Saturday, February 26, 2011

Book Review: Color and Light by James Gurney

If you have been following my blog for a while, you probably know that I have no art background. I am nearly entirely self-taught; I learn by experimen-tation and by reading books. I like to share the books I have and find helpful with the hope of helping other artists.

James Gurney is the creator of Dinotopia and author of the blog Gurney Journey. I was drawn to this book because of the cover and the incredible reviews it has gotten on Well, guess what? There's a reason it has nothing but perfect five-star reviews. This book is incredible. It really has all the information on color and light that you ever really need. Let me give a quick run-down of the contents: sources of light (8 subsections, 2 pages each); light direction and shadows (13); elements of color (7); paint (9); color relationships (5); more about paint, including color schemes (6); visual perception (7); surfaces (10); atmospheric effects (17); changing light (2); resources (5).

The chapters that I found most useful were, frankly, all of them except the ones on paint (since I don't use paint). The atmospheric effects section was particularly insightful, including such topics as sunbeams, cloud shadows, fog, sky color, water transparency, and atmospheric perspective. The subsections on gamut mapping were also quite practicable. Not only does Gurney describe the different effects (in all chapters), but he demonstrates with his own paintings, many plein air, and he also explains in what circumstances you might use a particular sort of lighting (e.g. what kind of mood you want to convey).

All in all, if I could only keep one art book from my collection, it would have to be this one.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

WIP - Bull

The Highland bull is nearing completion. I've mostly finished the bull itself, but I need to work on the grass and sky.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Going Domestic

On the drawing board: a highland bull, my first farm animal. I'm back to the Mi-Teintes paper for this one (the color is that orange spot on the right). I wanted to get to that coat so much I started it before the background. I'm going to finish the trees and grass before I complete the bull.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Pastel Papers

I'm still testing out the water when it comes to pastels, but I want to share what I've learned about the three types of paper that I have used: Wallis sanded paper, Canson Mi-Teintes, and velour.

Wallis: I took a class on pastels several years ago, before I really got into drawing. The instructor said that a rough surface is best for pastels because the tooth really holds the pigment. Wallis is a great sanded paper, which means it feels like sandpaper. I would go so far to say it eats the pastel. I still had a few sheets left last year when I was deciding whether or not to buy a nice set of pastels, so I did a practice painting. What I discovered was this - the paper really does hold the pastel nicely, but you can't blend it with anything but your fingers (and that hurts after a while) and it's very hard to get a nice, crisp line if you need it.

Canson Mi-Teintes: Since my favorite paper for charcoal is smooth bristol, I wanted to try a paper with relatively little tooth. Mi-Teintes was recommended in several sources, so I got a pack of assorted colors. My first (and so far only) experience with it has been the jaguar painting. Mi-Teintes has a different texture on either side, so I went with the smoother side. Being a pastel paper, the smooth side is still toothy, so when you rub the side of a stick over it you still get patches that don't get filled in. What is really nice about this paper is how you can blend with anything - finger, stump, tissue. I found that laying down a layer of color and blending with a tissue is a great way to get good coverage. And the tooth also lets you put down several layers of pigment before it fills up. My only problem with it is it's sometimes hard to get complete coverage of an area without a lot of blending work.

Velour: I bought a sheet of velour paper on the recommendation of a book I read (and reviewed). My first experience with it was my wolf. At about $6 for a single 19.5" x 27.5" sheet, it's not cheap. It feels like peach fuzz but thicker. It's not very forgiving in that you can't erase. You can't really blend, either, but then you don't need to - the paper does it for you. It's a real joy to work on, and I think the extra cost is worth it.

I know there are more pastel papers out there, but these are the only ones I've tried. If I get around to more, I'll post a review.

Preparing for Sleep

This pastel painting was intended for me to practice drawing fur and also to try out velour paper. I'd like to say that I believe both were a success. The velour paper was perfectly suited to painting the soft fur of the wolf. In fact, I just started laying out another painting on "regular" paper and I don't like it nearly as much. Velour is much more expensive (about $6 for this one 19.5" x 27.5" sheet), but I'm thinking it's worth it!


Tuesday, February 08, 2011

WIP - Wolf - Moving Fast

I'm quickly getting the hang of the process involved in painting. This is going remarkably fast considering how big it is. I might even finish it by tomorrow! I'm sure that the velour paper is mostly the reason for this. It is so soft and takes the pastel so well.

Monday, February 07, 2011

WIP - Wolf

I recently started this wolf pastel painting, based on a photograph from Jason Morgan (used with permission). By the recommendation in a book a have by Lesley Harrison, I am trying out velour paper. This one is light gray and approximately 21"x27". I was unsure of the paper at first. I used up nearly half of a half-stick of pastel just filling in the dark area at the top. However, when I started the fur, I was pleasantly surprised. The softness of the paper lends itself very well to soft fur. I'm also using Lesley's descriptions on how to do underpainting, which I have little experience with. It is odd seeing a blue and purple wolf turn out to have nice browns and blacks. Also, the pastel covers the soft paper quickly, so even though this is a large paper, I don't think it will take very long to finish.