Portraits in the Wild, James Gurney

Portraits in the Wild, James Gurney
As I have pointed out in previous reviews, painter, illustrator and writer James Gurney has in recent years been bringing us a wealth of instructional material in the form of books, videos and his always informative and fascinating blog, Gurney Journey.

Not only has he contributed significantly to the canon of contemporary art instruction (as well as highlighting classics from 19th century sources like the books of Harold Speed and Solomon J. Solomon), Gurney has a keen sense of finding areas of artistic endeavor that have not been traditionally well covered — mediums like gouache and casein, subjects like painting fantasy art from life and advanced topics of color and light.

His latest instructional video takes on the rarely mentioned but important concept of painting Portraits in the Wild. While it may seem to be a specialized approach, in that sketching people on location is more common than creating paintings of people on location, the subject has broader applications than are evident at first glance.

One of the challenges of plein air painting is capturing fleeting effects of light, and in the process, deciding how to handle the changes that can occur over even a single painting session of an hour or two. Frequenty a painter is left to make a crucial decision between painting the “remembered” initial impression of a scene — often what the artist found appealing in the first place — and the scene observed later in the process, as the light has changed.

Painting portraits and figures on location compresses and highlights this kind of artistic decision making to an even greater degree, and the skills involved can be used to advantage in any painting or drawing situation that requires quick observation and compositional decisions about changing conditions or moving subjects.

In his customary casual and friendly delivery, Gurney takes you with him in Portraits in the Wild as he paints subjects while listening to bits of their life experiences, composes complex compositions of figures by utilizing parts of multiple changing figures to construct composites, and delves into portraiture of subjects who are not deliberately posing. In the process, he demonstrates techniques in casein, gouache, watercolor, oil and color pencils.

He also encourages you to be unafraid to drastically change a painting in progress, particularly when using an opaque painting medium — in itself a valuable gem of artistic liberation for those of us who too often become attached to unsuccessful starts.

Portraits in the Wild is 66 minutes long and is available for $14.95 as a digital download from Gumroad, Selify and Cubebrush and as a DVD from Kunaki.com and Amazon for $24.50 (more details on this Gurney Journey post).

On YouTube there is a trailer and two other video excerpts here and here that give you the flavor of the presentation. You can find additional material by doing a search for “Portraits in the Wild” on Gurney Journey.

I find that Gurney’s instructional videos are often multi-leveled — conveying information about painting and the artistic process in ways both overt and subtle. What is on the surface a specific challenge of painting people on location carries insights into materials, techniques and artistic decision making that is applicable to a much broader range of subjects.


Cindy Procious

Cindy Procious
Cindy Procious is a Tennessee based painter who paints portrait, figurative and still life subjects in a refined style that speaks to her admiration for the 17th century Dutch masters.

She often presents her still life subjects, in particular, in the kind of deep chiaroscuro favored for classic northern painting. She works in the kind of layered glazes characteristic of the classical method.

For her incisive portraits, Procious combines her classical style with a contemporary feel and a variety of composition approaches.

On her website, you will also find portrait drawings in charcoal.

Procious teaches workshops, the next one of which is in Ashburn Virginia, beginning June 24, 2016. There are some short painting demo videos on her site and on YouTube.

Procious is married to editorial cartoonist Clay Bennett.


Eye Candy for Today: Thomas Shotter Boys watercolor

Le Pont Royal, Paris; Thomas Shotter Boys
, watercolor and ink
Le Pont Royal, Paris; Thomas Shotter Boys

Watercolor and ink over graphite. Link is to zoomable version on Google Art Project; downloadable file on Wikimedia Commons; original is in the Yale Center for British Art, which also has both zoomable and downloadable files.

19th century British watercolorist Thomas Shotter Boys has given us a view of Paris that occupies that delightful space between drawing and painting — with much of the visual charm of both.


Akiya Kageichi

Japanese illustrator Akiya Kageichi , Golden Gravel
Japanese illustrator Akiya Kageichi, who also goes by the handle “Golden Gravel” draws nicely complex line and color compositions that often appear layered, or have a collage-like character to their arrangement.

His interesting use of fine line, color, texture and pattern give your eye a lot to play with as you wander through his images.

His website is a Tumblr gallery (note the second page of images), that doesn’t anything in the way of bio information.

To my eye, he appears to take some inspiration from Golden Age European illustrators like Kay Nielsen and Harry Clarke.

[Via Hi-Fructose]


Larry Francis (update)

Larry Francis, Philadelphia paintings oil and gouache
Larry Francis is a Philadelphia artist, both in the sense of living in the city, and in taking the city as his subject.

His scenes of Philadelphia’s parks, streets, buildings and people are vibrant with a kind of immediacy that testifies to his practice of working on location as much as possible, even in some of his larger compositions.

Francis works both in oil (images above, top six) and in gouache (images above, remainder). He prefers oil for his large works, and uses to advantage the characteristics of gouache that make it ideal for conveying precise details in small scale paintings and sketches.

I had the pleasure of taking a plein air painting course with Francis recently through the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he has been teaching for a number of years, and where he and I both studied at around the same time. Though I didn’t know him at the time, I enjoyed comparing notes with him on teachers that we both studied with and admired.

In taking a class with Francis recently, I had the opportunity not only to pick up some instruction on working with gouache — a medium with which I have been particularly fascinated and in which he is wonderfully adept — I also gained some insight into his working process as a painter.

I found it fascinating that he often finds subjects not only in scenes that might have appealed to Impressionist or early 20th century realist painters, but in “ordinary” houses and streets that many painters (myself included) would be more likely to pass by without seeing in them potential subject matter for a painting.

Francis captures these with an unwavering eye and is seldom daunted by architectural or botanical complexity. I was surprised to see him working out his lines of architecture and perspective directly by eye, without recourse to drawing instruments except perhaps the occasional edge of another sketchbook.

He works methodically, often returning to the same location for weeks at a time, capturing the light in a sequence of short sessions, rotating to another painting in the same location as the light changes and returning on subsequent days to look for similar light.

There are two nicely done mini-documentaries on Francis and his process by Philadelphia filmmaker John Thornton, available on YouTube: Larry Francis: Painting Philadelphia and Larry Francis on the Art of Painting.

Larry Francis’s work is currently on display in a solo show at the Gross McCleaf Gallery in Philadelphia, that has an opening tonight, June 3, 2016 from 5-7pm, and runs until June 30, 2016.

See also my previous post on Larry Francis (2009).


Eye Candy for Today: Florence Rodway charcoal and chalk portrait

Portrait of a woman, Florence Rodway
Portrait of a woman, Florence Rodway

Link is to zoomable vdersion on Google Art Project; downloadable file on Wikimedia Commons; original is in the National Gallery of Art, Australia.

Charcoal and chalk on paper, roughly 23 x 18 inches (58 x 46 cm).

This forceful but sensitive portrait drawing by 19th century Australian artist Florence Rodway is a tour-de-force in soft edges.