Friday, December 15, 2017

Digging in the Front Yard

When I was a kid growing up in Los Altos, California, I dug holes in my front yard looking for a lost civilization or a new dinosaur. My friends’ mothers wouldn’t let them play with me after school because they came home with their pockets full of dirt. I went on to major in anthropology at UC Berkeley and joined real archaeological and paleo excavations. My childhood dreams came true when I was sent on assignment by National Geographic to travel to dig sites with archaeologists to help them reconstruct life in the ancient world.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

I'll be teaching next summer at IMC

Art by Kent Williams
Join me in the summer of 2018 for a workshop in Massachusetts called IMC, (also known as Illustration Master Class) 

At IMC you spend the week painting with instructors from the realm of Imaginative Realism: Julie BellDonato GiancolaBoris Vallejo, Greg ManchessScott M FischerDan Dos Santos, Irene Gallo Tara McPherson Kent Williams and me, James Gurney! There are just a handful of spots left.

IMC (aka Illustration Master Class)

Proposed Rockwell Sale Under Investigation

(Stephan Schuetze/Bild Zeitung via Getty Images, link)
Secret documents reveal that the Berkshire Museum was pressured to sell off their Norman Rockwell originals by a Boston consulting firm. 

For now, the planned liquidation of their most valuable and beloved artwork has been been halted by the Massachusetts Attorney General as the investigation continues.  

Let us hope that Sotheby's will release the Museum from their fees if the Museum decides to call off the sale and raise money the old fashioned way—by showing great art to the community and asking for their support.

More on ArtNet

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Curvature Blindness Illusion

A series of paired lines passes through areas of white, grey, and black. The lines remain the same throughout. They have a consistent wavy (sinusoidal) shape. 

The difference between the sets is the placement of light and dark segments: one set has the tone change at the bottom of the curve.

As the sets of lines pass through the grey area, some of them seem to take on an angular, zig-zag quality. The effect is extremely compelling.

Psychologist Kohske Takahashi of Chukyo University of Japan discovered the illusion. He suggests that when the brain's visual system is faced with ambiguous cues about whether it's seeing curved or straight-segmented lines, it favors the angular cues:

"The underlying mechanisms for the gentle curve perception and those of obtuse corner perception are competing with each other in an imbalanced way and the percepts of corner might be dominant in the visual system."
For a high level discussion, read the comments after the Discover Magazine blog post.
Thanks to several of you who let me know about this.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Animation Tests

(Link to video)  Here are a few animation tests — Sprocket runs,  eats paper,  and Clement grabs some power ups.

Here's a still frame showing the motion blur and live-action dynamics captured in-camera.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Image Translation

A new machine-learning algorithm can take a photo of a street scene and translate the image to another time of day or another weather condition. 

For example, the photo on the left shows is taken from a car on a rainy day. On the right, the computer translates the scene into a sunny day with a blue sky. 

Here the algorithm does the opposite, translating a photo of a sunny day (left) into a virtual image of the same scene in rainy conditions (right).

The night-to-day translations are impressive because there seems so little information to start with in the photo at left, and the change is so radical.

The system can also translate a photographic street scene into a graphic that looks like it comes from a video game — or it can take a still from a video game and make it look more photographic. 

It can also change the hair color of a person, or alter a dog from one breed to another. 

This machine-learning technology, driven by generative adversarial networks, is progressing very quickly, so any weaknesses or limitations we see in the results now will be overcome rapidly.

We can no longer say "Photos don't lie." 
Read More:
Google photo collection with lots more pairs of examples.
Scientists' paper as a PDF
Video Game Graphics To Reality And Back

Related Posts
Text-to-Image Synthesis
Generative design resembles Art Nouveau
Morphing Celebrities

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Gurney Art on Instagram

If you do Instagram, please check out my daily feed. It includes pages from my sketchbooks, behind-the-scenes process art, Dinotopia illustrations, and just plain fun.

Here are the top nine posts from 2016.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

What about that rule?

Art by Dean Cornwell, a "grandstudent" of Pyle
Limn asks:
"Given that you are a huge fan of Howard Pyle (as am I!) there is the principle that he and many illustrators since have talked about. The principle regarding limiting a piece to 2 or 3 (or Loomis' 4) values and having a piece have stopping power from several yards away. However, there are many pictures where this is not the case."

