Monday, March 27, 2017

John William Tristram

John William Tristram (1870-1938) was an Australian watercolor painter with a poetic sense of softness and atmosphere.



The forms seem veiled, and the values are relatively light in key, with just that dark tree mass anchoring the tones.


The values in this painting are high key, with the warm bank at left nearly the same tone as the cool cliff in the distance. The top of the blue cliff is lost in fog. This fog has a granular effect of sedimentary pigments in watercolor.


The tree masses are greatly softened, blending into the sky and ground, and they're composed of variegated hues that seem layered over each other. He eliminates any detail that's not essential.


I'm not sure exactly how he accomplished these effects. I'm guessing that there's a lot of big wet washes, maybe some scrubbing out. He may also have painted over a surface primed with white gouache. It's hard to tell without seeing the originals.

Does anyone have any insights into his method—or his bio? Please share them in the comments. I couldn't find out very much. 
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John William Tristram on Wikipedia
Books with related content:


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Flurry Effect


Animator Dave Tendlar invented what he called the "Flurry Effect" in 1935 for a Fleischer / Popeye short called Choose Your 'Weppins.'


(Skip ahead to 4:58) The idea is to fill the air with such a profusion of fragmented elements that you can't tell what phase of the action you're looking at.

The Road Runner / Wile E. Coyote cartoons that Chuck Jones directed for Warner Brothers played with the same idea.


The flurry frames stay on the screen for just a fraction of a second, long enough to give the viewer an impression of crazy action.

Previous Posts:
Getting Blur into Stop Motion
Elongated In Betweens

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Window 10 at the DMV

Jeanette is having her driver's license renewed, so we're sitting in the waiting room at the DMV.



People fill out their forms and get called up to different windows to have their picture taken and their eyes tested (Link to video on Facebook). I'm sitting across from Window 10. Everyone is so preoccupied that they don't notice me and my art supplies.


I have a page in my book with a cool underpainting that I did a few days ago, not knowing what I'd paint over it. 

The underpainting is in casein because I don't want that base layer to reactivate when it gets wet again. You could also use acryla gouache, acrylics, or tinted gesso instead. I use the following colors of gouache: cadmium yellow deep, burnt sienna, brilliant purple, black, and white.

Window 10, DMV, gouache, 3.5 inches square
The plan is to paint a warm, 'orangey' gouache painting over the bluish underpainting. Later, I'll do a blue or gray sketch over the warm underpainting to the right.
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If you like my blog, you'll love my new app: Living Sketchbook, Vol. 1: Boyhood Home. It's available for iOS on Apple phones and tablets at the App Store and for Android devices at Google Play.

''James Gurney's Living Sketchbook: Vol. 1 celebrates the mobility and charm of gouache, casein, colored pencil, and pen and ink in sketchbook form. This brilliant app is loaded with beautiful high resolution artwork set to a powerful environmental soundscape that brings you there. The narration is full of insightful observations and wisdom to pass on to artists of all levels. Additional layers of video are dispersed in the volume to clearly illustrate approaches by a master teacher and storyteller. An elegant and generous offering that will immediately make you want to sketch out ‘in the wild'!"
—Erik Tiemens - Watersketch.com

Friday, March 24, 2017

Question about Flesh Tones

Thomas DuVal asks: any tips for getting realistic skin tones with watercolor? I'm having a hard time with my portraits looking lifeless, or like dolls. Thanks!

Tom Lovell, oil 
Thomas, here's what one of my heroes, Tom Lovell, said I when asked him the same question (about oil): 
"Keep in mind that flesh tones are essentially quite neutral. If they are overstated, figures tend to look like painted dolls. Avoid lavish use of highlights. Avoid heaviness. Try reducing chroma with complementary color."  
John Gannam, watercolor
The same principles apply if you're working in watercolor. Keep the chroma down, use simple lighting and modeling, and look for other kinds of contrasting textures around the skin in the same light.

Anders Zorn, watercolor



If you like my blog, you'll love my new app: Living Sketchbook, Vol. 1: Boyhood Home. It's available for iOS on Apple phones and tablets at the App Store and for Android devices at Google Play.

''James Gurney's Living Sketchbook: Vol. 1 celebrates the mobility and charm of gouache, casein, colored pencil, and pen and ink in sketchbook form. This brilliant app is loaded with beautiful high resolution artwork set to a powerful environmental soundscape that brings you there. The narration is full of insightful observations and wisdom to pass on to artists of all levels. Additional layers of video are dispersed in the volume to clearly illustrate approaches by a master teacher and storyteller. An elegant and generous offering that will immediately make you want to sketch out ‘in the wild'!"
—Erik Tiemens - Watersketch.com

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Gouache: Tubes or Pans?


Today let's take a look at some questions that blog readers often ask about gouache.

Do you use gouache squeezed out of tubes, or dried in pan form? Secondly, how do you reactivate the gouache after it dries on your palette?
It is possible to use gouache in pans, since gouache is water soluble. It has the same binder as transparent watercolor does, namely gum arabic, which will reactivate when it gets wet again.

