Eye Candy for Today: Whistler etching, Fumette

Fumette, etching whistler
Fumette, etching whistler (details)

Fumette, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, etching, roughly 6 x 4″ (16 x 11 cm)

Link is to zoomable version on Google Art Project, original of this version of the print is in the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery.

You can see other versions of the print in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago.

In this portrayal of his mistress Heloise — who was known as “Fumette” because of her temper — Whistler has brought his considerable etching skills to a study of value contrasts, darks against lights and lights against darks in her clothing and in the framing of her face by her dark hair.

I particularly love how loose and casual his hatching appears in the lower areas of the skirt.

Whistler created a number of etchings of Fumette, some of which you can also see on the site of the Freer Gallery.

Edwin Deakin

Edwin Deakin
Edwin Deakin

At the age of 18, when his family emigrated from England to the United States, Edwin Deakin was already established as a landscape painter. 17 years later, in 1873, he left his adopted home in San Francisco and traveled back across the Atlantic, painting in England, France and Switzerland and exhibiting in the prestigious Paris Salon.

He returned to the U.S to acclaim and attention for both his landscapes and his still life paintings — particularly those of grapes, which have a remarkable sensation of atmosphere for a seemingly simple still life subject.

His landscape and cityscape paintings have a wonderfully tactile sensation of the textures of wood, stone and concrete.

There is a book from the LA County Museum of Natural History that collects A Gallery of California Mission Paintings by Edwin Deakin (Amazon link)

Eye Candy for Today: Hubert von Herkomer’s Miss May Miles

Miss May Miles, Hubert von Herkomer
Miss May Miles, Hubert von Herkomer

Miss May Miles, Hubert von Herkomer

I have not seen the original of this painting, but my experience with comparing art images on the web with their originals — in the case of paintings I have seen in person — gives me the impression that some well-intentioned but misguided individual along the way has increased the saturation of the color, likely thinking this would make the image more appealing. I’ve taken the liberty of color correcting the image back to what I feel would have been the more naturalistic intention of the artist.

This portrait by the late 19th century Bavarian/British painter Hubert von Herkomer seems to me like a pull-out-the-stops example of directing the eye to a single area in a painting.

The darker values at the edges of the painting produce the effect of a vignette; within which the high-chroma/high-value forms of her face, arms and hands stand out from the low-chroma/low value areas of the wall behind her to striking effect. This is accentuated by the dark shape her gown, which is almost zero chroma and zero value.

The woman’s face is close to the horizontal center of the composition; the rest of her figure is not. She looks directly at the viewer with gaze that could be seen as either engaging or confrontational, perhaps both. Her arms point inward in the direction of her neck and face, as do the arm of the chair and the large fold in the cover.

The dark of her dress and the dark of her hair, accented by an extra darkened passage on the wall just behind her, form a kind of dark halo around her face. The flowers above her right hand are echoed by smaller counterparts in her hair, further reinforcing the effect of framing.

The patterns of the wallpaper and the folds of the cover swirl around her, as if caught in a gravitational field.

Amidst it all, the dotted highlights in her pupils shine out like distant beacons. The color of her eyes appears greenish, an intensifying compliment to the ruddy cast of her skin.

How could a viewer standing in front of this painting not be drawn immediately and irresistibly to the woman’s face, and more specifically, to her eyes?

Sketches in Line and Wash by Jeanette L. Gurney

Sketches in Line and Wash by Jeanette L. Gurney
Sketches in Line and Wash by Jeanette L. Gurney

If, like me, you’ve watched many of James Gurney’s excellent short videos on YouTube, you have undoubtedly seen Jeanette Gurney, James Gurney’s wife, playing a supporting role, often accompanying him on sketching trips and sketching in the background while he sketches or paints.

Occasionally, we would get a look at her line and watercolor drawings, which I have always enjoyed, but usually only glimpses.
With the release of a recent video on YouTube titled Sketches in Line and Wash by Jeanette Gurney, we finally get a more extended look at Jeanette Gurney’s line and watercolor drawings.

Line and watercolor has been gaining in popularity in recent years as a favored medium among urban sketchers; Jeanette Gurney has been working this way for some time. It is a fascinating combination of mediums, with many of the eye pleasing characteristics of both drawing and painting. These characteristics are evident in the variety of approaches to line and wash featured in this video.

The video itself appears to be a recording of a livestream conducted with a New Jersey high school. In the first third or so both Jeanette and James field questions from the students and Jeanette discusses her materials and basic techniques. There is a list of materials links when you open the “Show More” link on the YouTube page.

About 12 minutes in, we see more of her line and wash sketches, in which her line application varies from pencil to marker to pen and even ballpoint. Her favored subject is architecture, and her sketches are of a fascinating variety of buildings.

She has a light touch with her lines — contrasted with occasionally bold marker lines — and an often free application of watercolor, giving her drawngs the feeling of a loose, casual sketch, though it’s obvious that there is a solid foundation of draftsmanship underneath.

This is one of those delightful videos that makes you want to grab your sketchbook and head out the door.