Friday, August 18, 2017

Release of "Flower Painting in the Wild"

"Flower Painting in the Wild" is now available, and today only it's 10% off Buy now
(scroll down for more links). Here's what the reviewers are saying:

“Who doesn't love to sit in a garden? Translucent and highly chromatic, flowers are the most challenging subjects to render in the studio. Put them in a mass outdoors in flickering light, moving in a gentle breeze...even the most accomplished plein air painter will head for the hills instead. James Gurney takes you with him to observe and paint on a larger panel as well as his iconic sketchbook pages. Practical, erudite and charming, James shows you how he integrates that devilish chartreuse leaf green into his impressionistic paintings of flowers on site. Watch him create a formally satisfying composition while only selecting details that are botanically relevant. He also puts it all in philosophical context, quoting Ruskin no less, that urges you to go outside to smell, see and paint the roses!”
Elissa Gore, Landscape Painting Instructor, New York Botanical Garden

"Set at the New York Botanical Gardens, you get to see how an artist tackles the complexity of nature. With shifting light, wind blowing and pedestrians passing by Gurney does an elegant painting. Taking the time to see the structure of the flower, Gurney develops the painting to a high level of finish. The combination of his ability to understand solid depictions of light and form as well as structure and brush handling, make this video a joy to watch for every level of artist. Whether you are just starting out or have mastered your own technique, to behold a fresh alla prima painting in plein air is a treat for any artist. Gurney filmed the video himself which gives it a raw, personal touch. I highly recommend it and look forward to viewing others in the future.”
Michael Klein, East Oaks Studio

"With this DVD James Gurney provides the viewer an excellent opportunity to learn about flower painting in a natural setting while paying keen attention to different shapes and light, general value and color in nature, and how to bring them all together in a finished painting. He demonstrates not only the painting techniques but gives also information about the surrounding environment and how to engage with the public while painting. Gurney is a master at explaining how to handle clustered masses of plant parts, without absolute delineation of detail so that one’s mind is inspired to build the final picture."
Mervi Hjelmroos-Koski, Ph.D., D.Sc., Manager of School of Botanical Art & Illustration, Denver Botanic Gardens

"Flower Painting in the Wild" is another excellent video from James Gurney, particularly if you're interested in casein paint. Using casein in most segments, he paints several varieties of flowers, demonstrating its opacity and versatility. As in his previous video demonstrations, solid technique, sharp and useful video images, and Gurney's obvious humility and good-humor make this a must for the student of painting. Highly recommended.”
Gary Hoff

“The video is a great way to learn painting flowers outdoors in any medium.”
—Eleinne Basa

1080p HD download from Sellfy $14.50 10% off today only ... $13.45
1080p HD download from Gumroad $14.50 10% off today only ... $13.45
1080p HD download from Cubebrush $14.50 10% off today only ... $13.45

DVD available direct from the manufacturer....$24.50 10% off today only.... $22.00
Trailer on YouTube

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Story Time from Space

Jeanette and I had breakfast this morning with MICA painting instructor and maritime history painter Patrick O'Brien. He told me that one of his children's books, "You Are the First Kid on Mars" went up on SpaceX to the Space Station to be read aloud online. Pretty cool!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Todd McFarlane Interview

Over the last two decades, Todd McFarlane has made a name for himself as both an artist and a businessman, creating the comic character Spawn, the artist-controlled publisher Image, and a popular line of detailed action figures. In this interview he shares the keys to his success. (Link to YouTube)

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

How to Make a YouTube End Screen Gizmo

In the last 20 seconds of a YouTube video, you can offer the viewer the chance to click on other videos, playlists, websites, or the Subscribe button, using their "end screen" options.

In this behind-the-scenes video I show how to make a reusable gizmo to make that end screen segment more interesting and to encourage viewers to click those links. (Link to video on YouTube).

The panels flip into position before being superimposed with the link options. The movement of the panels is powered by mousetrap springs. It's cheap and easy to build, and it's completely customizable to the style of your channel.

