Sunday, November 23, 2014

Book Review: "Graphic LA" by Robh Ruppel

At CTN Animation Expo I bought a copy of Robh Ruppel's new art book Graphic L.A., and want to share it with you.

Robh is one of those rare artists whose work spans imaginative and observational painting. He has worked as a designer for video games and films, and has taught at Art Center. He has also been a leader in digital plein-air painting.

While the book contains some landscapes, the bulk of the images are urban scenes. What I like most about his work is his ability to find beauty in commonplace scenes.

The book includes a mix of finished paintings, thumbnail sketches and step-by-step sequences. The sketches are in tone, most often in marker, while the colored finished paintings appear to be all digital.  

Many of the paintings have evocative lighting ideas that go beyond what photos can capture.

Accompanying the images are helpful chunks of advice, such as "Reduce, refine, interpret." Before he commences a painting, he always explores the possibilities of the subject in two or three tones. "Good value design," he says, "is the clear simple arrangement of a few tones."

He says, "Searching out the composition should take as long as rendering the image. Ultimately, the staging is what tells the story."

The book is 144 pages, about 8x8 inches.
Book: Graphic L.A. by Robh Ruppel

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Cast Shadow in the Foreground


I painted a watercolor demo during a daylong visit to Favilli Studio, a multidisciplinary design group in South Pasadena. 

I walked down to the Arroyo with a group of designers and chose this view toward the York Avenue Bridge. I wanted to paint the forms—arch bridge, trees, and embankment—as realistically as I could.


But the light was overcast the whole time, so I decided to invent some light and shadow effects. 

I figured that I could make the planes of the retaining wall much more clear if I cast a foliage shadow across it, with the dappled spots of light following the vertical, horizontal, and diagonal planes.


The cast shadow serves two purposes. It invites the viewer to move from the dappled foreground shadow, where they seem to be standing, into the brightly lit middle ground, where Jeanette is standing.

The foliage shadow also helps to define the plane changes as the ground slants up and over the embankment wall.

Shadows can be a powerful tool for expressing plane changes, as Arthur Guptill demonstrates in this plate from Color in Sketching and Rendering (1935).
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Previous posts:
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Learn more methods in my video  Watercolor in the Wild

Friday, November 21, 2014

Beloved Friends


Here are two gouache portraits I painted while waiting for supper.


Our beloved art-teacher friends David Starrett and Sam Clayberger mentored us 35 years ago when Jeanette and I were were just sketching companions.

When we're with old pals like these, the years disappear, and we live in a moment that I wish could last forever.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Grayed CMY Experiment


Here's a color experiment that I tried a couple of days ago.

I set up for an outdoor gouache painting in Laguna Beach, California. I limited the colors to intense versions of cyan, yellow, and magenta, plus white.

I picked the most highly saturated or high-chroma versions of them that I had: Holbein Prussian blue [PB 27] (I could have used phthalo blue if I had brought it), Winsor and Newton lemon yellow (I could also have used Cadmium Yellow Light), and Holbein Carmine red (Naphthol), plus Caran d'Ache white.

Using these ingredients, I tried to paint a grayed-down painting out of them. I didn't want to allow any bright colors in the final image.


What a fun and strange feeling that was, like trying to drive a racing car in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Just touch the accelerator and it wants to blast off. Each of those colors has so much firepower, but I had to put on the brakes at every stage, restraining each color by using the other two as a complement.

No matter how hard I tried to achieve quiet, neutral colors, one of those strong colors wanted to dominate.

This challenge is the reverse of starting with a limited palette of pigments and trying to stretch those colors to be as pure as possible, such as in the painting above, which used a limited palette of weak colors: raw sienna, Venetian red, cobalt blue, and titanium white.

For more about limited palette experiments, see previous post on Limited Palettes.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

At the Sarasota Chalk Festival


Last weekend at the Sarasota Chalk Festival in Venice, Florida, the theme was Extinct and Endangered Animals, and I was honored that two of the artists chose images from Dinotopia to recreate as gigantic street paintings. 

Jennifer Chaparro, photo by Craig Houdeshell

Jennifer says, "The finished piece is 12’ x 12’. The white base is just kid’s washable tempera paint, to help the paint stick, with soft pastel chalks on top. I use four kinds of chalk. Your basic Koss pastels, plus Eternity Chalk, and Richeson Street Stix Pastels, and Mount Vision Pastels. The surface was not the best. It was rough and gritty, and I ripped through quite a few gloves and sponges."

Lori Escalera painted "Small Wonder." She says it was surprisingly cold and windy with a lot of distractions, but she stuck with it and did a beautiful job.

Here's the original painting from Dinotopia: The World Beneath, which is only about 14 inches square. The painting itself was exhibited in Florida at the Norton Museum of Art in 2010.
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Thanks, Lori and Jennifer!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Dinotopia Podcast, Episode 2

It's Tuesday, time for the new episode of the Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time serial podcast. To listen, click the play button below or follow the link to the SoundCloud file.






The adventure continues as Arthur and Will adjust to a world where humans and dinosaurs live as equals.

In the hatchery, kids help the hatchlings connect with their parent dinosaur.

Copro carters are a part of a proud profession, connoisseurs of the finest fertilizer.

When ZBS adapted Dinotopia to audio, they added to what was in the books by creating a fun banter between these characters.


...and then they meet up a disgruntled Dinotopian named Lee Crabb.

The Podcast Series
This acoustic adventure was produced by Tom Lopez, mastermind of the ZBS Foundation, with an original music track by composer Tim Clark.

Episode 3 arrives one week from today— Tuesday, November 25. Each 10-minute episode will only be live online for one week, and then it will disappear. So tell your friends, and be sure to check in to this blog each week. That way you'll be able to hear the whole production for free.

If you'd like to purchase the full two-hour Dinotopia podcast right now and hear all twelve episodes back to back in a feature-length production, check out Dinotopia at ZBS Foundation website for the MP3 download.

Here's the link to the SoundCloud file (which will disappear after a week).

You can also order the original book from my web store and I'll sign it for you. It's the ultimate holiday gift for the imaginative person in your life. (US orders only for the book, please).