Ian Hargreaves

Ian Hargreaves, landscapes, cityscapes
Ian Hargreaves is an English painter who has lived in Italy and Germany, as well as the UK.

His landscapes and cityscapes, often sun-splashed or dappled in shade, show the influence of his affection for Mediterranean subjects.

Though you can’t see it in the small preview images above, his approach is often brusquely textural, giving a visceral touch to his weathered walls, worn pavement, seaside rocks and rough-barked trees.

I’m particularly drawn to his use of contrasts of sunlight and shadow, both in urban and woodland settings.

[Via Making a Mark]

Eye Candy for Today: Edward Lear graphite drawing

Parham, October.13.1834, Edward Lear
Parham, October.13.1834, Edward Lear

Graphite and white gouache on toned paper, roughly 10×7 inches (26×17 cm). Link is to a zoomable version on Google Art Project; downloadable version on Wikimedia Commons, original is in the Yale Center for British Art, which also has zoomable and downloadable versions.

Edward Lear, known these days more for his collections of nonsense verse than for his art, give us an apparently quickly and efficiently realized study of a tree. The name assigned to the drawing is simply taken from his notation at the bottom of the location and date of the drawing.

Lear’s graphite rendering in form-following lines is wonderfully set off on the toned paper by highlights of white gouache, effectively capturing the essence of the tree’s form and texture.

I love the jagged chiseled pencil strokes he uses to suggest the character of the foliage.

Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun: Woman Artist in Revolutionary France

Elisabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun
Historically, women have often faced exclusion from participation in the arts, their desire to establish themselves as professional artists curtailed or suppressed by a culture that deemed a career in painting or sculpture unsuitable for the “fairer sex”.

This is usually discussed in the context of personal hardship, individual women whose potential careers as artists were denied by the restrictions of society.

I tend to think of this as a much broader tragedy, in terms of how many potentially great women artists our short-sightedness and misogyny have denied us as a culture.

For examples, we can look to those women who managed to overcome the hurdles of their times and establish themselves as artists of note, making their contribution in spite of the odds.

As a prime example, I might suggest the brilliant 18th century French painter Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, a major figure in 18th century art and a personal favorite of mine among portrait painters, if not painters in general.

Encouraged and trained by her father, portrait painter Louis Vigée, she began her study of painting at an early age. She married painter and art dealer Jean-Baptiste-Pierre Le Brun, through whom she had additional access to the art world and potential clients. His position, however, denied her access to the French Royal Academy, as it was considered a conflict of interest.

Vigée Lebrun’s elegant style and technical mastery made her a favorite of the French Queen, Marie Antoinette, whose intercession allowed the artist to be accepted as one of only four women academicians.

Vigée Lebrun’s career was tied to the state of the French aristocracy, and she was forced to flee the country with her nine year old daughter when the French Revolution caught up with the aristocracy’s extravagant ways and disdain for the needs of the common people.

Traveling and living in various cities, Vigée Lebrun painted portraits of aristocracy in Italy, Russian and Germany, before being able to return to post-revolutionary France.

I think she flattered her sitters, not so much in the way of changing their features, but in the extraordinary liveliness and vitality present in so many of her portraits. Even those who are older seem aglow with the vibrancy and energy of youth, especially her female subjects.

Vigée Lebrun’s touch in rendering the delicate nuances of color and value in skin tones and the ability she had to bring out the character of her sitters, particularly in the more casual portraits of friends and family, made her one of history’s most fascinating portraitists. (The images above at top and at bottom are self-portraits.)

There is currently a major retrospective of her work — organized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in cooperation with the Grand Palais, the National Gallery of Canada, and the Château de Versailles — that has brought together over 80 of her paintings, drawings and pastels.

Vigée Le Brun: Woman Artist in Revolutionary France” will be on display at the Met until May 15, 2016.

It then moves to the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.

There is a book accompanying the exhibition, simply titled Vigée Le Brun (Amazon link). There is also a gallery of work on the Met’s site.

The images of the borrowed pieces are somewhat small, but you can see high-resolution versions of the three in the museum’s permanent collection.

We’re fortunate that Élisabeth Vigée Lebrun’s circumstances permitted her to pursue her art. Her legacy numbers over 600 works, including numerous drawings and pastels.

For more, see the Artcyclopedia listings and my related posts, linked below.

Karla Ortiz

Karla Ortiz
Karla Ortiz is a concept artist, illustrator and gallery artist who has worked with film and gaming companies Paragon Studios/NcSoft, Ubisoft, Kabam, Industrial Light & Magic and Marvel Film Studios, as well as publishers Wizards of the Coast, Ace Books, Tor Books.

Her illustrations have a refined, classical approach, with much attention paid to to subtle changes in value.

In the “Fine Art‘ section of her website (accessed from a drop-down menu under “Art”), you’ll find drawings and sketches that I think are exceptionally appealing.

There is a video here that shows a time lapse of Ortiz creating the graphite drawing “Omens” (images above, bottom).

