Monday, January 22, 2018

Analysis of a Watson Lino Print

Ernest Watson created this linoleum block print called "Mousehole in Cornwall."

As you look at the image, can you guess how many plates he used, and in what order they were printed?

Answers below (scroll down):

There are four plates. Fortunately, Mr. Watson isolated them for us.

1. He starts with a pale yellow shape under the entire silhouette of the buildings. The yellow was probably not quite as dark as it appears below.

2. A graded blue-green plate goes under the large areas of the sky and water. A few of the birds are cut out to the white of the paper, and he has also cut out some sparkles in the water.

3. A plate for the shadows of the buildings. These shadows overlay the initial pale yellow run. This plate is inked unevenly to give it texture and to make some of the birds darker.

4. Finally, a dark blue-green key plate provides the windows, ropes, wavelets, and details of the figure.

Watson was able to multiply the effect of each of plates 2 and 3 by inking them with more than a single color. He said: "It is quite possible to 'paint' rather freely with the rollers in this manner, producing an infinite variety of gradations of hues."

Quiet Anchorage, lino cut by Ernest Watson.
This sequential thinking is similar to the way watercolor and gouache painters typically plan a picture, painting large color areas first, and adding the details later.
Online article by Ernest Watson: "Color Printing from Relief Blocks"
Books by Ernest Watson: 
Image: courtesy, which has more samples of his prints. Thanks, Thomas Watson for building the website.
Previous Posts:
The El Dorado Page (pencil drawings by Watson)
American Artist (1937-2012) (Watson was co-founder of the magazine)

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Snowbank in Reflected Light

I painted a gouache study of a snowbank catching reflected light off the side of the house.

I posted it on my Facebook and Instagram channels. (Link to video on Facebook). People had good questions, so here they are in the form of a Q and A.  

How do you choose the color for an underpainting? 
I chose the underpainting color because it’s the average color of snow in shadow on a sunny day (unless the shadow is varied by reflected light, as happens here).

How long did this actually take? 
The painting took about 45 minutes. The light was changing fast, so I had to work quickly.

How did you shoot the time lapse?
Both the live video and the time lapse are shot with a a Canon EOS M6 mirrorless camera. The time lapse is set for 1 second intervals, so it compresses a minute into a second. The nice thing about that camera is that it has a built in intervalometer, so all you have to do is press record and it compiles the shot into an MP4 file for you.

How do your keep your hands warm? Don't your hands start to stiffen at some point?
It wasn't too cold--Just about 36 degrees or so, a little above freezing, and I wasn't out there too long.

A little above freezing? What is your "uniform" for this weather?
I had long underwear, both top and bottom, wool socks, and an insulated canvas vest over my "Department of Art" uniform shirt, plus a knitted hat. I was wishing for my Filson insulated hat with earflaps and a brim. The brim helps when painting contre-jour.

What is more likely to cause gouache to crack, if the underlying layer is too absorbent or if it's less absorbent.. sometimes it feels like a mystery to me. also some colors tend to crack way more than other in the same brand?
I haven't had issues with gouache cracking, but maybe that's because I'm using it relatively thinly.

Yeah, you are right. when thinking about it, it never happens with semitransparent layers, only when working opaque/thick. Problem for me is that when doing concept work it's very hard for me to predict the final shade of a transparent layer. Interesting thing to note, colors that cracked/peeled has always been a transparent or synthetic modern pigment. I never had a problem with cadmium/cobalt/chrome/iron(earth) based pigments. Maybe it has to do with opacifiers?
Yes, it could be the opacifiers, as they tend to be chalky and brittle. Two things might help: 1) Work on a panel or illustration board if you're not already. 2) Also you can strengthen the emulsion (the glue-like material in the paint) by mixing in some gum arabic binder into your mixtures, especially when you're using it thickly. Experiment by making test impastos of different composition and see which one holds up the best.

What kind of sketchbook are you using?
It's a Pentalic watercolor journal. The paper is heavyweight cotton rag, which you can use for drawing, but it also works for watercolor, gouache, acrylic or casein, as long as you don't use them too thickly.

How did you learn landscape painting?
I alternate between studying work of the past and trying out ideas in front of nature. A lot of my methods are unconventional and non-traditional. When I study the art of the past, I'm at least as interested in their thought process and their philosophy as in their practical techniques and materials.

Do you have questions? Ask away in the comments!
Previous post on Gouache Materials List

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Alphonse Mucha Exhibition in Upstate New York

Superstar actress Sarah Bernhardt desperately needed a poster for her play Gismonda.

But the three top poster artists were on vacation. So she turned to a little-known Bohemian artist named Alphonse Mucha.

The rush order came on Christmas Day. The final was due January 1.

Mucha delivered on time. His poster was narrow and tall—7 feet tall—not the square format others used. It was full of detail, with many layers of muted colors. Each color had to be separately drawn on huge stone lithographic plates.

Mucha's poster was displayed throughout the streets of Paris in January of 1895. The "street galleries" generated as much passionate art talk as did the oil paintings in the Salon.

His design looked nothing like the ones by Toulouse Lautrec or Jules Chéret or any of the other poster specialists in Paris. Everyone was enraptured by his distinctive brand of confident femininity, ornate botanical detail, and extravagant pattern.

The Gismonda poster so enchanted Bernhardt that she signed him to a multi-year contract. After years of relative obscurity, he was the toast of artistic Paris, an overnight success.

This photo wasn't taken at the Hyde Collection,
but it's from the same show in another location.
The Gismonda poster was the first thing to greet us as we entered the exhibition ALPHONSE MUCHA: MASTER OF ART NOUVEAU, Selections from the Dhawan Collection, which opened last weekend at the Hyde Collection in Glens Falls, New York.

