Lines and Colors art blog

James Gurney’s Watercolor in the Wild

James Gurney's Watercolor in the Wild
I was delighted to receive a review copy of Watercolor in the Wild, a new instructional video by painter/illustrator/author James Gurney.

Watercolor is both an inviting and challenging medium. One of its most compelling features is the easy portability of a basic watercolor painting kit, allowing an artist to paint in a variety of places and often impromptu situations.

James Gurney, among his other abilities, is a dedicated plain air painter and sketcher, who often works in water media, or a combination of water media, ink and colored pencils. Gurney has for some time been sharing his experience and expertise on his blog, Gurney Journey, as well as in a series of books, short videos and more recently, full length videos.

Here, he has followed up on the success of his full-length videos on illustration techniques, with a full length instructional video on painting with watercolor on location.

He starts out with basics about equipment and materials, including laying out both his simple and more extensive painting kits and setups — throwing in his experienced suggestions and tips along the way — then moves into basic techniques. The main content is a series of individual location painting sessions of various subjects. In each of these, he takes advantage of the particular setting and subject to cover different aspects of the process.

Gurney often works with colored pencils and water-soluble colored pencils, augmented with a water brush, in addition to watercolor, and lays out that approach in some detail. Not only is this a versatile technique for experienced painters, I think it would be useful as a gateway approach for those who have felt intimidated by watercolor.

The location sessions include shots of his setup, the subject and various stages of the process, as well as the finished painting. The series rounds out with a slideshow of his small location paintings, and the introduction includes some glimpses of his sketchbooks pages. (Gurney creates sketchbooks densely packed with beautifully realized small paintings, to the point that the sketchbooks are like a work in themselves, a kind of collected series. Personally, I think he should release some of them as books, but I digress.)

Gurney has a relaxed, conversational demeanor throughout — almost as though you had chanced upon him painting, asked about his materials and techniques, and found him more than happy to oblige. This is, of course, a superb approach for an instructional art video.

The video production values are high, particularly in reproducing the sketchbook pages as the paintings progress, with lots of close-up views that show the renderings in detail.

There is a trailer for Watercolor in the Wild on YouTube. The video itself, which runs 70 minutes, can be ordered on DVD through Kanuki for $30, or as a digital download for $15 through Gumroad or Sellfy. On Sellfy, you can also find a separate supplementary 1/2 hour video of Bonus Features, with 10 short painting episodes for $10.

One of the great things about these instructional videos by Gurney is the wealth of supplemental material available on his blog. This includes relevant material from previous posts and directly related questions answered afterward, all with lots of links to materials suppliers and other relevant resources.

I now have several books and videos by Gurney, as well as being an avid follower of his blog, and I find a kind of synergy between his instructional materials, in that there is a basic underlying philosophy and systematic approach that comes from his considerable experience.

I, for one, am hoping Gurney will follow up soon with a similar video on his techniques for opaque water media (gouache and casein).

In the meanwhile, I’m finding transparent watercolor more pliant than I thought I would.