Monday, August 31, 2015

Jervis McEntee Exhibitions

Jervis McEntee, The Woods of Asshockan, Catskills (1871), St. Johnsbury Athenaeum
Jervis McEntee (1828-1891), was a painter of the Hudson River School who has been largely overlooked until now. His work is being featured in two different museum exhibitions this fall, one in Kingston, and the other in New Paltz, New York.

The first exhibition is called "Jervis McEntee: Kingston’s Artist of the Hudson River School" and it's at the Friends of Historic Kingston gallery.

The Kingston exhibit is a small show, but it has a variety of attractions, including easel paintings, location studies in oil, pencil sketches, photographs, letters, and other documentary material, all of which puts McEntee in a historical context.

McEntee began studying with Frederic Church in 1850, and learned from him a love of painting faithful small studies of forest scenes, sunsets, and trees. They traveled together on painting junkets to Mexico and other locations throughout their lives. 

The son of an engineer who helped develop the bustling D&H barge canal that terminated in Kingston, McEntee himself avoided industrial subjects, and gravitated instead to the bucolic scenes that were fast receding in 19th century America. 

His circle of friends included notable writers, actors, architects. Among his artist friends were not only Frederic Church, but also Sanford Gifford, John F. Weir, and Worthington Whittredge. 

McEntee and his wife occupied one of the legendary Tenth Street Studios in New York, a fertile meeting ground for artists and illustrators in late 19th century America. 

In addition to his paintings, McEntee contributed a detailed daily journal of his observations about nature, art, and daily life. His journal was recently digitized by the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian, and is available free online. 

He was frequently depressed as his fortunes ebbed. The journal makes for fascinating reading, because he had the same problems with galleries that contemporary painters do. On January 4, 1883, he wrote: "Beginning to be worried with money anxieties. They don't send my money for my picture sold in Brooklyn nor reply to my inquiries. I can't stand being asked for money when I have none."
Jervis McEntee, View Facing the Catskills, 1863, oil, Private Collection
The second exhibition just opened at the Samuel Dorsky Museum on the campus of the State University in New Paltz.

Jervis McEntee, Autumn Reverie, 1880, oil on canvas, David and Laura Grey Collection
It's a larger exhibition with more finished paintings, borrowed from the Metropolitan Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, and many other public and private collections.

Kingston Exhibition: "Jervis McEntee: Kingston’s Artist of the Hudson River School" is at the Friends of Historic Kingston gallery at 63 Main St. in Kingston and will run through October. The museum is only open Fridays and Saturdays from 11 am to 4 pm through Oct. 31, 2015. There will be "Noontime Conversations" by noted artists and art historians held on Fridays during the month of September.
The catalog of the Kingston show is called Jervis McEntee: Kingston's Artist of the Hudson River School. It's 62 pages, softcover, with contributions by Lowell Thing and William B. Rhoads. The exhibit was coordinated by the Friends' executive director Jane Kellar.

New Paltz Exhibition: The New Paltz exhibition is called "Jervis McEntee: Painter-Poet of the Hudson River School" It will be on view at the Samuel Dorsky Museum in New Paltz through December 13.
The New Paltz show catalog is titled Jervis Mcentee: Painter-Poet of the Hudson River School. This 130-page monograph presents new scholarship by exhibition curator Lee A. Vedder along with contributions by Kerry Dean Carso, a scholar of the historic Hudson Valley and professor at SUNY New Paltz; and American studies professor David Schuyler, the leading historian on McEntee.
Jervis McEntee on Wikipedia

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Corriedale Sheep

(Link to SoundCloud file) At the Dutchess County Fair in Rhinebeck, New York, I painted a portrait of a Corriedale ewe named Iris as her owner described the qualities of this breed of sheep.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Pixar's Free Online Tutorials

Pixar has released a free online course to explain the science and technology behind its approach to making computer-generated animated films. The interactive course covers most of the math-based aspects of the production pipeline, such as character modeling, environment modeling, combinatorics, animation physics, and surface rendering.

