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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.

gurneyjourney.blogspot.com

Mick Moloney, 1944-2022

Sad to hear of the passing yesterday of Limerick-born Mick Moloney, Irish music historian, raconteur, singer and banjo player, sketched at a concert a few years ago. 

Mick Moloney, 1944-2022

He loved to tell the stories and sing the songs of Irish immigrants in America through his recordings, teachings, and publications.

How Oberhardt Achieved a Speaking Likeness

William Oberhardt (American, 1882-1958) was known for his charcoal portraits, always drawn from life, always of men. 

How Oberhardt Achieved a Speaking Likeness

How did he achieve such convincing likenesses, where the subject seems animated and on the verge of speech?

The answer is that he engaged his subjects in a spirited conversation. He wanted to make sure that the sitter had a delightful experience, and he tried to bring out their best in the conversation. 


How Oberhardt Achieved a Speaking Likeness

Most of his drawings were achieved within an hour. After laying out the overall gesture he would focus on completing the eyes early in the process, because he knew he needed to get them right or the whole effort would be futile and he would have to start over.

How Oberhardt Achieved a Speaking Likeness

Sidney Dickinson by William Oberhardt

To convey an individual likeness, he focused on the unique attributes of the person's face. He preferred to portray celebrities because "they are free from the inhibitions that the average man is heir to. The celebrity usually realizes that lines, plans, and wrinkles cannot be removed without loss of individuality, the individuality that has made him prominent...The trouble is that some people don't like their own faces. When that happens, I admit, the cards are stacked against you. No matter how much of the milk of human kindness you mix with your pictorial effort, you're fighting a losing game because a portraitist cannot redesign a face and still preserve a likeness."

How Oberhardt Achieved a Speaking Likeness
The new issue of Illustration Magazine has a 23 page article with dozens of examples of Oberhardt's portraits, both in charcoal and oil, together with many notes about his process, including extended excerpts from several articles by Oberhardt himself. 

There's also a very detailed article on pulp illustrator Earle Bergey.



Outline vs. Tonal Shapes In Face Recognition

 Which is more important for face recognition: outline or tonal shapes?

Outline vs. Tonal Shapes In Face Recognition
Jim Carrey (left) and Kevin Costner.

According to vision scientists Pawan Sinha et al, "Images which contain exclusively contour information are very difficult to recognize, suggesting that high-spatial frequency information, by itself, is not an adequate cue for human face recognition processes." 


Outline vs. Tonal Shapes In Face Recognition

By contrast, the tonal shapes, even if they're out of focus, are relatively easy to recognize. The experts say: 
"Unlike current machine-based systems, human observers are able to handle significant degradations in face images." Shown here are Michael Jordan, Woody Allen, Elvis Presley, and Jay Leno.

That's why it's good to blur your eyes when you're capturing a likeness.
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Source: Face Recognition by Humans: Nineteen Results All Computer Vision Researchers Should Know About, Pawan Sinha, Benjamin Balas, Yuri Ostrovsky, and Richard Russell,

Abstracted Realism

Some call it "deconstructed realism," while others call it "disrupted realism" or "abstracted realism." 

Alex Kanevsky

The artwork suggests that the power of chaos rivals the power of order, or that the will to destroy equals the will to create.

John Wentz 

The painting contains both randomness and illusionism, signal and noise. 


Who are the inspiring progenitors of this movement? Beyond the abstract painters such as Franz Kline and Richard Diebenkorn, several realist painters can be identified as stylistic influencers: Andrew WyethRichard SchmidAntonio López García, and Gerhard Richter

Gerhard Richter

Richter, a painter with remarkable range and versatility, became known for taking a realistically painted face and smearing the oil paint with a squeegee.

Johanna Bath still II, Oil on Canvas, 19.7 W x 23.6 H x 0.8 D in

Gerhard Richter's influence can be felt in artists who use the rubbed out look, such as Johanna Bath.

Mia Bergeron
Seeing a painting created this way leaves no doubt that it's a painting, and it may remind the viewer of the struggle of creation or the fickleness of illusion.

Adam by Greg Manchess

When painters efface the surface of a portrait, they typically leave the eyes in a carefully finished state, both because of the psychological importance of the eyes, and to show that they're capable of painting realistically. 

But not always. Sometimes artists deliberately disrupt the mouth, eyes, or head. 


Artist Zack Zdrale says in the book Disrupted Realism, "I've taken passages of traditionally rendered figures and smashed them, breaking the illusion of form in space. I want to show the paint doing things that only paint can do."

Michelle Kohler

Michelle Kohler says: "Most of my years spent studying were focused on portraiture, as expressed through realism. As an artistic discipline, it has been a constant throughout my life. But it was only after a fortuitous departure into abstract painting that I was able to playfully and courageously combine two disciplines. Deconstructed Realism is my expression of artistic independence and creativity as it pertains to the depth and complexity of human portraiture."

(Link to YouTube) Mia Bergeron says that her approach to painting grew out of a frustration with the academic approaches to realism.

The deconstructive approach includes not just figural work, but also landscapes and cityscapes. 

Other artists that you've suggested to check out in the comments: Julie T. Chapman, Patrick Kramer, Jenny Saville,

More info:

Book: Disrupted Realism: Paintings for a Distracted World



Joe Baer as Mark Twain

Last night, actor and writer Joe Baer performed "Tales of Mark Twain" in Rhinecliff, NY. I painted an impromptu portrait of him from the audience using sepia gouache. 

Joe Baer as Mark Twain

I set up my palette in advance with sepia colors because I anticipated it would be too dark to make out any hues. It was pretty dark.

Joe Baer as Mark Twain

Baer, a local writer, actor, and lighting designer created the show from Twain's own writings. The show is enhanced by projected slides evoking the writer's historical milieu, which gives context to Twain's trenchant observations about the human condition. 

Baer wore the classic white suit and wild hair. He gave a thoughtful, witty, and lively performance. He didn't stay long in the chair, or in any single pose, so I had to rely on memory as much as observation. 

John Wesley Jarvis, Portrait Factory

John Wesley Jarvis (1781-1839) was an American portrait painter who streamlined his process so that he could produce six portraits a week.

John Wesley Jarvis, Portrait Factory
Self Portrait by John Wesley Jarvis

With studios based in New York and Baltimore, "he received six sitters a day at his painting room and limited each sitting to one hour. In that time he was able to do the face. Then the portrait was handed over to an assistant who painted in the background and the drapery," 

Quote is from a book called Hawkers and Walkers in Early America: Strolling Peddlers, Preachers, Lawyers, Doctors, Players, and Others, From the Beginning to the Civil War, 1927.

John Wesley Jarvis on Wikipedia


Shopping for Veggies

Well, this time I didn't actually set up my easel in the supermarket, like I did last time. The aisles are too narrow and it's just too busy. 

 

So I worked from photos while I painted my wife Jeanette. This one is in casein, and I captured the process in this YouTube video.


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More resources
Gurney tutorials on Gumroad
Mick Moloney, 1944-2022How Oberhardt Achieved a Speaking LikenessGrisaille Portrait Video Now on YouTubeOutline vs. Tonal Shapes In Face RecognitionAbstracted RealismJoe Baer as Mark TwainSurrounded by MemoryJohn Wesley Jarvis, Portrait FactoryShopping for VeggiesInspiring Story of Young Nigerian Artist

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