Thursday, May 30, 2013

Arthur L. Guptill's Books

Good old (available used for now) instruction books:

The book (this one's a reprint) is an overview in a way. Designed I guess for beginners, I still check it out for inspiration. If I'm being lazy about doing study sketches, cracking it open usually gets me in the mood.

Simple and straightforward.
There are also a few of these masterful drawings mixed in. Admittedly bearing little relation to a modern studio, it's a great drawing to study nonetheless--just look at it! I like the text, too. Guptill's words have been often quoted or re-mixed without credit. Lots of gems here if you take the time to read.

From Guptill's Rendering in Pen and Ink, still the all-time comprehensive pen and ink guide and overall drawing manual. This book is incredible--if you only owned one of the four listed here--this is the one!

I continue to learn new things from revisiting this book. Pretty much everything an artist needs to know about drawing and rendering (not just pen and ink) is included, from value to perspective to architecture to landscape.

In addition to instruction, there are sections containing pen and ink works by masters. Again, I recommend reading the text as well as looking at the pics--don't miss out.
Guptill manages to do it all for me with this volume--technique and inspiration!

 I also have his book, Rendering in Pencil. Not being much of a graphite renderer, I don't find it as enlightening as the book previously discussed, but that's just my bias. The next book though, is indispensable if you love watercolor:

From Watercolor Painting Step-by-Step by Arthur L. Guptill.
There are a ton of expensive, slick-but-empty "how-to-paint-watercolor" books out there. Do yourself a favor--ignore most of them, find this one, and read it. You'll save some money and you won't find a better overall textbook for learning and re-discovering what watercolor's all about.

Maybe the thing I love best about Guptill is his profound knowledge yet refusal to be absolute. His writing style contains specific instruction without being dismissive of the many approaches an artist can take to make pictures. Only one example; this book allowed me to discover the use of white at a time when all my instructors were condemning that use as "not true watercolor".

I don't think any of these books are still in print, but used copies are still available on the internet. I have trouble not buying more copies of Rendering in Pen and Ink or Watercolor Painting Step-by-Step when I see them in used bookstores--have to talk to myself in order to pass them by.

Hope you found this helpful. Thanks for reading.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Leaving Home

Detail of a recent painting.

An artist's life is pretty sedate (translate to "boring except to the artist").  At least that's this artist's life.
Having some coffee, getting the dreaded social-media/internet/business out of the way, and heading up to the sanctuary of the studio.  A quick review of the previous day's work, choosing the music, and finally disappearing into the little world currently on the drawing table for the next 8 hours.
The process for this painting follows:

The door painting idea had its inception with these study sketches of boots. As I was drawing them, the picture concept jumped into my head. 
Boots to walking to traveling to leaving home. 
I guess.

 Then the concept of the door took shape and I threw out a rough page of sketches

after photographing this meticulously-devised prop.

I worked out another very rough sketch of the door character.
Then I painted the picture.

The Green Door Leaves Home. Oil on canvas, 6" x 18".

The idea of a door wrenching itself out of its frame and hitting the road pleased me quite a bit, probably because most days I really only leave my home in my head.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Good Triggers: Books for Kids

 Yeah, it's a cliche, but it's true nonetheless; books are good for kids. They were great for me. 
The above illustration is by Richard Doyle, from The King of the Golden River.
It scared me, blew me away (no pun intended), and planted the seed that was to grow into my life's work. I'd have never known about Doyle, but for the fact that a set of ten volumes of children's classics came with the encyclopedias my parents bought for my brother and me back in the 60s.

 Still have the complete set. They were a centerpiece of my life as a kid, no kidding! I'd warily approach them on the bookshelf, because, like everything that was alluring to me then, I was also very afraid of them. Many of the poems and stories terrified me.
(Check out Robert Southey's Poem, God's Judgement on a Wicked Bishop for a healthy dose of Victorian violence  Yep, it was included in this set, and it was one I couldn't help re-reading over and over, even though it made nighttime hell). 

The illustrations were the best part though (Tenniel's Jabberwock among 'em)! They confused my terrifically overstimulate-able brain and haunted me, but I couldn't leave them be either.

My favorite volumes.
The ones I hauled back and forth to school; the ones opened and examined so often they ended up a bit tattered. They are full of the illustrations I copied as a kid, and the ones of the set I still look at most.

 Marley's Ghost by John Leech (Still my all time favorite rendition.)
I suppose because they were aimed at children, the black and white drawings (by the original illustrators) were overlayed with color.

Illustration by John Dickson Batten
 And sometimes, kind of unfortunately, the editors made the decision to replace the black line with color. Still, the illustrators were credited, which allowed me to research them as I got older. This set of books led me to many of the greats who still influence my art now; among them, John D. Batten, W. Heath Robinson, Arthur Rackham, and L. Leslie Brooke.

He wrote, but who knew Gilbert drew little guys too?
 Those books also allowed me to fall in love with poetry--especially nonsense poetry--and reading in general.

Even the endpapers were cool, although this illustrator was uncredited.

I know lots of parents cringe at the thought of their children wanting to be artists. Luckily, mine didn't. And also fortunately, they knew the value of books--even if they didn't guess that the little, poorly reproduced drawings in this set would become one of the most exciting parts of my childhood.

First copyrighted in 1938, The Junior Classics can still be found at thrift stores.
Thanks for the visit!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Break out the Oil?

