Sunday, February 25, 2018

Updating the Quaker Oats Man

The current issue of Illustration magazine recounts the story of how the iconic image of the Quaker Oats man was created. Illustrator Robert Bonfils recalls being hired in 1965 to paint an updated version of an earlier one by Haddon Sundblom (1899-1976):

"While I was freelancing in Chicago, one of my accounts asked me to make corrections to the work of several famous illustrations before they went back in production. In one particular instance, an agency wanted me to duplicate the Quaker Oats Man. The original art was deteriorating and they wanted a new image to use for future products....I worked only in gouache, casein, and acrylics on illustration board, so I did the whole painting in that medium. I did not touch up on the original by Haddon Sundblom. I am pleasantly surprised and honored to be his copyist."

The logo had other incarnations, both earlier and later than the one by Sundblom / Bonfils. 

According to Neatorama:
"The original 1877 Quaker Man was a full-length picture of a Quaker holding a scroll with the word 'pure' on it (just in case the integrity/honesty/purity point didn't get across). In 1946, graphic designer Jim Nash created a black and white head portrait of the smiling Quaker Man and in 1957, Haddon Sundblom made the full-color portrait. The last update to the logo was in 1972, when Saul Bass created the stylized graphic that still appears on Quaker Oats product packages today."

But in fact the simplified version done by Saul Bass was scrapped and the company went back to its earlier painted look, slimming him down with a modified version in 2012.
Illustration Magazine: Preview the current issue #59, which not only explores the logo, along with illustrators Harold McCauley, Jes Schlaikjer, Early 19th Century Illustrators on Expedition

Wikipedia: History of the Quaker Oats logo
Previously on GJ: Copying the Sundblom logo

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Quotes from Caspar David Friedrich

German Romantic artist Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840) painted landscapes infused with spirit and feeling. What was in his mind as he painted them?

Caspar David Friedrich The Sea of Ice
"The divine is everywhere, even in a grain of sand."

Friedrich says: "The artist should not only paint what he sees before him, but also what he sees in himself. If, however, he sees nothing within him, then he should also refrain from painting what he sees before him."

"Every truthful work of art must express a definite feeling, must move the spirit of the spectator either to joy or to sadness…rather than try to unite all sensations, as thought mixed together with a stirring stick."

"You call me a misanthrope because I avoid society. You err; I love society. Yet in order not to hate people, I must avoid their company."

"I must stay alone and know that I am alone to contemplate and feel nature in full; I have to surrender myself to what encircles me, I have to merge with my clouds and rocks in order to be what I am. Solitude is indispensable for my dialogue with nature."
Read about Caspar David Friedrich's life on Wikipedia

Friday, February 23, 2018

Twilight in Bonabba

Bonabba is one of Dinotopia's pod villages. Its biomimetic architecture is based on plant forms. 

The human dwellings are raised off the ground on central stalks. You can climb into them via the ladder.

"Twilight in Bonabba" 
I imagined Bonabba at the magic hour of twilight. There's mist in the air, the humans and dinosaurs are settling in for the evening, and the lights in the pods are coming on. The image appears as an establishing shot in my book Dinotopia: The World Beneath, 

I've just been updating the store on my website. Thanks to a warehouse find, I've got some art prints of "Twilight in Bonabba" available now.

Two big inspirations for this curved-space architecture are:
Roger and Martyn Dean, who discuss it in their book Magnetic Storm, and Antonio Gaudí, whose work is well represented in Gaudí: The Complete Buildings

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Repin portraits vs. color photos of the same model

Color photograph of Andreyev
Leonid Andreyev was a Russian writer who experimented with early color photography, taking selfies between 1910 and 1914. 

These are true color photos using the Autochrome method, decades before Eastman Kodak's process.

Oil painting of Leonid Andreyev by Ilya Repin
Andreyev was also a friend of the great artist Ilya Repin, who painted several portraits of him. 

So we have the rare treat of being able to compare color photographs of one of Repin's models with some painted portraits. 

