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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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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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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Kenneth Cadwallader

Kenneth Cadwallader paintings

Kenneth Cadwallader paintings

Kenneth Cadwallader is a painter with a fresh, confident approach, and a vibrant use of color.

The galleries on his website are divided into paintings from his travels in China, figures and floral still life.

I particularly admire the strong value contrasts in many of his townscape and still life paintings.

 
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