Sunday, November 15, 2009

James Gurney Guest Lecture

On 10/9/09 James Gurney visited CalArts. Overall, it was a very enjoyable and inspiring lecture . Anyways, here are my notes from that night:

Today, most artists strive to convey what they actually see, but as James put it, “What do you do to draw what you can’t see?”

Going back into the history of art, Greek mythology was a popular subject for the masters. Both students and teachers relied on models and rough sketches transferred on tracing paper to move around to create the appropriate arrangement. How James is able to achieve a believable world is based on the same practices, preliminary sketches, photo reference, models, etc.

The first step is always research. This is the most entertaining part of the process. Often when basing the painting off of a fossil, behavioral questions come up and help influence the final piece. Figuring out the shape vocabulary helps define the drawing of an animal. Looking at modern day animals also help. Here's a perfect example. Many different studies/sketches are done before the final. Here the composition is also taken into consideration—how to lead the eye around the painting. At this time, James gave a very interesting lecture on how we view a painting. Here’s a great article on his blog(one of hundreds).

Next, he talked about the use of actually building marquettes of the characters/sets he’s about the paint. By doing this he’s able to capture the nuances of lighting which help to really sell the believability. Cast shadows are also easier to figure out this way. I found another blog post in which he goes into great depth about it.

For pieces featuring human characters, he casts people to the appropriate parts. “Find people who are similar to the person you want to paint.” Get into the character and take control of the forms. We have to be in their shoes—to identify with them. This process leads to a more convincing painting. Photography is great. Especially for subjects that are moving. Go beyond what looks cool. Draw from life but push certain aspects. A great example can be seen right here.

And then here are some key phrases that I jotted down:

Students shouldn’t be married to the first idea. Don’t be happy with the first try.

Be knowledgeable of story---know the structure of story. Also important to understand how to work as a team and collaborate.

The best colors to choose for a painting can be found in food ads because they always have to be appealing.

Got to keep reworking a drawing until it works. Get all the bugs out. When the reject pile is taller than the final pile (accepted work), you’re on the right track.

Anyways, it was a very interesting talk and if anyone is curious, he has a new book out called, “Imaginative Realism” that that goes into great detail about his process--it's also a great read for any aviary artist:

Kiwi, though more of a digital artist, enjoys it too. :)

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