Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Victoria's Andy

The exhibition "Andrew Wyeth at 100: A Family Remembrance" at the Fenimore Art Museum in New York blows away the misconception that Andrew Wyeth was a melancholy, dour loner. 

"Fuzzy Wooly Andy," ca. 2000 Photo by Victoria Browning Wyeth
The impression that comes across from his granddaughter Victoria's viewpoint is of the "Andy" she knew, who giggled, tickled, hugged, and laughed. 

MASTER BEDROOM, 1965 watercolor. Collection of Victoria Browning Wyeth
© 2017 Andrew Wyeth / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY
Victoria curated the show, writing the captions, and included many works from her own collection. 

It's a small show, but there are watercolors, egg temperas, early self portraits, quick portraits of family members, photographs (many by Vic herself), illustrated letters, items of clothing, and even paintbrushes (He used, among others, Laurut brand kolinsky round mops with quill ferrules).

Outpost, 1968 tempera. Andrew and Betsy Wyeth Collection
© 2017 Andrew Wyeth / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

The show is full of insights into Wyeth's thinking and working methods. According to Victoria, Andy NEVER used photographs for his paintings. Here's a grab bag of quotes:

"It is not a portrait unless the person is looking at you." (A. Wyeth)

"He always talked about the sounds in his paintings."

"He was wonderful because he would talk with you — converse with you when you posed. He would always talk about something he knew you were interested in— any kind of subject."

"He always mixed his own black. 'You need to build the excitement of the black, with blues, greens reds, etc.'"

"Art has no rules." (A. Wyeth)

The Revenant, 1949 tempera. New Britain Museum,
Harriet Russell Stanley Fund, © 2017 Andrew Wyeth
Art Rights Society (ARS), NY
I love the curating because it cuts through all the bull you usually read in museum captions. It is personal, informal, and genuine, and offers a new way to look at this somewhat elusive artist. As Victoria said, "I feel it's time the world saw the Andy in Andrew Wyeth."
Andrew Wyeth at 100: A Family Remembrance is on view at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, New York through September 4.
Book: Andrew Wyeth | Victoria Wyeth: My Andy (Andrew Wyeth)
The larger Andrew Wyeth exhibition is at the Brandywine Museum in Pennsylvania: Andrew Wyeth in Retrospect, through September 17, with a book: Andrew Wyeth: In Retrospect

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Video Sample: Painting Peonies in a Garden

For those of you who are still deciding whether to purchase the new video, Flower Painting in the Wild, here's an extended sample to give you the flavor of it. (Link to video)

For the rest of you who already took the plunge, thank you! If any questions came up as you watched it, please ask in the comments, and I'll answer them in a future post.

"Whether you are just starting out or have mastered your own technique, to behold a fresh alla prima painting in plein air is a treat for any artist."
—Michael Klein, East Oaks Studio

Monday, August 21, 2017

Selective Underpainting

I love the silhouette shapes of these calla lilies. The trumpet-like white flowers stand out from their surroundings.

I use a variation of the underpainting strategy. I decide to do an overall wash of yellow selectively under the leaves only, not under the flowers. That groups the foliage together as a mass, allowing the flowers to stand out.
Calla lilies, watercolor and gouache, 4 x 7 inches
I allow the area inside the flowers to stay bright white until late in the process, and then I place pale washes of transparent watercolor over them.

(Link to video)
So in summary: 1) Careful drawing. 2) Background leaves painted over yellow watercolor underpainting. 3) Transparent watercolor on white lilies.

This demo is not part of the new video, Flower Painting in the WildI just didn't get much coverage on this one.

“Of all of Gurney’s terrific series of “In the Wild” videos, Flower Painting in the Wild is the best.” —Matthew Innis, Underpaintings

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Farmers' Museum

Brooks Barn, Farmers' Museum, gouache, 5 x 5 inches
The Farmers' Museum of Cooperstown, New York demonstrates the daily business of a 19th century farm.

You can watch — and sketch — as re-enactors milk cows, make cheese, harvest garlic, weave cloth, and print pamphlets. (Link to video on Facebook)

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Ruskin and Wild Roses

John Ruskin gave challenging advice to young artists.

