Gurney Journey | category: Art Schools | (page 3 of 11)


Gurney Journey

This daily weblog by Dinotopia creator James Gurney is for illustrators, plein-air painters, sketchers, comic artists, animators, art students, and writers. You'll find practical studio tips, insights into the making of the Dinotopia books, and first-hand reports from art schools and museums.

Do artists need to learn non-computer skills?

D. Peters asked: "Ok, random question. A bunch of art teachers are debating whether or not learning how to use a ruler and how to draw things to scale is still a needed skill for today's artists. Some argue that with technology, we no longer have the need to learn how to scale up or down by hand. Others say that even with the technology, there is still a need for artists to learn how to draw and shape to scale by hand. Opinion?"
Do artists need to learn non-computer skills?
Jeanette in my basement studio, which I occupied 1985-1991
My answer: I feel nearly all practical skills are worth learning, even if a computer can do them more efficiently. The more skills you master, the stronger you are as a person and as an artist. Consider, by way of example, the skill of mental arithmetic. If you can accurately add a column of numbers in your head, you will use the skill all the time, even though that function is readily mechanized by calculators.

I suppose teachers of art rightly worry about which skills are more worth teaching than others, given the limited time they have to prepare a group of graduates for the real demands of a job marketplace. Most art teachers I've asked about this question have told me that both traditional skills (such as perspective) and computer skills (such as Google Sketchup) are worth learning, but the problem is the limited class time available to teach it all. Many digital animation studios want animators who have some training in hand-drawn or stop motion animation because it gives their digital work more grounding.

The path of learning is different when you are teaching yourself. You will teach yourself whatever skills you need to match the demands of a given project. Project-based self-teaching is fueled entirely by your personal obsessions. It may lead you to a rare mastery of a forgotten art, such as ornamental glass art. 

In this new Internet economy, the people who succeed are those who—lured by the happy demons of curiosity—learn a suite of skills, including both digital and traditional skills, that makes them different from anyone else, and thus indispensable to society. And because we're human, we might wish to learn skills that have no immediate practical value whatsoever, such as juggling, piano playing, wood engraving, or knitting. 

Such learning, I believe, is at the core of Adam Savage's Ten Rules for Success.

WPI Game Development

WPI Game DevelopmentOn Thursday I visited the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Massachusetts as a guest of the department of Interactive Media and Game Development (IMGD), where I gave a  lecture on Worldbuilding.

The IMGD program at WPI is designed to provide students with both programming expertise and art knowledge so that they're well rounded in their approach to interactive design.

WPI Game DevelopmentOne of the professors is Britt Snyder (left, with a Jordu Schell sculpt between us). Britt has worked as an artist in the field of video game development for the past 13 years, with clients like SONY, Blizzard, Liquid Entertainment, Rockstar, THQ, and many others.
He teaches 3D modeling, digital painting, and concept art.

WPI was one of the first to develop a program in game design, and is one of the top-ranked academic programs in the field. Since the department is part of a larger engineering school, there's always a focus on blending art and technology, with an eye on fostering close working relationships between artists and programmers.

WPI Game DevelopmentStudents get to jump right in and participate in hands-on projects and collaborations, creating games, virtual environments, interactive fiction, art installations, collaborative performances. They are encouraged to invent entirely new forms of media.

I was thrilled to be invited by PhD candidate Jia Wang to try out the virtual reality mo-cap lab, dubbed "Phase Space."

I am wearing a stereoscopic head-mounted display and holding a tracking constellation (basically a souped up Wii controller with very precise tracking points). 

The myriad sensors mounted on the outer frame follow  the exact 3D movements of my head and hand-held wand, turning me into a St. George with a sword facing off against a dragon, or whatever. 

Small fans mounted on the outer frame can generate the effect of wind, so that the player can feel completely immersed in a virtual environment.

New Hampshire Institute of Art

New Hampshire Institute of Art
On Wednesday I visited New Hampshire Institute of Art for a demo and lecture. The school occupies 12 historic buildings in downtown Manchester, New Hampshire. 

NHIA offers BFA programs in Ceramics, Painting, Photography, Interdisciplinary Arts, Arts Education, Graphic Design, and Illustration. 

New Hampshire Institute of Art
There are 170 illustration majors out of a student body of 540. The Illustration faculty includes (from left to right) Ryan O'Rourke, Leigh Guldig, Jerry LoFaro, Kristina Carroll, me, Natalya Zahn, Jim Burke, and Doug Sirois. Follow the links to see their work on their personal websites. 

