Sunday, December 17, 2017

Sargent's "Signet" Palette

Curators at the Harvard Art Museum have completed their study of one of John Singer Sargent's palettes, which was given to the Signet Society.

The palette still contains a lot of paint, and it's arranged in the normal way for a 19th century painter. The colors start with a large amount of white forward of the thumbhole, and proceed through the yellows, reds, browns, blues, greens and black at the back, or far left in this photo.

UV illumination reveals two kinds of white paint: lead and zinc. It also shows "numerous droplets of resinous material which fluoresces orange in UV, scattered predominantly around the white paint, and one reasonably large blob of wax on the palette surface."

The colors include vermilion, red lake, red ochre, yellow ochre, cadmium yellow, a green containing chromium, Prussian blue, cobalt blue, ultramarine, and umber. Observers watching him work said his colors were piled in "miniature mountains," and they were the ones in ordinary use, the earth colors predominating.

Although Sargent kept his brushes meticulously clean, he was not as scrupulous about keeping the colors on his palette separate from each other. The paint is mixed in the areas where the paint was squeezed out, rather than keeping the edge-colors distinct, as some painters do.

The palette was re-used without full cleaning, as revealed "by a darkened paint layer underneath the top layer, especially visible beneath the white paint."

Some of the paint is flattened from having something put on top of it before it was fully dry. One of the red pigments has a surface of paper applied to it, presumably to keep the paint active longer.

Julia Heyneman, a contemporary of Sargent, wrote that his palettes were weighted. The weight (probably lead) appears on the underside of the palette (lower left of image above), which is made of a double-thick layer of wood. There is also a metal fence made of zinc clipped to the edge of the palette that would touch the artist's left sleeve, preventing the paint from getting on Sargent's sleeve.
2017 Newsletter of the Signet Society of Harvard College
Pall Mall Gazette, 1907, Volume XXXIX, pages 643-651
Previously on GJ: Palette Arrangements
See Also: Another palette Harvard collection reputedly used by Sargent.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Disney's 'Tricks of the Trade'

(Link to YouTube Video) The decade of the 1930s was a pioneering era in animation. Artists at Disney Studios developed the new art form all the way from Steamboat Willie to Pinocchio.

The animators had to figure out the principles of character animation for themselves. As Disney says: "We took you into a unique schoolhouse where the pupils were their own teachers. They had to be because no one in the world could give them the answer to what they wanted to know."
The Art of Animation: The Story of the Disney Studio Contribution to a New Art This is one of the early books the Disney Studios published on animation.
The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation This book by two of the "Nine Old Men" is one of the standard reference books on the history and art of Disney animation.

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.