1 " X 3 " Pine boards
screw eyes
Magic Sculpt epoxy clay
Gorilla glue

My next Gumroad tutorial, "Flower Painting in the Wild," comes out this Friday, August 18.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Brushes for water media

Betty-Jane Moss asks:
Would you advise using different brushes for the different kinds of water-based paints (casein, gouache and the transparent watercolor)?

Betty-Jane, the quick answer is yes: If you're painting in casein, use only synthetics; don't use natural hair brushes (bristles or sables) because the ammonia in the paint can be hard on the fibers. If you're using gouache or watercolor, you can use any kind of synthetic or natural brush.

I usually carry a mix of flat and round brushes, but the ones I use most are a 3/4" and 1/2" flat and a #10 synthetic watercolor round.

Synthetic options
A good bargain is to get a watercolor brush set with carrying pouch (regular length handles) or a short-handled water media brush set with carrying case. The folding case will fit over the left hand page of the open sketchbook.

There are a lot of other brands available, everything from very expensive Kolinsky brushes to cheap brush sets from big box craft stores.

I don't think you have to spend large amounts of money. I find a good brush, I buy a few extras to have on hand. I've found brushes of acceptable quality at the big box craft stores for very reasonable prices, but you have to check them out. What you want to look for are brushes that have good spring or snap, not floppy. The brush should come to a fine point — or edge in the case of a flat. That way you can use a fairly large brush to paint your picture.

Natural hair brushes
If you're using watercolor or gouache, you can use natural hair brushes. I like sable flat brushes, such as: 1/2-inch  and 3/4-Inch size, and I use them especially for laying down big washes. The sable flats hold more water usually don't hold as sharp an edge as the synthetics.

For laying bigger washes and wetting the paper, a Cat's Tongue Wash Brush is a good tool. It has a flattened ferrule similar to a filbert brush.

If you like watercolor techniques where you wet large areas, a squirrel mop brush

Round Kolinsky sables are wonderful, and will hold a point for a long time if you take good care of them.
Winsor and Newton Series 7 
Richeson Siberian Kolinsky brushes
Escoda Optimo Kolinsky
Da Vinci Maestro Series Kolinsky Red 

If you have a very compact kit and can't carry a box of brushes, you might want to use a Escoda Sable Round Travel Brush, which safely stows the brush tip inside the handle. The Rosemary brush company in England also makes a set of "reversible" "folding" "pocket" "travel" brushes.
Previous posts on GurneyJourney:
Review: Richeson Travel Brush Set
Check out my feeds at InstagramPinterest, FacebookTwitter, and YouTube.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Kramskoi's 'Christ in the Desert'

Ivan Kramskoi's Christ in the Desert (1872) is more than just an illustration from the Bible. It uses the story of Christ's sojourn in the wilderness to comment on personal and contemporary concerns.

Kramskoi (Russian, 1837-1887) wrote: "Influenced by a variety of things, I have come to a very distressing understanding of life, and I clearly see that there is a moment in every man's life...when he is in doubt: whether to go to the right or to the left This, then, is not Christ. Or rather, I don't know who it is. It is an expression of my own ideas...Christ is alone and tormented by doubts: should he go to the people, teach them, suffer and perish, or should he yield to temptation and give it all up."

The critics of the old guard did not receive the painting warmly, accusing the artist of distorting the scripture and expressing anti-religious feelings. But the younger artists embraced the vision. Tolstoy said, "This is the best Christ I know."
From the book Fifty Russian Artists, published by Raduga Publishers, Moscow

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Castle Kidnapped

I painted this bizarre scene in 1989 for the cover of "Castle Kidnapped" by John DeChancie. My friend James Warhola posed for the guy with the fizzy wine glass, and I posed as the jester with the levitating marotte

I enjoyed the creature design on this one, especially figuring out the walk cycle of a 6-legged blue ankylo-tortoise. I hope that little orange eyeball frog hops away before he gets stepped on.

Get the original book on Amazon
Previously on GJ: Gradations

Friday, August 11, 2017

Flower Painting in the Wild Preview

Here's a preview of the next video tutorial, which releases on Friday, August 18—one week from now. (Link to video on YouTube)

It'll be an hour and 10 minutes long, packed full of practical and inspiring insights about painting flowers outdoors in the garden and in nature.