New Hampshire Institute of Art

Kristina Carroll teaches courses on Science Fiction/ Fantasy and Worldbuilding. Above are some samples of student work. Kristina says: "Good technique is the foundation of all illustration, and concept is the heart of it. Regardless of style or subject matter, by learning the tried and true methods of the old masters and developing a strong process, students will acquire the tools to develop share their ideas clearly."

New Hampshire Institute of Art
Speaking of tools, one student named Daniel showed me the sketching box he improvised. He hot-glued watercolor half pans onto the inside of the lid at far right, and mixed the paint on the inside surface. Smart idea! Who needs to buy those expensive watercolor sets?

New Hampshire Institute of Art
NHIA is also hosting a small show of 25 original Dinotopia artworks, including "Dinosaur Parade" (above, frame by Troy Stafford), "Garden of Hope," "Dinosaur Boulevard," "Small Wonder," "Up High," and "Waterfall City." There are also a few preliminary sketches and reference maquettes. The show, organized by the Norman Rockwell Museum, contains a completely different set of artwork from the recent show in Connecticut. The NHIA museum is located at 77 Amherst Street and will be up through March 13.

Lines and Colors announcement of the show, with closeups of Dinosaur Parade

Gamut Mapping at MICA

Gamut Mapping at MICA
Many painting teachers have been using Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter as a textbook in the classroom. Patrick O'Brien, who teaches painting at the Maryland Institute College of Art, described the lesson he taught out of the book:

We experimented with your method of gamut masking and mixing color strings. We used pages 123-131 in Color and Light, and also referenced pages 106-107 and 116-117.
Gamut Mapping at MICAFor the exercise I brought in some simple photographs for them to copy, because I wanted to take the drawing element out of it, so they could concentrate on the color scheme. On the morning of class I went to the MICA library to find a color wheel to use. 
Gamut Mapping at MICA
 In flipping through all the books about color, I could not find a single good color wheel that went to grey in the center. So we had to use the small color wheel in your book on page 75. We used index cards and tape to make the masks. As you can see, some students' first instinct was to photograph it with their phone and bring it back to their seat.  
Gamut Mapping at MICA
 I had each student draw the subject twice. We did one small painting in one color gamut, and then their homework is to do another painting of the same scene in the other gamut. Pretty much exactly what you did in your video with the CircusCircus sign. 
Gamut Mapping at MICA
 And now I've been inspired to incorporate these ideas into my own painting as well. I'm working on a New York 1940s maritime scene that would be perfect for a cool gamut.
Thanks for the great ideas! ---Patrick O'Brien, MICA

If other instructors are doing class projects based on ideas in Color and Light, please send me photos and a description, and I’ll try to share them on the blog.

And if you want to use Color and Light as your course guide, please let me know. At our little web store, we can offer you discounts on group orders, and I can sign them for each of your students.

Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter signed from my web store
Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter on Amazon
All photos by Patrick O'Brien
Previously on GJ:
My painting demo for Patrick's class at MICA 
Jason Dowd's use of C&L at LCAD

The Perfect Art School

The editor of American Artist magazine recently asked a group of artists, teachers, and administrators to describe "The Perfect Art School." The new September issue publishes the answers. 

The Perfect Art School
Here's my answer: "The perfect art school would nurture skill but not ostentation, knowledge but not dogma, and tradition but not conventionalism."

Max Ginsburg workshop this September

Max Ginsburg workshop this September
Max Ginsburg will be teaching a three day workshop at Garin Baker's Carriage House Art Studio's "Visiting Artist Series this September 7-9. The studio is located in the Lower Hudson Valley of New York State. The workshop will focus on composing scenes with multiple figures.  

Max Ginsburg workshop this September
Enrollment will be limited to 15. Max will give individual critiques and studio time with live models. Garin's atelier is a congenial place to be during the work sessions and during the off-time, when students can bond around good food and conversation. There are rooms in Garin's historic house to accommodate some of the students.

Max Ginsburg workshop this September
Max and Garin have asked me to come by for an evening to talk a little about multiple figure composition. 

For more information: 

By the way, Garin and his studio are featured on the cover of the current issue of American Artist Workshop magazine.

Survival Guide for Art Students

I met with the editors of Dover Publishing a while ago. They publish a lot of classic books on art instruction from days of yore. I told them that most of what I know about drawing and painting comes from studying their books. They asked me for a list of the ten art instruction books that I thought were most useful, with a blurb about why I love each one.

