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.
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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.