Thursday, April 26, 2018

Delaware Exhibition Pairs Ruskin and Wyeth

Andrew Wyeth, Flock of Crows
We stopped by the Delaware Art Museum to visit the exhibition Eye on Nature: Andrew Wyeth and John Ruskin.

Curator Margaretta Frederick took us through the show, which pairs 30 rare watercolors by the 19th century British writer/artist Ruskin with 28 watercolors and dry brush works by Andrew Wyeth. 
Although there's no evidence that Wyeth was directly inspired by Ruskin's writings, it's interesting to reflect on how the two artists regarded the study of nature.   

John Ruskin
Ruskin said "When once we see keenly enough, there is very little difficulty in drawing what we see." 

John Ruskin, Trees in a Lane, perhaps at Ambleside, 1847.
Pencil, black and brown ink, and ink wash, 17 5/8 x 22 5/8 inches.
He was famous for his admonition that young painters "should go to Nature in all singleness of heart, and walk with her laboriously and trustingly, having no other thoughts but how best to penetrate her meaning, and remember her instruction; rejecting nothing, selecting nothing, and scorning nothing; believing all things to be right and good, and rejoicing always in the truth."

But he also added that "straight documentation does not make up a work of art," and he recommended that once artists fill their eyes and minds with nature's forms, they should "take up the scarlet and the gold, give the reins to their fancy, and show us what their heads are made of." 

Wyeth, watercolor study of a blackberry branch
Wyeth said, "Art to me, is seeing. I think you have got to use your eyes, as well as your emotion, and one without the other just doesn't work." 

He did careful studies throughout his career, and used them to "get down to the real substance of life itself."


Andrew Wyeth Sycamore Tree, detail
Wyeth's large drybrush drawings are an impressive testament to his patience and concentration. 

He had deep appreciation for ordinary subjects close to home. He said, "You can be in a place for years and years and not see something...and then when it dawns, all sorts of nuggets of richness start popping all over the place. You've gotten below the obvious."
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The exhibition Eye on Nature will be on view at the Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington through May 27, 2018.
Gallery of online images from the exhibition
Upcoming events:
Ferns and Flowers Monoprinting, April 29
On Location Photography Workshops, Sundays, April – June
Nature Sketching Sunday, May 20Thanks, Margaretta Frederick and Stephen Wildman

Artist's Mag and Quotidian Subjects


What's the best place for artistic inspiration—Venice? Barcelona? Giverny? Grand Canyon? I believe it's within 15 miles of wherever you are right now.

The theme of the current issue of Artist's magazine (print) is "Place." I wrote an article called "There's No Place Like Home."

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Portrait Demo at the Yellow Barn Workshop

On Sunday night we had a sold-out audience for my mini-workshop at the Yellow Barn Studio in Glen Echo Park, Maryland.


After my lecture presentation, I did a half-hour gouache portrait. My model was Steve Hanson, who was wearing a reproduction antique vest and coat. Steve has portrayed John Brown in a historical reenactment at Harper's Ferry.


I used a limited palette of gouache: Light Red by Shinhan Pass, plus Yellow OchreUltramarine BlueIvory Black, and Titanium White (M. Graham) in a Pentalic watercolor journal.

I did my preliminary lay-in with a Brown Caran d' Ache watercolor pencil and I finished up with a White Supracolor pencil for those few stray beard hairs and other accents.
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Thanks, J. Jordan Bruns and Gavin Glakas for organizing the event, and to model Steven Hanson.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Portraits in the Audience

At the Portrait Society Conference, everyone is a model—wittingly or not—including a member of the audience near me.



This sketch uses a limited palette of gouache: Light Red by Shinhan Pass, and then the rest by M. Graham: Yellow Ochre, Ultramarine Blue, Ivory Black, and Titanium White. (Links take you to Amazon pages).

Monday, April 23, 2018

Sargent's Technique and Temperament

John Singer Sargent's grandnephew, Richard Ormond, speaks with veteran portrait painter Michael Shane Neal about Sargent's technique and temperament.

Michael Shane Neal and Richard Ormond, gouache

Here's an extended lecture by Richard Ormond about Sargent's work during World War I.
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Sketched live at the Portrait Society Conference in Washington, DC
Ormond has authored many books on Sargent, including John Singer Sargent: Figures and Landscapes 1908–1913: The Complete Paintings

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Side by Side Demos

The Portrait Society Conference features many painting demos, where the artists paint models in oil during a 2-3 hour period, commenting as they go.

Daniel Gerhartz demo at the Portrait Society
Two cameras record the painting and the model, and project the images side by side, so you can really see what the artist is seeing. Here's a demo by Daniel Gerhartz.

