Gurney Journey | category: Plein Air Painting | (page 2 of 22)


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.

Tips for Painting Realistically in Gouache and Watercolor

In this new Youtube video I sketch of a pile of snow along a country road using gouache and watercolor.

I start in watercolor, applying the paint wet with big brushes, and gradually shifting to a more opaque approach. I use drybrush effects to capture the texture of the gravel road. The gouache goes on thickly for the highlights and accents.

Gouache and watercolor squeezed out from the tube can be used in combination for any kind of plein-air painting or urban sketching.

Ultramarine blue
Raw sienna
Cadmium yellow
Perylene maroon
Titanium white
Ivory black
Set of gouache primary colors

Painting the Background for Ophelia

In the summer of 1851, Pre-Raphaelite painters John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt traveled to the Elwell River in England, each in hopes of painting the background for an ambitious picture that they had planned in their heads. 

Millais wanted to paint Hamlet's Ophelia drowning in a stream, and his plan was to paint the background first.

Painting the Background for Ophelia

Following the advice of critic John Ruskin to capture every detail faithfully—“rejecting nothing—selecting nothing”—Millais dutifully recorded the "flowering rush, river daisy, forget-me-not, willow herb, meadowsweet, and the wonderful tangle of brier bush with its multitude of dog roses in bud and bloom."

According to a 1923 biography: 'They were up by six o’clock and at their selected spots by eight o’clock, where they painted until evening, returning to their lodgings about seven o’clock; Hunt had to walk four miles and Millais two to their respective painting places. 

'In a letter to Mr. Combe, Millais gives an interesting description of the trials and difficulties of the time : “I sit tailor-fashion under an umbrella throwing a shadow scarcely larger than a halfpenny for eleven hours, with a child’s mug within reach to satisfy my thirst from the running stream beside me. I am threatened with a notice to appear before the magistrate for trespassing in a field and destroying the hay; likewise by the admission of a bull in the same field after the said hay be cut; I am also in danger of being blown by the wind into the water and becoming intimate with the feelings of Ophelia when that lady sank to a muddy death, together with her (less likely) total disappearance through the wrath of the flies. There are two swans who not a little add to my misery by persisting in watching me from the exact spot I wish to paint, occasionally destroying every water-weed within their reach.’’'

Painting the Background for Ophelia'Their lodgings were far from comfortable; their hunger had to be appeased with an unvarying diet of chops, until Millais writes that he has taken such “an aversion to sheep that I feel my very feet revolt at the proximity of woollen socks.”'

The process of painting the background on location took more than two months.
Quotes from 'John Everett Millais: Master Painters of the World' by Arthur Fish, 1923
Previously on the blog: Ophelia by Millais

Exhibit Review of 'Frederic Church: Painter's Pilgrimage'

In 1867 Frederic Church and his family headed east across the Atlantic to Europe and the Near East, looking for new inspiration. After painting volcanoes in South America, jungles in Jamaica, and icebergs in the North Atlantic, he turned his epic vision to the old world.

Exhibit Review of 'Frederic Church: Painter's Pilgrimage'
Evening on the Sea, oil on canvas
He brought his oil paints and sketchbooks with him to capture the color and drama of what he would encounter. 

The grand cities of Europe such as Rome and Venice had been painted by many artists before him. He was looking for vistas that hadn't been thoroughly documented. That led him to Athens, Jerusalem, Syria, and Petra.

Exhibit Review of 'Frederic Church: Painter's Pilgrimage'
View of Baalbek, 1868, oil and pencil on board
The exhibition "Frederic Church: A Painter's Pilgrimage" explores this late chapter in Church's career, and it is currently on view at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford. 

It includes over 70 objects, including pencil sketches, oil studies, large studio canvases, architectural studies, costumes, sculptures, and bric-a-brac, all of which evoke the exotic romance of the life of the artist-explorer.  

