James Gurney’s Unconventional Oil Techniques

James Gurney's Unconventional Oil Techniques, instructional oil painting video

ames Gurney's Unconventional Oil Techniques, instructional oil painting video

Unconventional Oil Techniques is the latest in a series of instructional painting videos by artist and author James Gurney.

While the majority of his previous videos have dealt with various water based media: gouache, casein and watercolor, after numerous requests, this one is devoted to oil painting.

It should be pointed out, though, that this is not an introductory video, but rather a collection of tips and techniques for those who already have some experience with oil painting. (Not that the tips wouldn’t be useful to a beginner, but that’s not the focus here.)

Unlike most of Gurney’s other videos, which go through a fairly complete process of painting a series of paintings in a particular medium — usually 5 or 6 paintings — in which process is discussed; the format here is different: highlights from painting three works, punctuated with a series of short, direct demonstrations of particular techniques. These are usually simplified by using black and white paint, followed by the application of the techniques in color on the actual paintings.

The paintings happen to be dinosaur illustrations Gurney recently did for various publications, but the techniques are general and easily applicable to other subjects.

He uses the paintings as a springboard for discussing a variety of oil techniques that are not as often highlighted in most oil painting videos. These include: using gouache to do preliminary color studies for oil paintings, sealing pencil sketches on paper with acrylic mat medium for painting over in oil, painting thin and thick passages in coordination, making various kinds of brush marks by dragging, scrubbing, rolling and tapping the brush, using a painting knife on edge as well as on flat, pre-texturing with modeling paste, and splaying the bristles of brushes for pouncing and stippling. There are eleven techniques in all.

You can see a preview of several by searching Gurney’s blog for “UnconventionalOil Techniques“.

I’ve pointed out that several of Gurney’s previous instructional videos give the feeling that you’ve chanced on him while plein air painting and he is being generous with describing his process while he works. In Unconventional Oil Techniques, the feeling is that you’ve signed up for a limited attendance workshop in advanced oil painting, and discover to your delight that Gurney is the instructor.

The video is 90 minutes, and is $17.95 as a digital download through Gumroad or Sellfy, or $24.50 on DVD through Kunaki.

 
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Les animaux tels qu’ils sont

Les animaux tels qu'ils sont, how to draw animals

Les animaux tels qu'ils sont, how to draw animals

Les animaux tels qu’ils sont, which Google translates as “The animals as they are” is a book published in France in 1959 that offers 90 plus examples of how to draw animals using simplified geometric forms.

Someone has apparently determined that the book now falls in the public domain, as the pages are available in high resolution on Wikimedia Commons.

There is also a set of pages on this Flickr collection, that makes it easier to view and browse them, but the image files are easier to download from Wikimedia.

 
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James Gurney’s Living Sketchbook, Volume 3 – Court Report

James Gurney's Living Sketchbook, Volume 3 - Court Report

James Gurney's Living Sketchbook, Volume 3 - Court Report

When I first met author and artist James Gurney some years ago, I had the opportunity to leaf through one of his sketchbooks. Gurney is so accomplished that his sketchbooks often consist of page after page of beautifully realized paintings and sketches, usually in gouache or casein. My immediate thought was that he should publish them in some form, if only because I would personally like the opportunity to look through them at leisure.

I didn’t say anything at the time, but some years later, in 2017, Gurney began to do just that, publishing a few selected sketchbooks — not as a printed book or PDF file, as I might have envisioned — but as a concept he calls a “Living Sketchbook”. These are smartphone/tablet apps, developed in coordination with his son, Dan Gurney.

The Living Sketchbook apps not only allow you to flip through the sketchbook pages, but also to zoom in on the images, click to read comments, hear audio commentary, and in many cases, see short videos of Gurney working on the sketch and discussing his methods and materials. It’s about as close as you can get to sitting down with the artist and leafing through his sketchbooks while he discusses the sketches and shows you some of his techniques.

Gurney gives his actual sketchbooks names, usually based on sketches of a particular subject among those in the sketchbook, and the digital versions follow that model. I reviewed the first of the series, “Boyhood Home” when I received a Beta review copy just before it launched. After the beta expired, I bought my own copy, as well as a copy of the second in the series, “Metro North”.

I was pleased to recently receive a review copy of the third app in the series, “Court Report”, named for a few paintings of basketball players, games and announcers and that Gurney did at the invitation of the NBA. The bulk of the sketchbook, like the other two, ranges through a variety of Gurney’s subjects and approaches to sketching and painting. In this case there are a number of winter landscape scenes, as well as studies of people, houses, diners, animals, cars and other subjects.

One of the things I particularly enjoy about Gurney’s Living Sketchbook apps — in addition to the beautiful reproduction of the art and the depth of the accompanying information — is their portability. It’s like having a little packet of painting inspiration that I can enjoy anytime and anywhere, from waiting for an appointment to taking a break while plein air painting.