It used to be more common to find gouache manufactured in pan form, but there's at least one company that still offers it that way. Caran d'Ache offers a 15-pan set of pan gouacheMore about their gouache line on this previous post

If you want the ability to rewet your gouache, don't use any of the various "acrylic gouache" products, such as Acryla Gouache, which has a closed surface after it dries, meaning water won't dissolve the dry paint.

Can you use watercolor and gouache together?
Yes! In fact, transparent watercolor and "artist's" gouache aren't that different, because these days most quality manufacturers don't add a lot of whitener or filler to their gouache, as they did in the old days when it was called "designers" gouache.

Gouache and watercolor from reputable manufacturers such as M. Graham, Holbein, or Winsor and Newton tend to be pigment-rich and relatively transparent, unless the natural pigment tends toward opacity, such as Venetian red. Because of their close kinship, gouache and watercolor mix well with each other. So if you decide to work with pure gouache, you can achieve transparent passages, and those transparent passages are less likely these days to have that chalky, dull look that they had in days of yore.

Thomas Moran

Alternately, you can use a set of transparent watercolor for the colors, and just bring a tube of white gouache with you when you need opacity. That's what a lot of 19th century watercolor painters did, and they often called the result "body color." They commonly used zinc white, usually called "Chinese white," which is less opaque than titanium white, but often lovelier in tints.

Adding white is desirable for the following reasons:

1. You can paint over another passage opaquely.
2. A more opaque mixture can give you an absolutely even, flat layer, such as for a sky.
3. It allows you to work on tone paper, a technique with a venerable tradition.

Nathan Fowkes's gouache palette
Some painters I greatly admire, such as Nathan Fowkes, use this method. They bring their watercolors in pan form, squeezed earlier from tubes, along with a live tube of white gouache brought into the field and mixed with the regular watercolor to make them opaque. 

Filling your own pans
Whether you use gouache or watercolor, you can squeeze them from tubes into an empty pan set. This saves money in the long run and allows you to refill colors when you run out of them.

I recommend the straight-sided plastic paint wells called "full pans," which snap into the standard sized grippers inside the paint box. Or you can use smaller "half pans" for specialty colors. Full pans are better if you like to use larger brushes, but the smaller half pans will allow you to make a tinier kit. I like to mix full pans with small pans. You can buy a whole whole set of plastic full and half pans and prepare them yourself with tube paint. They'll fit into an empty metal watercolor box or a larger one, which will hold 24 full pans.

If you prefer working on large paintings, you can also use a large pre-made watercolor palette such as the venerable John Pike palette.

Fill the the pans just halfway up in the first squeezing, tap them against the table to get them to settle, then top off the pans with more paint. If the paint starts to crack, you can add more gum arabic to the mixture to give it more binding strength. Also, you can infill the cracks with more paint to lock it in place.

Note: don't use one of those round, dimpled plastic palettes. Those palettes are not designed to hold dry paint. They're for mixing large amounts of watercolor washes. If you use them for a portable palette, the dry paint is apt to break off and rattle around in your box as stray chunks.

Reactivating your paint.
As you start your sketching session, begin reactivating your paint by putting a drop or two of water lightly on each pan of color. You can use a soft brush for this, or a baby nasal aspirator or an artist's sponge. Get this started even before you start the drawing, so that the paint is softened up and ready for you when you need it.

Gouache from tubes
When it comes to gouache, I prefer to use it squeezed fresh from tubes because it gives me plenty of paint of the right juicy consistency.

I generally bring about 10 tubes of gouache at a given time in my small belt pouch, sometimes fewer. I like changing the assortment that I bring with me on a given outing, limiting my blue to just Prussian blue, for example, then switching that out for another blue such as Ultramarine. That way I stay away from color mixing habits, and I often discover weird combinations of colors that way.

For a flat mixing surface, I often use the steel lid of a colored pencil box painted with white spray enamel primer. I squeeze the paint onto a layer of damp paper towel if the humidity is very low and the paint risks drying quickly. A few spritzes of mist from a mini spray bottle can keep the paint active longer.

In some of my videos you'll see me mixing my gouache on the side flanges of my small watercolor box. That's just because I forgot to bring a simple empty palette. 
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Previous posts on GurneyJourney:
More about Caran d'Ache's line of gouache 
Gouache Ingredients: Info from Manufacturers

Teaching Resources
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 Kunaki.com (Region 1 encoded NTSC video) $24.50

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

March Snow in Kingston

A beam of late afternoon sunlight slashes across the road and wraps over a snowbank. The light is fleeting, and so is the snow.  A tangle of bare branches veils The Governor Clinton Apartments. I want to cram it all into my little book.

March Snow, Kingston, gouache, 5 x 8 inches
I pull the car over next to Academy Green Park in Kingston, New York. It's Saint Patrick's Day, but there's not much green in view. No green on my palette, either. Just a few tubes of gouache: Prussian blue, raw sienna, cadmium yellow deep, perylene maroon, and white.


(Link to video on Facebook)
Check out our new app: Living Sketchbook, Vol. 1: Boyhood Home
iOS on Apple phones and tablets at the App Store
and for Android devices at Google Play
Gouache Materials List