Wild roses, gouache over casein, 5 x 8 inches
He said: "They should go to Nature in all singleness of heart, and walk with her laboriously and trustingly, having no other thought but how best to penetrate her meaning; rejecting nothing, selecting nothing, and scorning nothing." 

I take that advice to mean willfully discarding the idea of improving on nature, and translating what I see into paint as faithfully as possible.

I soon discover that painting every detail is impossible. As Ruskin points out, individual leaves can rarely be seen apart from the others, given all the overlapping and cast shadows. Plus, there are tens of thousands of tiny forms, and those forms morph from moment to moment, and from day to day. (I spend four consecutive mornings on the painting).

Instead, the character of the masses of leaves has to be reinvented in terms of paint.

The making of this painting is the main segment of my new video, "Flower Painting in the Wild."

“I think this is the best 'in the wild' video yet. Great demonstration of lost and found edges, painting negative space, keeping your place through a complex scene, dealing with plein-air distractions, excellent close-up views of superb brush work, emphasis when depicting reflections, glazing with gouache (and casein) and even how to make friends with green. Great Stuff!!” —Biff (Customer)

Flower Painting in the Wild
1080p HD download from Sellfy
1080p HD download from Gumroad
1080p HD download from Cubebrush
DVD available direct from the manufacturer
DVD from Amazon
Trailer on YouTube

The Ruskin quote is from Modern Painters, Vol. 1

Related Previous Posts:
Chernyshevsky's Philosophy of Art
W.T. Richards "Into the Woods"
Leighton's Lemon Tree
Month Long Field Study
W.T. Richards Field Study

Friday, August 18, 2017

Release of "Flower Painting in the Wild"

"Flower Painting in the Wild" is now available, and today only it's 10% off Buy now
(scroll down for more links). Here's what the reviewers are saying:

“Who doesn't love to sit in a garden? Translucent and highly chromatic, flowers are the most challenging subjects to render in the studio. Put them in a mass outdoors in flickering light, moving in a gentle breeze...even the most accomplished plein air painter will head for the hills instead. James Gurney takes you with him to observe and paint on a larger panel as well as his iconic sketchbook pages. Practical, erudite and charming, James shows you how he integrates that devilish chartreuse leaf green into his impressionistic paintings of flowers on site. Watch him create a formally satisfying composition while only selecting details that are botanically relevant. He also puts it all in philosophical context, quoting Ruskin no less, that urges you to go outside to smell, see and paint the roses!”
Elissa Gore, Landscape Painting Instructor, New York Botanical Garden

"Set at the New York Botanical Gardens, you get to see how an artist tackles the complexity of nature. With shifting light, wind blowing and pedestrians passing by Gurney does an elegant painting. Taking the time to see the structure of the flower, Gurney develops the painting to a high level of finish. The combination of his ability to understand solid depictions of light and form as well as structure and brush handling, make this video a joy to watch for every level of artist. Whether you are just starting out or have mastered your own technique, to behold a fresh alla prima painting in plein air is a treat for any artist. Gurney filmed the video himself which gives it a raw, personal touch. I highly recommend it and look forward to viewing others in the future.”
Michael Klein, East Oaks Studio

"With this DVD James Gurney provides the viewer an excellent opportunity to learn about flower painting in a natural setting while paying keen attention to different shapes and light, general value and color in nature, and how to bring them all together in a finished painting. He demonstrates not only the painting techniques but gives also information about the surrounding environment and how to engage with the public while painting. Gurney is a master at explaining how to handle clustered masses of plant parts, without absolute delineation of detail so that one’s mind is inspired to build the final picture."
Mervi Hjelmroos-Koski, Ph.D., D.Sc., Manager of School of Botanical Art & Illustration, Denver Botanic Gardens

"Flower Painting in the Wild" is another excellent video from James Gurney, particularly if you're interested in casein paint. Using casein in most segments, he paints several varieties of flowers, demonstrating its opacity and versatility. As in his previous video demonstrations, solid technique, sharp and useful video images, and Gurney's obvious humility and good-humor make this a must for the student of painting. Highly recommended.”
Gary Hoff