They just put this recommended list in their catalog, so here it is: "James Gurney's Survival Guide for Art Students."

Survival Guide for Art Students

Bridgman's Life Drawing by George Bridgman

Bridgman's legendary figure drawing demonstrations at the Art Students League of New York have inspired generations of artists, from Norman Rockwell to Frank Frazetta. His dynamic, chunky form analysis reminds students of the big shapes and how they interlock with each other, which is easy to overlook when faced with the subtleties of the actual figure. 

John Vanderpoel, who studied in France at the Académie Julian, offers a classical approach to figure drawing, noteworthy for its timeless grace. His approach focuses on the important planes of the figure understood in terms of simple light and shade. Male and female models are analyzed in many detailed drawings of parts, such as the head, neck, torso, and limbs. The plates are so good that it would profit a student to systematically copy all of them.

Harold Speed's classic text bridges the often-difficult gap between drawing and painting. He starts with a tutorial on seeing, the foundation of accurate drawing. He distinguishes between line drawing and what he calls 'mass drawing'—essentially monochrome painting. Although his writing style might strike some modern readers as old fashioned and opinionated, he makes a good case and covers useful aesthetic territory.

Speed's book on painting builds on his drawing book, offering painting instruction as it was practiced in the Royal Academy. Although not everyone will agree with his views on modern art, his advice on tone, color, and edges is concise and inspiring, and his analysis of the old masters benefits from the insights of a skilled practitioner.

Perspective can be a daunting topic, like advanced mathematics, but in its most basic form, it is easy to grasp. Norling does a good job of emphasizing the most fundamental points, especially the all-important subject of eye level. He concentrates on the familiar problems faced by most artists, such as one-, two-, and three-point perspective.

This is a useful reference book, dominated by large and carefully drawn plates. The animal kingdom is represented by a small number of familiar domesticated mammals: horse, dog, cow, and goat, together with a lion. Each animal is shown in neutral poses in side, top, and front views, with skeletal and muscular dissections for comparison.

Disney animator Ken Hultgren shares an approach to drawing animals that emphasizes the unique characteristics of all the major types of mammals. His style features action poses ranging from straight to cartoony. His pen-and-ink drawings are usually accompanied by a skeletal analysis to help students see the hidden structure. He never loses sight of the lines of action flowing through a pose, something that both realist painters and cartoonists can benefit from.

This book is a good one to consult when one needs a reminder that not all trees look the same. Cole draws upon the Victorian tradition of close observation of nature, and he analyzes trees at the level of roots, branches, stems, blossoms, leaves, and foliage masses. The book transcends the limits of a botanical treatise by exploring artistic issues, such as the grouping of masses and the simplification of contours. The text is profusely illustrated with black-and-white explanatory drawings, as well as compositions by early masters.

John Carlson, himself a noted American Impressionist painter and teacher, addresses all the common elements faced by landscape painters, including design, light, perspective, color, clouds, trees, and composition. While the book was first published in 1929, Dover has reprinted the 1958 edition, so the language is a little more accessible to the modern reader without sacrificing Carlson's forthright style. Although the 58 diagrams are in black and white, the book's chief value is its practical principles and insights.

This classic text from an associate of Rodin guides the sculptor through the theory and practice needed to successfully interpret the figure in three dimensions. It covers basic technique, materials, and anatomy. Although the text is extensive and old fashioned, it provides a rare window into the working methods and thought processes that led to some of the greatest masterpieces of figural sculpture.

Here's the list again in no particular order. The titles are linked to Amazon pages:
I'd be interested in your experience with old books on art instruction (say, 50 years old or more). What do you like or dislike about them? Do you have some favorite old-time art instruction books that I overlooked? Let me know in the comments. Later in the week I'll do a poll and compile a crowd-sourced list.

Demo Day at IMC

Yesterday the students were in full swing on their paintings at Illustration Master Class, the week-long workshop for fantasy art in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Demo Day at IMC
In between giving lectures and circulating to give personal feedback, the instructors demonstrated painting techniques. Greg Manchess painted a head study of a female model in oil, with instructor Scott Fischer looking on.

Demo Day at IMC
Donato Giancola painted a wizard.

Demo Day at IMC
Iain McCaig used watercolor for a head study of a bodybuilder model who joined us last evening for a two hour pose. Since "Tarzan" was one of the five assigned topics, he was an inspiring subject.