They're not in the same poses, not taken at the same time, and Repin didn't use these photos as reference.

But it's remarkable to see how Repin stayed true to the essential character of the sitter, clarified the structure of his face, and presented him in an interesting way.
Book: Photographs by a Russian Writer Leonid Andreyev: An Undiscovered Portrait of Pre-Revolutionary Russia
Leonid Andreyev - his Autochromes, and two portraits by Repin
Previously: How Sargent Interpreted Carolus-Duran

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Sight-Size or Comparative Measurements?

Patrick Room from Vienna asks:

"When you go outside to do a sketch, how do you scale down the view so that it fits into your sketchbook? Do you establish an anchor point and connect all the measurements to this point, or do you place your sketchbook far enough away and then measure the subject with your outstretched arm?"

Patrick, that's a good question. Ideally I set up my easel so that the view is sight-size, and I place the easel as close as possible to my line of sight. On a few occasions I have experimented with a sight-size grid viewer to assist with very complex subjects.

But frequently the subject is too far away for sight-size to be possible. In that case I use comparative measurements. I establish a unit of measurement in my view of the subject using a pencil held at arm's length. Then I look for other examples where that unit appears.

You can see this approach in action in my YouTube video "Street Painting in Indiana."

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Animal Linocuts by Norbertine Bresslern-Roth

Norbertine Bresslern-Roth (1891-1978) was an Austrian printmaker who specialized in animal subjects.

Her preferred medium was the linoleum block print, which suited her strong sense of design.

She studied at the animal painting academy of Hans von Hayek, where students painted landscapes and animals on farms near Dachau. 

She was inspired by a trip to Africa, and later by trips to the zoo. Most of her African compositions are based on her deep knowledge of animal anatomy, with poses that could never be taken directly from photography. 

She often used the linoleum reduction process, where the same plate is used several times for progressively darker ink runs. With each color run, more and more of the block is cut away. 

Even for a simple subject, this process requires careful planning, and since you destroy the plate, you can't go back and print more.

Her birds, fish, and insect subjects, show striking color combinations. Her art is well known to lino-cut artists, but not as well known as it should be to painters and other artists.
Wikipedia (in German) Norbertine Bresslern-Roth 

Monday, February 19, 2018

Building Dinotopia in Lego

Seattle area builder Shawn Snyder recreated the saurian-themed architecture of Dinotopia in Lego bricks.

The gold trimmed details of the pediment use dinosaur-shaped motifs, and pterosaur finials hover over the towers.

The dinosaur firefighting rig was based on a page spread from Dinotopia: Journey To Chandara.

The firefighter has his tools mounted on the side of his Triceratops saddle, with the hose reel right behind him.

More Lego creations on the site Brothers Brick 
Thanks, Michael Lynch

Sunday, February 18, 2018

'Still Going Strong'

J.C. Leyendecker, "The Open Road," 21 x 37 in.
This intense fellow, with his goggles, cap, and gloves, would have seemed amusingly old-fashioned when Leyendecker painted this ad for Amoco around 1942.

The shapes are lovingly crafted, from micro to macro. Note how the red necktie and the fringe on the scarf flap back in the wind, but the mustache juts forward. The little light spots between strokes add sparkle.
More info about the original painting

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Anna Boberg's Painting Rig

Swedish artist Anna Boberg (1864-1935) was a self-taught innovator, and she developed an unusual design for a plein-air easel.

Anna Boberg
The painting was held in a frame that attached to a waist band and propped up against her right leg.

In addition to her winter landscapes, Boberg was known for her writing and her Art-Nouveau ceramics.
Anna Boberg on Wikipedia
Thanks Ricky Mujica and Gregory Dunham

Friday, February 16, 2018

Google Removes "View Image" Button

Google removed the "View Image" button from its image search results, with the goal of forcing users to visit the website if they want to copy an image file.

Google made the change because of a licensing deal with Getty Images. The change is frustrating to people who want to freely copy images (and many uses are copyright-free), but it's probably better for artists and photographers who want to control their copyrighted images. By going to the website, users will be more likely to see the usage requirements first.