Art by Piotr Jablonski

"I am attaching one such example by Piotr Jablonski (who is PHENOMENAL). He tends to use very heavy shadows and condensed values. So is this an example of what Loomis talks about with a value structure that is low key? Or is this example I have provided simply breaking the Howard Pyle rule? If so, when do you think this is an appropriate strategy/structure to utilize?"

Hi, Limn,
Wow, that is a very striking and memorable image, and you're right: it doesn't really follow the Pyle / Loomis rule. This one is successful, but maybe not so much in a poster-like way. It seems to depend on mystery and suggestion, achieved through gradation and close values. The values are definitely low key as you say, and the image would probably work best when not surrounded by bright white computer screen.

I suppose the lesson here is that the Pyle rule works for making a certain kind of picture, but maybe not for all kinds of pictures. So my advice is to learn all the tricks, be sensitive to how they affect you emotionally, then have them in your toolkit for when you need them.
Previously: Cure for Middle Value Mumbling
Loomis's Scheme for Value Organization

Friday, December 8, 2017

How Do You Get a Book Published?

Painting by Ernest Meissonier
Christina asks: "What's the process was like for getting your books Color and Light and Imaginative Realism published? I recently finished a book manuscript...and I don't really have any idea of what to do next. I'd really appreciate any pointers or advice you could give me!"

Max asks: "I have been working on a novel that I would like to turn into an illustrated book. I have no idea how to go about this kind of thing and was hoping for some guidance. You have published many books, so I was hoping to pick your brain about what needs to be done."

Max and Christina, in a nutshell, here's how:

1. Use social media to focus your book idea and to develop a fan base.

2. Develop your book idea to a point that a publisher has enough information to make a decision on it. They need to know that you have a good idea, and they need to trust that you can deliver everything on time. For a nonfiction book, I'd suggest developing at least a comprehensive outline and a sample chapter. For a long-form illustrated novel, I think you'd need at least an outline and 10-20 sample pieces of art. If it's a written novel or a short children's book, and you're both writer and illustrator, you will probably want to have the whole thing completed.

3. Find out which publishers have actually published books similar to what you envision.

4. Study out their submission guidelines, and follow them.

5. Submit your presentation to one publisher at a time, starting with the best candidate. If they reject it, move on to the next one. Take note if they give you any suggestions.

6. Check out the website and the regional meetings of the SCBWI, the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, a group designed to help you develop your ideas and get them published.

Max, In your case, I'm not sure what you mean by a novel that you want to turn into an illustrated book, but keep in mind that the publisher is usually the one to choose the illustrator, and that commissioning art can get very expensive. In the event you have an illustrator in mind, you might want to try to team up with them and do the book as a Kickstarter project.

Remember: It can be challenging enough to write a book and get it published. But what's even more challenging is getting it distributed, advertised, reviewed, and kept in stock. Doing all that successfully requires a dedicated creative collaboration between the author and the publisher, a commitment that goes far beyond just writing, illustrating, printing, and binding.
Blog post: [Where I talk about my plans for Color and Light]How About a Book
Helpful resourceWriter's Market 2018

Thursday, December 7, 2017

1911 Book of Funny Cat Pictures

People have been captioning funny cat photos for more than a hundred years. This one, titled "I AM THE QUEEN," is from a 1911 book called "Kittens and Cats: A First Reader," available for a free download from
Courtesy: The Public Domain Review

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Winslow Homer Goes to England

An exhibition currently at the Worcester Art Museum focuses on the time that American artist Winslow Homer (1836–1910) spent in England and how it affected his later art.

Winslow Homer, Hark! The Lark, 1882,
The show is based on two major works by Homer, and it includes a lot of his drawings and watercolors. Homer's work shows the influence of well-known English artists such as J. M. W. Turner and Lawrence Alma-Tadema....

Breton, The Lark
....and some French painters such as Jules Breton.

It also includes the work of some lesser known artists such as John Robertson Reid, whose 1879 painting "Toil and Pleasure" shows some fieldworkers watching the hunt go by in the distance.

Winslow Homer, The Gale, 1883-93, American, 1836-1910, Oil on canvas
The show is accompanied by a catalog published by the Yale University Press which authoritatively explores how these artistic encounters affected Homer and his work.

