is well documented, with a lot of Wong's atmospheric pastels and watercolors included. The last section showcases some key drawings from animation sequences, making this book a good supplement to their famous textbook The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation. 208 pages, $29.95. Currently $19.95

Walt Disney's Fantasia
Disney described every film as an adventure in the realm of sound, color, and motion, and this adventure reached a high point with Fantasia, which has some of the finest artistry of the classic era of animation. This lavish Abrams book includes character sketches, color keys, background paintings, maquettes, animation drawings, and final cel setups culled from the archives. Animation historian John Culhane brings to life the story meetings and conferences by means of transcribed notes. Most of the artwork is not credited, but all of Disney's top early talent is in evidence. 220 pages, $29.95. Currently $19.95

Layout and Background (Walt Disney Animation Archives)
The idea of the Archive Series is to compile a whole book of art in a given category, showing examples from the studio's collection of short animated films and features. The art is large and uncropped, and mostly without commentary. Most of the works are credited in the back of the book. Both pencil layouts and painted backgrounds are included in this volume, showing the evolution of BG styles over the decades. Oversize 280 pages, $50.00. Currently $35.00

Story (Walt Disney Animation Archives) 
The drawings in this book are rough but incredibly expressive, communicating the emotion of the scene immediately. Many sequences are shown in series so you can see where the story beats are headed. Artists include Gustaf Tenggren, Bill Peet, Ferdinand Horvath, Glen Keane, and Chris Sanders. As with other volumes in the Archives series, the art is shown mostly without accompanying text, which lets the beautifully reproduced art shine on the page. The other excellent book on this subject is: Paper Dreams: The Art And Artists Of Disney Storyboards
Oversize 280 pages, $50.00. Currently $31.00

Design (Walt Disney Animation Archives)
This book showcases the work of the stylists and designers. The samples range from cartoony to expressionistic, and they will inspire illustrators looking to hone their own style. Art includes color scripts, character keys, color illustrations, and background sketches. Artists include Eyvind Earle, Mary Blair, Ty Wong, Gustaf Tenggren, Joe Grant, Aaron Blaise, Armand Baltazar, Lorelay Bove, and Hans Bacher. Oversize 280 pages, $60.00. Currently $34.00

The Art of DreamWorks Animation
 This thick book offers the best of the concept art from the history of DreamWorks Animation, 30 films in all. The early work goes all the way back to Prince of Egypt, and it carries through to Home in 2014. The individual pieces are mostly uncredited, but it includes recognizable talents like Carter Goodrich, Sam Michlap, Nathan Fowkes, and Christophe Lautrette. Paragraph-long captions scattered throughout by directors and production designers testify to the ferment of creative cross-fertilization that happened during many of the productions. 324 pages, $50.00. Currently $32.76

The Art of Zootopia
Character designs, mostly by Cory Loftis, explore many variations of pose and expression of all the main characters. The various regions of the Zootopia universe are explored in terms of their architecture, color styling, and concept. The text explains the evolution of the story concept and the challenges faced by the designers to make such a sprawling story cohesive visually.
160 pages, $40.00. Currently $24.74

More Art-of-Animation books that you recommended:
The Art of Spirited Away
The Art of My Neighbor Totoro: A Film by Hayao Miyazaki
Oga Kazuo (Studio Ghibli background artist)
Tekkonkinkreet Art Book Shinji Kimura
The Art of DreamWorks Kung Fu Panda
The Art of Kubo and the Two Strings
The Art of Pixar: The Complete Color Scripts
The Art of Tangled
The Art of Frozen
The Art of Blue Sky Studios
Song of the Sea Artbook
Cartoon Modern: Style and Design in 1950s Animation