Here's the intro video (link to YouTube), which amusingly shows a lot of handmade skills (such as sculpting clay and drawing with markers—and relatively primitive technology, such as an Ektagraphic slide projector.

This video, for example, takes a look at the lighting factors and surface qualities that contribute to the color of an object. (Link to YouTube) The presentation seems intended for school-age learners rather than fellow professionals or mega-geeks. Each segment is presented by someone from the department in question.
Missing from the presentation is the softer science of Pixar's process, such as how they approach story development, character design, and acting for animation. I hope they include those topics in future teaching modules.

Pixar in a Box
Via Design Taxi

Friday, August 28, 2015

GJ Book Club: Chapter 21, Conclusions

For the GJ Book Club, let's consider the concluding chapter in Harold Speed's 1917 classic The Practice and Science of Drawing, and reflect back on the book as a whole.

Lady Diana Bridgeman, Harold Speed (British, 1852-1957).

Speed begins this final chapter talking about the camera, and the merits and dangers of mechanical accuracy. This is an issue that hasn't gone away, and that people in our community still discuss today.

I'll put Speed's quotes in boldface, followed by my thoughts.

1. There may be times when the camera can be of use to artists, but only to those who are thoroughly competent to do without it.
Speed suggests that truth achieved by mechanical accuracy may be a valuable stepping stone toward true art, but we should use a standard other than accuracy alone to measure our response to art. Art is not merely a collection of objective facts, but rather "records of a living individual consciousness." Whether one traces a photo or some other procedure to achieve mechanical accuracy, one must not lose sight of the driving emotion that guides the choice and placement of elements, and that shapes the rhythms of the artistic statement.

2. The training of his eye and hand to the most painstaking accuracy of observation and record must be the student's aim for many years.
Despite his caution to see beyond mechanical accuracy, Speed argues that accurate drawing is an absolute prerequisite to the kind of evolved subjective vision he advocates. Students must strive for unflinching honesty or sincerity. Seeking originality for its own sake is a trap, leaving the young artist chasing the fashions of the moment, or contenting himself or herself with an easy substitute for the fine craftsmanship that is more difficult to attain.

3. Individual style will come to you naturally as you become more conscious of what it is you wish to express.
Speed argues that young artists should be wary of adopting readymade techniques or design conventions borrowed from other artists. More often than not, those outward stylistic gimmicks don't fit the subject you're painting nor the mood you're trying to evoke. Everything must begin with an artist's idea, and style is simply the most direct means to communicate that idea.

4. Appendix: Phi Proportions
I wish an editor had suggested that Speed delete this appendix—or save it for another book, because I think it contradicts Speed's entire argument leading up to it. After decrying readymade compositional formulas, he proceeds to introduce a readymade mathematical formula for design. It strikes me as an afterthought alien to the rest of Speed's argument. Longtime blog readers know where I stand about via the Golden Ratio (also known as "phi"). You can read my thoughts in my blog series "Mythbusting the Golden Mean" or, if you like, another website called "The Myth of the Golden Ratio."

Final thoughts
Looking back on the book as a whole, I'm struck with how much this book is about aesthetics. When I first encountered the book as an art student, I was primarily interested in materials, methods, and techniques but what I take away from the book at this stage in my life is the importance that Speed rightly places on the thinking, feeling, and intention behind the technique.

I have newly marked up my print copy with pencil notations in the margins, and I have been inspired by the many fresh perspectives that you as blog readers have brought to each chapter to deepen my appreciation of Speed's book. For those who discover this book club weeks or months later, please feel free to add your comments. I'll be able to review it and publish your comments any time, and keep this book club constantly in session.