Later, Jeff Hein painted Matteo Caloiaro.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Name Inflation

Hanging out with legends of the portrait painting tradition: Michael Shane Neal (standing) and Everett Raymond Kinstler.


This followed a presentation that discussed Howard Chandler Christy, James Montgomery Flagg, Charles Dana Gibson, and John Singer Sargent. Hmm, I think I need a third name.

Three-Hour Portrait

The opening event of the Portrait Society Conference is the Faceoff, where 15 artist paint from 5 models over a 3 hour period.

Joseph Daily by James Gurney
I had the pleasure of painting Joseph Daily, a portrait artist himself. I worked in oil, 12 x 16 inches.


It was fun to work next to another artist I admire, Mario Robinson, who recently published an excellent book on book on classical portrait painting in watercolor.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Business Breakfast

We're at the Portrait Society Conference in Washington, DC.



I paint two guys discussing business over breakfast. I using black and white gouache in a watercolor sketchbook. (Link to video on Facebook)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

A Chat with a School Bus Driver


(Link to video on Facebook) Driving through Maryland we noticed the school buses parked behind this house. It still had an old TV antenna on top.


In the video, you can hear the voice of Cindy, who hung out with us for a while and told us what it was like to drive the buses.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Portrait Society This Weekend


I'm doing a few oil copies to get in practice for the Portrait Society Conference in Washington, DC this week. This is based on Velazquez's portrait of Miguel Angelo, the barber to the Pope.

Here's my Portrait Society schedule:
Thursday April 19: 4:30p–7:30pm Artist-to-Artist Face-Off
Friday, 9:00a–10:00a. Composition: The Eye, the Mind, and the Story.
Saturday, 10:30a–12:30p. Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn't Exist

After that I'll be doing an event at the Yellow Barn Studio in Glen Echo, Maryland. 
That event will take place on April 22nd from 5:00pm – 8:00pm, and will include two lectures and a demo. There may still be some spots available.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Painting a Red Mazda on Location

My car needs a tuneup, so I leave it off at the dealership. I make a cup of coffee and sit down at the edge of the showroom.


A red Mazda MX-5 Miata RF is parked in the middle, facing out toward the light. (Link to video on YouTube) Two or three hours? Time enough for a quick painting.


I choose a page in my sketchbook with an insistent yellow casein underpainting. It challenges me to cover every area of the picture with opaque gouache.

This scene has a brighter range of values than most scenes. The light outside is very bright compared to the dark areas on the car. To capture that I have to bleach the lights and make the darks darker than they appear.
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Get your Gear On
Gouache tutorial available at Sellfy and Gumroad.
How to Make a Sketch Easel
Pentalic 5" x 8" Aqua Journal
M. Graham gouache set
Pocket plein air brush set

Monday, April 16, 2018

Juana Romani, model turned painter

Juana Romani (1867 - 1923/24) was born with the name Carolina Carlesimo in Italy. Her mother brought her to Paris, where she began working as an artist model as a child.



She decided to pursue an art career herself, studying with Ferdinand Roybet and Jean-Jacques Henner.

Salomé by Juana Romani
She became known for her portraits of female subjects.


The influence of Henner and Roybet can be seen in the soft frontal lighting, which melts into profound shadows at the edges of the form. She painted directly on the canvas without much preliminary sketching.


Unfortunately her last years were not happy. She suffered from mental illness and lived in a psychiatric hospital, where she died forgotten.
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Book: Women Artists in Paris, 1850-1900
Juana Romani on Wikipedia 

Sunday, April 15, 2018

How Hollyhocks trap color

Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1942) was an artist, garden designer, and writer. She wrote playfully about how flower petals can focus and intensify color in the center of the blossom.

Hollyhocks - Gustave Bienvêtu (1850-1916)
"The loosely-folded inner petals of the loveliest Hollyhocks invite a wonderful play and brilliancy of colour. Some of the colour is transmitted through the half-transparency of the petal's structure, some is reflected from the neighbouring folds; the light striking back and forth with infinitely beautiful trick and playful variation, so that some inner regions of the heart of a rosy flower, obeying the mysterious agencies of sunlight, texture and local colour, may tell upon the eye as pure scarlet ; while the wide outer petal, in itself generally rather lighter in colour, with its slightly waved surface and gently frilled edge, plays the game of give and take with light and tint in quite other, but always delightful, ways."


This color effect happens not only in hollyhocks, but also roses and peonies.
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Watch how to paint this effect in my video "Flower Painting in the Wild,"available as a DVD from Amazon and as an HD download from Gumroad and Sellfy.   

The quote is from "Some English Gardens" by Gertrude Jekyll