Exhibit Review of 'Frederic Church: Painter's Pilgrimage'

Travel to that part of the world was not easy. A steamship line had just been opened up to Athens from Rome, and the road from the port of Jaffa to Jerusalem had just been built to accommodate wheeled vehicles. To get to the rock-cut city of Petra, Church hired local guides and traveled by camel. Church wrote that he nearly fell off when the animal rose to its feet and pitched forward. 
Exhibit Review of 'Frederic Church: Painter's Pilgrimage'
Standing Bedouin (probably February 1868)
Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum
Church's guides helped guard him against zealots who were suspicious of artists making graven images of the sacred sites. An artist in a previous expedition had been killed. Church stopped to make a quick sketch of the Roman-style architecture "but our guide was much exercised thereby and made significant motions that it was unsafe I might be fired at." (Quoted from book "The Painted Sketch")

Exhibit Review of 'Frederic Church: Painter's Pilgrimage'
The Urn Tomb, Silk Tomb, and Corinthian Tomb, Petra, 1868, oil on paper mounted to canvas
Church only spent a few days in Petra, but he worked from sunup to sundown. His studies of the architecture are marvels of close observation, precise detail and efficient brushwork.

Exhibit Review of 'Frederic Church: Painter's Pilgrimage'
Parade Entering the City, Jaffa, 13 x 20 1/16 in. (33 x 51cm)
Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum
He painted his studies in oil over a careful pencil outline on the paperboard surface. Most of them are relatively small, painted for his own reference, and were not intended for exhibition.

Exhibit Review of 'Frederic Church: Painter's Pilgrimage'

Erin Monroe, Associate Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture at the Wadsworth Atheneum, said the response to the exhibition has been fantastic. She included some sculptures, costumes, and ephemera from the Atheneum's collection to the exhibit to bring the 19th century ambiance to life. 
If you haven't been to the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut, they also have a strong collection of Hudson River School painters in their permanent collection.

Exhibit Review of 'Frederic Church: Painter's Pilgrimage'Exhibit Review of 'Frederic Church: Painter's Pilgrimage'
The show Frederic Church: A Painter's Pilgrimage was organized by the Detroit Institute of the Arts, and this is the last stop in the tour, ending August 26th. The softcover catalog is 228 pages long and has large color reproductions and an informative text. The book The Painted Sketch is the best one to get if you're interested in 19th century oil sketch practice.
Previous and related posts:

Will that van stay parked?

It's grocery day, so while Jeanette does the hunting and gathering, I am out in the parking lot scouting for a new slice of ordinariness.

Here's a short video (link to video on Facebook).

I use two tripods, one for the sketch easel, and the other for the camera, which is held out on an extension bar. The camera I'm using is a Canon EOS M6 mirrorless, which has a built in time lapse function.

Here's my setup (product links below). The casein underpainting color is just a random page; I didn't paint it for this particular composition. I just like to have a few pre-primed page in the book. The priming gives unexpected energy to the colors.

The sky is overcast, making the sky flat and nearly white. With overcast lighting, there's no clear light side or shadow side. On the van, the planes that face more upward receive more light from the sky and are therefore lighter. I liked the fact that the white on the hood of the van was the brightest white in the composition.
The brushes are from a pocket travel brush set and I'm painting in a Pentalic Aqua Journal with gouache over the casein underpainting. Everything is attached to the homebuilt sketch easel. I made a video explaining how to make one.
Full-length painting tutorials on GouacheCasein, and Watercolor.

Gouache Painting on a Rainy Day

(Link to Video on YouTube) Gouache dries slowly in the humid conditions of a rainy day, allowing much more time for blending the colors.

However, once the layers dry, I can add fine details to add mood and make the scene realistic.
The brushes are from a Richeson pocket travel brush set and I'm painting in a Pentalic Aqua Journal with Gouache mostly by M. Graham.
The sketch easel that I attach to the tripod is a homebuilt design, and I made a video explaining how to make one.
I've also made full-length painting tutorials on Gouaches, Casein, and Watercolor
Also available on DVD from the manufacturer or you can get the DVD on Amazon

What did artists wear when painting outdoors?

After the the last post on Sorolla painting outdoors, a couple of readers questioned whether artists in the 19th or early 20th century really wore a jacket and tie when painting outdoors.

What did artists wear when painting outdoors?
Bror Ljunggren (Swedish, 1884-1939)
One person said: "These photos have to be taken with a grain of salt, because having a picture taken was a big event back then and people were basically posing for a picture. So, it's possible that they were posing and setting up certain elements that maybe they weren't exactly always doing when working, like wearing a suit for example."

What did artists wear when painting outdoors?

I used to think that artists who appeared formally dressed in photos were suiting up for the camera. But the more I've read and learned, the less I think that is true, especially in these plein-air photos. Ladies wore beautiful dresses and hats when they painted. 

What did artists wear when painting outdoors?

Sometimes they had smocks or aprons, but there were nice clothes underneath. 

