By Marc Taro Holmes in Montreal, QC
Plein-air artist, educator, and illustrator James Gurney has recently announced the latest in his series of instructional DVDs.
Portraits in the Wild takes on a new subject in the field-sketching series, bringing his ultra-portable mixed media sketching kit to the subject of portrait sketching on location.
By way of disclosure, James sent me a free preview of this latest video, which will be released to the public on June 13th.
I know Mr. Gurney from a few painting outings, and in fact, I'm visible sketching in the background of one of the video clips. As well, my own portrait, sketched at a post paint-out dinner the day before, ends up getting some screen time, as it happens to be on the page next to the demonstration.
Here's my own doodle from the other side of the dinner table: Greg Shea, James Gurney and Gavin Baker.
This collection of four demos is a natural follow-up to his earlier release Gouache in the Wild, carrying on with a mixed media approach using watercolor, water soluble pencils, gouache and casein all in combination. (Though one of the video sequences is a side jaunt into alla prima oil painting on location).
Urban Sketchers, by and large, do not use opaque media to any great extent - it's much more common to see us sketching in pen and/or watercolor. It should be interesting to many of us to see proof that opaque painting doesn't have to be any less portable than our usual kits!
The first sequence is a genuine Urban Sketching affair - sketching the crowd at a regional car show.
It's always a challenge selecting what you want out of a moving mass of people. James illustrates the trick of combining the multiple people coming and going, drawing onto gestures of his favorite poses and finding faces that complete the story. Something that will be familiar to readers of my own blog.
Next up is a sketch with a narration by the subject himself. James cleverly gets Scott Corey, a docent at Sturbridge Village, to give a spontaneous monologue while he is being painted.
I wish all models were such great storytellers!
This sequence features a bravura bit of painting where James, with no great fuss, goes into what might have been an 80% finished portrait, and obliterates it with gouache, so that he can repaint for better results.
Next up, we get treated to an alla prima oil painting from first brush drawing to final touches. While not exactly in keeping with his field sketching theme, it's instructive to see how much his approach remains consistent across different media.
And finally the big finish, a sketchbook painting of a group of singers in a choir - a tricky situation with multiple portraits in constant motion. This one is made even more remarkable considering it's in a little 5x7"ish sketchbook.
As soon as I saw this painting in the introduction, I knew I was looking forward to the bit where he paints the pattern onto the dress. A sequence he makes look as easy as painting any other bit. Which I suppose is part of the lesson. Painting a girl's face, or braid of hair, or a patterned dress - the same principles of color, pigment, and brushwork apply.
As with the rest of this video series, Portraits in the Wild is independently produced by James and his wife Jeanette. Purchases go directly to supporting his art practice, his informative and entertaining art-blog, and future releases of more videos.
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