According to the authors, "he attempted to reconcile his affinity for traditional subject matter with his increasingly modern aesthetic vision. Coming Away complicates our understanding of his work and convincingly argues that it has more cosmopolitan underpinnings than previously thought."
Catalog: Coming Away: Winslow Homer and England, hardbound, 168 pp., more than 79 color plates.
Exhibition: Coming Away: Winslow Homer and England" at the Worcester Art Museum through February 4, 2018. It then continues at the Milwaukee Art Museum starting March 2.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Robotic Bipedal Walker

(Link to YouTube). Here's a stylish way to travel around the neighborhood. It just needs an ornate carriage, a trunk for sketching supplies, and a few puffs of steam.
Thanks, Jake Parker

Mrs. Basher vs. Big Soda

(Link to video on Facebook) Mrs. Basher won't let Mountain Dew stand in her way.

I did the animation outdoors at a festival, and it was a challenge to focus my attention and screen out distractions.

I love the quote that "animation is concentration," and that's one of the reasons I like doing it.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Pigcasso, The Pig Who Paints

(Link to video)

Pigcasso is a 450lb pig in Cape Town, South Africa. She was rescued from the slaughterhouse by Joanne Lefson.

Ms. Lefson introduced Pigcasso to paint and brushes, and trained her with strawberries as the reward.

Now Pigcasso seems to enjoy wielding the brush. Her tastes tend toward abstraction, with an energetic and gestural sense of mark-making. 

Lefson says Pigcasso likes to paint landscapes beside the ocean and that she signs her work at the end by dipping her nose in white paint and dabbing the finished canvas.
Metro UK: Meet Pigcasso
Previously on GJ:
Why Do Chimps Paint?
Chimp and Elephant Art
Animals are Not Fauvists

Sunday, December 3, 2017

How did you prepare for your career?

A writer asked me a few questions about becoming an artist. 

1) What kinds of education, training, and practice did you do to prepare for your career? Anything special you’d recommend?
I had a general liberal arts education before I went to art school. I graduated first from UC Berkeley with an anthropology major. This turned out to be ideal preparation for doing archaeological illustration for National Geographic, though I didn't anticipate that when I was choosing a major. I was just taking classes that interested me.

I went to art school after my liberal arts education, but I left after two semesters, for three reasons. 1) It was expensive and I didn't want to be in debt. 2) The school I was attending wasn't teaching the information I was hungry to learn. 3) I started finding paying work in the movies and publishing that was much more challenging and interesting than what my friends were doing in art school.

As a result, I'm almost entirely self-taught in art. I signed up for a membership to the zoo and sketched live animals twice a week. I drew skeletons at the natural history museum. I developed my own curriculum of self-teaching based on the Famous Artists Course from the 1950s, How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way, Andrew Loomis’s book Creative Illustration, and the teaching methods from the 19th century French academy, which involved fairly detailed anatomy and cast drawing. All this self-teaching from books was combined with daily outdoor painting which became such a passion that I ended up coauthoring a book on the subject for Watson-Guptill called The Artist's Guide to Sketchingin 1982.

2) What are the most important skills to practice and/or master in your artistic genre?
I think traditional drawing and painting skills will always be valuable—things like anatomy, perspective, caricature, and multi-figure composition. Those skills transcend styles and fads and they're surprisingly rare these days.

My main influences were from before my time. Norman Rockwell was my childhood hero. As a high school student, I learned how to do hand-lettered calligraphy, and made my first income from designing wedding invitations. I got a job doing engraved line illustrations for ring ads in the newspaper. It wasn’t paying the bills. My big break was getting a job painting backgrounds for an animated film called Fire and Ice, co-produced by Ralph Bakshi and Frank Frazetta, and released in 1983. It was a marathon of painting, because I had to paint about 600 paintings in a year and a half. Whenever I have needed new skills for my career, I just teach them to myself.

3) Do you have any recommendations for a person just starting out in the field?
1. If you put together a portfolio, show only your best work——eight pieces at the least and sixteen pieces at the most. Start and finish with your best pieces.

2. Don’t rely solely on electronic media to make contact with people in the business. Try to meet the art buyer. Go to conventions. Take workshops. And don’t overlook mailing traditional paper letters and printed leave-behinds. Since so few people do it these days, you might get your work up on someone’s bulletin board.

3. Always express a can-do attitude. On your first job, do twice as good a job as anyone would expect, and deliver it early. Make every published work your very best, regardless of the deadline or the budget. Then be sure to deliver more than you promise.

4. Some parts of the arts industry are more competitive than others. Fewer people think of scientific illustration or toy design, for example, compared to movie concept art. And within the field of concept art, many more people try to break into character design than environment design. I don’t think young artists should worry about standing out or developing a unique style. I think it’s more important to be able to draw nature faithfully and express visual ideas clearly without calling attention to style. Too often art schools push young artists to develop a distinctive style before they’ve even begun to master the basics.