 The Green Door Leaves Home (detail of a work in progress). Oil on canvas.

Just added another love to my media list: Water soluble oil paint--in this case Winsor & Newton Water Mixable Oil Colour.
Watercolor will always be on the list, and while I love acrylics, and have indulged in them for years, they tend to frustrate me because they dry so fast on the palette.

my biggest issue became mixing up a big grey pile of acrylic for color strings, and then having it all dry while I looked for a resource, fed the dog, or rummaged in the fridge. Scooping the paint into (so-called) airtight cups and storing those in baggies with wet paper towel kind of put me over the edge.

I am sure that a quicker brain (and slow-dry medium) would have helped, but my need for smarts proved unnecessary when a friend gave me a set of water soluble oils.
 They can be used over acrylics, they dry slowly enough for me to experiment, and they don't stink up my little studio space with solvents. 

Still life in progress

 Detail of still life in progress Oil on canvas.

Maybe I will stick with these oils exclusively, maybe not. Ambivalence strikes again. 
I've pretty much accepted that as my lot, so I'll roll with being decisively uncertain. And enjoy the daily medium-of-choice, whatever it will be.

As always, thanks for the visit!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Wizard of Oz Clocks

 The Set

Being pretty obsessed with clocks and faces, making new clocks is mostly a pleasure.  Although finding good, old, non-working clocks is getting more difficult, the hunt for them is also a good time. The clock repair that will fix a burnt out electric clock is rare-to-non-existent in these parts, so I don't feel bad gutting a busted one and replacing the works with a quartz movement.

In fact, that's usually the hardest part for me--jerry-rigging is not my strong suit. Almost always, figuring out a way to get the movements attached to the clock in a stable manner takes more time than painting the faces.

Oz the Great and Terrible. Approx. 7" x 6.5"

The Scarecrow. Approx. 5" x 4"
The clocks really do have two hands--I just photographed them (unfortunately) at ten to ten.

The Cowardly Lion. Approx. 5.5" x 4.25"

 The Wicked Witch of the West. Approx. 6.25" x 5.25"

The Tin Woodsman.  Approx. 5" x 4.25". Private collection.

 I admire the John R. Neill illustrations from the Oz books, as well as the characters from the movie. Still, it's a blast to tackle the challenge of re-creating those kinds of iconic images.
I always swear I'll never do another clock after finishing a few, but that resolve has not proven out. Too fixated on timepieces and faces, I guess.
Check out a clock and face post here:

I hope you like these clocks as much as I do. At any rate, they'll soon be in my Etsy store.

Thanks for checking them out!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Sketchbook Project, Part Two

A post with some of the sketches from the inside of the book.  
Most of them are about cigarettes, rather than coffee--tobacco is very alluring.  I'm not a smoker, but I have indulged off and on in the past. I'm pretty sure I could love it, but it's too risky.

 Some of the sketches took lots of time, some were quick and experimental--like this one.

Must have really gotten into this one.

The roosterhead is the smart one I guess.

I'll leave now, ending with this coffee drinker.

Hope you found this a bit entertaining--I appreciate the visit!

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Sketchbook Project Benefits

I love sketchbooks. I work in one of mine every day. So a couple of years ago I signed up for The Sketchbook Project.

An inside page.

This is the front cover. It's acrylic paint on thick brown cover stock.

I am impressed with the Project's increasingly creative scope--it's grown so much, even in the past two years. I don't spend enough time looking over their site, but every time an email notice arrives from them I get intrigued by a new creative challenge.

I tell myself that sparing the time for another one of their projects is impossible, so haven't taken up one of their proposals since Coffee and Cigarettes (my chosen theme). It didn't generate attention or financial gain--I mailed it away and it sank soundlessly into the sea of other sketchbooks at the Brooklyn Art Library, probably never to be seen again. 
But I need to do another! Why?

Because it was an intensely creative experience totally free from thoughts of profit. I LOVED THAT!

The dichotomy of creativity/selling art has been discussed countless times, so I won't go into it here, but committing to The Sketchbook Project ended up being a total gift. How? 
Among many things, it resulted in:

1. Pure imaginative play
2. Total freedom to experiment with media
3. Fresh ideas that spawned many more artworks
4. Stretching my creative brain like a balloon
5. Accelerating and firming up my increasing (and valued) ability to make what I want and ignore the "money" thing that lurks in one corner of my mind
6. Some discipline (even though I hate that word and concept, I do need a bit of it)

Was it a pain? Sometimes. But most times I looked forward to the relief of drawing in the book after spending the day working at paintings for sale. I managed, in about three months, to fill the sketchbook's 40 pages by the deadline.

If you haven't checked out The Sketchbook Project, do it! The people who conceived the idea and continue to grow it are geniuses, and their projects are varied and exciting.

 The inside-back cover.

I'll post more of the inside sketches next.
Thanks for the visit--and do yourself a favor; click the link:

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Oz the Great and Terrible and Clock Assembly

Oz the Great and Terrible. Watercolor.

The Oz watercolor really doesn't look like the above image, which is a Hipstamatic "tintype" version. I do love Hipstamatic.

 The clock bodies and all five completed faces, ready for assembly. 
Putting them together is the hardest part, as each old clock has a different type of interior, and I want to make sure the batteries are easily replaceable without a chance of messing up the faces.

So it takes a bit of thought, experimentation, and trips to the hardware store to get them up and running.

I'll post them completed when they are completed!

Thanks for the visit!

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