Gurney Journey | category: Plein Air Painting | (page 3 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.

Jamie's Wyeth's Box

Jamie's Wyeth's Box
Jamie Wyeth painting in Maine, 1994. Photo by David Alan Harvey
Painting outside is a public spectacle. People like to stop and watch and chat, which can be OK most of the time. But what do you do when you want to screen out those distractions? Jamie Wyeth has a novel solution, according to Daniel Grant:
'Perhaps winning the prize for oddest looking is Jamie Wyeth who kneels inside a four-foot high, seven-foot long three-sided wooden bait box when he goes outside to paint on Monhegan Island, Maine. (He puts a heater in during cold weather.) “My box is mainly for privacy,” he said, noting that “I find it extremely bothersome when people talk to me while I’m painting. If I don’t say anything to them when they ask a question, or if I tell them I don’t like to talk while I’m working, then I feel terrible that I’ve been rude. Inside the box, people see that I clearly don’t want to talk, and they eventually scurry away.'
Related posts:
Top Ten Ways to Deal with Curious Spectators 
The Problem of Curious Spectators
'Can I Borrow Your Paintbrush?'
Your Experiences with Spectators

Boldini's French Plein-Airs

I'm wondering how Giovanni Boldini (1842-1931) painted these pictures of dynamic street life. I assume they're painted from observation and not from photos. 

Boldini's French Plein-Airs

If I was tackling such a subject. I would rough in the composition on location. In another session I would have the model pose on a patio or sidewalk, then go back and finish up the background on the spot.

Boldini's French Plein-Airs

Same with this one. You could do it in sections. A groom could hold the harnessed horses in the same lighting as the background scene.

Boldini's French Plein-Airs

It's possible that this scene came readymade, but it's also possible he painted the house and trees of the river scene, and then grabbed the steamboats, rowboats, and ducks in other places and added them to the half finished painting.

I love the way Boldini is so playful and daring in his paint application. He appears to be using a variety of brushes: big ones, small ones, new ones, and old ones.

Boldini's French Plein-Airs

Sometimes students want their set of brushes to be all new and fresh, but experienced painters also cherish their worn, splayed brushes.

Boldini's French Plein-Airs
 This painting of a riverside laundry appears to be a plein-air study.

Boldini's French Plein-Airs

This related work is also small (13 x 20 inches), but it might have been completed in the studio using plein air sketches as reference notes. I'm just guessing here, and if anyone knows more about this, please share in the comments.

If indeed Boldini composited elements in these paintings, he would have started with the idea in sketch stage, and then built the picture from elements he found. It's like what Ansel Adams said about camera work: "You don't take a photograph, you make it."
Book about the exhibit of Boldini's French Landscapes: Giovanni Boldini in Impressionist Paris (Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute)

Dead Vehicle Challenge

Dead Vehicle Challenge
Old tow truck, watercolor by Jeanette Gurney
We had such an enthusiastic response to our previous painting challenges, such as the Food Truck and the Weed Painting Challenge, that many of you asked for another opportunity.

This time the theme is Dead Vehicles.

Dead Vehicle Challenge
Dead trucks in Highland Park, CA
painted in oil when I was an art student. 
You can paint any abandoned car, truck, bus, or motorcycle that's no longer in working condition. No tractors or construction equipment this time.

It could be parked in a garage or a museum, or outdoors behind a repair shop or in a junkyard. It could be damaged from a crash, covered with graffiti or partially dismantled. If it's got flat tires or weeds growing up around it, so much the better. 

On Location

It must be painted on location and it must be a new painting or sketchbook page done for this challenge. It doesn't have to be painted in one sitting; you can return to the spot multiple times if you want.

All physical painting media are acceptable: casein, gouache, acryla-gouache, oil, acrylic or watercolor. There's no limitation on the palette of colors.

Two-hour paintout of an old pickup. Actually, I think this one wouldn't
qualify for this challenge, because the truck still ran.

What to Enter
In addition to a scan of the final painting, your entry must include a photo of your picture on the easel in front of the motif. Your face doesn't have to be in the photo unless you want to.

Multimedia Prize
If you want, you can record a video or audio (1 minute or less) of the owner describing their vehicle, or you can document something that happened while you were painting it. I'll give a special award to the best one.

It's free to enter. You can enter as soon as you finish the piece, but no later than the deadline: Monday, July 31 at midnight New York time. Winners will be announced on the blog on Thursday, August 3. 