5. Finally, to make a living by your art nowadays, you don't necessarily have to worry about winning the approval of the traditional gatekeepers (such as art directors, galleries, and movie studios) anymore. Thanks to Kickstarter, Gumroad, Patreon, YouTube and other crowd-based publicity and monetization strategies, you can assemble your own crowd and they can support you directly as you make your art. Start your own studio! Publish your own stuff! You can make art in the intersection of what you love to create and what people want to buy. That's why this is potentially the best time to be a young artist to enter the art world. But it takes persistence, grit, determination, flexibility, patience, and an understanding "significant-other".
For tips on developing your social media strategies, check out the post: 72 Tips for Sharing Art on Social Media
For the best books to use for self teaching, check out: Best How-To Art Books and Art Students Survival Guide

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Flagg's Poster "Tell That to the Marines"

James Montgomery Flagg is best known for his poster of Uncle Sam pointing and saying "I want YOU for the U.S. Army."

He painted many other recruitment posters for World War I, some of which were staged as publicity stunts.

He set up his oversize canvas in New York City and climbed up a ladder as a model stood on a box.


The steps of the New York Public Library became the main location for these events. On some occasions, Flagg would offer to draw a portrait on the spot of anyone who pledged to buy a $1,000 Liberty Bond.

A platoon of Marines with fixed bayonets marched around him. The poster proved so popular that Al Jolson wrote a song based on the line "Tell That to the Marines."

This story is one small part of the new issue of Illustration Magazine, which is entirely devoted to James Montgomery Flagg (1877-1960). The article is 72 pages long and amply illustrated, with a biography by Dan Zimmer that captures the complexities of the irascible showman-artist.
Illustration Magazine's special issue on Flagg.
Previous posts: 
James Montgomery Flagg is the standard monograph.
Roses and buckshot is his autobiography.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Portrait of a Marina Flooded by Sandy

Over Thanksgiving we visited Jeanette's cousin Paul, who owns a boatyard in Long Island.

I did a painted sketch of his shop and forklift, which he put back together after they were flooded with 11 feet of salt water. Paul Paolucci tells the story. (Link to Video).

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Zorn's Mephisto

Anders Zorn was in Madrid seeking portrait commissions when one morning, on a whim, he decided to paint a Swedish consul as Mephisto (the demon from German folklore who tempted Faust). 

He wrote to his wife Emma: "This morning I couldn’t paint what I was supposed to, but then Consul Dalander from Valencia came up to the studio and, as a joke, I painted him as Mephisto, quite a pretty joke in fact." 

Previously on the blog: Zorn's painting of an executioner
Exhibition: of Anders Zorn at Le Petit Palais in Paris through December 17

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Harry Anderson book on its way

The Art of Harry Anderson is the next in the lavish series of hardcover monographs from The Illustrated Press, the small company that previously produced the books on Tom Lovell, Jon Whitcomb, and Dean Cornwell.

Born in 1906, Harry Anderson is best known as for his magazine illustrations of children and romantic situations, probably the hardest subjects to pull off successfully.  

He was always a resourceful colorist. Look how the painting above is restricted almost entirely to blue-green, red-violet, and yellow ochre.

Although I haven't actually held the book in my hands yet, it will start off with a short biography, but the bulk of the pages will be devoted to big, beautiful color illustrations — 300 of them in the 224 page hardbound book. I wish all art books gave so much space to art.

There are representative examples from all the categories of art he was engaged in: editorial, advertising, calendar, religious, and gallery art. 

Much of the art in the book is reproduced from originals, but some is printed from vintage tearsheets. I like seeing those too because it gives a sense of the graphic presentation in the magazine layouts, so characteristic of the time.

The standard edition is $44.95 USD, and there's also a special edition for $64.95 that comes in a custom slipcase and is limited to 100 copies. Both editions are hardbound, 12 x 9 inches.

You'll never see these books at Barnes and Noble or a museum bookstore, because it just doesn't pay for small publishers like the Illustrated Press to deal with brick-and-mortar retail accounts or to warehouse an overly large printing. The earlier books, The Art of Jon Whitcomb and Tom Lovell—Illustrator books have sold out, and are only available on the secondary market at much higher prices. The Dean Cornwell book was brought back into print by popular demand and is still available.
You can preview the entire book online and preorder the book now at Illustrated Press. Shipping is expected to take place in March of 2018.