I'll be using gouache and casein, which are fast-drying, opaque, water-based media, ideal for floral studies. The painting insights are universal and will benefit oil and acrylic painters as well.

Michael Klein of East Oaks Studio says: "Whether you are just starting out or have mastered your own technique, to behold a fresh alla-prima painting in plein air is a treat for any artist.”

Thursday, August 10, 2017

De Wint's Colors

"Peter De Wint’s (1784-1849) usual palette had the following twelve colours : vermilion, Indian red, Prussian or cyanine blue, brown madder, pink madder, sepia, gamboge, yellow ochre, burnt sienna, purple lake, brown pink, and indigo.

"To these, for occasional use, he added four others in half-cakes: orange ochre, Vandyke brown, olive green cobalt, and emerald green.

"All these pigments were in hard cakes, but they were kept soft with water when in use. De Wint designed his own box, as he disliked to mix his washes on the enamelled leaves with which the trade boxes were fitted. He preferred bright metal leaves with a silver-like surface.

"He employed two brushes, both large and round, but one was old and worn, while the other was new and came to a fine point."
Excerpted from: "Masters of English Landscape Painting: J. S. Cotman. David Cox, Peter De Wint" by Charles Holme, available from Google Books and and in book form from Amazon.
More about De Wint's life and technical process on

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Priming Sketchbook Pages

Priming the painting surface with an abstract color field is a great way to energize a field study done in opaque media.

I like to prime a few pages in my watercolor book with abstract color shapes in casein. If you don’t have casein, you can use tinted gesso or acryla gouache. In this case, the underpainting is a random yellow shape surrounded by a tint of blue, which gives me some colors to build on. 

When I arrive at a motif I choose a page with an intriguing priming that fits the subject. In this case, a a  cluster of flowers that I'm attracted to resembles the shape of the underpainting.

Sometimes I cover up the underpainting completely with the final gouache or casein, and sometimes I let the priming colors show through, but the priming always influences the painting.

Here's a snippet from my next video tutorial "Flower Painting in the Wild," which releases Monday, August 21 Friday, August 18. I'll show you four flower paintings from the first to the final touches. Michael Klein has previewed the video and calls it "a treat for any artist."
On Amazon: Recommended set of casein
Holbein acryla gouache also works for priming.
During the month of August, you can join plein-air challenge to paint a storefront. Here's more information on a Facebook Event page.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Vintage Ads for the Famous Artists School

Here's a classic advertisement for the Famous Artists School, the correspondence course headlined by 1950s illustrators like Norman Rockwell, Al Dorne, and Austin Briggs. (Link to YouTube)

The host, Jon Gnagy (1907-1981), introduces the course, and then draws a church using basic geometric forms. Gnagy was the first person to present art instruction on television.

Man with a Shovel Sequence, Robert Fawcett, gouache on board
The Norman Rockwell Museum is currently showing original artwork from the Famous Artists School at their exhibit: "Learning From The Masters: The Famous Artists School," which will be on view through November 19, 2017.

Here's another video advertising the school. (Archival video starts at 4:51)

The Museum's artist-instructor Patrick O'Donnell will be teaching workshops based on the FAC methods. The next one is August 17.

If you want a classic set of the original binders, I recommend the 1954 edition of the Famous Artists Course, Lessons 1-24. This edition has the best artwork and instruction from the original faculty. They cost more than $400, but they're worth it.

There's a new book: Drawing Lessons from the Famous Artists School: Classic Techniques and Expert Tips from the Golden Age of Illustration  with an introduction by curator Stephanie Plunkett and Magdalen Livesey of the FAS.

Thanks, Pedram Fazeldazeh • Video courtesy Norman Rockwell Museum Archives / Famous Artists School Collection. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Who Makes Better Art—Humans or Computers?

As abstract images go, do these images strike you as creative, expressive, and artistic? 