Dead Vehicle Challenge

Where and How to Enter
Upload the images to this Facebook Event page (This way I don't have to deal with email, and you present your images your way). If you don't have a Facebook account, please ask a friend with an account to help you. Please include in the FB post a sentence or two about your inspiration or design strategy, or a story about the vehicle

If you share our image on Instagram or Twitter, please use the hashtag #deadvehiclechallenge

Dead Vehicle Challenge

I'll pick one Grand Prize, five Finalists, and one Multimedia Winner. They will be published on GurneyJourney. All the winners will receive an exclusive "Department of Art" embroidered patch. In addition, all the winners will receive a video (DVD or download) of their choice. Everybody who participates will have their work on the Facebook page, too.
Resources and Links
Facebook Event page on Dead Vehicle Challenge
•If you want to try out casein, I've asked Jack Richeson to put together a basic set called Gurney's Casein 6 PackDead Vehicle Challengeor Gurney's Casein Explorers Pack (12)Dead Vehicle Challenge
• Own the 72-minute feature "Gouache in the Wild"
• HD MP4 Download at Gumroad $14.95
• or HD MP4 Download at Sellfy (for Paypal customers) $14.95
• DVD at Purchase at (Region 1 encoded NTSC video) $24.50

Painting BG Details from Life

Even if I'm painting an imaginary scene with dinosaurs set in another world, I like to take the painting outside when I can. 

Painting BG Details from Life

That way I can paint the scenic or background details with more energy and conviction, such as this bank of tulips in a friend's garden.

Painting BG Details from Life

"Small Wonder" from Dinotopia: The World Beneath, which you can get signed from my website or from Amazon.

Workshop at DreamWorks Animation

Yesterday I gave a slide presentation at DreamWorks Animation about imaginative realism and worldbuilding. 

Workshop at DreamWorks Animation

Afterward, about 18 DreamWorks artists joined me in the Artistic Development room to pick up some art supplies and we headed outside to do some plein-air concept art. 

Each artist brought a toy figurine of their choice, and the challenge was to enlarge the toy and place it in a real-life scene. 

Workshop at DreamWorks Animation

Jasmine Truong did this drawing of a giant cat, quietly overlooking one of the other artists. 

Workshop at DreamWorks Animation
Hejung Park with Beargguy on the Jack-in-the-Box
The artists were from various departments, including visual development, lighting, story, and matte painting.

Workshop at DreamWorks Animation
Nicolas Weis with a Collecta Guidraco popping out of the Jack-in-the-Box
We sat in the shadows of an alley behind a fast-food restaurant and exchanged sketching tips. I think I learned just as much from them as they did from me.

Workshop at DreamWorks Animation
Visual Development Artist Iuri Lioi's frog giant rules the drive-up window.
This is a famous Jack-in-the-Box, referenced by Frank Zappa in the lyrics of the song "Billy the Mountain." According to Zappa, it is positioned "right over the SECRET UNDERGROUND DUMPS —right near the 'Jack-In-The-Box' on Glenoaks..."

Workshop at DreamWorks Animation
Onesimus Nuernberger's giant mech outside the Carl's Jr.
"...— where they keep the POOLS OF OLD POISON GAS, and OBSOLETE GERM BOMBS." Perhaps that explains the where the oversize fantasy characters are coming from.

Workshop at DreamWorks Animation
Sondra Verlander's plush bear waiting for takeout.
A few local business owners and residents came over to check out what we were doing as we worked for about an hour and a half.

Workshop at DreamWorks Animation

I brought along my little stop-motion character named Otis the Ocelot, propping him just above the sketch easel so that he'd be in the same light as the background.

Workshop at DreamWorks Animation

Here's my demo painting in gouache over a casein underpainting. 
Thanks to all the artists for sharing your amazing creativity and sense of fun, and thanks to Anneliese of Artistic Development for making this dream-working magic possible.

The Burren, County Clare

Happy St. Patrick's Day, everybody! Here's a view across the Burren near Kilfenora, County Clare, Ireland.
The Burren, County Clare
The Burren, Oil, 8x10 inches. 
To give you a sense of scale, those two dark lines at right are stone walls. Note that the clouds get a bit warmer as they go back to the horizon because the blue wavelengths are filtered scattered out of the white light as it travels through all that atmosphere, leaving more warm colors remaining.

Early Sketching Umbrellas

From an 1892 F. W. Devoe and C. T. Raynolds Company catalog.
Nineteenth-century sketching umbrellas were usually between 28 and 32 inches across, made of grey linen fabric. The clamp at the top allowed for the umbrella to be tilted to the side to block the sun or spill the wind.

The 48-inch support pole was made in two or three sections that screwed together, with a steel-tipped end that could stick into soft ground. The height was ideal for a painter sitting on a folding camp stool.

Here is John Singer Sargent sketching on a boat. Since he couldn't stick the pole in the deck, he lashed it to his leg and anchored it to other support points off to the right.

Modern umbrellas are a larger, made from a white nylon material, with an adjustable goose neck and a clamp that attaches to the easel, since soft ground is not always available. The white material is better than the light-blocking silver or black umbrellas. Those force your work to be lit by the light bouncing up from the ground, which is often strongly colored and prone to glare.

