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.
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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.
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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."
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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Lecture in Texas This Week

I'll be in Texas this coming week as an artist in residence at Texas A&M in College Station

The university is a leader in research, and the Department of Visualization is working on some exciting interdisciplinary projects with game-based learning, eyetracking, interconnectivity and digital animation.

If you'd like to see my lecture about the worldbuilding and picturemaking of Dinotopia, I hope you can come to the Geren Auditorium on Thursday, October 23 at 7:00 pm. 

The lecture is free and open to the public. 
Link to the event listing at the Texas A and M Website.
Google Map location

And if you can't make it, don't worry—I'll be posting along the way about my sketching adventures in the Lone Star State.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Book Review: The Drawing Club

Every Thursday night in Los Angeles, a group of artists gets together to draw from the model, but this is no ordinary sketch group.
Characters by Mike Swofford from The Drawing Club
Organized by Art Center teacher Bob Kato, attendees of the Drawing Club work from costumed models who are set up with props and set pieces to suggest a specific character. Themes include such classic types as "The Detective," "French Maid," "The Samurai," or "The Rock Star."

The Thursday night sessions are mostly short poses ranging from 5 minutes to a half hour, and they have long poses on Sundays.

For example, here's Steve Jacobsen modeling as The Chef.

"The Chef" by Brett Bean from The Drawing Club
And here's one of the drawings by visual development artist and character designer Brett Bean.

The Drawing Club is not a class; it's more of an open workshop. Anyone who pays the $20.00 entry fee can attend, and the regulars include a lot of master animators and character designers from Walt Disney Feature Animation or DreamWorks Animation who are looking to brush up on their drawing skills. There are also plenty of students, and a spirit of experimentation.


Bob Kato recently released a book of some of the work that has come out of the Drawing Club. The 9x9 inch softcover edition is 144 pages long, and is lavishly illustrated with examples from 66 different artists.

The text by Mr. Kato is full of encouraging tips for going beyond what you're actually observing from the live model. He suggests a variety of media: pencil, markers, brush-and-ink, watercolor, and digital.

Mr. Kato explains how each artist approaches the challenge differently depending on the kind of work they do.
"Story artists like models to do quick, daring poses because they're looking for gestural movement as it relates to storytelling. Their sense of design is heavily invested in the communication of the moment, rather than what media looks best....The character artists, on the other hand, are always looking at the model like a raw ingredient that will be turned into their own version of the character. When the model shows up in costume and starts posing, they look at the shapes made by the costume and character and get to work redesigning...to make the character funnier, scarier, happier, or sadder. They take the pieces apart—a gangster's hat, tie, overcoat, drooping cigarette, and gun—and create their own version."

Book: The Drawing Club: Master the Art of Drawing Characters from Life
Website: The Drawing Club

Friday, October 17, 2014

Snapshot Sketches


I did these watercolor sketches when I was exploring Salida, Colorado. Each sketch is 3 inches across and took 5 or 10 minutes. 

I might do a few of these to explore possible motifs. The main thing I'm looking for is the basic value organization. Painting a small monochromatic "snapshot" helps me cut through the clutter to see the essence of the image.