What did artists wear when painting outdoors?
William Merritt Chase and his students
By the twentieth century, compact, portable Kodak cameras were very common, and there are plenty of candid photos of people in groups painting outdoors. If it looks candid, it is candid.  

What did artists wear when painting outdoors?
John Singer Sargent painting outdoors
If they were among friends, family or other men, gentlemen might remove their jackets, but they kept their hat, a tie, and vest outdoors. Written accounts say that men would apologize to a lady when they were in their shirt sleeves. So Sargent is very informal here. He was also known to mutter "Damn, damn, damn" when a painting wasn't going well, but he would check first to see if ladies were present.  

By the middle of the 20th century, all the rules changed.
Related reading: "Why did men stop wearing hats?" (Esquire)

Paint-a-Monument Challenge

Public statues and monuments have been in the news lately for political reasons, but we haven't seen them as much from the artists' perspective. So I invite you to paint or draw a statue near you.

Here in Kingston, New York, we've got three 11-foot bronze statues, including one of the first governor of New York, George Clinton (1739-1812). There's an interesting backstory:
"The 1898 monuments are the work of noted sculptor John Massey Rhind (1860-1936) and were produced by the Gorham Manufacturing Company in New York. The statues were originally located [in the] Exchange Court building in Manhattan. When that building was being remodeled in the late 1940s, the sculptures, unbelievably, wound up in a junkyard as scrap. Fortunately, after seeing a newspaper article about the building remodeling, Emily Crane Chadbourne, president of Kingston’s Senate House Association, tracked down the junkyard and sought to rescue the statues. She purchased and donated the statues to the city of Kingston." link for source.
Paint-a-Monument Challenge
You can paint the statue by itself or in its surroundings. You can paint it objectively or infuse it with your emotional reaction. And you can use any medium, including sculpture.

If a statue in your area has been removed and all you have is an empty plinth, you can invent a sculpture of your own imagination to replace it. You can be whimsical or serious with this one, but try to be convincing in how you render it. There will be an alternate "Plinth Prize" for this category. For inspiration, check out the "Fourth Plinth" tradition London's Trafalgar Square.

Paint-a-Monument Challenge
Lioness and snake by Diego Sarti in Montagnola Park, Bologna
My hope that we can really look at these statues in public places, and appreciate the pure artistry and craft that goes into them, apart from—or perhaps in addition to—their symbolic or historical connotations.

• It's free to enter and anyone can enter.
• Subject can be any statue or monument presented in a public place. It can be in bronze or marble, free-standing or bas relief, outdoors or indoors.
• All drawing and painting media are acceptable: casein, gouache, acryla-gouache, oil, acrylic, watercolor pencils, watercolor, pencil, or charcoal. If you wish to sculpt a 3D maquette in clay, Sculpey, or wax, that's also acceptable.
• No limitation on palette colors. You can paint in black and white, a limited palette, or full color.
• Just shoot two image files: 
      1. Your finished painting, drawing, or sculpture, and 
      2. A photo of the work on the easel in front of the subject. Your face doesn't have to be in the photo unless you want to.
• Upload the images to this Facebook Event page:
• Please include in the FB post a sentence or two about your inspiration or design strategy, or some information about your experience sketching the statue, about the artist who created it, or about the subject of the monument.
• If you upload to Instagram or Twitter, please use the hashtag #paintamonumentchallenge
• You can enter anytime between now and the deadline, Friday, November 3 at midnight New York time. If you do more than one painting, upload only your best and delete any previous entries.
• I'll pick one Grand Prize, five Finalists, and one Plinth Prize winner. The winners will be published on the blog GurneyJourney. All the winners will receive an exclusive "Department of Art" embroidered patch. In addition, all the prize winners will receive one of my videos (DVD or download) of their choice.
• Winners will be presented on the blog on Monday, November 6.
Facebook Event Page: Paint a Monument Challenge
The Making of a Bronze Statue, (highly recommended) a 1922 silent film by the Metropolitan Museum that shows the arduous process.
Thanks, Studio Maywyn for the idea.
Tips for Painting Realistically in Gouache and WatercolorBurger Hill, from belowPainting the Background for OpheliaExhibit Review of 'Frederic Church: Painter's Pilgrimage'Will that van stay parked?Gouache Painting on a Rainy DayWhat did artists wear when painting outdoors?Paint-a-Monument ChallengeVideo Sample: Painting Peonies in a Garden

Report "Gurney Journey"

Are you sure you want to report this post for ?