Demo Day at IMC
Dan Dos Santos and I worked side by side in oil from the model, as many of the students joined in with their sketchbooks (photo by Irene Gallo).

Demo Day at IMC

Dan decided to shift the color range to a cool palette (left). I experimented with interpreting the same pose in an 8x10 inch oil study, and a half-hour watercolor pencil sketch in my sketchbook.

Demo Day at IMC
I also did a quick sketch of instructor Brom as he gave his lecture, with Noah Bradley looking on.

Demo Day at IMC
He had an easel set up and was working on a painting throughout the week, as did all the instructors.

Demo Day at IMC
Here's the full faculty roster of Illustration Master Class for 2012. From left: Irene Gallo, Iain McCaig, Scott Fischer, James Gurney, Doug Gregory, Donato Giancola, Dan Dos Santos, Rebecca Guay, Greg Manchess, Julie Bell, and Boris Vallejo. Not pictured is Adam Rex, who is on his way.

 Illustration Master Class

Massachusetts College of Art and Design

Massachusetts College of Art and Design is a four year art school located in the heart of Boston, Massachusetts.
Massachusetts College of Art and Design
The main building, which is called the "tower," has the gloom of a modernist building that wasn't designed with people in mind. But the students have decorated the interior spaces with cheerful paintings of trees and faces that help to humanize it.

I toured the building with illustration chair Linda Bourke. There are 185 illustration students, making illustration the largest major subject.

Massachusetts College of Art and Design

Abraham Tena teaches a course on the Human Figure in Illustration, where he has the students diagram the muscles. The school offers a two-hour open drawing session each week, both costumed and nude, which anyone can attend for free.

Massachusetts College of Art and Design

Andy Reach, like all upper division students, gets his own dedicated workspace. It's OK if they don't keep the space tidy. "We love it when they get messy," Ms. Bourke said.

Massachusetts College of Art and Design
One of the most popular classes is illustrative mask making, where the students work directly with theater professionals from Boston. Students are encouraged to experiment with unconventional illustration media, such as embroidery, cutout sculpture, animation, and Sculpey. Above is a sculptural illustration by Virginia Kainamisis.

The graduating seniors put special effort into preparing their portfolio. On behalf of the students, the school produces and provides them with a set of business cards in the form of illustrated trading cards. 
Massart web site

The Cultivation of Imagination

The May issue of American Artist is sometimes here and gone from the newsstands before May even arrives, but you still might be able to get a print copy.

It has a special feature on the art of imagination, with a focus on the upcoming "At the Edge: Art of the Fantastic" exhibition at the Allentown Art Museum, and an article that I wrote on "Howard Pyle and the Academic Tradition." The article begins like this:

The Cultivation of ImaginationOne afternoon in Wilmington, Delaware, six of Howard Pyle’s top students were working on their drawings when a new student entered. The newcomer had just been admitted into the select company, and he was eager to prove himself.

He already had some art training under his belt — drawing from the plaster cast and the figure, a grounding in perspective and anatomy. Mr. Pyle set him to work in front of a cast of Donatello’s portrait bust of the “Unknown Lady.”

The Cultivation of Imagination
The next morning, when Pyle glanced at the results of his careful effort, he dismissed it with a gesture. “I don’t want you to go at it that way,” he said. “You are thinking of that head as a piece of plaster.”

Pyle urged him to see beyond the surface, to look for more than mere outline and shading: “I’d like you to think of the beautiful Italian noblewoman who sat for it; of her rich medieval surroundings, of silks and damasks; of courtiers and palaces; of the joy with which Donatello modeled the curve of that eyebrow, the sensuous lips, and the delicate feathering of the shadow over that cheek!”

Pyle asked him to start over, and walked away. The student stared into space, speechless. But his heart was soaring. This was a new sort of language. Pyle, the upright Quaker who painted dashing pirates and bloody battles, believed that what art students need most is “the cultivation of their imagination.”
The bust shown is actually by Desiderio da Settignano, ca. 1430-1464, Florence.
Photo of Pyle students from Howard Pyle Blog

Do artists need to learn non-computer skills?WPI Game DevelopmentNew Hampshire Institute of ArtGamut Mapping at MICAThe Perfect Art SchoolMax Ginsburg workshop this SeptemberSurvival Guide for Art StudentsDemo Day at IMCMassachusetts College of Art and DesignThe Cultivation of Imagination

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