Any umbrella attached to an easel has a tendency to blow over when the wind comes up at all. One option is to attach the umbrella to a free-standing C-stand ballasted with sandbags. It's less likely to blow over, and if it does, it won't take the painting with it.

Do you have a story about problems with a sketching umbrella? Please share them in the comments.

Previously on GJ: White Umbrellas

Three Tips for Painting a Sunset

Three Tips for Painting a Sunset
Southland Sunset, oil on panel, 8 x 10 inches
The sun is behind two layers of clouds in this sunset study. The higher deck of clouds creates a thin layer of diffusion around the sun, which keeps the sun's brightness from being too intense to look at. There's just a small window through to the blue sky at upper right.

This sunset obeys three rules that usually apply:
1. Colors gradate to higher value and higher chroma approaching the position of the sun.
2. Hue shifts in broad bands from pale yellows higher up to reddish oranges near the horizon.
3. Foreground elements are not black. They maintain color identity in the darks. This is a big difference compared to how the camera sees a scene like this.

These effects intensify as the sunset proceeds until the sun passes below the tangent line of the earth, after which we would enter a dusk phase.

Any given phase of a sunset lasts no more than 10 minutes, so painting a scene like this from life requires a well organized palette, separate brushes for each color group, and accurate anticipation about what phase is likely to come next. I did not use a light on my palette for this one.
More on painting sunsets in my book Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter (Amazon)
Also available signed from my website (USA customers)

Small Landscapes at the Morgan

This alpine landscape by Calame is one of the early plein-air studies currently on exhibit at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York.

Small Landscapes at the Morgan
Alexandre Calame ( Swiss, 1810–1864)
oil on paper/ canvas, 17 3/4 x 12 in. (45.1 x 30.5 cm)
Calame's painting has a lot of depth and variety of paint handling, from generous impastos on the tips of the rocks in the foreground, to thin, delicate vapors of paint in the far atmosphere.

Small Landscapes at the Morgan
Carl Morgenstern (1811–1893), Jungfrau, Mönch, and Eiger
This little study by German artist Carl Morgenstern is just 10 x 14 inches, painted on paper and later laid down on cardboard. Early on-location painters often pinned the prepared paper into the lid of their paint boxes, and conservators later mounted the paper onto canvas or board.

Small Landscapes at the Morgan
Gilles-François-Joseph Closson (1796–1853) View in the Dolomites
Closson's painting is even smaller, just 4 1/4 x 9 5/8 inches, painted over a careful line drawing in pencil The pencil drawing is still visible in the lower right.

The landscape show is very small, just 12 paintings. So on its own, it's not worth a trip to the Morgan—except that there are a couple of other fascinating shows going on.

One of the major exhibits is Charlotte Brontë: An Independent Will, which includes examples of her elegantly handwritten manuscripts. I was also impressed with her early artwork, which was accomplished and diligent.

Small Landscapes at the Morgan
Charlotte Brontë's watercolor painting kit.
The curators explain how Brontë would have used her watercolor kit. She would have taken one of the cakes of pigment and rubbed it in water in the porcelain saucer. The brush is made from squirrel hair glued into the end of a goose quill.

Small Landscapes at the Morgan
As an added bonus, there's a portrait of Mrs. J.P. Morgan, Jr., by Sargent.

Also at the Morgan:
Word and Image: Martin Luther's Reformation
Dubuffet Drawings, 1935–1962
Hans Memling: Portraiture, Piety, and a Reunited Altarpiece
Morgan Library and Museum is at 225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street.
The best book on early outdoor painting practice is The Painted Sketch: American Impressions From Nature, 1830-1880
There's also an exhibition catalog called Alpine Views: Alexandre Calame and the Swiss Landscape (Clark Art Institute) about Calame and his contemporaries, based on a show at the Clark Art Institute.
Just a short walk from Grand Central and Penn Station

Gouache in the Rockies

Yesterday Jeanette and I, our son Frank, and his dog Smooth hiked up to Jewel Lake in the Medicine Bow Mountains of northern Colorado. 

I brought the painting gear but forgot to put on sunblock, so I was pretty roasted by the end of the day. 

The air was above freezing, so I was able to do a gouache painting of the view from up there.

I made a 1-minute video and uploaded it (above) directly to Blogger. It should be embedded above as a playable video. Does it work on your computer or do you just get an empty space? 

Above is the embedded version from Facebook. You can also watch the video by clicking over to my Instagram or Facebook page. 
Jamie's Wyeth's BoxBoldini's French Plein-AirsDead Vehicle ChallengePainting BG Details from LifeWorkshop at DreamWorks AnimationThe Burren, County ClareEarly Sketching UmbrellasThree Tips for Painting a SunsetSmall Landscapes at the MorganGouache in the Rockies

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