“The video is a great way to learn painting flowers outdoors in any medium.”
—Eleinne Basa

Flower Painting in the Wild
1080p HD download from Sellfy
1080p HD download from Gumroad
1080p HD download from Cubebrush
DVD available direct from the manufacturer
DVD from Amazon
Trailer on YouTube

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Story Time from Space

Jeanette and I had breakfast this morning with MICA painting instructor and maritime history painter Patrick O'Brien. He told me that one of his children's books, "You Are the First Kid on Mars" went up on SpaceX to the Space Station to be read aloud online. Pretty cool!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Todd McFarlane Interview

Over the last two decades, Todd McFarlane has made a name for himself as both an artist and a businessman, creating the comic character Spawn, the artist-controlled publisher Image, and a popular line of detailed action figures. In this interview he shares the keys to his success. (Link to YouTube)

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

How to Make a YouTube End Screen Gizmo

In the last 20 seconds of a YouTube video, you can offer the viewer the chance to click on other videos, playlists, websites, or the Subscribe button, using their "end screen" options.

In this behind-the-scenes video I show how to make a reusable gizmo to make that end screen segment more interesting and to encourage viewers to click those links. (Link to video on YouTube).

The panels flip into position before being superimposed with the link options. The movement of the panels is powered by mousetrap springs. It's cheap and easy to build, and it's completely customizable to the style of your channel.

1 " X 3 " Pine boards
screw eyes
Magic Sculpt epoxy clay
Gorilla glue

My next Gumroad tutorial, "Flower Painting in the Wild," comes out this Friday, August 18.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Brushes for water media

Betty-Jane Moss asks:
Would you advise using different brushes for the different kinds of water-based paints (casein, gouache and the transparent watercolor)?

Betty-Jane, the quick answer is yes: If you're painting in casein, use only synthetics; don't use natural hair brushes (bristles or sables) because the ammonia in the paint can be hard on the fibers. If you're using gouache or watercolor, you can use any kind of synthetic or natural brush.

I usually carry a mix of flat and round brushes, but the ones I use most are a 3/4" and 1/2" flat and a #10 synthetic watercolor round.

Synthetic options
A good bargain is to get a watercolor brush set with carrying pouch (regular length handles) or a short-handled water media brush set with carrying case. The folding case will fit over the left hand page of the open sketchbook.

There are a lot of other brands available, everything from very expensive Kolinsky brushes to cheap brush sets from big box craft stores.

I don't think you have to spend large amounts of money. I find a good brush, I buy a few extras to have on hand. I've found brushes of acceptable quality at the big box craft stores for very reasonable prices, but you have to check them out. What you want to look for are brushes that have good spring or snap, not floppy. The brush should come to a fine point — or edge in the case of a flat. That way you can use a fairly large brush to paint your picture.

Natural hair brushes
If you're using watercolor or gouache, you can use natural hair brushes. I like sable flat brushes, such as: 1/2-inch  and 3/4-Inch size, and I use them especially for laying down big washes. The sable flats hold more water usually don't hold as sharp an edge as the synthetics.

For laying bigger washes and wetting the paper, a Cat's Tongue Wash Brush is a good tool. It has a flattened ferrule similar to a filbert brush.

If you like watercolor techniques where you wet large areas, a squirrel mop brush

Round Kolinsky sables are wonderful, and will hold a point for a long time if you take good care of them.
Winsor and Newton Series 7 
Richeson Siberian Kolinsky brushes
Escoda Optimo Kolinsky
Da Vinci Maestro Series Kolinsky Red 

If you have a very compact kit and can't carry a box of brushes, you might want to use a Escoda Sable Round Travel Brush, which safely stows the brush tip inside the handle. The Rosemary brush company in England also makes a set of "reversible" "folding" "pocket" "travel" brushes.
Previous posts on GurneyJourney:
Review: Richeson Travel Brush Set
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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Kramskoi's 'Christ in the Desert'

Ivan Kramskoi's Christ in the Desert (1872) is more than just an illustration from the Bible. It uses the story of Christ's sojourn in the wilderness to comment on personal and contemporary concerns.

