This daily weblog by Dinotopia creator James Gurney is for illustrators, plein-air painters, sketchers, comic artists, animators, art students, and writers. James Gurney wrote "Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter," he also wrote and illustrated "Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time.
To wrap up my coverage of professional basketball, I'll paint the NBA/ESPN logo by hand using old-school tools. (Link to video)
At almost any antique store, you can find high quality drafting sets, by Dietzgen or DesignMaster. They're not too expensive because few people use them anymore. For example, I recently found a DesignMaster 1146C for about $20.
Drafting sets contain a variety of compasses and ruling pens. Some of the compasses can be set up with either a graphite tip or a ruling pen tip. The ruling pen tip has a small set screw that precisely adjusts the width of the line. The bigger compasses have double break points so that your ruling pen meets the paper at a right angle.
You can fill the reservoir of the ruling pen tip with either ink, watercolor or thinned-down gouache. Instead of dipping the tip into the ink or liquid paint, you should put a drop into the gap using a brush or an eyedropper.
With these tools you can paint a perfect circle in gouache.
The logo for the NBA on ESPN is usually seen in its digital incarnation, which has a gradation to make the white ring look dimensional. To do that, I load two brushes, one with dark red and one with lighter red, and blend the colors wet into wet.
The NBA / ESPN logo is a trademark belonging to their respective owners
The result, which appears here a little larger than the actual size of the original, isn't perfect, but it's just a sketchbook page. If I wanted to refine it, I would work larger and spend more time on it.
There are so many things in motion on and off the court in an NBA game that it kind of boggles the mind to translate it into paint.
(link to video on Facebook) As you can see in the video, I try to use the brush systematically to paint similar objects with a given paint mixture, so I'm not mixing and painting every spot.
Here again, I'm starting the sketch from life and finishing it later from a variety of references, including photos and videos. Even playing a sound recording of the game gets my head back into my memories.
Knicks game, Madison Square Garden, gouache
With a vignette like this I wanted to gradate the picture to the white of the page at the edges. I arbitrarily lightened it with cool colors on the right and warm colors on the left.
Kristaps Porziņģis was on an All-Star track and putting up good numbers for the New York Knicks when I painted him, but then he got sidelined with a season-ending torn ACL knee injury. Now he’s on the path to recovery.
Kristaps Porziņģis, gouache, 5 x 8 inches
I approached this painting as an alla-prima (painted all in one session), combining sketches, memory, and photo reference. I focused on KP's characteristic relaxed and confident expression, even in pressure situations.
As you can see in the time lapse, a portrait is made up of a thousand corrections and adjustments. I find I have to maintain a spirit of constructive dissatisfaction, always thinking of what's wrong, why it's wrong, and how I can fix it.
I’m on the basketball court at Madison Square Garden an hour ahead of game time. While the Knicks warm up, ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith delivers a fiery pre-game commentary.
My first step is to wet the paper and drop in a soft ultramarine blue wash with a half inch flat synthetic brush.
I cover the first layers with transparent watercolor and then build it with opaque gouache. I like to get the face resolved early and add surrounding areas later.
(Link to video on Facebook) We see just the top of the cameraman’s head above the camera and part of the logo on his sweatshirt. Most of these areas go down with a large round synthetic brush and generous washes of pigment.
I carry the scene across the gutter of the sketchbook to show the arm of the cameraman. I add just a hint of the basket at the top edge and some impressionistic spots in the background to show that the team is in warm-up mode.
Stephen A, gouache, 5 x 8”
The essence of this picture is Mr. Smith projecting his fire-and-brimstone opinions to his virtual audience via the camera. The guiding principle for a storytelling portrait like this is to show only what’s essential—no more and no less.
My media pass gives me full access to courtside and the Knicks' locker room area. I enter Madison Square Garden via the VIP entrance, which is really a steep-spiraling, 5-story ramp where circuses of old used to bring in the elephants. It still smells of elephant dung and diesel.
What should I try to capture in my sketchbook?
I am a little intimidated by the challenge. How can I ever capture the color and action of an NBA game in the pages of a sketchbook? What angle can I bring to the experience that will be different from the photos, video clips, and computer graphics?
