Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Tips for Taping Off

When I do Dinotopia paintings on illustration board, I tape off the edge with blue low-tack painter's tape (from the hardware store). Then I cut a thin strip of white so-called "artist's tape" to put over that to preserve my perspective grid markings. Red marking is the eye level. I don't recommend using the white tape directly on the illustration board because the adhesion is too strong and it rips the board—and it's non-archival, as is almost all tape, really.

I seal the whole surface, including the edge where the tape meets the drawing, with clear acrylic matte medium so that the oil paint doesn't seep under the tape. 

When the painting is finished, I remove the tape. The image can be flapped with polyethylene coated paper while in production, and it has a safety margin of white board around the image. When it comes to framing it can either be cut down to the edge of the painting and framed without glass or matted and framed. 
Previously on GJ:
Perspective Grid
Technique Notes
Want more insights? Pick up a signed copy of the new expanded edition of Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara at my website or on Amazon or Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn't Exist.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Did Medieval people walk the way we do?

Here's a video that's impossible to watch without walking around and trying it out. (Link to video)
Roland Warzecha proposes that Medieval people walked with different body mechanics, planting the toe first, rather than the heel first—or at least, softening the heel strike.

I've been trying it out, but it's hard to build up any speed and it seems like a lot of effort to maintain that mode. Maybe my tendons are too short. Anyway, I'd be interested in what you think after you try it out, especially what animators think about this.
Further reading
The modern medical establishment regards "toe-walking" as an abnormality
New York magazine article on barefoot walking
Monty Python's Ministry of Silly Walks

Monday, September 18, 2017

New expanded edition of Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara

Dover Publications has just released a new expanded edition of Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara in their premier Calla line of illustrated books. (Link to book trailer video on YouTube)

This beautiful hardcover, slipcased edition includes an exclusive peek behind the scenes, with 30 pages of sketches, storyboards, maquettes, photos of models, character designs, and models posing.

If you live in the USA (or can provide a domestic US shipping address), you can order a signed copy from my website store and it's also available from Amazon

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Readings from Ruskin

(Link to YouTube) Here is a vintage recording of readings that I did from the Victorian art critic John Ruskin, excerpted from his famous works "Modern Painters" and "The Elements of Drawing."

The recording is from a cassette tape which circulated by mail in 1985 among a group of art friends called "The Golden Palm Tape Network."

Topics include:
1. Greetings to Ron Harris and James Warhola.
2. Discussion about audio line mixers
3. Readings from Ruskin:
• painting open water
• advice to students
• gradation
• atmospheric perspective.

Note his point at around 20 minutes in that cool colors don't necessarily recede, and warm colors don't necessarily advance.

You can still get copies of Modern Painters in print at Amazon. The other book I quoted from is The Elements of Drawing

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Where are the most photos taken?

A while ago, Google released this heat map image showing the places in the world that are photographed the most, based on the geotagging metadata.

Tourist places in Europe get the most traffic, especially art capitals like Paris and Barcelona, coastal regions of Spain, and picturesque regions in the Alps.

Google's artificial intelligence systems no longer need geotagging to know where a photo was taken. After analyzing huge databases of more than 93 million images, they can now recognize where any photo was taken.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Is Mount Rushmore Unfinished?

The original design for Mount Rushmore showed far more of the figures, as suggested by this preliminary maquette. 

I have digitally superimposed the actual carvings of the faces over the maquette. Susan B. Anthony was supposed to be included, too.

But by 1941, federal funding was cut back, and the sculptor, Danish-American Gutzon Borglum, died of a heart attack while the work was still being carved.

This video has aerial shots that show more of the setting.

(Link to video) Video by Smithsonian.

Read more about the design history of the monument at

Thursday, September 14, 2017

A Conversation with Mel Birnkrant

Timothy J. Fitzmaurice created this video portrait of Mel Birnkrant and his unrivaled collection of vintage Mickey Mouse and other comic character toys. (Link to YouTube)

In the interview by Timothy's wife, Kelly McMullen, Mel talks about how he got started toy collecting, how the toys "speak" to him, and how his own toy-inventing career fueled his life as a collector and connoisseur.

Although Mel's private collection is not open for visitors, his extensive website offers anybody a grand tour of his infinite universe of comic characters.
Mel Birnkrant website
View a playlist of my YouTube videos shot at Mel's "Mouse Heaven"

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Feature in Illustrators Magazine (UK)

I'm very excited to receive advance copies of the next Illustrators Magazine, issue #19, where my work is the cover feature. This quarterly magazine, based in the UK, covers illustrators around the world, past and present. 

The article includes 35 images, many of which are reproduced in a double page spread, plus a newly written bio by Thomas Kintner.

The new issue also includes an article on Jacques Onfroy de Bréville (1858-1931), known as Job. His well-researched historical illustrations made their way into European children's books and comics.

There's also an article on the quirky horror comics by Dutch artist Erik Kriek.
You can pick up a copy of Illustrators #19 at the publisher's website and it will soon be available at Stuart Ng books. (pub: The Book Palace, 2017. 98 page illustrated squarebound magazine. Price: £18.00 (UK), $21.99 (US). ISBN: 978-1-907081-41-5. ISSN: 2052-6520)
Book Palace also published the excellent book Drawing from History: The Forgotten Art of Fortunino Matania

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Harryhausen at the Tate

Photo by Nate Chard
The Tate Museum in London is currently hosting an exhibition of the art of Ray Harryhausen (1920-2013).

The show includes some of the original stop motion models used in movies like Jason and the Argonauts and 7th Voyage of Sinbad.

