Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A Guy in Old San Juan

A while back I'm sketching on the street in San Juan, Puerto Rico, not far from a fancy hotel. A guy wearing old clothes comes up and sits quietly near me. 

We don't talk much at first. But after a while he tells me he's an artist, too. I ask if I can sketch him, and he says, sure. He says he played bass in all the jazz clubs from New York to New Orleans. 

This is the kind of spontaneous encounter that I'll be documenting in my next video called "Portraits in the Wild," which should be finished in a month or so.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Chromolithographs of Fidelia Bridges

Fidelia Bridges (1834-1923) was one of the few commercially successful female artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She was a student of William Trost Richards, who encouraged her to paint detailed views of nature. 

Her sensibilities resonated with the newly emerging technology of color printing, called chromolithography, published in the form of album cards and greeting cards by Louis Prang. 

Album cards were treasured color images intended to be glued into a scrap book.

Bridges was influenced by Pre-Raphaelite art and Japanese prints. Often the scenes included a foreground bush or tree with a couple of birds, with a landscape view visible beyond.

These prints were immensely popular, and made her famous and well compensated, though some people in the day complained of the prints being overly saturated with color.

There's a chapter on chromolithography and the art of the late 19th century in the book The Artist's Garden: American Impressionism and the Garden Movement
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Monday, May 2, 2016

Meissonier's "The Smoker"

Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier The Smoker (A Man of the First Empire), 1873.
Watercolor and gouache on paper. Overall: 13 7/8 x 8 5/8 in. (35.2 x 22 cm
In this small painting, Meissonier shows an approach to water media that would make sense to an oil painter.

Meissonier. Approximately actual size
The lights are built up over a warm middle tone paper. The light tones are scumbled over the background, leaving little pits of darker tone. The face and hands are carefully modeled. You can feel the bones underneath the skin. The edges of the lapel and the hat are grease-stained and frayed, as befits an old outmoded soldier from Bonaparte's era.

The highlights on the pipe are very small, considering that the whole painting is the size of a piece of legal-size paper. Watercolor with gouache can be precise and highly descriptive if you take your time.
Download the large size file of the painting

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Article on painting when you're stuck waiting

I don't mind being marooned somewhere, as long as I've got my paints. That's the subject of my new article in International Artist. 

I don't know why, but the less choice I have in selecting a motif, the more successful I am. Maybe it comes of being forced to improvise. 

International Artist (#109, June/July 2016). 

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Maquettes and Imagination at Millburn High

Yesterday I visited the advanced-placement art students in Millburn, New Jersey. Under the guidance of teacher and artist Kathleen Harte-Gilsenan, they built maquettes of a variety of creatures. 

When I got there, they lit and shot them and used them to inspire sketches in black and white gouache.

I did a demo in gouache, painting from a dinosaur maquette. I showed them lots of originals, and took them through some case histories of paleoart jobs, all the way from first thumbnail sketches to maquettes and comps to finished oil paintings.

We were lucky to have a surprise guest: Michael Mrak, gouache painter and Design Director for Scientific American. He brought in some originals from his collection, and he talked about visual communication from the perspective of magazine publishing. 

You can watch a brief video clip of these scenes on my Instagram page, Twitter feed, or Facebook page. While you're there, please subscribe to follow my feed.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Propeller Powered Sled

Here's one of the more unusual vehicles stored in the old barns out behind the Rhinebeck Aerodrome. Basically it's an aircraft engine and open propeller mounted on the back of a 1920s-era body, with sled runners instead of wheels. 

Old timers told me they would take this thing out on the Hudson River ice in the winter and zoom along at 60 miles per hour.