There's a workaround, though. You can right-click the image when it comes up in results, and then select "View Image in a New Tab." Or you can select "Copy Image Address" to get the URL of the image. Paste that URL into a new tab and it takes you to the same place that "View Image" used to.

Another solution for getting better image searches is to use another search engine, such as DuckDuckGo, which gives you more usable image search results and doesn't track your search history for advertisers.
More on "The Verge"

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Ed Vebell's Nuremberg Sketches

Westport illustrator Ed Vebell died last week at age 96. One of his most remarkable experiences was sketching at the 'War Criminals Trials' in Nuremberg in 1945.
Field Marshall Goering by Ed Vebell, 1945
His job was to record the proceedings of the trial and document the key players. From his position in the press gallery, he could see the defendants, starting with Hermann Göring

"Göring still seemed to be in charge," Vebell remembers. "He gave the feeling he was still running the show. He had his uniform on, but he had lost a lot of weight." He looked sunken in, reminding Vebell of a collapsed parachute. 

Vebell’s Nuremberg portraits of Nazis
Rudolf Hess (top) and Wilhelm Keitel. 
Vebell sketched with a fountain pen, which allows no second thoughts or corrections. Since he didn't have any water, he achieved gray tones by using his spit to dissolve the water-soluble ink.

In his written notes, he described their demeanor, with its mixture of a rigid military bearing and a sense of hollowness.

He sketched while looking through a pair of binoculars because he was a little too far to get a clear portrait likeness. 

He pressed the binoculars against his glasses, holding them in position, and then flipped his eyes up and down to switch from the view to the sketch pad. 

In this 2013 interview, he recalls the experience. At 9:00 in the video, there's some archival footage of a Russian artist who also documented the trials, with a more caricatured approach. 

Learn more

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Tips for Selling Digital Products

Sellfy is one of the companies I work with for distributing videos and other digital content. Basically what they do is host the files and handle the payment processing and customer service.

They did an interview with me, and here's one of their questions:

Sellfy: You make a portion of your income from your painting tutorials. What are your tips for selling digital products?

Gurney: I think it’s important to think all the time about what makes a better product that really helps other artists on their journey. When my wife Jeanette (also an artist) and I watch other videos, we always talk about what we liked about it and how it might have been better.

I really try to listen to what customers want, and I study the metrics. With all that said, I go out there to have fun and try new challenges, and it’s OK with me if some of my videos have a smaller audience.

That’s one thing I like about the digital arts economy is that you can niche market to specific groups, and they can get information that used to be unavailable a generation ago.

You can read the rest of the interview here.
You can check out all the stuff on my Sellfy page here.

Illustration Research Center Proposed for Stockbridge

In what may turn out to be a Valentine's gift to illustration scholarship, The Norman Rockwell Museum is considering turning the former Old Town Hall of Stockbridge, Massachusetts into a study center for illustration.

The Town Hall building is currently not in use but it would need a major overhaul indoors to incorporate the Museum's archives, study gallery, library, reading room, and prep space for traveling exhibitions.

Exhibits and public events would remain at the current museum location. The plan would require raising a lot of funds and still awaits approvals.

Read more in the Berkshire Eagle: Rockwell Museum aims to turn Stockbridge's Old Town Hall into National Center for Illustration Research and Education

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Book on Coby Whitmore is in the works

Publisher Daniel Zimmer is taking preorders for a monograph on 1950s illustrator Coby Whitmore coming out this June. Coby is one of my all-time favorites, right up there with Al Parker, Jon Whitcomb, and Harry Anderson.

With this series of books, Zimmer has almost singlehandedly achieved something that mainstream art publishers have failed to accomplish: to document the legacy of the great 20th century illustrators in elegantly-produced monographs. The contribution he is making is so important for future generations who would otherwise never be able to see the work of these masters of illustration.

