Saturday, June 20, 2020

Learning From Gurney



June 20, 2020

"There is no line between fine art and illustration; there is no high or low art; there is only art, and it comes in many forms." - James Gurney

Normally during the summer months my wife Susan and I would be traveling somewhere on the North American continent on our motorcycles. Not this year. I'm staying put for now and it has given me time to do more art, study more art and create more YouTube videos. 

My friend Steve Mitchell recently introduced me to the Artist James Gurney. Mr. Gurney is perhaps most notable for creating Dinotopia, which is a wonderful series of books, filled with fantastic illustrations. What I love about James Gurney's work is the imagination, composition and craftsmanship he puts into everything he creates. From elaborate landscapes to the most mundane objects, Gurney brings light and life to anything he touches. I am also fascinated and intrigued by the man, outside of his work. He went to college for archaeology and anthropology, before turning to art. He worked for National Geographic, wrote and illustrated his own books, took great adventures and has seemed to defy the odds by keeping his inner child alive.

At some point in 1980 he decided to leave art school and he and his friend Thomas Kinkaid hopped on a freight train to travel across the country and in his words, "All that summer we slept in graveyards and on rooftops and sketched portraits of gravestone cutters and lumberjacks. To make money we drew two-dollar portraits in bars by the light of cigarette machines.

You can listen to one of his original travel logs tapes here: http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/2017/07/riding-freight-trains-with-thomas.html

From that adventure, he and Kincaid wrote the book - The Artist Guide To Sketching. 

I thought one of the things I was learning from Mr. Gurney was how to paint Plein Air with Gouache, and while that is certainly true, I think what I'm really learning from him is to allow yourself be inspired. It seems a very simple thing to let yourself be inspired, but the human condition is such that we create many blockers for ourselves. It's very motivating to find someone in life that not only shares your passions, but has achieved a mastery you have not, and someone who also has the courage to make life an adventure and that's what James Gurney has done.

Link here to his website: http://jamesgurney.com/site/
Link here to his YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/jamesgurney

The following drawings and paintings are from my recent work.









Monday, May 11, 2020

Love, Art and Overcoming Fear

“Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really: Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it, so go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because remember that’s where you will find success.”– Thomas J. Watson
May 11, 2020
Greetings to those reading this post. It's been a while. I've been self-isolating. 😁
In the midst of the greatest challenge of our lifetimes, all of us have been impacted. There is no playbook for what we are facing. People are getting sick, too many are dying and the global economy has been shaken badly. And yet, in the midst of all of this, we are finding ways to survive, cope and even be happy. If this time has allowed you to get closer to your family, spend time doing art or another hobby, that is truly a blessing. If you are worried about work, a roof over your head or a loved ones health, I feel for you.
No one knows with any certainty how long this will last or what the ultimate impact may be to our lives, but when you strip away all of the control we pretend to maintain to convince ourselves there is some security in this world, we learn there really isn't any. Life has always been tenuous. It's always day-to-day and it's never been anything else. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it should be that every day is precious. Every moment we are here is precious and we should embrace it with our full beings. 
The human soul wasn't meant to live in fear, but fear is the great enemy of love, and it is very easy to get lost in that fear. Love on the other hand is hard. Love requires courage, vulnerability and humility. We aren't taught to love by our society, we are taught to fear. Politicians use fear, media uses fear, mass marketing uses fear. Fear surrounds us. We are afraid to lose our jobs, afraid our relationships will fail, afraid of each other, afraid of failure. We are susceptible to fear because we've been conditioned to fear.
I think love is the antidote for fear. If we are lucky we take our medicine and we evolve. Few of us may master this, and all of us are on a journey, so I don't judge folks whose lives are controlled by fear, because I live with fear as well. I know the struggle isn't an easy one.
I remember my Mom issuing a challenge to us kids when we were old enough to understand it. She said, take 24 hours of your life and count up all the things you do out of fear. Then take the next 24 hours and count up all the things you do out of love. Then spend the rest of your life replacing those fears with love.
A profound lesson and one that is so hard to achieve. I know because I've tried, for a long time, and I'm still trying.
I think love is also about failure, and not fearing failure. As the quote by Thomas Watson says, we have to embrace failure and accept the lessons it brings to us. And that brings me full circle back to art. Anything I ever learned, really learned about drawing and painting, came from failing many times before I succeeded.












Saturday, November 09, 2019

Travel Sketches And More

November 9, 2019

When I was a kid I could only imagine what the world of 2020 was going to look like. When you're ten years old and it's 1974, you imagine a future filled with the stuff of science fiction. I expected starships and flying cars, androids and world peace. Okay, maybe not world peace, but definitely a futuristic place. The imaginary future of that ten year old has yet to come.

Today we have awesome computers, cell phones and the Internet, all working together to democratize information. Medical advances mean people can live longer, healthier lives. For the first time in history, we can have a live video chat with someone half a world away or up on the International Space Station. We have some of the greatest minds working together to plan a trip to Mars.

We live in some pretty amazing times and yet the sweetest things in life have little to do with technology. The love of family, friends, meaningful work and the opportunity to travel and experience new things is the stuff of a life well-lived. I am thankful for these things and mindful of their blessings in my own life.

Here are some of the sketches and photos from recent travels and some just for fun.



















































Friday, August 09, 2019

Summer 2019

August 9, 2019

Watercolor paintings and sketches are some of my favorite ways to practice art. This spring and summer I've been busy doing just that. The drawings below are a selection of some of the work in my sketchbooks. I've been trying hard to sketch and paint a little more loosely. I think when I tighten up my work, it never really achieves the level of photorealism, because deep down I think that you might as well just take a picture.

To get good sketches, I like to get out and about. Traveling the back roads and urban side streets can provide subject matter. I like barns, especially old barns, so I sketch and paint them. Here are a few of my recent sketches.













Sunday, December 23, 2018

Looking Back At 2018

December 23, 2018

The year will end in just a few more days, and like most years as I get older, it passed too quickly. This year my son began his final year of middle school, my Dad got cancer, I started a new job, discovered the joy of motorcycling with my wife and I took an extended break from YouTube. Okay, so a lot more happened this past year, the most significant being my fathers illness. He's receiving treatment and doing better now and my family is very thankful for that.

When someone close to you becomes ill, you start to gain a certain perspective about life, mortality and how you want to spend your time.

Most significant for those of you who follow my YouTube channel is my long absence. I had to give it up for a while. It was taking over my life, demanding more and more effort and there are so many other new YouTube channels doing Art Supply reviews. With all the demands of family and work, I just lost my motivation for the day-in, day-out grind of producing videos.

Like any other platform that provides content, there's the good, bad and the ugly.

I desperately need to reinvent my channel, but I guess I really don't know how to do that. I enjoyed giving straightforward, honest reviews of art materials. I was never in it for the money so that's not a motivator for me. I was never in it to become a YouTube, "celebrity", whatever that is. So when the joy left it, I just lost interest. The joy hasn't come back...yet.

Despite my lack of investment in YouTube, I have had some time to sketch. Here is some of my latest work from my sketchbook.













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