Eye Candy for Today: Salomon van Ruysdael river landscape

River Landscape with Ferry, Salomon van Ruysdael
River Landscape with Ferry, Salomon van Ruysdael

Original is in the National Gallery of Art, DC.

Though his name was largely eclipsed by that of his nephew, Jacob Isaakszoon van Ruisdael, early 17th century painter Salomon van Ruysdael contributed to the movement away from the formal Italianate landscapes brought to a peak in the same century by French master Claude Lorrain, and into the more naturalist compositions and depictions of light and atmosphere that would characterize Dutch Golden Age landscape painting.

Here, as in many of Salomon van Ruysdael’s works, the composition is dominated by the sky, filled within windswept clouds into which the rise of the central mass of trees seems even more dramatic than it would be if it was larger in relation to the sky.

I love the beautifully controlled atmospheric transition between foreground and background just at the base of those trees, at one end of the ferry (images above, second down).

Samuel Michlap (update)

Samuel Michlap, concept art, visual development, gallery art and plein air
When I first wrote about concept and visual development artist Samuel Michlap back in 2006, he had recently started his blog and his website was still under construction.

Since then, of course, he has added a considerable volume of work to his redesigned website, and his film industry credits now include titles like The Lion King, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Prince of Egypt, The Road to El Dorado, Sinbad, Shrek, SharkTale, Monsters Vs. Aliens, MegaMind and The Rise of the Guardians.

For his professional work, Michlap has a versatile range of stylistic approaches, varying his technique to suit the demands of the project. All of them, however, retain his lively, energetic handling of drawing, color and value relationships.

In addition to his entertainment work, his website has a portfolio of his gallery painting, which focuses on urban scenes and train themes, often with a retro touch. There is also a nice selection of his plain air work, much of which appears to be in gouache.

There is an interview with Michlap on YouTube, from the CGMasters Academy Evening with the Masters.

Michlap will be teaching an online course, “Dynamic Color Sketching for Entertainment” through LAAFA in September. Registration deadline is 9/4/14.

Eye Candy for Today: Frans Snyders’ grapes and game

Still Life with Grapes and Game, Frans Snyders
Still Life with Grapes and Game, Frans Snyders

In the National Gallery of Art, DC.

According to the legend for this piece on the NGA website, still life featuring game and still life in which the primary subject was fruit were considered separate subjects until Snyders started combining them in the early 17th century.

Snyders himself moved from painting still life to becoming a painter of animals. He sometimes collaborated with other artists, such as Peter Paul Rubens, to paint animals into compositions in which the other artist had painted the primary work and the figures, such as the striking painting, Prometheus Bound in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

I really like Snyders’ still life paintings, however, particularly in his confident, economical brushwork, as in the grapes in this piece, which almost seem to anticipate the still life approach of Manet centuries later.

James Gurney’s Watercolor in the Wild

James Gurney's Watercolor in the Wild
I was delighted to receive a review copy of Watercolor in the Wild, a new instructional video by painter/illustrator/author James Gurney.

Watercolor is both an inviting and challenging medium. One of its most compelling features is the easy portability of a basic watercolor painting kit, allowing an artist to paint in a variety of places and often impromptu situations.

James Gurney, among his other abilities, is a dedicated plain air painter and sketcher, who often works in water media, or a combination of water media, ink and colored pencils. Gurney has for some time been sharing his experience and expertise on his blog, Gurney Journey, as well as in a series of books, short videos and more recently, full length videos.

Here, he has followed up on the success of his full-length videos on illustration techniques, with a full length instructional video on painting with watercolor on location.

He starts out with basics about equipment and materials, including laying out both his simple and more extensive painting kits and setups — throwing in his experienced suggestions and tips along the way — then moves into basic techniques. The main content is a series of individual location painting sessions of various subjects. In each of these, he takes advantage of the particular setting and subject to cover different aspects of the process.

Gurney often works with colored pencils and water-soluble colored pencils, augmented with a water brush, in addition to watercolor, and lays out that approach in some detail. Not only is this a versatile technique for experienced painters, I think it would be useful as a gateway approach for those who have felt intimidated by watercolor.

The location sessions include shots of his setup, the subject and various stages of the process, as well as the finished painting. The series rounds out with a slideshow of his small location paintings, and the introduction includes some glimpses of his sketchbooks pages. (Gurney creates sketchbooks densely packed with beautifully realized small paintings, to the point that the sketchbooks are like a work in themselves, a kind of collected series. Personally, I think he should release some of them as books, but I digress.)

Gurney has a relaxed, conversational demeanor throughout — almost as though you had chanced upon him painting, asked about his materials and techniques, and found him more than happy to oblige. This is, of course, a superb approach for an instructional art video.

The video production values are high, particularly in reproducing the sketchbook pages as the paintings progress, with lots of close-up views that show the renderings in detail.

There is a trailer for Watercolor in the Wild on YouTube. The video itself, which runs 70 minutes, can be ordered on DVD through Kanuki for $30, or as a digital download for $15 through Gumroad or Sellfy. On Sellfy, you can also find a separate supplementary 1/2 hour video of Bonus Features, with 10 short painting episodes for $10.

One of the great things about these instructional videos by Gurney is the wealth of supplemental material available on his blog. This includes relevant material from previous posts and directly related questions answered afterward, all with lots of links to materials suppliers and other relevant resources.

I now have several books and videos by Gurney, as well as being an avid follower of his blog, and I find a kind of synergy between his instructional materials, in that there is a basic underlying philosophy and systematic approach that comes from his considerable experience.

I, for one, am hoping Gurney will follow up soon with a similar video on his techniques for opaque water media (gouache and casein).

In the meanwhile, I’m finding transparent watercolor more pliant than I thought I would.

Eye Candy for Today: Burne-Jones’ King Cophetua

King Cophetura and the Beggar Maid, Edward Coley Burne-Jones

On Google Art Project; high-resolution downloadable file on Wikimedia Commons; original is in the Tate, Britain.

The Tate’s website has some background on the painting and the story it presents. There is more in an article on the painting on Wikipedia.

Nicole Alger

Nicole Alger
New York based artist Nicole Alger paints a variety of subjects, portrait, figurative, still life and landscape, and her approach varies from straightforwardly realist to colorfully interpretive.

In many of her portraits and face studies, for example, she plays with backgrounds indicative of Bhuddist philosophy or even early Christian iconography, in the suggestion of halos, some done with gold or copper leaf.

I particularly enjoy those compositions in which she blends colorfully graphic patterns and textures with a straightforward representation of her subject.

There is a brief interview with Alger on Body of Art’s The Canvas, and her work is part of the exhibition of work from alumni of the Florence Academy of Art currently at the Richard J. Massey Foundation in NYC.