Friday, October 31, 2014

Night Creatures

Here's a gouache painting I did over 30 years ago when I was putting together a portfolio of science fiction samples. It has never been published before.

I imagine encountering these night creatures in a dark bar. I accidentally offend them by asking an innocent question about their feeding tentacles. I apologize, and they return to their drinks, the veins on their temples throbbing for a while.

That's my little treat for you on Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Juanjo Guarnido's Rock Video

Juanjo Guarnido, the Spanish illustrator who co-created the comic Blacksad was formerly a Disney animator. Last March he launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to direct an animated music video for the Swedish rock band Freak Kitchen. The resulting video features a lot of Guarnido's hand-drawn animation. The effect is aggressive, abrasive, and outrageous: perfect for the spirit of the band. (Link to video)
Via Cartoon Brew

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Painting a Texas Townscape in Watercolor

Here's a short video showing the making of my watercolor townscape in Bryan, Texas. (Direct link to video)

The video is shot with a very compact point-and-shoot camera mounted to a street pole with a flexible tripod that can grab onto just about anything.
Homemade sketchbook pochade easel using adjustable torque hinges
Full length tutorial DVD from Amazon: Watercolor in the Wild

HD download at Sellfy
 (Paypal) or Gumroad (credit cards)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Keanes to Be Subject of Tim Burton Film

Walter and Margaret Keane
Walter and Margaret Keane were known for the popular prints of big-eyed children in the 1960s. Though he claimed to have painted the pictures, she created them secretly behind the scenes. Their story will be featured in an upcoming Tim Burton biopic.
Article in the Guardian: "The big-eyed children: the extraordinary story of an epic art fraud"
Walter Keane on Wikipedia
First look at the Tim Burton film
Thanks, Bryn

OK Go's "I Won't Let You Down"

The alt rock band OKGo, known for its innovative long-take videos, has released a new one called "I Won't Let You Down." A camera on a drone octocopter tracks the four band members as they move around on Honda motorized unicycles. The drone follows them outdoors and then moves aloft to show an array of Japanese schoolgirls dancing Busby-Berkeley-style with colorful umbrellas. (Direct link to video)
I haven't seen any behind-the-scenes video, but Billboard deconstructs the video here.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Plein Air Watercolor of a House

While I painted the house in Austin, Texas, I made this one minute video to show the basic sequence of steps. (Direct link to video)
Full length tutorial download "Watercolor in the Wild" 
DVD available with exclusive slide show.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Saturday on the east side of Austin

People told us to go see the weird side of Austin, Texas, so we walked around Sixth Street on Saturday morning. The dance clubs, comedy joints and sports bars had shills out front trying to lure people in with cheap drinks.

People sketches in Austin, Texas by Jeanette Gurney
But they weren't getting customers. The street reeked of vomit and urine and spilled beer from the night before. There was a head shop with a window full of old clown toys, and a gift store with cute skeleton trinkets and a girl trying to sell tickets to the Museum of the Weird. But no one was buying.

Ballpoint pen sketches by Jeanette Gurney, "20% observation, 80% memory."
There were too many tourists and the sun was blazing hot, so we walked east. We found some shade and quiet up on Seventh and Waller at a bus stop in front of a family services agency. Young mothers held their new babies. A few dads pushed strollers past us, stopping to smile when they went by, but not saying much.

I looked across Seventh to an average house. There was something strong and dignified about it that spoke to me. The owner came out at one point to pick up a couple of beer bottles that someone had left on his front lawn the night before.

Any house that you might choose at random is like a stage set for a thousand family dramas. Between its four walls play all the stories of life—the wonder of new love, the laughter and tears of raising children, the frailty of old age.

Big trees shaded the house, and wires connected it to the worries of the wider world. As I worked on my little painting, I tried to see the sketchbook page as its own little microcosm, a self-contained world.

I had to think about paint and the tools and techniques, but I was trying to ride those tools into the world of the picture. I was trying to pour cement on sidewalks so that a kid could skateboard on them, and build a porch so that someone could sit there to drink lemonade and escape the heat.

Waller Street, Austin, by James Gurney, watercolor, 5x8 inches
For me the joy of painting is trying to get beyond the paint, to be able to enter the tiny universe of the image.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Steakhouse Step-by-Step

Here's a step-by-step watercolor sequence. I'm standing on the corner of 24th and Main in Bryan, Texas, looking east across the railroad tracks to the Longhorn Steakhouse. 

The watercolor sketchbook is held up to standing height by a pochade easel on a fully extended tripod.

I'm attracted to the tight grouping of telephone poles and the gray light. The lay-in is drawn with a blue water-soluble colored pencil, which will partially dissolve. Note the eye level or vanishing point is below the level of the tracks.

I wet the entire sky, covering it with some overall warm color, then the light gray cloud shadows, and as it starts to dry up, the distant blue sky. Then I cover the big planes of the shadow, leaving a few white accents.

 The poles and small details go in with Payne's gray and a round brush.

The whole painting takes an hour and a half. I shot some video, too, so I'll edit that and upload it next week. to paint in Austin!
Homemade sketchbook pochade easel using adjustable torque hinges

72- Minute Instructional Video: "Watercolor in the Wild"
More info about the HD download at Sellfy (Paypal) or Gumroad (credit cards)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Sunset at the Super 8

Jeanette and I painted the sunset from the parking lot of the Super 8.

Sunset at the Super 8, by James Gurney, gouache, 5x8 inches
A raucous flock of great-tailed grackles crossed the sky beyond the net of power lines. The day ended in a blaze of golden light.