A sketch reporter in the sports world is kind of a new thing, something we haven't seen much of since the days of Bernie Fuchs and Leroy Nieman in the 1960s. I meet Tim Corrigan, who produces the live broadcasts. He tells me that the core of the ESPN approach is to bring out the stories of the franchise and of the individual players, and to dramatize those stories before, during, and after the game. ------ ESPN / NBA Series: 1. Report from the Court (Audio)
Last December, ESPN invited me to be a sketch reporter at an NBA basketball game.
I visit the broadcast truck an hour before the game starts. Here's a gouache portrait of the guy who controls the audio feed in the ESPN broadcast.
In this quick video (Link to Facebook), the painting emerges rapidly in a freeform way, alternating between darks, halftones and lights. I finish with the small details of the glasses and headset. You can also watch the short videos this week on my Instagram channel.
Today they opened a gallery show in Singapore with a bunch of artists (including me) who painted in the sketchbooks and offered them to collectors. I love the way they have used sketchbooks to bring artists together into community so that we can share in the fun of creating.
For those who aren't familiar with The Perfect Sketchbook, could you please describe it and tell us why you created it?
The Perfect Sketchbook was first introduced on the crowdfunding platform, Kickstarter, in August 2014. Following the fulfillment of the first project, backers were impressed with the quality of the book and the project quickly expanded, garnering immense support from international backers.
The project was then funded on Indiegogo and The Perfect Sketchbook’s very own platform, raising a total of USD$150,000 to date.
I first began toying with the idea of making my own sketchbook when I couldn’t find one that met my all of my criteria: hardcover, compact, opened flat and filled with top-grade 100% cotton paper.
One day, out of sheer boredom, I looked up the local company that produces the sketchbooks I used most and contacted them about a visit. Impressed by their manufacturing capabilities, I proposed a high-quality sketchbook and convinced them to make a prototype for Kickstarter. Without an advertising budget, I produced all the marketing materials and took on the mammoth task of getting this entire project funded. Thanks to the generous artists who shared my project on social media, my friends, my Columbus College of Art family and the urban sketchers community, we eventually reached our goal of USD$50,000 and made the first Perfect Sketchbook.
(funding process for the first book took 45 days, it was not an easy climb)
Naming it The Perfect Sketchbook was a deliberate move to elicit attention since I lacked advertising and visibility. However, the cost of calling something ‘perfect’ meant that I also assumed the task of making something extraordinary. Did I exceed the expectations of most, with the quality of materials? I consciously made some silly decisions like over packing the book with more pages, that caused excessive stress to the book spine. I also underestimated the cost, time and risk it took to physically ship all of the books.
(The First Perfect Sketchbook)
When many people requested that I make a larger book, I was in trepidation from our first project. A larger book would incur higher shipping charges because it’s heavier and would cost much more to make. Since most of our backers are overseas, the collective support was too spread out for any sort of shipping discount. And a sketchbook has a low psychological price ceiling. International shipping charges are extremely high and we needed to price these into our product, in order to cushion this impact.
(Properly bubble wrapped to cushion for the impact during shipping)
Would a much bigger sketchbook company, with the advantage of scale, follow me/us and create something similar? I took on a radical approach during our second crowdfunding project. Instead of being worried about pricing, I focused on making an over-the-top sketchbook. During The Perfect Sketchbook B5 production, I convinced my collaborator, Bynd Artisan, to fulfill all my crazy requests like hand tearing the cotton paper and personalization. At the same time, they offered me a huge discount on the production costs. I told them: “We can at least clinch the title of The Perfect Sketchbook for our madness.”
(image of our production. Notice the deckle edges on the side of the book)
The Perfect Sketchbook B5 was launched on Indiegogo two years ago and it was so successful that I was persuaded by many of our backers to make the third sketchbook last year. We do not intend on any more editions and I am just glad to have made and fulfilled these super fine quality watercolor sketchbooks.