A group of test subjects thought so. They were ranked highest out of a large selection of sample artworks in a blind test.

The samples included artworks created by up-and-coming human artists from ArtBasel together with images created by computers using machine learning algorithms.
"Researchers programmed [the computer system] to study 80,000 WikiArt images of Western paintings from the 15th to the 20th century so that it knew what kind of images have traditionally been aesthetically appealing. But the scientists didn’t want to devise a system that could merely emulate history paintings, genre scenes, landscapes, and portraits in established styles — a machine that truly has artificial intelligence, after all, must be creative. Once the system learned these styles, it then worked to deviate from them."
What surprised the researchers was that the images deemed most original and creative by human observers were created by the computers, not the humans.

And these weren't just computers aping the superficial art styles of existing artists. They were original visual ideas that expert art-watchers had not seen before.

"Researchers tested whether or not these generated works could pass as creative to some people. An object, for their purposes, demonstrates creativity if it is both “novel and influential.” The first question they posed was whether humans could simply distinguish between the computer’s art and human-made artworks. As Elgammal sums up in a blog post, participants believed that the generated images were made by artists 75% of the time, compared to 85% of the time for the collection of Abstract Expressionist artworks, all made between 1945 and 2007. In terms of the Art Basel paintings, participants thought that humans had made them just 48% of the time."
The finding raising profound implications about the uniqueness of human creativity. Is what we do as artists a personal and emotional act of genius, or an optimized set of choices based on available information? If it's the latter, it is something that a computer could figure out.

It also raises questions about what we expect as viewers of art, because, after all, art is really about communication. Does it matter to us who creates a work of art? Do we want to surround ourselves with images that have passed through a human mind or hand? Or are we willing and eager to be surprised and delighted by what our bot-brothers invent for us?
Read the article on Hyperallergic

Sunday, August 6, 2017

New Challenge: "Paint a Storefront"

The Whatnot Shop in Tannersville, New York, sells secondhand furniture and homewares—a porcelain angel, a bird cage, a lamp, and a set of wine glasses. Linda and Rita, who started the business five months ago, also sell Avon products. The storefront was once a tattoo parlor. They haven't gotten a new sign made yet. 

A storefront is an expression of a dream: the dream that what one person creates will be of value to someone passing by. 

I invite you to paint a storefront on location during the month of August. Try to capture the facts accurately, but also see if you can imply the dream that animates it, with attention to architecture, signage, window displays, and wear and tear.

Phoenicia Pharmacy, gouache, 5 x 8 inches
• It's free to enter and anyone can enter.
• Subject can be any storefront, shopfront, or public place of business.
• All physical painting media are acceptable: casein, gouache, acryla-gouache, oil, acrylic, watercolor pencils, or watercolor.
• No limitation on palette colors. You can paint in black and white, a limited palette, or full color.
• Just shoot two image files: 
      1. Your finished painting and 
      2. A photo of the painting on the easel in front of the subject. Your face doesn't have to be in the photo unless you want to.
• Upload the images to this Facebook Event page: Paint a Storefront
• Please include in the FB post a sentence or two about your inspiration or design strategy, or some information about the store.
• Multimedia prize: If you want, you can also record video or audio (1 minute or less) documenting the store, its owner, or your experience painting it.
• If you upload to Instagram or Twitter, please use the hashtag #paintastorefront
• You can enter anytime between now and the deadline, August 31 at midnight New York time. If you do more than one painting, upload only your best and delete any previous entries.
• I'll pick one Grand Prize, five Finalists, and one Multimedia winner. The winners will be published on the blog GurneyJourney. All the winners will receive an exclusive "Department of Art" embroidered patch. In addition, all the prize winners will receive one of my videos (DVD or download) of their choice.
• Winners will be presented on the blog on Thursday  Sunday, September 3.
Paint a Storefront event page on Facebook

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Art and Discomfort

Stanhope Forbes (1857-1947) and the painters of The Newlyn School created their art under trying conditions.

They generally painted multi-figure compositions from live models, overcoming all the challenges of wind, weather, changing light, and curious locals from the fishing village of Cornwall, England.

