James Gurney’s Painting Animals from Life

James Gurney's Painting Animals from Life, instructional painting video

James Gurney's Painting Animals from Life, instructional painting video

James Gurney has an uncanny ability to take on challenging painting subjects, and then make his methods clear and easy to understand in low cost, high quality instructional videos. In his newest video, Painting Animals from Life, he tackles the problems of painting animal subjects that move and change position, and shows how to successfully capture them while painting on location.

I was delighted to receive a review copy and I found it to be a valuable addition to his continuing line of videos on painting outdoors, or “In the Wild”.

Unlike most of Gurney’s videos in his “in the Wild” series, in which he takes on five or six different subjects in the course of the video, Gurney has chosen in this case to slow down a bit and focus in depth on the creation of two paintings from initial sketch to finishing touches.

The first is of a dog laying in the sun coming through glass doors into an interior, the second is of large Belgian draft horses being washed down outside a stable. There is also a “Bonus Tips” section toward the end, in which he gives quick tips on painting animals from life and features short sequences of work on several additional paintings.

He is painting here in gouache, a long neglected medium of opaque watercolor which is experiencing something of a revival in recent years, in no small part due to Gurney’s championing of the medium and the abundant resources for gouache on his blog.

Though he compresses time in places with time-lapse sequences, a good portion of the Painting Animals from Life video proceeds with real-time painting, in which you can see the use of the brush and the application of paint much better than in time-lapse videos.

Interestingly, though he also use flats, Gurney appears to paint much of the paintings with a round brush, but often used with the bristles slightly flattened out into a shape a bit like a filbert.

He also uses split-screen and picture in picture sequences to allow you to see the subject and the painting simultaneously, something that I find particularly useful in instructional painting videos.

It’s fascinating and instructive to see the paintings proceed from initial sketch to that indistinct state of rough shapes and then through levels of refinement. Unlike many instructional painting videos, in which the painter appears to masterfully know where every stroke will go without hesitation, Gurney lets us see a much more realistic process, in which even a highly experienced painter will search and experiment and correct in the process of finding a path to the final painting.

Painting animals from life requires adjusting to their movements, painting in background elements when they move out of position and coming back to them when they return to a similar pose. In the process of painting the draft horses, he uses the similar poses of four horses to create a painting of one; he also deals with human figures and methods for capturing their ever changing movements in repeated or remembered positions.

As is the case with most of Gurney’s videos, there is more to the process than just the subject in the title, and the painting methods apply to other kinds of subjects and to painting in gouache in general.

He demonstrates, in several sequences, how the opacity of gouache allows for changes and revisions, as well as simply adding a figure or other shape directly on top of existing areas of the painting. He points out that it is a bit like sculpting — adding and subtracting — and allows the painter to work from foreground to background as well as background to foreground.

There is a trailer for the video on YouTube.

You will also find, in keeping with Gurney’s other videos, a wealth of supplementary information and related video shorts on his always interesting and informative blog, Gurney Journey.

Painting Animals From Life is a 69 minute video, available either as a digital download for $14.95, or on a DVD for $24.50. See this page on Gurney Journey for information and links.

 
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Matthew Cook (update 2018)

Matthew Cook, ink and watercolor

Matthew Cook, ink and watercolor
Matthew (Matt) Cook is a UK artist and illustrator who I have featured previously (and here), mostly in reference to his fascinating role as a reportage illustrator in the middle-east war zones.

In this post, I’d like to focus instead on his more recent travel sketches and paintings. Most of these are done in a watercolor style that is simultaneously free and strongly drawn, and would be of particular interest to those who enjoy “urban sketching”.

Cook’s wonderful handling of brick, stone and other textured architectural elements is a visual treat, as is his controlled used of high and low chroma colors.

Cook/s primary website is still largely focused on reportage. He has a secondary website that has more of his travel sketches, but they are reproduced at a frustratingly small size.

Much better for enjoyment of his recent work is is Twitter account, on which the images are linked to nicely large versions that allow you to see his deft, confident handling.

 
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Denise Ramsay

Denise Ramsay, watercolor botanical art
Denise Ramsay is a botanical artist originally from New Zealand, who now divides her time between Hong Kong and a cottage in the southwest region of France.

Ramsay paints keenly observed and intricately realized watercolors of flowers and other plants, sometimes at a fairly large scale, in watercolor.

Her paintings are bold and dynamic, apparently without compromising botanical accuracy. In one of her projects, she painted a poppy from bud (images above, third down) to full flower (top, with detail) to eventual faded bloom. There is an article on Bored Panda that follows the sequence.

In addition to the gallery of images on her website, you can find a selection of limited edition Giclee prints.

There is a video on YouTube of Ramsay being interviewed by Katherine Tyrrell.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Van Gogh pen & watercolor sketches

Van Gogh watercolors
Gate at the Paris Ramparts, Entrance to the Moulin de la Galette, Vincent van Gogh

Pencil, pen & ink, watercolor & gouache on paper, roughly 9 x 12″ (24 x 32 cm) and 12 x 9″ (31 x 24 cm), respectively.

As I’ve mentioned in my previous posts on “Not the usual Van Goghs“, in a dedicated art career that barely spanned ten years, Vincent van Gogh was prolific, leaving over 900 paintings and more than 1,000 drawings. Yet art book publishers and museum curators often feel obliged to show you the same few “greatest hits” over and over.

Not only are his wonderful drawings often passed over, Van Gogh also sketched in pen and watercolor. The two examples above are in the collection of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

They have a freshness, immediacy and feeling of location that would be the envy of many contemporary “urban sketchers”.

I think they also show the influence of the Impressionists he encountered in Paris, as well as the Japanese prints that were popular among French artists of the time, and which Van Gogh collected and sometimes emulated.

 
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Henry Ryland

Henry Ryland, Victorian watercolors
Henry Ryland was a British painter and illustrator active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, who shows the influence of Victorian painters like Albert Moore and Lawrence Alma-Tadema.

Though he sometimes painted in oil, he was known for his elegant figurative watercolors. These were rendered — like many watercolors of the time — in a painstaking technique of stipple, with hundreds of tiny dots of color applied to create tones, a process that also imparts a wonderfully appealing surface texture.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Samuel Palmer ink and watercolor drawing

Oak Tree and Beech, Lullingstone Park, Samuel Palmer, pena nd brown ink drawing with watercolor and gouache
Oak Tree and Beech, Lullingstone Park, Samuel Palmer

Pen and brown ink, with gouache an watercolor on toned paper, roughly 12 x 18 inches (30 x 47 cm); in the collection of the Morgan Library and Museum, NY. Use the “Zoom Image” or “Download Image” links on their page to view larger.

I love the way that Palmer has used a variety of seemingly casual but wonderfully effective marks — squiggles, dots, dashes, calligraphic strokes, blotches, hatching and stipple — to define his textures.

The Morgan’s website indicates that the handling of the background is also quite interesting. The light through the distant trees is indicated with yellow watercolor, painted over an area defined with white qouache and then coated with gum arabic, which would impart a sheen to that area. I assume that this effect would be more noticeable in person, and might resemble the effect of spot varnish as used in modern commercial printing.

 
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