The next book for the GJ book club will be Speed's book on painting, the sequel to this one on drawing. In its original edition, it's called "The Science and Practice of Oil Painting." Unfortunately it's not available in a free edition that I know of, but there's an inexpensive print edition that Dover publishes under a different title "Oil Painting Techniques and Materials." We'll start up with that book in three weeks, on September 18, which gives you time to pick up a copy.
The Practice and Science of Drawing is available in various formats:
1. Inexpensive softcover edition from Dover, (by far the majority of you are reading it in this format)
2. Fully illustrated and formatted for Kindle.
3. Free online edition.
4. Project Gutenberg version
Articles on Harold Speed in the Studio Magazine The Studio, Volume 15, "The Work of Harold Speed" by A. L. Baldry. (XV. No. 69. — December, 1898.) page 151.
and The Windsor Magazine, Volume 25, "The Art of Mr. Harold Speed" by Austin Chester, page 335. (thanks, अर्जुन)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Day at the County Fair

Here's what I pack in my bag for a sketching day at the Dutchess County Fair in Rhinebeck, NY.

It's everything I need for sketching in watercolors, colored pencils, and gouache. There's a 5 x 8 inch watercolor journal, plus devices for capturing video, stills, and audio. The audio recorder is called a Zoom H2n.All of this fits onto my belt.

I start off in the cow barn, where the milkers are taking a morning nap before their judging. Without a chair, I paint standing.  

Holstein named "Jacket," gouache by James Gurney
I use a limited palette of three colors of gouache: yellow ochre (Holbein), perylene maroon (Winsor Newton), and viridian (Winsor Newton)—plus white (M. Graham). Viridian serves as my "blue." I can get a nice black with the maroon and the viridian. 

By the way, this would be a good limited palette to try for the "Paint an Outdoor Palette on Location" challenge (link goes to Facebook page where you can see entries so far).

1. Underdrawing in water-soluble colored pencil.
2. A wet block-in without white approximates the final colors.
3. Introducing opaque white, and defining the forms of the body. 
4. Dark spots and definition of small forms and details.

In this audio clip (link to Soundcloud file), Jeff Pulver of Pleasant View Farm, describes what a judge looks for in a dairy cow.

After the painting session, we watch the draft horse pull. It requires immense power for the team of two Belgian geldings to pull 8500 pounds of concrete.

The Dutchess County Fair will continue through this Sunday in Rhinebeck. If you live nearby, check it out—it's the second largest fair in New York State, with one of the largest displays of farm animals.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Fallen Birch

Study of fallen white birch, pencil, James Gurney
Pencil is the medium of choice when I'm more interested in form than in light or color. In this case, I was fascinated by the way the white paper-like bark peeled off the rotting log. This is a page from a 9x12 sketchbook that is devoted just to nature studies.

I usually use two hardnesses of graphite: HB and 2B and switch between them.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Draft Horse Portrait

Sofie the draft horse, gouache, by James Gurney
Yesterday at the barn I painted this portrait sketch of Sofie, one of the four Belgian draft horses. She had just gotten her shower in advance of her appearance today at the Dutchess County Fair. I used a limited palette of black, white, ultra blue, raw sienna, and yellow ochre.

The image is the size of a playing card, about 3 x 3.5 inches.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Painting an Excavator in Gouache

John Deere Nortrax 80C Excavator, gouache, 5 x 8 inches
I painted this track excavator yesterday at a construction site. It's a study for a concept painting of a giant robot which will be part of an upcoming video tutorial called "Fantasy in the Wild." (By the way, Casein in the Wild is coming, too, but I'll probably release it after.)

Here's what the painting looked like at an early stage. I measured everything out pretty carefully, but then blocked in the colors loosely.

The new video is going to be a lot of fun. I'll be doing two different imaginative-realism paintings entirely on location. Each one is based on details drawn from the scene around me. In this case I've been going to this construction site on weekends when the machines aren't working, so I can really study all their workings up close. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Baby Tattoo 10 Year Exhibit

The Oceanside Museum of Art opened an exhibition yesterday called the Baby Tattooville Carnival of Astounding Art, which looks back on ten years of the pop surrealist art gathering inspired by Bob Self.