Forbes said:
"I have often found the success of a picture to be in inverse ratio to the degree of comfort in which it has been produced. I scarcely like to advance the theory that painting is more successful when carried on in discomfort, and with everything conspiring to wreck it, for fear of rendering tenantless those comfortable studios the luxury of which my good friends in the Melbury Road and St. John's Wood so much enjoy."

The Melbury Road and St. John's Wood artists he was referring to were probably people like Frederic, Lord LeightonGeorge Frederick WattsGeorge Du Maurier and Philip Hermogenes Calderon.

These fixtures of the Royal Academy were known for their historical subjects, elaborate costumes, and their lavish social gatherings.

Forbes also worked in the studio, but he and the other artists in Cornwall, found a way to combine the insights of French Impressionism with the practice of multi-figure composition.
The quote comes from the book: British Impressionism
A good book on the Newlyn School is: Stanhope Forbes and the Newlyn School
Stanhope Forbes: Father of the Newlyn School
Previously: Newlyn School: Painting Outdoors

Friday, August 4, 2017

Zig-Zags at the Zoo

Zig Zags at the Zoo was a lighthearted illustrated feature that appeared in London's Strand Magazine in the 1890s.

The articles were written by Arthur Morrison and illustrated by James Affleck Shepherd. Each article featured a different animal, such as a bear (above), lion, camel, simian, and fish.

Like the work of T. S. Sullivant and Heinrich Kley, Shepherd's drawings show the animals in different anthropomorphic guises, clearly based on observation.
Find Out More
Zig Zags at the Zoo Strand Magazine (free download at
All the articles collected on Project Gutenberg
J.A. Shepherd in the blog Yesterday's Papers
Series on Anthropomorphism on GurneyJourney

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Dead Vehicle Challenge Results

The Dead Vehicle Challenge invited you to go outside to paint a car, truck, or bus that didn't work anymore. The response was overwhelming, with more than 70 entries. Many of you in Europe and Asia said it was difficult to find abandoned cars. Some of you had to deal with extreme heat, mosquitos, wind, and rain.

I was very impressed with the results, and it was hard to choose winners. In addition to the announced awards, I added two special awards: Best Story and Plein-Air Family.

FINALIST: Spencer Meagher
Since this was in transparent watercolor, all the highlights had to be planned. It's well drawn, the values are accurate, and the colors convey the rust and sunshine.

"This has been a fun challenge inspiring me to a deeper exploration of my surroundings."

"Once I began looking I discovered so many possibilities. I found this '51 Packard in a hidden boneyard of vintage vehicles. There is a quiet beauty that develops as these vehicles age."
FINALIST: Shari Blaukopf
It took me a second to realize what I was looking at. Creative angle and great subject.

"My dead vehicle is a van that is parked under the shade of a tree at a garage on St. Viateur St. in Montreal's Mile End district. The front windshield is all shattered and covered with leaves and dirt. It's not going anywhere for sure."

"I guess even the mechanics in the garage have given up on it. I wanted to paint a side view but the only bench in the shade was across the street facing the back. It was lots of fun to render the graffiti."

Another painting of a "painted" vehicle. The treatment of light and color, together with the surrounding plants, give an uptempo vibe to this cheery van

"Here's my entry. I often drive by this house about 2 miles from my home, and admire the old Ford van painted up as Scooby Doo's Mystery Machine. I knew I had to paint it before they towed it away, but never took time to meet them until this painting challenge. Thank you for the kick in the pants!"

"I work in animation, and was raised on Scooby Doo, so this old beauty was a natural attraction for me. It looks like Fred, Daphne and Velma have gone on their merry ways and Scooby and Shaggy have been living out of the Mystery Machine for awhile now."

"I got rained out of my first day of painting and had to return a few days later."

"P.S. I didn't use an easel for this one. I sat on the ground to get a more dramatic angle. Not sure I quite got it. My eyes need a wide angle lens!"
FINALIST: R Allen Harrington
The surfaces are convincing, and there's a great deal of attention to detail.