(We chose to deliver via DHL -Costly but much more reliable)
2. What are some of the ways that artists have used the sketchbook that have surprised you? One interesting feedback I had gotten from some backers was that the sketchbooks felt and looked so high quality that they are afraid to open or start it. Another thing I noticed was the dramatic improvements to the watercolor paintings of our backers, who were first introduced to high-quality watercolor paper through The Perfect Sketchbook. Many told me that they can no longer revert to low-quality sketchbooks for watercolor. The biggest surprise was how fast artists filled the sketchbooks after opening them.
(instagram images of paintings by backers)
3. Some of my readers aren't very familiar with the Urban Sketchers movement. Can you describe the unique vibe of your sketch outings? Urban Sketchers was founded by Gabriel Campanario from Seattle and I believe they initially started as a group on image sharing site Flickr in 2007. It was a group started to support and promote sketching on-location. Over the years they grew into an international movement and now have chapters all around the world, where sketching events and symposium are held on quite a regular basis. All are run by volunteers. Here in Singapore, the USK Singapore group gathers once every month at a different location to sketch on-site. Unlike other art groups, there aren’t any skills prerequisites and you get to interact and network with many sketching enthusiasts outside of the art industry.
The Urban Sketchers Singapore February 2018 Sketchwalk @ Pang Sua Pond, Bukit Panjang.
4. You recently led a sketching trip to Bhutan. What was it like to sketch in public in that culture? Sketch by one of our participant, Yina Goh
Actually, I led a sketching tour there last year and will be leading another one this June. The tranquility and pristine quality of Bhutan's landscape make it the perfect location for sketching and traveling. It’s no mystery why the Kingdom of Bhutan is often called the “Last Shangi-La”.
(sketch Bhutan- image of us sketching in Punakha, Bhutan)
5. How did the idea for the group sketchbook show "Interlace" come about? A sketchbook is known to hold an artist’s most intimate ideas and processes. Naturally, with a higher quality sketchbook, I thought it will be a great idea to showcase the works of our best and most influential backers from The Perfect Sketchbook campaign. I also truly believe that only great art can make a sketchbook perfect.
6. What have been some of the challenges in making this show a reality? Knowing early on that I couldn’t turn The Perfect Sketchbook project into a sustainable business, I reserved some books after every release and would approach galleries and museums to pitch the idea of a group show. Even with book sponsorships, these galleries, mostly in America, would turn me down. A few informed me that it will not be profitable and I shelved this idea until Winnie, the owner of Bynd Artisan suggested that I hold the show in their retail store. We would be limited by space but the location is great and there would be considerable foot traffic. To mitigate the cost of shipping these books to our Artists, we would sell the last reserved copies (about 50) of The Perfect Sketchbook B5 during the launch of our group show, Interlace.
(image of Bynd Artisan's retail store during their opening)
Since the art show would feature 20 sketchbooks, we needed to create custom frames that would hold these sketchbooks and at the same time allow for easy page changes. E.g. If the sketchbook has 5 painted spreads; someone must be able to easily remove the sketchbook from the frame, flip to the next page, and reinstall it.
My sketchbook pages
It’s really challenging to not lose money for such an art-show. Apart from logistics and collation, I needed to account for artists who are unable to submit, after agreeing to be in the show. Then, there is the all-important question of where and how to solicit customers? Who would purchase our artworks in Singapore? Though I have invited many successful, well-known artists to this show, they are relatively unknown to the Singapore art patrons.
Sketchbook work by Isabella Kung
Thankfully, the owners of Bynd Artisan are active in the local arts community and I believe we can successfully introduce our talented artists to new audiences. I am also positive that the collective strength of all the artists involved can raise the visibility so that everyone will receive their well-deserved recognition.
7. What are your hopes for the show? I hope that ‘Interlace’ and The Perfect Sketchbook can inspire more artists to take charge and reinvent the business models involved with art-making. Too often art students are ill-equipped to deal with the many realities of the commercial world. As long as we have to pay for our art supplies and food with money, we need to be financially literate. I also hope that my projects inspire and encourage artists to support one another. Truly, none of our projects could have taken off without the support of many artists.
(works by Namchai Saensupha, Isabella Kung, Tracy Lewis, Nathan Fowkes, Jackson Dryden and Audrey)