Plein air event in Lehigh Valley offers free Vasari oil paint

Plein air event in Easton, PA with Vasari paint

Plein air event in Easton, PA with Vasari paint

From now until October 15, 2022, there is a plein air painting event in Easton, PA co-sponsored by the Karl Stirner Arts Trail and Vasari Classic Artist’s Oil Colors, makers of what is arguably the finest handcrafted oil paint available.

This is a fledgling event, so participants have an opportunity to get in on something fun in its early stages. The event is very informal, registration is not required; just show up and paint anywhere in Easton.

The event is centered on the Karl Stirner Arts Trail, a trail along the Bushkill Creek that is lined with sculpture. I’ve included some photos of the trail above, along with a shot of the paints laid out in the Vasari showroom.

Probably the best thing about this event is that you can stop by the Vasari workshop and showroom (in the Simon Silk Mill complex off of N. 13th Street) and stock your palette for free with any of Vasari’s extensive selection of oil colors!

If you like, you can leave your finished paintings at the Vasari showroom to be displayed during October, also making them eligible for prizes. (You may want to consider taking a frame wired for hanging.)

Vasari is also providing prizes for the event in the form of sets of their oil colors. Judging and the awarding of prizes will be on Saturday, October 15th at 5:00pm.

A friend and I went up earlier this week, had a great time and are planning to go up again next Saturday. I use Vasari paint regularly, but I had a great time trying out a variety of colors I might not have wanted to get a whole tube of just to try, and discovering new colors I love.

The Vasari workshop and showroom, for which there is ample free parking, faces one of the entrances to the Karl Stirner Arts Trail. The trail itself has a separate parking area nearby, though it’s fairly small.

Easton is about an hour and a half from the Philadelphia area, and (depending on time of day and traffic) a fairly easy drive up the turnpike.

(Navigation note: Driving directions from Google Maps or Waze may indicate you’re at their address a little too early; keep going to the parking area at the end of Simon Blvd and turn left. Google map)

More info here.

[Disclaimer: in my role as a website designer, Vasari is a client of mine; but those who know me personally and long time Lines and Colors readers know that I don’t recommend products in which I don’t personally believe.]

James Gurney botanical study video

James Gurney botanical study video, Painting This Botanical Study Nearly Broke My Brain
James Gurney botanical study video, Painting This Botanical Study Nearly Broke My Brain

Painter, illustrator and writer James Gurney frequently posts short videos to YouTube, often showing his painting process. Though I have found pretty much all of those I’ve seen enjoyable and informative, he recently posted a video that I found particularly appealing.

In Painting This Botanical Study Nearly Broke My Brain he sets out to paint a detailed study of a hosta plant in the New York Botanical Garden with watercolor and gouache.

I think what I like about his approach here is the pace of the video. It’s a little longer, and I think proceeds a little slower than most of his short videos.

The subject involves maintaining intense concentration while focused on painting the plant accurately, and — with the exception of a short, sped-up sequence in the beginning — seems paced in a way that pleasingly suits the subject, approaching a feeling of ASMR in places.

The Artist’s Magazine – Imaginative Realism

The Artists magazine March-April 2022- Imaginativ Realism
The Artists magazine March-April 2022- Imaginativ Realism

The March/April issue of The Artists Magazine is devoted to imaginative painting and magical realism. The cover and lead article feature the beautiful painting by James Gurney shown in the images above, and a step-through of his process in creating it.

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this particular painting in person, and it’s a strikingly beautiful example of Gurney at his best in combining the styles of the Victorian painters with modern fantasy subjects. (Imagine if you will, Lawrence Alma-Tadema painting dinosaurs!)

This is a very good issue of a good magazine. Unfortunately, the Artists Network website, for reasons that elude me, is not very effective in promoting the physical magazine. (They don’t clearly associate the cover with a list of contents and excerpts specific to that issue, and from there link to the ordering page.)

If you’re fortunate enough to have a bookstore in your area that carries a relatively wide array of magazines, you may still be able to find a copy.

You can order a physical copy here, and a digital copy here.

You can also access Gurney’s article, complete with images, online if you’re willing to give them your email address. You can link to the article from this page, and once on this page, enter your email address and you’ll have immediate access to the article.

The entire issue (and the magazine in general), are worthwhile.

James Gurney was a particularly appropriate artist to tap for this issue, given that he’s the author of an excellent book devoted to the subject: Imaginative Realism: How to Paint what Doesn’t Exist (Lines and Colors review here).

A few paintings from the forest of Fontainebleau

Painting of the Forest of Fontainebleau,
Paintings of the Forest of Fontainebleau, Alphonse Asselbergs, Christian Zacho, Francois Auguste Ortmans, Claude Monet, George Charles Aid, Gustave Courbet, Gustave Dore, Peter Burnit, Theodore Rousseau, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot

Wikimedia Commons, with its wonderful, clunky mishmash of art images — superb high quality high resolution images from the best sources next to low resolution low quality and off color images from questionable sources — has some equally eccentric systems of categorization, which results in the delightful ability to browse through a category like “Paintings of forests“, and highly specific subcategories like “Paintings of forêt de Fontainebleau” (the forest of Fountainebleau).

