TRIADS: Painting with Three Colors, James Gurney

TRIADS: Painting with Three Colors, art instruction video by James Gurney

TRIADS: Painting with Three Colors, art instruction video by James Gurney

In his latest instructional video, TRIADS: Painting with Three Colors, painter James Gurney explores three color palettes and gives a good introduction to the basic concepts of painting with limited palettes.

Though not specifically about triadic color schemes in the classic sense (in which the colors are evenly spaced around the color wheel), his exploration of palettes with three colors points out one of the strengths of this approach: a palette of three colors can mix a broad range of additional colors, and yet remain manageable when you’re trying to wrap your head around how to mix them. (Like many painters, Gurney chooses to regard white as not a color, and I think wisely so.)

TRIADS is a follow up to Gurney’s previous video, Color in Practice, Part 1, Black, White, and Complements (link is to my review), and serves as second in a planned series. Here, he is painting with gouache, transparent watercolor and casein, but the principles are applicable to other mediums.

Initially painting with a palette of three colors similar to the cyan, magenta and yellow colors used in printing inks to produce a wide range of colors, he starts with a demo painting of brightly colored still life subjects in sunlight. The initially chosen palette creates a broad gamut (range of colors), but like any limited palette, has areas of weakness.

Gurney supplements the demo painting with the creation of a “triad test”, a simple diamond shaped set of test patches of the colors in the palette, and mixtures of the colors as well as tints (the color plus white) and mixtures of the tints.

He then moves on to a different set of “primaries”, richer in the colors that are weak in the previous palette, creates another “triad test” and goes back into the same demo painting, pointing out how the two palettes differ in areas of strength.

He goes on with other demos and studio exercises to explore various three color combinations — some unusual, using secondaries in place of primaries — as well as the creation of grays and low chroma colors from high chroma palettes, making swatches of test colors as he goes. He goes through about ten demo paintings in the course of the video, some quite briefly, others in more depth.

As is often the case with Gurney’s videos, I find myself learning from aspects of the visuals that aren’t specifically part of the video’s primary subject. At one point in the creation of grays from triads of colors, he makes a couple of grays in transparent watercolor by layering three transparent layers of pure color, one over another, letting them mix optically rather than mixing on the palette. I found the resulting grayed tones particularly rich with subtle variations of color, and came away eager to experiment with that aspect of applying paint.

You’ll find other off-topic but valuable painting techniques in the creation of the demos, such as the way he uses large brushes in areas where a less experienced painter might be reaching for smaller ones, the creation of texture with split hair dry brush, using a mahl stick to steady the brush for drawing the lines like those of siding on a house, and his process of using interesting color variations as colored grounds before blocking in.

TRIADS: Painting with Three Colors takes the seemingly simple concept of painting with three color palettes and through it opens a window into a range of concepts of value to students of painting.

The 90 minute video is available as a digital download through Gumroad or Sellfy for $17.98 and comes with a PDF study guide.

You can find previews of the video, along with supplementary information, on Gurney’s blog, Gurney Journey.

In addition, Gurney is promoting a just-for-fun Sunny Still Life “challenge” for those interested to paint a sunny still life with a triad palette and post their paintings online. The challenge deadline is October 20, 2020.

 
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Mastery by George Leonard (and its relevance to learning drawing and painting)

Mastery, George Leonard

I came across a recent post on James Gurney’s art blog, Gurney Journey in which a reader had asked “How do you force yourself to improve?“, and it prompted me to think about some of what I’ve learned on the subject of studying, practicing and improving, and a book that was instructive in informing my own practice.

I’ve found it extremely helpful to understand that learning a skill like drawing or painting does not progress in the way we often expect.

We tend to think dedicated practice and study will result in a simple upward curve of progress, even if it’s a shallow curve. However the development of a skill like drawing or painting (or a sport, martial art, musical instrument or any other skill that requires long term study and practice) proceeds more like a series of plateaus.

You can work and study and practice for a long time and think you are making no progress, until at some point you notice that you have done a drawing or painting that is better than you could have done before.

Frustratingly, it may be followed by a series of others that indicate an apparent drop back to your previous level, but eventually you find yourself working at that higher level consistently. You have arrived at another plateau — on which you will be until your constant study and practice pays off with another bump up.

Understanding this, adjusting your expectations and learning not to block your own progress, can be instrumental in your pursuit of mastery in any skill.

Mastery is the title of a book by George Leonard that mentions art not at all (as best I recall) but is of spot-on relevance because it is all about the process of mastering a skill.

I came across it in the early 90’s because I had read some of Leonard’s writing for Esquire. I found it interesting in that he based some of Mastery on his own experience in learning and teaching Aikido, a Japanese “soft-style” martial art that is practiced as much for self development as for self defense.