"This 1963 Pontiac Catalina is located behind an auto service garage that has been closed for quite some time, and has "For Sale" signs posted on the building. It appears that the contents of the building are are also for sale, and most likely this old Pontiac will be included as well. I visited the location 3 times to complete the painting, and never once saw another individual on or about this property or any of those adjacent to it...I learned from an acquaintance the owner of the shop parked the car there in the mid 1990's with plans to remove the 421 cubic inch V8 from it, but never achieved that goal. "

"From the looks of it, instead of losing the engine, it appears the car acquired an accumulation of automotive parts and cushions in the interior, along with a family of woodchucks living underneath. According to the windshield sticker, it was last registered in New Jersey in 1990. On my first visit I sketched the vehicle with pencil in a Strathmore Toned tan sketchbook, then I removed the page and stretched it in my studio on a piece of homosote board like I would do with watercolor paper; I used gouache and some watercolor as a painting medium when I worked on location. We had a week of clouds and rain in between my second and third visit, and during that time some one mowed and trimmed around it... I hope the woodchucks weren't too disturbed..."
This one is memorable and compelling because of the way it is hidden by foliage. Well painted foliage, by the way. 

"This clunker has been buried under a tangle of blackberries and ivy for at least 3 years. "

"It certainly qualifies as a dead vehicle. The challenge was painting something that is barely visible, and still have it recognizable."
GRAND PRIZE WINNER: Forrest Dickison
Forrest's painting stands out for its solid drawing, excellent value structure, convincing setting and attention to detail where detail is important, such as the cracked window.

"Dethroned" 6x8" gouache

"I drove about half a mile out of town and found this old, dead Dodge pickup truck, sporting ample amounts of rust and just a touch of chrome. Cheers!"

There were several videos submitted, and it was tough to choose between them, but the award goes to:

Will Pitney painted a prison bus, and created a short film (complete with stunt work and some bold locations) showing how he got authenticity for the prison experience. (Link to YouTube)

I'm adding this category to honor an entry with a moving human story behind the painting.

Dani Maupin
"Dieter and Yeti... 1972 Citroen 2cv and 1993 Dodge Ram diesel. Painted at my father's house. My father has had these cars for as long as I can remember. The Citroen he got when we were living in Germany, where I grew up. I remember driving all over France with him picking up two other Citroens to use as parts for Dieter when he broke down the first time. I've been under the hood of this car with him more than once, and helped choose the Charleston look for him the last time we repainted him."

"Right now, Dieter is a dead car, sitting in my father's driveway in Wisconsin, after having been dragged all over Europe and New England for years. Dieter is my car, my father says so (my brothers each have dibs on other classic European cars which my father owns) and I'm looking forward to spending a summer restoring Dieter with him."

"I love the little put-put feeling of his 2 cylinders. 20 years ago, when we repainted him (from white to silver-grey) my father let me paint 'Dieter the Duck' (as these cars are typically called ducks) on the trunk, and this visit I was very pleased to discover that my painting was still there. It's a strange thing to realize as an adult, that your father has always loved you enough that he let you help make so many powerful decisions about a car and never 'unmade' them, even 20 years later."

There were several families that went painting together, so I wanted to create a special award for an artist who brought the family along and got them all involved in the fun.
Greg Preslicka
Greg Preslicka with Evan Preslicka and Leah Preslicka.
"Midwest Military. I painted in the yard of this salvage yard for military vehicles. Three of my kids; Leah Evan and Alec, Leah's friend Haley and I painted for this challenge on an evening a couple of weeks ago."
The Preslicka Family
"Unfortunately a storm rolled in pretty quickly and only Evan, Alec and myself finished. The business was closed at the time so we were not able to talk with the owner and get some of the stories behind some of these hard working vehicles. I am sure there is a lot of history that they could tell us."

Alec Preslicka
Evan Preslicka
Head on over to the Facebook page to see all the rest of the entries in the Dead Vehicle Challenge. Thanks to everyone who entered and who tried something new.

For all who won the above awards, please email me your mailing address so I can send your Department of Art patch, and let me know which download or DVD you would like.