Mucha unleashed a torrent of creativity. He contributed designs not only to posters, but also to menus, books, calendars, furniture, jewelry, cigarette advertisements, and chocolate boxes. He said, “I prefer to be someone who makes pictures for people, rather than who creates art for art’s sake.”

People called it 'Le Style Mucha' or 'Art Nouveau.' But Mucha preferred not to be labeled. He just believed that artistry belonged to everyone and that artistry should be lavished on every aspect of life.

He was so much in demand that he couldn't fill all his orders. So he produced an Art Nouveau Stylebook, with sample designs for various settings, encouraging others to absorb the ideas and adapt them to their needs.

The exhibition includes 63 major works plus books and ephemera, 75 works in all. There are a few original drawings and paintings, but the glory of the show is the selection of original color lithographs, which need to be seen in person to be fully appreciated. The lithos are huge and subtle, far more impressive in person than they appear in books.

Some of the lithos are more soft and painterly than I expected, and they reward close examination. These works demonstrate the academic foundation to his skills. Mucha studied at the Munich Academy, and then at Academie Julien with Boulanger and Lefebvre, continuing at the Academie Colarossi, and finally under Jean-Paul Laurens (source).

The exhibit has a whole room of Mucha's later work leading up to the Slav Epics, including an original ink drawing that shows how he used stippling and hatching. His later work is exotic and expressive, infused with mysterious Masonic symbolism and a passion for Czech nationalism.

The show is curated by Gabriel Weisberg of the University of Minnesota, an expert on academic painting. Even if you can't make it to the show, there's an illustrated museum publication in PDF form that you can download here for free.

To celebrate its Mucha exhibition, the Museum will be hosting costume events, musical concerts, and free educational experiences for school-age children. As Interim Director Anne Saile told us, "The Museum is more than just the artwork on the walls."

Museum information.
The Hyde Collection is located in Glens Falls, just off the New York I-87 Northway, about four hours north of New York City or three hours south of Montréal. The show will continue in Glens Falls through March 18. It continues to Texas A&M in September.

Five best books on Mucha
Alphonse Mucha: Masterworks Emphasizes his posters and decorative work with large color reproductions.
Alphonse Mucha pub. by Prestel Oversize, 354 pages, with his photo reference in back, good selection of drawings and Slav Epics.
Alphonse Maria Mucha Text by Mucha's son Jirí Mucha gives extensive insight into Mucha's life and work.
Mucha: The Triumph of Art Nouveau Contains many prints, jewelry, drawings, and photos not included in other books.
Art Nouveau Stylebook, also called Documents Decoratifs, this is a Dover reproduction of Mucha's influential style book.

Previous posts
Mucha's Le Pater
Sarah Bernhardt's Leg
Mucha's Hearst Magazine Covers
Scaling Up with a Grid

Friday, January 19, 2018

Thursday, January 18, 2018

E.G. Lutz and Drawing Made Easy

Edwin Lutz was the author of the first how-to book I ran across as a kid.

Lutz's great-great nephew has created a tribute website about his illustrious ancestor, who among other things inspired the young cartoonist Walt Disney to make moving drawings.

I wrote the following for the tribute section for the new website:

There was an old copy of Drawing Made Easy on the shelf of my home when I grew up. It belonged to my mom when she was little, and the cover was hanging on by a thread. When I was just 7 or 8 years old, I was fascinated right away by the funny character types and the old fashioned locomotives and automobiles. I was also intrigued by the method of drawing that it presented, illustrated with a very clear series of steps. The method struck me then—and it still strikes me now—as a sensible way to draw anything. By starting with simple shapes and straight lines bounding the outside of the form, you can subdivide the geometry of anything down to smaller and smaller details. It really does make the process of drawing much easier. As I've learned more about art and how it has been taught over the centuries, I keep coming back to Mr. Lutz's clear-headed, practical, and whimsical approach as being the best doorway into the world of drawing.

E.G. Lutz website
Drawing Made Easy From Amazon.
Drawing Made Easy with intro signed by me, from my online store.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Oscar Droege's Color Woodblock Prints

Oscar Droege was a German artist who worked in the medium of the color woodblock print or Farbholzschnitt. 

The color woodblock print (sometimes called a "color woodcut") is a printing process where multiple wooden plates are relief-printed.

Each plate is inked with a different color, including opaque light colors. Note how one of the plates is lighter and cooler than the paper. Smooth gradations can be achieved while inking the plate. Note how the far mountains are lost in mysterious atmospherics.

Sometimes many plates are needed. The detailed dark lines are printed last. The effect can be lyrical and poetic, while at the same time it carries strong poster-like impact.

The reflections of those two pilings are inked in the plate. The white foam on the water has a second plate for the slightly darker value.

Droege was born in 1898, serving in both World Wars. He was kept prisoner by the Soviets. During peacetime he traveled with a friend through Germany, France and Scandinavia on bicycles and paddle boats in search of subjects for his art. He died in 1983.

Learn more
Brief online biography of Oscar Droege
Examples of Farbholzschnitt (color woodblock prints)
Other practitioners of the color woodblock print include:
Carl Thiemann (1881-1966)
Martha Cunz (1876 -1961)
Josef Stoitzner (1884-1951)
Engelbert Lap (1886-1970)
Heine Rath (1873-1920)
Sherrie York is a young artist working today who carries on the tradition in color lino cut
YouTube: Hubert Pische demonstrates how to create a color woodcut (in German)