Sunday, December 4, 2016

Golden Age Illustration Exhibit on Long Island

Clockwise from U.L.: Norman Rockwell, Dean Cornwell,
Maxfield Parrish, Tom Lovell
Coming up December 10, 2016 is an exhibition of Golden Age American illustration called "Norman Rockwell and Friends: American Illustrations from the Mort Künstler Collection." The exhibit, in Huntington, NY, is borrowed from the collection of illustrator Mort Künstler.

Mr. Künstler's collection is featured in an article in the new issue (#54) of Illustration Magazine.

The magazine also takes a look at the science fiction illustrations of Frank R. Paul (1884-1963) in a profile written by David Saunders. The final feature examines the pioneering illustration work by the Waud brothers, who produced illustrations of the Civil War.

The exhibition is at the Heckscher Museum in Huntington, New York on Long Island, and it will be on view through March 5, 2017.

Previously: The Action Art of Mort Künstler.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Broken Aspen

When we set up to paint, we didn't know we were standing in the middle of the moose's salad bar. Luckily they left us alone. If you're getting this post by email, you may need to follow this YouTube link to see the video.

I'm focusing on a single broken aspen, selecting the central area for a lot of careful detail, and letting the detail module broaden on the outside edges.

Let me take a question from Philip Ackermann on my Instagram page:
"I was always wondering... is there any problem with the colors becoming dull/sinking in or darkening upon drying? Let us take a value scale from 0-10. Zero is glossy black oil paint. Relative to that - where is the darkest achievable value with casein on that scale? I hope this does not seem like a foolish concern, but it really bugs me when painting with acrylics."

Phillip, that's not a foolish concern at all. I've found that with gouache or casein, the darkest darks will never be as deep as is possible in oil, where you can use glazes and varnishes and keep a shiny surface.

You can varnish casein with a brush-on or spray-on varnish like Krylon Crystal Clear and get the darks back, but I think the paint lends itself to an aesthetic that's different from the tenebrism of Caravaggio and many oil painters.

Casein seems to favor a lighter approach, with the beauty in the variety of color in the lights. Here are a few tips:
1. Try to push your values into a light group (8-9 by your scale) and a dark group (1-2).
2. Avoid middle tones. That's where the dullness comes from. Also avoid pure white and pure black.
3. Always try to get color character in your darks. Make them definitely cool or warm, and alternate the colors within the dark group.
4. To practice getting the values right, work in grisaille or very limited warm/cool palettes.

Learn more with these links
Previous blog post: My Favorite Gouache Masters
Wikipedia page on how an aspen forest is one giant organism
Our painting companion is Carl Bork
Krylon Crystal Clear
Casein Explorer's Set
Gumroad video: Casein Painting in the Wild
Watch my casein video

Friday, December 2, 2016

Natural history illustration exhibit opens in Jamestown

An exhibition of natural history illustration called Focus on Nature will open tomorrow at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History in Jamestown, NY. 

"Since its inception in 1990, the New York State Museum’s Focus on Nature exhibit series has reflected the standards, materials, and skills of contemporary natural history illustrators. It promotes awareness of a genre of art that requires scientifically accurate illustrations such as those used in textbooks, research journals and publications, interpretive nature centers, and nature guide books. Focus on Nature XIV will feature over 60 works in a variety of mediums representing artists from a diverse geographic range. These works represent a marriage of pleasure and practicality – wherein the artist’s keen observations and sensory interpretations of their subjects are exquisitely rendered."
Two paintings of my paintings will be in the show, the images of tyrannosaurs that I did for Scientific American. There will be an opening reception on December 9, but I won't be able to attend. The show will be on view through April 9, 2017.

Charley Parker on Casein

Charley Parker of the blog "Lines and Colors" has written a well-illustrated and comprehensive post on painting in casein, as well as a review of my recent video "Casein Painting in the Wild."
"Casein is one of the least familiar of the water based painting mediums available to contemporary painters, even though it’s one of the oldest painting mediums known. Casein’s use can be reliably traced back over 9,000 years, with evidence of the formulation in cave paintings, and examples have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs from several thousand years ago....Personally, I find casein to be a genuine pleasure to work with. I like the way it flows and handles, the textural possibilities and the appealing color and matte surface in finished paintings."
Painting with Casein Paint
Review of "Casein Painting in the Wild" on Lines and Colors 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Wow, I Went Viral!

Yesterday, quite unexpectedly, a little video I put on Facebook went viral, with 2.5 million views. Here's a link to the video on Facebook, and here is the longer version on YouTube that shows more of the making.

The video was a new 1-minute edit of the making of my handmade animated logo "Gurney Studio." The concept was simple: to alternate the motion graphics shots with behind-the-scenes clips. 

I made the video for Instagram, where it got a respectable 10K views. I thought just for fun I'd put it on my public Facebook too. It has been shared especially strongly in the Spanish-speaking world and across Southeast Asia.

Facebook gives you some stats. The majority of watchers were men, age 25-34, and 82% of the audience watched it with the sound off.

Here are some preliminary guesses to why it went so big:
1. Simple intro line: "A different way to do logo animation." 
2. No need to speak English to understand the video.
3. Simple, tight editing: Flurry of 1/2 sec. clips at the beginning, followed by A,B,A,B,A,B.
4. No links out, which probably boosted it in FB's algorithm.
5. "Share-ability" which is an elusive thing. People want to share something that makes them look good.
6. Bottom line is THANK YOU! for watching and sharing. That's what makes it happen.

The comments ranged from people who thought it was a funny stunt to: 
"What if Cinema 4D was done practically?" 
"Let's try this on our project" 
"Bro, this is your kind of stuff," 
"Pretty good, Grandpa!" 
"Hey, let's dump our computers; we can get the same results working in the garden."

A lot of shares were among people who work in the graphics trade. One multimedia company said "Reality, first and foremost."

Perhaps we have arrived at the intersection of two vectors: one being what is possible with cutting-edge digital tools and the other being what can be created by hand and shot in-camera. The former requires expensive software and expertise on how to use it, and the latter takes some workshop skills and some level of commitment.

As an artist, I am mesmerized by watching examples of the latest software and how it can capture complex interactions of particle effects and fluid dynamics. But I know that with my learning curve and my budget, the best I could ever accomplish with those tools is a very second rate effort. For me the fun of the practical build is that all those effects are "for free."

Once you make the device, you can place it into new visual environments and situations. It's the gift that keeps on giving.