Saturday, August 30, 2014

Karla Mialynne's Photos of Realistic Drawings

Karla Mialynne makes realistic renderings of animals using colored pencils and markers, and photographs them with the tools she uses to create them. The photos give us an intriguing hint of scale and process.

McCauley Conner Exhibition

Yesterday the New York Times paid respectful tribute to illustrator McCauley Conner, even to the point of starting off the article by calling him "an artist."

Mr. Conner is 100 years old and going strong. His paintings are being featured at an exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York through January 11.

He never thought he'd live to see his work recognized in this way, but it helps that they're calling him "one of the original 'Mad Men'" —a reference to the popular TV series. The museum says:
"McCauley (“Mac”) Conner (born 1913) grew up admiring Norman Rockwell magazine covers in his father’s general store. He arrived in New York as a young man to work on wartime Navy publications and stayed on to make a career in the city’s vibrant publishing industry. The exhibition presents Conner’s hand-painted illustrations for advertising campaigns and women’s magazines like Redbook and McCall’s, made during the years after World War II when commercial artists helped to redefine American style and culture."
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Museum of the City of New York: Mac Conner, A New York Life

The exhibition is co-sponsored by The Modern Graphic History Library at Washington University in St. Louis and the Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Macro Photos of Compound Eyes

 Yudy Sauw takes amazing photos of the faces of insects and other tiny creatures.

The ring light diffuser around the black lens give the appearance of a "pupil." On some of them there appears to be some Photoshop enhancement, as with the one above called "Flood." 

You can buy the images as computer wallpaper or canvas prints. Via BoingBoing

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Hitting the road next week

Here is the cover of the sketchbook I'm currently traveling through. I called it "Rest Stop," following my custom to title the sketchbook with words that appear on the first page. The sketch on the first page is captioned the 'Heavenly Rest Stop Café.'

I'm dreaming about the road, because Jeanette and I will be leaving next week on a car trip from New York to Wyoming and Colorado. As much as possible, we'll be taking the old highways through small town America, sketching as we go.


I'll be one of the guests at the SKB Workshop in Dubois, Wyoming, September 14-19. There will be a lot of plein-air, landscape, and wildlife painters there in an informal setting.

Also, I'll be traveling out to California in November as a guest of the CTN Animation Expo. I've visited once before, and it's a very interesting gathering of animation artists.

If you can't make it to either of those events, I'll be reporting along the way from the blog.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sepia Wash Drawing

If you're experimenting with watercolor for the first time, a good way to get some practice is to do a study in sepia. 

Here's a sketchbook page I did while waiting for a train in Italy about 20 years ago.

Parco della Montagnola, Bologna, Italy. Sculpture by Diego Sarti
By painting monochromatically, you remove the variables of chroma and hue. That lets you concentrate on the basics of the dampness of the paper, the amount of pigment on the brush, and the wetness of the brush. That's enough to think about.

Most subjects will call out for a variety of handling, including:
1. Large flat areas, such as the background of this painting. (I did that to simplify, or I would have missed my train)
2. Wet into wet blends, such as the shadow in the lower right,
3. Drybrush, such as along the cat's shoulder and the rock platform.
(I missed my train anyway.)

Here are three tips:
1. Do a fairly careful graphite pencil drawing first. It's especially hard in watercolor to correct mistakes in the initial drawing.
2. If you need to erase, test the effect of the eraser on the paper on another page by rubbing the eraser on a patch and running a flat wash over that area. Some erasers leave behind a little oil or grease that can affect a wash. You can erase after the painting is fully dry and avoid this problem.
3. When you're ready to paint, make sure you have both a big brush and a little brush, and make sure your watercolor set has a mixing well in case you need to mix a large amount of wash. You don't want to have to stop in the middle of a big wash to mix more.
 In Arthur Guptill's classic 1935 book Color in Sketching and Rendering, he demonstrates a few examples of commonplace objects painted in a monochrome watercolor wash. He recommends choosing an object that's white or relatively colorless, like this wooden basket. Painting it in actual sunlight, he noticed the darkness and sharpness of the shadow edge from C to B, the absolute dark accent at A, and the closeness of value at the plane change at (e) inside the basket.

This white china cup is an ideal subject because its faceted sides make the stepwise transitions from light to shadow abundantly clear. All these steps can be carefully modulated with the washes, and the process is immensely faster than charcoal. Plus the tones are smoother and purer. But it takes practice to do such an accomplished study, since you have to lay down the tone and leave it: you can't scrub on it or tweak it forever.

People through history seem to be conflicted about whether to call such a study a drawing or a painting, so they're often referred to as a "wash drawing." I love the fact that it's on the boundary line between drawing and painting.

Instead of sepia, you can use lampblack, ivory black, burnt umber, or Payne's grey, each of which has a slightly different character.

Watercolor in the Wild buy
Color in Sketching and Rendering by Arthur Guptill (1935) Highly recommended, and it hasn't been reprinted.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Don't throw out your old watercolors!

Instead, seal them in big glass jars. I've got mine in four jars: "Juicy New Tubes," "Semi-Dry Tubes," "Dried Out Tubes," and "Pans Full and Empty." The airtight jars keep the tubes from drying out any further.

I use the new tubes for refilling empty pans. If the semi-dry ones are still squeezable, they can work even better for refilling, because they don't drip liquid. You can cut open the dried out tubes with a sharp knife. The pigment is often tar-like in consistency and can usually be scraped out with a palette knife. A little water pressed in with an old spoon is usually enough to reactivate them. If you're handling toxic pigments with your fingers, remember to wear gloves.

My jar of pans is a graveyard of colors I've dumped from sets because I wasn't interested in them. Sometimes I change my mind and give those refusés another try. Every six months or so, I change my palette selection to keep myself off balance.

If I'm sure I don't want an old pan color, I pry out the color so that I can fill the empty pan with a new tube color. After refilling it, I put it on the sill of a sunny window and let it dry out for a week or two. If it cracks after drying, just fill in the cracks with more liquid color and let it dry again (thanks Jobot).

To cure the pigment from drying too crumbly, add a little gum arabic to it. Gum arabic is the binder or gluey stuff that holds watercolor together. You can get it in powdered form and it's non-toxic. It's also used for gluing cigars and making royal icing more shiny. You can even use gum arabic to make your own watercolors out of your dry eye shadow or dry pigments. (thanks, DKVision and Jobot).

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Check out my video:Watercolor in the Wild by James Gurney
Big post about materials