-By Dan dos Santos

James Gurney‘s new instructional DVD, ‘Watercolor in the Wild‘ goes on sale today. I was fortunate enough to receive an advanced copy (one of the many perks of having talented friends), and got to watch it today.

The DVD covers Gurney’s process of using watercolors to paint scenes from life outside of a studio setting.  In fact, true to it’s name, pretty much every shot in the film is done outdoors, even the introductory scenes.

The entire DVD runs 73 minutes, which is a fair length considering how affordable it is, especially for a DVD that’s self-produced. In my opinion, it is just long enough to be informative, while not being so long as to deter you from viewing it one sitting.  I can’t tell you how many 3 hour instructional downloads I have just sitting around, waiting to be watched… ‘someday’.

The DVD is organized quite cleverly. Firstly, Gurney walks you through all of his materials in detail, including his portable painting set-up. He carefully explains each of the materials, and why they are used. He then goes over some basic watercolor techniques, explaining how to use each of the materials he previously showed.

The actual demonstrations consist of 6 different paintings. Each painting is it’s own chapter, and no individual demo runs longer than 15 minutes or so.

I get the impression these 6 paintings were selected carefully, as each one provides insight into a different set of problems. There is one that deals with architectural elements, one with foliage, one with atmosphere/light, one with a portrait, one with a stationary subject, and one with a moving subject.

Gurney uses each of these paintings as an opportunity to discuss the problems unique to that particular image. During that, he also manages to slip in useful techniques and general art theory as he goes along. Although there are a lot of technical aspects discussed, Gurney is very good about verbalizing his thought process. For instance, talking about why he chooses make something darker, or softer, than it actually appears, for the sake of the narrative instead of accuracy.

Most of the demos are edited down, doing a good job of skipping the mundane stuff, and getting right into the more exciting and informative bits. One demo however, is done in real-time, which provides a nice balance to the others, and lets you truly see how this hectic painting process REALLY goes down.

Yes, discouragingly, Gurney painted this image in less than 15 minutes.

The DVD ends with a slideshow of Gurney’s sketchbook, which is really impressive and is worth watching the DVD for this alone.

Overall, it’s a great DVD. I honestly have zero complaints. Gurney is an experienced teacher and you can really see that come through here. He is thoughtful and informative, while being very brief and succinct. It’s a great companion to his previous DVD ‘How I Paint Dinosaurs‘.