J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

J.M.W. Turner Sketchbooks

J.M.W. Turner Sketchbooks

English painter and printmaker J.M.W. Turner, who was active in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, was astonishingly prolific. On his death, he left over 550 oil paintings, 2,000 watercolors and more than 30,000 works on paper.

Many of the latter are pages from his sketchbooks, and many of those are in the collection of the Tate Britain as part of the extraordinary Turner Bequest, which brought the museum’s holding of Turner’s works to over 37,000.

The Tate has put a number of these online, in a special section of their website: J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings, Watercolours.

The resource is divided into 5 chronologically arranged sections from different points in the artist’s career, and within that, the works are arranged in subsections by location or other theme. Exploring is a matter of drilling down through the categories to subcategories.

Eventually, you will come to pages in which an individual sketchbook or thematic group of works is available in a slideshow. In the initial window of that slideshow there are usually two tabs, allowing you to choose between “Entry” (the slideshow) and “At a glance” or “Artworks”. Choosing the latter will open up thumbnails of the images arrayed directly on the page, making them much easier to browse.

For example, in the section “1819-29 Italy and After“, there is a subsection for “Rivers of England c. 1822-4” and a subsequent subsection for “‘Rivers of England’ Watercolours“.

From there you can click on a thumbnail to go to the detail page for an artwork, and there click on the image for an enlarged view. Most of the images are available in a nicely large size.

A number of the sections contain sketchbook pages that are so light or barely notated that they may be of less interest, but if you patiently dig around, you will be rewarded with many extraordinarily accomplished works in watercolor and gouache.

The sections for “Loose Studies of Paris and the Seine” and “Meuse-Moselle Gouache and Watercolour” (among others) are particularly of interest to those who are interested in Turner’s masterful handling of gouache as a sketching medium.

This project is so extensive, so wonderful and so engrossing, that I will issue a Time Sink Warning.

 
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Paulo J. Mendes

Paulo J. Mendes, urban sketching

Paulo J. Mendes, urban sketching

Paulo J. Mendes is an avid urban sketcher based in Matosinhos, Portugal.

His blog and Instagram feed have a subheading of “Stealing landscapes with a sketchbook”. I’m not sure if that’s intentional or an algorithmic translation for something more like “capturing landscapes”. (The original Portuguese reads: “A roubar paisagens com um caderno”.) [Addendum: a Portugese speaking reader has informed me that “Stealing landscapes with a sketchbook” is, in fact the title.]

He is also a member of Urban Sketchers, and was a correspondent for the 2018 symposium, USk Porto.

Mendes sketches in pen and watercolor, with a confidently loose line that rests on a foundation on solid draftsmanship, and a deft touch with watercolor.

He takes on a variety of subjects, and renders his view as he sees it — complete with grafitti on walls.

I enjoy his expressions of sunlight and shadow, and his seemingly casual depictions of complex architectural elements.

 
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John Donohue’s “All the Restaurants in New York”

John Donohue's All the Restaurants in New York, pen and ink sketches

John Donohue's All the Restaurants in New York, pen and ink sketches

Since 2017, New York based artist and writer John Donohue has been pursuing his — admittedly unlikely — quest to draw all of the restaurants in New York City (estimated to number around 24,000, not counting ongoing closings and openings).

He takes this on by sketching on location in pen and ink, without preliminary pencil drawings. He then adds touches of a single color to the drawings. His drawing style is casual and sketch-like, with an almost cartoony feeling at times — unsurprising as Donohue has contributed cartoons to The New Yorker.

There are plans in the works for three books of drawings of restaurants in New York, London and Paris. In the meanwhile, Donohue has prints available.

 
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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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