Kramskoi (Russian, 1837-1887) wrote: "Influenced by a variety of things, I have come to a very distressing understanding of life, and I clearly see that there is a moment in every man's life...when he is in doubt: whether to go to the right or to the left This, then, is not Christ. Or rather, I don't know who it is. It is an expression of my own ideas...Christ is alone and tormented by doubts: should he go to the people, teach them, suffer and perish, or should he yield to temptation and give it all up."

The critics of the old guard did not receive the painting warmly, accusing the artist of distorting the scripture and expressing anti-religious feelings. But the younger artists embraced the vision. Tolstoy said, "This is the best Christ I know."
From the book Fifty Russian Artists, published by Raduga Publishers, Moscow

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Castle Kidnapped

I painted this bizarre scene in 1989 for the cover of "Castle Kidnapped" by John DeChancie. My friend James Warhola posed for the guy with the fizzy wine glass, and I posed as the jester with the levitating marotte

I enjoyed the creature design on this one, especially figuring out the walk cycle of a 6-legged blue ankylo-tortoise. I hope that little orange eyeball frog hops away before he gets stepped on.

Get the original book on Amazon
Previously on GJ: Gradations

Friday, August 11, 2017

Flower Painting in the Wild Preview

Here's a preview of the next video tutorial, which releases on Friday, August 18—one week from now. (Link to video on YouTube)

It'll be an hour and 10 minutes long, packed full of practical and inspiring insights about painting flowers outdoors in the garden and in nature.

I'll be using gouache and casein, which are fast-drying, opaque, water-based media, ideal for floral studies. The painting insights are universal and will benefit oil and acrylic painters as well.

Michael Klein of East Oaks Studio says: "Whether you are just starting out or have mastered your own technique, to behold a fresh alla-prima painting in plein air is a treat for any artist.”

Thursday, August 10, 2017

De Wint's Colors

"Peter De Wint’s (1784-1849) usual palette had the following twelve colours : vermilion, Indian red, Prussian or cyanine blue, brown madder, pink madder, sepia, gamboge, yellow ochre, burnt sienna, purple lake, brown pink, and indigo.

"To these, for occasional use, he added four others in half-cakes: orange ochre, Vandyke brown, olive green cobalt, and emerald green.

"All these pigments were in hard cakes, but they were kept soft with water when in use. De Wint designed his own box, as he disliked to mix his washes on the enamelled leaves with which the trade boxes were fitted. He preferred bright metal leaves with a silver-like surface.

"He employed two brushes, both large and round, but one was old and worn, while the other was new and came to a fine point."
Excerpted from: "Masters of English Landscape Painting: J. S. Cotman. David Cox, Peter De Wint" by Charles Holme, available from Google Books and and in book form from Amazon.
More about De Wint's life and technical process on

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Priming Sketchbook Pages

Priming the painting surface with an abstract color field is a great way to energize a field study done in opaque media.

I like to prime a few pages in my watercolor book with abstract color shapes in casein. If you don’t have casein, you can use tinted gesso or acryla gouache. In this case, the underpainting is a random yellow shape surrounded by a tint of blue, which gives me some colors to build on. 

When I arrive at a motif I choose a page with an intriguing priming that fits the subject. In this case, a a  cluster of flowers that I'm attracted to resembles the shape of the underpainting.

Sometimes I cover up the underpainting completely with the final gouache or casein, and sometimes I let the priming colors show through, but the priming always influences the painting.

Here's a snippet from my next video tutorial "Flower Painting in the Wild," which releases Monday, August 21 Friday, August 18. I'll show you four flower paintings from the first to the final touches. Michael Klein has previewed the video and calls it "a treat for any artist."
On Amazon: Recommended set of casein
Holbein acryla gouache also works for priming.
During the month of August, you can join plein-air challenge to paint a storefront. Here's more information on a Facebook Event page.