Harryhausen did it all. He designed the creatures, constructed them out of wire and latex, and animated them. The show includes some of his drawings and paintings, as well as the puppets or models.

Joseph Gandy, Jupiter Pluvius, 1819
The show also features some of the artwork that inspired Harryhausen, including John Martin and Joseph Gandy, above, from Harryhausen's collection.

He said, ‘Gandy is a relatively unknown painter but for sheer spectacle there are few others who come anywhere near him. This painting is one of my most prized possessions and has been a huge inspiration to me throughout my career, teaching me to think big and give my inspiration free rein.’

It is noteworthy whenever a mainstream art museum spotlights an artist from the worlds of visual effects, animation, illustration, or comics.

The way we'll see more exhibitions like this is if we attend them, share them on social media, thank the curators in the guest book, and send notes of appreciation to sponsors, lenders, and staff.
Tate website: The Art of Ray Harryhausen through November 19
Books: A Century of Stop-Motion Animation: From Melies to Aardman (Co-authored by Harryhausen, with an introduction by me)
The Art of Ray Harryhausen
Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life
Post on Muddy Colors: Two — Count 'Em — Two Ray Harryhausen Exhibits by Arnie Fenner

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Orientalists

The best art book on Orientalism was written by Kristian Davies, who I sketched in New York.

Orientalists: Western Artists in Arabia, the Sahara, Persia and India is lavishly illustrated with paintings by leading artists such as Jean-Léon Gérôme, Ludwig Deutsch, and Leon Belly (whose painting appears on the cover).

He includes a whole chapter on the painting "Zaporozhian Cossacks of Ukraine Writing a Letter in Reply to the Sultan of Turkey" by Ilya Repin (1844-1930), quoting the exact written exchange between the Sultan and the Cossacks. It's too spicy to quote in this blog, but you can read it here.

There's also a chapter telling the story of Gustav Bauernfeind, who created ambitious paintings, yet died unknown in Palestine in 1904.

Davies traveled all over the Middle East, Europe, and North Africa researching his book, and even found many of the locations that the paintings were based on. He shares insight into the actual experience of European artists working in the Near East, including renting market stalls and painting the view seen through little window slits to avoid censure.

The Arab Sentinel by Antonio Maria Fabres y Costa
Unfortunately, most other recent books on Orientalist art repeat the usual angle about the evils of colonialism, and they skip over any meaningful insights about the paintings themselves, how they were created, and how they were received in their day.

Orientalists: Western Artists in Arabia, the Sahara, Persia and India (Link goes to Amazon) is unfortunately out of print and is getting rather expensive, but if you love the subject, it's worth it.
Previously on GurneyJourney
Arab Guard
Contre Jour Lighting

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Practical TV Logos

Before digital logos became commonplace, TV and movie logos were created with physical, actual models shot in camera. The website "This is Colossal" has collected some of the best.
Related videos on my YouTube channel
Logo Animation with Physical Models—Behind the Scenes and Build Secrets
How to Make a YouTube End Screen Gadget
Thanks, Izzy Medrano

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Pixelated Faces

Here are four photos of celebrities or politicians, greatly degraded by pixellation. 
Can you recognize any of them?

Subject 1

Subject 2
If you're having a hard time recognizing them so far, you might try making the displayed images smaller.  On a Mac, you can do that by pressing Command and - at the same time.

Subject 3

Subject 4
Ready for the answers? Here are higher resolution photos, together with the pixelated versions.

Leonardo Di Caprio

 Scarlett Johansson

Anne Hathaway

Vladimir Putin

If you recognized any of them from the pixellated version, consider how remarkable that is. The images are highly degraded, with no indication of the shapes of the features, just some brown squares where they eyes would be.

Blurring is another way to reduce the information in a photo and to make it lower resolution. Can you recognize these faces? (Answers below in fine print.)

Individuals shown in order are: Michael Jordan, Woody Allen, Goldie Hawn, Bill Clinton, Tom Hanks, Saddam Hussein, Elvis Presley, Jay Leno, Dustin Hoffman, Prince Charles, Cher, and Richard Nixon. 

Recognizing faces out of such incomplete information is a formidable achievement, which tells us something about how we process visual information about faces. Scientists found that "about half of the observers were able to recognize a face of merely 7x10 pixels, and recognition performance reached ceiling level at a resolution of 19x27 pixels."

Researchers have drawn some conclusions from experiments like this:
• "Unlike current machine-based systems, human observers are able to handle significant degradations in face images."*
• "Pigmentation cues are at least as important as shape cues."
• "Fine featural details are not necessary to obtain good face recognition performance."
• "The ability to tolerate degradations increases with familiarity."  

Detail of a painting by Frank Duveneck
As painters, this is a good reminder that the broad, simple, tonal lay-in stage is at least as important as the finicky details and the linear relationships that we obsess over. 

Here's a practice idea for students: If you can take a big paintbrush and accurately translate it into a few spots of tone, you're well on the way to painting good likenesses.

Studies Referenced:
—A. Yip and P. Sinha, B. Role of color in face recognition,[ Perception, vol. 31, pp. 995–1003, 2002.
—V. Bruce, Z. Henderson, K. Greenwood, P. J. B. Hancock, A. M. Burton, and P. I. Miller, B Verification of face identities from images captured on video,[ J. Experimental Psychol.: Applied, vol. 5–4, pp. 339–360, 1999. 
—V. Bruce, Face recognition in poor-quality video,[ Psychol. Sci., vol. 10, pp. 243–248, 1999.
* Machine learning systems are getting much better at recognizing people despite pixelation (see comments).

If you liked this topic, you'll love these previous posts