Eye Candy for Today: Francis Hopkinson Smith watercolor of Venice

Over a Balcony, View of the Grand Canal, Venice; Francis Hopkinson Smith watercolor
“Over a Balcony,” View of the Grand Canal, Venice; Francis Hopkinson Smith

Watercolor; roughly 32 x 21 inches (80 x 53 cm); in the collection of the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore. On their page, click on “Explore Object” at the top of the image for a zoomable view, or use the “Download Image” link.

This superb late 19th century watercolor of Venice by American artist and engineer Francis Hopkinson Smith is remarkable on several levels.

Not only is it a beautiful evocation of a view from a balcony in the Academia section of the city toward one of its great landmarks — the church and basilica of Santa Maria della Salute — it also captures the variation in light through the scene caused by the scattered cloud cover. The church domes are in sharp sun and shadow, as is the landing forward of that; but the foreground and other parts of the middle distance are in the muted light of an overcast day.

In addition, Smith has delineated the architecture with lines visible through the areas of color, giving the picture the charm of both a drawing and a painting simultaneously.

Most appealing to me, however, is the way he has shifted our view from far to near — essentially in three steps, from the distant curve of the main island beyond the mouth of the canal, to the succinctly delineated middle ground of the church and its environs, to the immediate foreground of the flower pots and ledges, the nearest only an arm’s reach from the artist’s vantage point.



Shari Blaukopf

Shari Blaukopf, watercolors, urban sketches
Shari Blaukopf is a watercolor painter based in Montreal.

She is a dedicated location sketcher, and you can find her sketches on a dedicated blog, as well as in a section on her website, and on the Urban Sketchers blog.

Even in her more finished work, she maintains a feeling of the informal immediacy that comes from location sketching.

I particularly enjoy her loose approach to rendering architectural elements, and her take on simple, unassuming objects that might often be overlooked as subjects for paintings.

Blaukopf often augments her watercolor sketches with pen and ink, and she has two instructional video courses on Craftsy.com related to sketching in pen, ink and watercolor.


Mars Huang (B6 Drawing Man)

Mars Huang (B6 Drawing Man), watercolor and ink sketches
Mars Huang is an artist based in Japan (I think — most of the pieces are labeled as scenes from Japan and Taiwan). Though he signs his work “Mars”, his Tumblr blog credits him only as “B6 Drawing man”; it wasn’t until I followed a link to one of his process videos on Vimeo, that I came across his actual name.

His blog is filled with delightfully loose and gestural ink and watercolor sketches of architecture, interior spaces, and, in particular, quirky vehicles like scooters and small cars — often loaded down with luggage.

He excels at reducing complex subjects down to their linear essentials, highlighting them with just enough touches of color to give you a sense of texture and presence.

Be sure to follow the link trough to the larger images on his blog, the small example images I’m posting here don’t give an adequate feeling for the work.


Cherngzhi Lian

Cherngzhi Lian
Cherngzhi Lian is an artist based in Singaapore who works primarily in acrylic and watercolor, as well as drawing media.

There are galleries on his website, largely of scenes from his travels in Bhutan. There is a drop-down menu for subjects, accessed from “Painting” on the left (though I found it cranky in my copy of Safari).

There are also sketches under “Drawings” and “Travels”.

Lian has a Tumblr blog, on which he posts sketches, often photographed in the context of the scene he is sketching.

Many of his recent posts are devoted to his latest project, in which he is attempting to design “The Perfect Sketchbook”.


Eye Candy for Today: Gainsborough chalk study

Study of a Lady, Thomas Gainsborough
Study of a Lady, Thomas Gainsborough

In the Morgan Library and Museum. Image is also available on Google Art Project and Wikimedia Commons.

A beautifully economical and gestural chalk drawing by Gainsborough; in white and black chalk on colored, prepared paper.


Howard Brodie

Howard Brodie
Today is Memorial Day here in the U.S. Though primarily associated with a three-day weekend, barbecues and the unofficial start of summer, it is a day designated to honor those Americans who died while in military service. One way to do this, perhaps, is to develop a better understanding of the experiences of soldiers at war.

Howard Brodie was a well known WW II American combat artist, whose drawings of the front line experiences of soldiers in combat earned him the respect of both his fellow soldiers and the journalism community at large. He was considered one of the best war correspondent artists.

During the Second World War, Brodie was a regular contributor to the Army weekly, Yank magazine, and covered both the Pacific and European theaters of war. He did not carry a gun, but worked as a medic when needed. After covering the Battle of the Bulge, he received a Bronze Star for “aiding the wounded and coolness under fire”.

Brodie’s wonderfully loose, gestural drawings, often done with Prismacolor pencils, capture the experience of combat with an immediacy and emphasis not found in photographs.

I’m sometimes stuck by the similarity in style between Brodie and WW II GI cartoonist Bill Mauldin; though which way influence may have passed, I don’t know.

Before the war, Brodie attended the California School of Fine Arts and worked as a time as a sports illustrator for the San Francisco Chronicle. Afterward, he went back to work for the Chronicle, again covering sports; but the magazine eventually sent him to cover the Korean War, and later, the war in Vietnam.

Afterward, Brodie had a long career as a courtroom artist, covering notable trials such as those of Jack Ruby, James Earl Ray, Charles Manson and the Chicago Seven. He also served as a consultant for several hollywood war movies.

Brodie was inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame in 2001, and the article by Victor Juhasz marking the occasion is probably the best piece on the artist. Juhasz, to whom Brodie was a friend and mentor, also has a personal remembrance on his blog, accompanied by images of Brodie’s work.

Brodie was featured in the PBS documentary They Drew Fire: Combat Artists of WW II, which I covered here.