Monday, April 23, 2018

Sargent's Technique and Temperament

John Singer Sargent's grandnephew, Richard Ormond, speaks with veteran portrait painter Michael Shane Neal about Sargent's technique and temperament.

Michael Shane Neal and Richard Ormond, gouache
Sketched live at the Portrait Society Conference in Washington, DC
Ormond has authored many books on Sargent, including John Singer Sargent: Figures and Landscapes 1908–1913: The Complete Paintings

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Side by Side Demos

The Portrait Society Conference features many painting demos, where the artists paint models in oil during a 2-3 hour period, commenting as they go.

Daniel Gerhartz demo at the Portrait Society
Two cameras record the painting and the model, and project the images side by side, so you can really see what the artist is seeing. Here's a demo by Daniel Gerhartz.

Later, Jeff Hein painted Matteo Caloiaro.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Name Inflation

Hanging out with legends of the portrait painting tradition: Michael Shane Neal (standing) and Everett Raymond Kinstler.

This followed a presentation that discussed Howard Chandler Christy, James Montgomery Flagg, Charles Dana Gibson, and John Singer Sargent. Hmm, I think I need a third name.

Three-Hour Portrait

The opening event of the Portrait Society Conference is the Faceoff, where 15 artist paint from 5 models over a 3 hour period.

Joseph Daily by James Gurney
I had the pleasure of painting Joseph Daily, a portrait artist himself. I worked in oil, 12 x 16 inches.

It was fun to work next to another artist I admire, Mario Robinson, who recently published an excellent book on book on classical portrait painting in watercolor.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Business Breakfast

We're at the Portrait Society Conference in Washington, DC.

I paint two guys discussing business over breakfast. I using black and white gouache in a watercolor sketchbook. (Link to video on Facebook)

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.