The forest of Fontainebleau is an area of still relatively wild forest and rock formations about 35 miles (60 km) southeast of Paris. It attracted the first wave of painters known to paint en plein air in significant numbers.

Initially it was Corot, and then other painters who were similarly interested in painting directly from nature, and who would collectively come to be known as the Barbizon School, named for the nearby town that was their base. Later they were joined by the early French Impressionists, who were highly influenced by the Barbizon painters.

The images above were all selected from the single Wikimedia Commons page for paintings from the forest of Fountainebleau — on which you will find more examples, as well as links to higher resolution images, and even links to subcategories of that category.

(Images above: Abbot Handerson Thayer, Alphonse Asselbergs, Christian Zacho, François Auguste Ortmans, Claude Monet, George Charles Aid, Gustave Courbet, Gustave Doré, Peter Burnit, Théodore Rousseau, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot)

Values in Monet’s Impression, Sunrise

Values in Monet's Impression Sunrise
Values in Monet's Impression Sunrise

Originally exhibited in the April 1874 exhibit of the Societe’ Anonyme des Artistes, Peintires, Sculpters, Graveurs, Etc. (Anonymous Society of Painters, Sculptors, Engravers, etc.), now referred to as the First Impressionist Exhibition, this painting by Claude Monet appeared with the title: Impression, Sunrise.

The name was picked up by unsympathetic critics and used derisively to label the group “Impressionists”. The name stuck, and the Impressionists picked it up and ran with it.

The painting is, as Monet has suggests in his title, an impression, or quick representation, of a fleeting effect.

As part of their effort to portray the effects of light and atmosphere, the Impressionist painters, and Monet especially, were fascinated with new theories of color that were being investigated at the time. Perhaps one of the most important of these ideas was the concept of simultaneous contrast, as presented by French chemist Michel Eugène Chevreul in his book The Principles of Color Harmony and Contrast.

But simultaneous contrast was only one of the visual tools the Impressionist painters were adding to their methods of conveying the effects of light.

In more recent times, a professor of neurobiology at Harvard, Dr. Margaret Livingstone, noticed that if you reduce an image of Impression: Sunrise to grayscale — so that we see only value (luminance) — the sun almost disappears, save for the edges of the scant few brushstrokes with which it was painted.

She went on to point out this gave the painting a particular quality.

Our brain processes visual information in two different parts of our visual cortex, old and new. The older one senses light in a relatively primitive way — shared with other mammals, — in which it detects only luminance, but not color. The other, more evolutionarily recent area of the visual cortex — that we share only with other primates — sees color.

So, to one part of our brain, Monet’s sun, and the bright orange areas in the water and sky, are almost invisible. To the other, more sophisticated part, the sun is very much visible. In addition, against the muted blue of the background clouds, the effective brightness of the orange areas is accentuated by simultaneous contrast.

Gradients: Color, Form and Illusion

Gradients: Color, Form and Illusion,
Gradients: Color, Form and Illusion,

I received review copy of Gradients: Color, Form and Illusion, a new instructional video from painter, illustrator, writer and teacher James Gurney.

The concepts behind making gradations of color in visual art can seem as though they should be simple, until you find yourself trying to paint something like different bands of color on a coffee mug as they round the form into shadow, and you suddenly realize you’re in uncharted territory.

In Gradients: Color, Form and Illusion, Gurney takes on the concepts behind achieving gradual transitions in color.

Gradient, is a term that has come into popular use from its prevalence in digital art; it is used here used as a collective term for gradations, gradated washes, and other gradual tone or color changes.

Gurney uses methodical studio demonstrations to set out the concepts and techniques of working with these kind of color transitions, and then shows real world application of them in sequences of on location painting, adding a dimension of understanding that would be difficult to convey in studio demos alone.

Interestingly, Gurney leaves in what otherwise might be outtakes, demonstrating some of the real world problems painters encounter, such as sudden drenching rain, or coming up against the limitations of an experimental technique, like painting in gouache over water soluble printing ink.

He has also interspersed recorded questions from viewers of his other videos or readers of his blog, in which they ask about concepts that relate to the demo or painting that Gurney is working with.

One of the key points he makes is the degree to which our perception of a color is influenced by the surrounding colors. He brings this home in the last segment, in which he demonstrates how to paint one of those optical illusions that show two squares in a checkerboard pattern on a cylinder that look completely different in context, but, when isolated are shown to be the same color and value. It’s one thing to see one of these optical demonstrations, it’s another level of insight to paint one yourself.

In Gradients: Color, Form and Illusion, Gurney has once again demonstrated his ability to take complex or confusing concepts, reduce them to their essential components and lay out a path to understanding with clarity and ease.

Gradients: Color, Form and Illusion is available for download or streaming through Gumroad, and is also available as a DVD. Both are 10% off Saturday and Sunday, September 11th and 12th, 2021.