Ortiz will be participating in the Concept Design Academy that begins on February 27, 2016.

Her work will be on display at Gallery Nucleus in Alhambra, CA as part of the Line Weight IV exhibition, also opening February 27, and running to March 13, 2016.

[Via Richard Solomon]

James Gurney’s Fantasy in the Wild

James Gurney's Fantasy in the Wild
In his “In the Wild” series of instructional painting videos, painter, illustrator, writer and instructor James Gurney has previously given us Watercolor in the Wild and Gouache in the Wild (links to my reviews), delving into the use of those mediums on location.

He has followed up with an interesting variation, Fantasy in the Wild: Painting Concept Art on Location (link is to description, preview video and download order form on Gumroad).

I will point out before going further that this video would be of interest to plein air painters and those interested in the mediums of casein and gouache — as well as concept painters and illustrators — so you may want to read through even if concept art is not your thing.

For those who are familiar with concept art, you’re probably aware that there are any number of concept art tutorials available, on the web, downloadable for a fee, and for sale on DVD.

This one, to my knowledge, is unique. The majority of concept art tutorials deal with digital painting in Photoshop, Corel Painter and similar digital art programs. Those few that deal with traditional media still take a similar tack of making up scenes out of whole cloth, or at most, using photographs for reference.

Gurney here is taking the approach of using location painting both as inspiration and reference for fantasy painting, going into the field with casein, gouache and watercolor in search of settings and subjects for fantastic realism.

Starting with an overview of previously painted plein air subjects in the small town of Rhinebeck, NY — comparing the finished paintings to their original subjects — he shows how artistic decisions about changing the reality of the scene lead logically into the notion of taking the scene as raw material for something imaginative the artist creates.

The first painting demonstration is of a street scene, into which the fictional incident of a mysteriously floating car is introduced. Gurney goes through the use of a model as an addition to the location painting reference, matching lighting, position and scale to achieve a composite image. In the process, we follow him as he paints the plein air aspect of the painting, then applies his own variation in lighting as well as the invented addition of the floating car.

James Gurney's Fantasy in the Wild
The other set of paintings involve a giant robot set into a typical franchise-strewn stretch of highway in another fantastical incident. Here, Gurney looks to construction machinery as the source of his imaginary robot, giving the machine a sense of solidity and realism that would be difficult to accomplish without the visual information gleaned from the real world machines.

He augments this with a quickly constructed maquette, allowing him to more accurately visualize lighting for his imaginary giant robot to match the scene.

In the process we again get to follow Gurney as he paints plein air location studies, in this case of construction machinery, in addition to the finished location background for his larger composition. These demos, as well as that of the first painting, include instruction in the nature and handling of casein, notably using the opaque and quick drying nature of the medium to advantage in painting out and replacing elements of the composition.

While in continuity with his other “In the Wild” instructional videos, Fantasy in the Wild is also a continuation of themes Gurney began exploring with in his 2009 book, Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn’t Exist (link to my review).

If you enjoyed that book, you will likely find the video appealing, and vice-versa. Also, like all of Gurney’s instructional books and videos, there is a wealth of related supplementary material on his blog, Gurney Journey, accessible by search or by the subject tags in the left column.

To me, the approach taken in Fantasy in the Wild — and the general theme of taking inspiration and reference from the study of the real world as raw material for imagined scenes — reveals an appealing undercurrent relevant to plein air painting: the implied freedom of not feeling limited to reproducing the scene being painted, but instead taking nature as a source for painting whatever the artist wishes.

Too often, beginning location painters can feel restrained to be rigidly faithful to the scene in front of them rather than to their own artistic decisions.

At the other end of the spectrum, those learning illustration and concept art may feel that everything has to be “made up” out of thin air, when in fact, artists throughout history have been using nature as a treasure trove of source material for imagined realities, whether Classical, Romantic or fantastic.

In that light, Fantasy in the Wild is actually a more classic and general guide to painting than might be assumed from the title.

Eye Candy for Today: Franklin Booth pen and ink landscape drawing

Franklin Booth pen and ink landscape drawing
Landscape drawing (untitled), Franklin Booth

Link is to Outside Logic, from this page of Franklin Booth drawings. I don’t know of a reference to the title or use of this drawing as an illustration.

Golden Age American illustrator Franklin Booth developed his brilliant and unique style of pen and ink illustration from the mistaken assumption that the illustrations in his favorite books and magazines were drawn in pen and ink rather than being wood engravings.

He is renowned for his dramatic fantasy themed illustrations, but his less well known drawings of quiet domestic interiors and simple landscapes are also wonderful examples of his style.

I love the foreground tree in this drawing, simple and unassuming, but brilliantly composed. Its lacy form, delicate branches and distinct areas of black and white are melded together into a harmonious, naturalistic tree shape, and yet are so delightfully stylized as to be a treat for the eye on several levels.

It’s particularly interesting how Booth has swirled the lines of the cloud forms around and through those of the leaves and branches.