“Court Report” and the other two volumes in the series are available in the App Stores for both iOS an Android for $4.99 each.

You can find more information, images and video flip-throughs on Gurney’s blog.

 
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José Naranja

Jose Naranja, illustrated notebooks and journals

Jose Naranja, illustrated notebooks and journals

Among followers of “urban sketching”, there is an often associated practice known as “journaling”, or the keeping of a visual diary of one’s travels, day to day activities or random thoughts and ideas.

The idea of visual journals or diaries is nothing new, of course, but the current popularity of the practice, and the ability to place one’s journals online and compare notes with others, makes it an interesting contemporary phenomenon.

José Naranja is a Spanish artist, writer, traveller and observer who takes this activity to greater lengths than most. Naranja refers to himself as a “notebook maker and more”.

After years of making journals in commercial sketchbooks and notebooks, he has taken to crafting his own, using high quality paper and binding the in leather in much thicker dimensions than those commercially available.

These he fills with ink and watercolor sketches, hand written text, clippings, stamps and sometimes intricate design work — resulting in an amalgam that is part travel journal, part art and design experiments, part comparisons of drawing and writing materials, part collage, part scrapbook and part imaginative workspace.

You can find examples of his notebook pages and materials on his blog and Instagram page. He offers a facsimile edition of some of his selected pages as The Orange Manuscript, as well as prints.

You can also find quick overviews of some of his pages in articles on My Modern Met and Colossal. There is an interview with Naranja on Notebook Stories.

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Baumgartner painting restoration videos

Baumgartner painting restoration videos

Baumgartner painting restoration videos

If, like me, you find the conservation and restoration of historic artworks interesting, you will probably enjoy this series of videos (YouTube link) from Baumgartner Fine Art Restoration, a conservation studio located in Chicago.

In the video from which I’ve shown some example images, above, we see the restoration of a badly torn portrait by William Merritt Chase.

The videos are not meant to be detailed or instructional, they just follow the general process.

I’m not familiar enough with contemporary restoration methods to know if there is anything unorthodox about the procedure, or if this is a standard approach, but the process shown seems reasonable to me. All of the changes are meant to be reversible, and any repainting is restricted to a new replacement surface, inserted only where the original canvas is missing.

There are additional videos on Baumgartner’s YouTube channel that go into other aspects of conservation and restoration. They also have an Instagram feed.

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Rendering in Pen and Ink by Arthur L. Guptill

Rendering in Pen and Ink by Arthur L. Guptill

Rendering in Pen and Ink by Arthur L. Guptill

Pen and ink is a medium with a long history, but despite some modern revival in interest (as evidenced by the current internet-wide exercise of Inktober), its importance has faded from its time as a major drawing medium for Renaissance and Baroque masters, and its strong popularity as a medium for illustration during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Pen and ink is a medium with unique characteristics — in linearity, texture and tone — that have a visual charm shared only with similar techniques in printmaking.

From the waning years of the medium’s heyday as a staple of book illustration, we have a classic volume that is simply the best book on pen and ink I’ve ever encountered: Rendering in Pen and Ink by Arthur L. Guptill

The original version of the book was published in 1930 as Drawing with Pen and Ink, and versions of that volume are still available. The edition titled Rendering in Pen and Ink was created in 1976, leaving out a few of the original illustrations, adding many others and condensing the area devoted to text while enlarging that given to images.

This is a from-the-ground up treatise on drawing with pen and ink, starting with materials, basic marks and methods of making tones — hatching, cross-hatching, stipple and freeform textures — and going on through methods of rendering trees and landscapes, architecture, still life, people and more.

Much emphasis is given to making and controlling tones and suggesting light and shade, something that those learning pen and ink often struggle with, as well as conveying the textures of natural and artificial surfaces.

Many of the illustrations, particular those explaining the basics of ink drawing and rendering, are by Arthur Guptill himself, and he is no slouch at pen drawing. The book is also profusely illustrated with plates by some of the best pen and ink artists from the turn of the 20th century, a high point for the use of pen and ink in books and magazines.

The drawing may strike some as “old fashioned”, in that it has a character of classic illustration — but to others, myself included, this is a Good Thing — a welcome grounding in techniques taken from masters of the medium.

The current 60th Anniversary edition of the book, which is huge, both in page size and number, is available for under $30 on Amazon U.S. For my money, a single chapter would be worth that! (I’ll note that I have an older, well-worn hardbound edition that I’m using for my review, and I can’t speak to the binding and paper quality of the current printing.)

I’ve had the book since I was in my early 20s; I considered it a gem then, and the years have not dimmed my enthusiasm for its value. Rendering in Pen and Ink is highly regarded as a standard must-have book among illustrators and comics artists, but is less well known to other contemporary artists.

There are a lot of books available on drawing in pen and ink, but if you have any interest in working in, and hopefully mastering the medium, this one should be on your shelf.

 
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