Preorder Coby Whitmore: Artist and Illustrator 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Painting an Abandoned Factory

Across the tracks from the supermarket is an abandoned factory where people once built mainframe computers. 

Here's a video (Link to Video on YouTube). After IBM pulled up stakes, the new owners renamed the seven-acre complex 'TechCity,' but it has sat mostly empty as the freight trains roll by.

As Jeanette did the food shopping, I set up my easel at the edge of the parking lot. I painted a view of the low building beyond the piles of dirty snow.

On Facebook, Joe Ongie asks: How did you choose your limited palette of colors?

Joe, For an overcast snow scene, I usually choose one blue to suit the subject (such as ultra, Prussian, or cobalt), plus a weak red (like burnt sienna) and a weak yellow (like yellow ochre). In this case I needed full-chroma red and yellow as well for the color accents. Since the subject was well within the gamut of possible mixtures, adding more colors to the palette would have just slowed me down, complicated the choices, and added to the cleanup, and they would have made a harmonious scheme less likely.

On YouTube, ThaBest007 asks: What makes you pick these scenes? Is it the history behind the place or the interesting contrasting colors? You somehow seem to be able to make even the most mundane looking scenes into beautiful and interesting paintings.
Haha! I pick something I can paint within 100 yards of the supermarket parking lot while my wife does the shopping (I distract her if I tag along). So I set up pretty much set up anywhere at random where I won't get run over or kicked out.

Keith E asks: I feel like one of the problems I'll run into though is dealing with hecklers...Do you ever find yourself dealing with issues like this, or do you have any specific strategies to avoid those situations? Like maybe going at specific time of day or on days when you know there'll be less of a chance of things like that happening?

That's funny, I did get heckled on this one but it was from my dear friend and fellow artist Gilles who recognized me at random. He said I was cheating when I brought out the camera. And I said No, I'm feeding the YouTube Monster. But seriously, you get heckled or approached a lot less by strangers when you're painting in one of these out of the way places that artists never go. No one is expecting to see someone painting, so 99% of the time strangers are very kind and supportive.

On Twitter, Maple E says: How come you never wear gloves when you paint? Are you just used to the cold or do you not like how it feels when painting?

It just didn't feel that cold. I think it was in the high 30s, and it didn't bother me—maybe I'm adjusted to winter. If the cold did bother me, I would have used gloves and those hunter hand-warmer packets, which I carry with me.

Turner asks on Twitter: Have you ever considered doing some plein-air livestreams?
Yes, I've done a few live streams on @concertwindow and Facebook Live. It was fun but a bit nerve wracking. I like to do it with Jeanette fielding the questions, but even then at least 75% of my attention goes to the questions, which makes the painting suffer. Painting for the video capture gives me more room to move. 
Previous paintings that I've done near the supermarket.
VW Dealership
Loading Dock
Produce Case
Sunset at the Supermarket
Strange Light at the Tire Place
Traffic Lights
Parking Lot Before the Storm

Sunday, February 11, 2018

E. T. Compton's Mountainscapes

E.T. Compton, Piz Morteratsch,
view from Fuorcla Boval on the northern flank
Edward Theodore Compton (1849-1921) was an English-born German artist who specialized in alpine landscapes.

Better known as E.T. Compton, he briefly attended the Royal Academy, but he was mainly self taught.

Note the flowing water in the foreground of the painting above.

E.T. Compton, The Weisshorn seen from the Furgg Glacier above Zermatt
He was inspired to become mountain painter when, at age 19, he traveled with his family to the Bernese Oberland, where he was impressed with views of the the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau peaks.

He was a skilled mountaineer who made over 300 major ascents, with 27 first climbs. 

E.T. Compton, Study of the Gorner Glacier, Zermatt, watercolor
He often brought his watercolors with him to document what he saw.

Note how muted the colors are in this painting—just subtle warm and cool grays—and how he adds mystery by veiling part of the view in a fragment of clouds.

His son Edward Harrison Compton, shown here, was also a mountain painter. 
Read More