Saturday, May 27, 2017

How to Make a Sketch Easel

A plein-air easel should achieve the following goals:

1. Allow you to stand or sit.
2. Hold your panel or sketchbook up out of your hands, so that both hands are free.
3. Position the work close to your line of sight so that you can achieve accuracy.
4. Allow easy adjustments of height, slope, and angle.
5. Diffuse the direct sunlight to get rid of glare and cast shadows.
6. Resist being blown over by the wind.
7. Set up and take down quickly, fit into a lightweight and compact bag.
8. Be easy to build from readily available materials.

After decades of tinkering—and with the generous input of you, the GJ Community here on the blog—I think we've got something that really achieves these goals.

People are calling it "The Gurney Easel," but I just call it the "sketch easel."

(Umbrella Video on YouTube) I recently headed into the workshop to build a sketch easel for Jeanette. And being the needlecraft wizard, she helped me create some light diffusers. We documented the whole process in a new Gumroad video.

It will show you exactly how to build one. If you don't have the workshop tools or skills, why not get the video for a friend who can build it for you?

(Quick-Release-Plate video on YouTube)

The video is loaded with valuable tips. For example, instead of attaching the quick release plate each time to the back of your easel, you can get a few extra cheaper generic plates.

Screw one of them semi-permanently into the back of your easel. Each camera and each easel gets its own plate, and the slot on the tripod is left empty when not in use (I use Velbon or Amazon tripods) which have a square slot.

The video covers how to make both the easel and four different diffuser designs. I'll talk more about tools and materials tomorrow, and share some of your design ideas on Monday.

The HD download of "How to Make a Sketch Easel" is more than an hour long and costs only $14.95.

It's available now from Gumroad, and I'll upload it to Sellfy and Cubebrush later today.

The DVD version is available for $24.50, and it includes a slide show. The DVD is also available on Amazon

Friday, May 26, 2017

Casein Emulsion and Varnish

Julien from France asks:
"I've finally bought Richeson casein online, still quite expensive [to import to Europe], but quite cool, actually different from gouache or Holbein's Acryla Gouache. My question is, have you used the Shiva casein emulsion or varnish, and can you use it with gouache?

First, a little background. For those who don't know, when you buy the emulsion separate from the paint, you're getting the liquid glue-like binder that holds the pigment together. Casein emulsion is a water-soluble, milk-based protein in liquid form in a can or jar. It's the same stuff that they use to formulate the paint.

Shiva is the company that originally made casein paint. The company was bought by the Jack Richeson company, which markets the product under both the Shiva name and Richeson brand, but I believe they're the same product.

Detail of Skysweepers, painted with gouache with some acrylic medium

In answer to your question, I have only experimented a little with the casein emulsion. I don't see any reason why you can't use casein emulsion with gouache. It would make gouache behave more like casein. You could even use acrylic medium with gouache. I used to do that a lot, because I liked the opacity of gouache, but I wanted it to have the sealed surface of acrylic.

I have used the casein varnish made by Richeson, which is a liquid brush-on varnish. As far as I know, they no longer make it. I found that it doesn't work well with watercolor paper because the paper is so absorbent. It just soaks the varnish up, so it requires a lot of coats before you start getting a gloss.

But on a panel, the varnish develops gloss with just one or two coats. The varnish is helpful for bringing out the depth and richness of dark paintings. If you're using paint with a matte surface, dark passages are prone to looking chalky. I find that the matte surface of gouache or casein is better suited to more high-key palettes.

If you want to varnish a gouache or casein painting, you could use a spray varnish, but keep in mind that once you apply a varnish, the surface is closed, and you wouldn't want to paint over it again with either casein or gouache.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

'How to Make Easel' Video Releases This Saturday

On Saturday, May 27, I release my newest video tutorial called: "How to Make a Sketch Easel."

Beginners and pros alike will be able to follow step-by-step as I build my compact, lightweight easel. I've been perfecting this design for decades, and it's ideal for sketchbooks and small panels.

Plus I'll show four different ways to make a white diffuser. Each one is a vast improvement over the blowdown-prone white umbrella. 

I thoroughly cover materials, tools, and methods, and I share alternate build techniques for those who don't have many power tools or workshop skills.

If you've built a similar easel design and would like to share it with the blog community, I'll be doing a post about 'Your Easel Designs' this coming Monday. Please email me a few photos with a sentence about each.

The HD download of "How to Make a Sketch Easel" is more than an hour long and costs only $14.95. 

The DVD version is available for $24.50, and it includes a slide show.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Sambourne's Reference Photos

Edward Linley Sambourne (1844-1910) was an English illustrator and cartoonist who discovered the benefits of photo reference.

He joined the magazine Punch in 1871 and eventually became its principle cartoonist, replacing John Tenniel. 

Many of his cartoon illustrations for Punch can be associated with photographs of figures in costumes.

For models he enlisted the help of friends, servants, family members and local characters. At first he used Edwin Austin Abbey's studio as a place to do his photos.

Sometimes his wife or kids posed, and he often posed himself. He also recruited professional and semi-professional models, such as the local policeman.

Later he took an interest in photographing nude women, and amassed a large collection of photos of women undressed or partially undressed, though he only rarely used those photos for illustration reference.
His well preserved house in London is a fine example of Victorian style. 

It includes many of his original reference photographs and is open for touring.
Edward Linley Sambourne on Wikipedia
Article in the Camera Club
Related previous posts: 
Charles Keene's cartoons about artists
Using Photo Reference

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Pocket Sketching Rig

When I attend a fancy-dress event, such as an opera, a wedding, or a black tie fundraiser, my sketching gear has got to fit into a single pocket. Here's what I bring:

Two water brushes, one filled with clear water, and one with diluted black water-soluble ink.
• Fountain pen filled with sepia ink
• I add the white gouache to the collar later.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Why Aren't Trees Black?

If trees were more efficient solar collectors, the leaves would be black instead of green. They'd look more like solar cells, which are black so that they can absorb as much light energy as possible.

James Gurney, River Suir, Ireland, Oil, 8 x 10 inches

The green color that we see is "leftover" light, a wavelength that the tree's solar engine is not able to process.

This so-called "green gap" is caused by the fact that chlorophyll does well harvesting blue and red light. But because of a deficiency in the organic chemistry, leaves are not as good at capturing light in the green range.

Then why is some foliage red? The red color is a sun block for young leaf tissue as it develops in the early spring. Without it, some delicate leaves would burn in the spring sun. Normally that red color of early spring foliage gives way to green thanks to the action of enzymes.

The copper beech—or Blutbuche (blood beech in German)—keeps its red color all year round. That happens because a metabolic disorder interferes with the normal action of those enzymes.

This type of tree probably would have died out in the wild, were it not for the intervention of human gardeners, who like the way red foliage stands out in gardens.

I've adapted these ideas from the book The Hidden Life of Trees
Scientific paper on ScienceDirect
Discussion on Biology website