Jeanette Gurney - Texas Avenue - 8x5 inches, watercolor
Jeanette faced across Texas Avenue, where construction cranes had been working all day building new apartments for the Texas A&M students. A few people driving by us on their way to and from the Sonic Drive-in stopped and rolled down their windows to say howdy.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Banana Demo

Yesterday I painted a half-hour still life demo in gouache for the Painting 1 class at Texas A and M, where I'm here this week as artist in residence. 

James Gurney at Texas A&M, photo courtesy Felice House
The subject is a banana sitting on a red piece of paper. Painting a high chroma object strongly lit against a high intensity background is the same assignment that the students have done earlier. So they get to see me wrestling with the same issues that they have faced. 

Every color that we see is a combination of the color of the light and the actual color of the surface (or "local color"). In this case, the down-facing planes in shadow are receiving reflected light from the red paper, shifting those color planes toward orange. 

As the top planes turn toward shadow near each end of the banana, they catch the blue window light, which mixes with yellow to make green. 

I make an effort to vary the edges around the form from soft to hard to soft. Nearly the whole painting is done with 3/4 inch and 1/2 inch flat brushes. I turn the brushes edge-on for the thin lines, and use the corner of the brush for the dots.

Painting by James Gurney. Photo by Felice House
Gouache colors include: white, lemon yellow, cadmium yellow medium, cadmium red, burnt sienna, ultramarine blue, and cobalt blue.

These are the only colors I have on the trip. Traveling with carry-on luggage means cutting back the colors so that they fit in the 3-1-1 TSA bags.

The palette surface is a metal pencil box primed and then painted white with enamel spray paint. The palette is held to my lightweight sketch easel with Neodymium magnets.

The students ask great questions throughout the session. Many of them are using what they're learning from these painting exercises to inform them in their 3D digital lighting projects.

Seated to my right is the professor of the class, Felice House. She says that the assignment "The Banana on Red" is a teaching project that originated with her first painting teacher at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, named Sheila Provazza.  

Whew! After that it's time for lunch and art talk with some of my student pals from the Department of Visualization. This week is going so fast for me and Jeanette and we're having a blast. 

If you can, please come on by College Station tonight for my Dinotopia lecture. I'll be glad to meet you or sign whatever books you bring afterward. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Business of Art

I've been sharing several different lectures and discussions with the students in the Visualization Department here at Texas A&M as part of my weeklong residency here. Yesterday in Sam Woodfin's figure drawing class I covered sketching with colored pencils and ideas about color, light, and composition.

I also took them through a new talk called "The New Art Economy: Living Off Your Dreams." This illustrated lecture is about the changing business paradigms for independent content creators. We looked at the big trends in media and the effects of digital production, digital distribution, and social media, and what that means for people like me who are learning my way around the new business models as old ones become obsolete or increasingly marginalized.

One of the takeaways was this: If you want to be a self-publisher, you not only need to learn about painting and drawing, but also about writing, photography, video, animation, marketing, publicity, graphics, sales, and shipping.

It's a sobering, but also an inspiring and empowering talk with lots of statistics and practical tips. We finished with a lively discussion about the trends in popular culture media, and I learned a lot from the students.

Today I'll be visiting Felice House's painting class to do a lecture and demo about observational painting.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Ticking Clocks and Tracking Eyes

I'm excited to be visiting the Texas A&M. I did a couple of radio interviews in the morning, and then painted this 45-minute gouache sketch of the old clock in downtown Bryan. I used four colors: white, ultra blue, burnt sienna, and cad yellow.

I had lunch with professors Ann McNamara of Texas A&M and Donald House of Clemson University, both of whom share my fascination with eye tracking as it relates to artists.

I was thrilled to have a chance to try out the eye tracking tech setup at the Visualization Lab. Here, graduate student Laura Murphy is calibrating the system. She's checking alignment points on stereo images of my face as I look at a test screen.

Below the computer monitor are the two infrared sensors of the FaceLab 5 system. The sensors track both the exact direction of my eyes and the direction of my head so that the system can record exactly where I'm looking within the display monitor. 

The monitor has a photo of grocery store shelves crowded with products and overlaid info tags that pop up in response to where I'm looking, part of an augmented reality experiment they presented at Siggraph this year.
I'll be spending time with students of the Department of Visualization in their classes today and tomorrow, and I'll give a free digital slide lecture about picturemaking and worldbuilding in Dinotopia in the Geren Auditorium in the Langford Architecture Center, Building B, Thursday at 7 p.m.
Previously on GurneyJourney:
Eyetracking and Composition, part 1
Eyetracking and Composition, part 2
Eyetracking and Composition part 3

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Character and The Values

Students at the French academies didn't get a whole lot of instruction from the teachers. Most of the masters came into the drawing and painting classes once a week at most, and sometimes their feedback was brief and enigmatic.

John Lavery (1856-1941), an Irish art student who spent three winters under William Bouguereau's supervision at the Academy Julien, recalled that he received just one sentence from the master.

After looking at his drawings from the nude and asking him a number of questions, Bouguereau kindly said: "Mon ami, ça c'est comme bois; cherchez le caractère et les valeurs" ("My friend, it is like wood; look for the character and values.")

William Bouguereau, Biblis, to be auctioned in NYC at Sotheby's Nov. 6 

Sir John Lavery, Miss Auras, The Red Book
Lavery admitted that he had a tough time learning French, so he probably missed out on a lot of the art talk in Paris. But looking back on his training, he said, "The rest of my training came and continued to come from what I saw rather than from what I heard."