In my own life, I have three areas in which I’ve devoted time, energy and effort to learning a skill — out of enthusiasm rather than necessity — drawing and painting (considered as one skill set), playing guitar, and Ta’i Chi Chuan, a Chinese “soft-style” martial art, practiced as much for self development as for self defense.

I’ve found striking similarities in the relationship of study, practice and progress in the process of learning all three skill sets.

Leonard’s Mastery is specifically about this relationship, and I found it to be a lightbulb over the head kind of read, one that has stuck with me and helped form my approach to learning.

Leonard explains the plateau phenomenon much better than I can here. He describes several kinds of individuals who get in their own way in their attempts at mastery and lays out a simple and clear approach to clearing your own path of the most common self-imposed obstructions.

The book has a subtitle of “The keys to success and long term fulfillment”, that I suspect the author may not have been happy with; but book publicists who attempt to promote books to the widest audience possible often do a disservice to potential readers who might find the titles most of interest.

You’ll find Mastery listed under “self-help” books, and though that may not be completely inaccurate, it certainly misses the point. Every book in that category has to promise to “change you life”. While I doubt Mastery will do that, it might change the way you approach learning a skill.

Mastery is a short, succinct read, and I found it worthy of a place on the bookshelf next to my art instruction books.

 
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James Gurney’s Color in Practice, Part 1, Black, White, and Complements

James Gurney's Color in Practice, Part 1, Black, White, and Complements

Screen captures from James Gurney's Color in Practice, Part 1, Black, White, and Complements

Anyone who has read my previous reviews of books and videos by James Gurney will not be surprised that I have high praise for his latest instructional video.

Color in Practice, Part 1, Black, White, and Complements is — quite obviously by its title — part of a multi-part tutorial. Whether it is to consist of two parts or more, I don’t know.

Gurney covers a fair bit of information in this video, starting from the ground up and breaking the complexities of painting in color into more easily digestible stages that logically build on one another.

Many artists’ instructional videos on color want to start out running and dazzle the student (i.e. prospective buyer) with promises of color mastery, but undeservedly breeze past these important stages, the most fundamental of which, of course, is black and white, or value.

Gurney starts there, with easily grasped exercises like comparing transparent and opaque methods of making value steps in the form of simple charts. He shows the effectiveness of these basic techniques in a painting of a storefront entirely in grays.

He then steps up to a simple grid of black and white on a light brown toned ground, and proceeds to paint a fully realized painting using the same method with only a few touches of a bright red.

Another painting works in black and white with a few touches of brown and blue, but over a brighter underpainting.

The video moves into transparent and opaque combinations, explores the fundamentals of complementary colors and finishes with a painting in a dramatically unusual combination of bright yellow green and complementary violet. There are additional, more briefly featured paintings and subjects along the way.

Gurney has an uncanny knack for what I think of as “teaching within teaching”. In the process of covering basics, he touches on more complex concepts like like chroma, alternative color wheels, color temperature and color gamuts — not in depth, but in a context that allows a basic understanding and prepares the student for more a extensive explanation later. He lets you absorb these secondary concepts almost unconsciously as you follow his main thread.

There is a discussion of materials, and in the process of showing Gurney painting, the video also captures his brushwork, the choice of brush size and shape, dry brush effects and more.

Gurney is working here primarily in watercolor and gouache, but the principles would carry over into other mediums as well.

Throughout, he encourages you to participate, talks about how to practice and delves into the concept of failure as an important part of the learning process. Gurney’s instructional videos are approaching the structure of a virtual class, a learn at your own speed session with a highly experienced teacher.

The video is accompanied by a PDF “Learning Supplement” that covers materials, outlines exercises and includes a lot of resource links. There is also, as always, more material relevant to the video on Gurney’s blog, Gurney Journey.

There is a trailer for the video on Gurney Journey, was well as on YouTube.

Color in Practice, Part 1, Black, White, and Complements is $17.99 for a digital download on Gumroad that includes the Learning Supplement PDF.

Gurney has also started a Facebook group, Color in Practice, for students to discuss the video and related topics among themselves.

If you are interested in pursuing some of these concepts — and much more — in greater depth, a terrific resource to accompany this, and any subsequent videos on the subject, is Gurney’s superb book, Color and Light: A Guide for Realist Painters (see my review here).

 
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A list of art podcast lists

Art podcast lists, photo by Marco Verch

I haven’t listened to enough art podcasts to give many first hand reports, so I offer you a list of lists of art podcasts, many of which give good capsule descriptions of the podcasts.

Yes, there is a good bit of overlap between the lists, but you should be able to find something that suits you.

Personally, I’ve been listening to the Plein Air Podcast on Outdoor Painter while I paint. It features interviews with notable artists, as does The Artful Painter Podcast, which seems to be left off most lists for reasons that escape me.

 
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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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