Detail of 2009 Baby Tattooville Art Jam
I was an artist guest at Baby Tattoo in 2009 and 2011, and participated in the Art Jam, a group painting event. Here's my contribution, Happy Buddha as a gold spheroid.

I did about 50 little drawings for the guests that attended in 2009, and one of those drawings will be part of the exhibit, but I'm not sure which one. 
The show will be up until January 3, 2016.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Russian Books on Academic Drawing and Painting

The revival of academic drawing and painting in America and Europe has largely been guided by the republication of the book by Charles Bargue and Jean-Léon Gérôme.

But there are other ways of approaching the teaching of academic drawing, most notably the Russian tradition, which has more of a focus on spirit and construction, rather than the outward appearance of the form. I discussed some of the differences between the two approaches in an earlier post when I interviewed Professor Sergey Chubirko who teaches at the Russian Academy in Florence.

For those interested in Russian academic methods, there are two recent books by a living Russian master named Vladimir Mogilevtsev. He is the head of the Drawing Department of the Russian Academy of Arts (also known as the Repin Institute) in St. Petersburg.

Mr. Mogilevtsev's primary books are Fundamentals of Drawing (first published in 2007) and Fundamentals of Painting (2012). They were published in Russian, but they have been translated into English, and I've had a chance to read through a PDF version of the English edition, alongside the Russian print editions.

I was interested in the drawings, of course, but even more interested in the thinking behind the drawings, and these books provide an excellent window into the mind of the Russian academy.

The way the book is organized is that there's a step by step sequence that plays out on the right hand page. On the left hand page is a commentary, along with examples by masters of the past, often including Russian artists such as Repin, Serov and Fechin. 

In both the drawing and painting books, Mr. Mogilevtsev places great emphasis on beginning with a strong concept of the subject, analyzing what feeling the subject evokes in the artist, and thinking how best that can be expressed.

He also analyzes the form into its blocky forms, the skeletal foundation, and the individual muscles beneath the skin. The examples from old master drawings, sculptures, and paintings clarify his observations, and deepen the appreciation of the way our predecessors solved similar problems.

Fundamentals of Painting follows a similar structure, with extended step-by-step demos, beginning with a head portrait, a half-figure portrait with hands, a standing nude and a copy of a Rembrandt.

The quotes from the text are refreshing:
"Sometimes students complain that they don't like a scene. This is a sign of laziness and limitation of an artist's imagination. There is a person, and a person is the whole world. Revealing this world is a huge task for any artist."

Sketches and finished portrait by Valentin Serov

There's a lot of emphasis on planning with sketches to capture the quality of the subject that attracted the artist, and in maintaining that perception throughout the arduous process. The text emphasizes seeing the whole, contrasting warm and cool, and establishing a hierarchy of details, with not all details being equal.

In their print form, Fundamentals of Drawing and Fundamentals of Painting  are available from Amazon, but the print copies are currently only in Russian. You can also buy them directly from the publisher 4-Art in Russia, or from Gallery Nucleus, a U.S. source for imported art books. 

They're big books (13 3/4" x 9 3/4"), and the quality of the reproductions is outstandingly good. Currently, if you buy them in this form, they will send you the PDF of the English translation. The English translation is also excellent. I'm told the English print editions are soon to come, and I'll update this post when they become available. 

I have also been told by the publisher that the drawing book is in the process of being translated into French, Italian, Spanish and Turkish languages. They also already have a Chinese translation a Finnish version.

I also highly recommend Academic Drawings and Sketches (Fundamentals Teaching Aids) (shown at left). Instead of showing a couple of drawings taken through a long series of stages, this is a large collection of finished examples of Russian academic figure drawings. They're mostly nudes, drawn by the instructors and students over the last 25 years.

It also includes some more informal sketchbook drawings of fellow students and landscapes. This book is mostly pictures, with high quality reproductions. It has minimal text at the beginning, an introduction by Vladimir Mogilevtsev in both Russian and English. The captions in this book are in both Russian and English. Academic Drawings and Sketches  is 168 pages, softcover, 9.5" x 13.5".