View Full Version : Book advice needed

06-30-2014, 02:01 PM
Unfortunately I don't have a good spot to work on my artwork without disrupting living area. But I will not give up working to get better. Just for my own enjoyment as I do not have professional asperations but want my artwork be good enough to frame and display.

My drawing skills are fairly decent. I think I need to improve my composition and color harmony. So I am going to emark on a self study surge in these areas. Plan to read and sketch. So far I have pulled four books from my shelf for the composition part. "Your Artist's Brain", Carl Purcell; "Mastering Composition" Ian Roberts; "Landscape Painting", Mitchell Albala; and "Watercolor Landscapes", Catherine Gill. These should be more than enough to cover the composition part. But welcome to suggestions of more.

So that leaves color harmony. Is there any reading material that could be helpful? Or maybe need video for this ... and hands on. I am hoping to find a way to read when I have time. With the hope that something will sink in giving me a leg up when I do find the time to get back to the easel.

Any ideas folks?

P.S. I spend alot of time studying the artwork of others ... and my take is that composition and color harmony tend to trump drawing and perspective. Something well drawn but without the comp and right colors just seems hoh-hum. But primative drawing with good value structure and color works just fine. Am I right?

06-30-2014, 03:00 PM
Three I keep going back to:
Pictorial Composition – Henry Rankin Poore
Composition of Outdoor Painting – Edgar Payne
Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting - John F. Carlson

To a lesser extent but still useful
Composition: Understanding Line, Notan and Color – Arthur Wesley Dow

He’s an oil painter, but the information is solid and still applies
Fill Your Oil Paintings with Light & Color - Kevin Macpherson

06-30-2014, 05:54 PM
Capturing Radiant Light & Color in Oils and Soft Pastel by Susan Sarback. Here's an Amazon link. (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_0_13?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=susan%20sarback&sprefix=Susan+Sarback%2Caps%2C316) I bought this book in 2009 or late 2008 while I was taking "Still Life the Colourful Way" by Colorix, here (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=527268) in Soft Pastel Learning Center. I would recommend both the Sarback book and reading the old class thread from the beginning, including doing the exercises. Some new students have started a thread working through the class and I'm going to be participating doing an assignment I didn't get to during it. I missed the last couple of them due to weather and life concerns and the thread got archived before I did my projects, so now I might go back and do them since some folks are reviving it.

That completely changed how I look at color and painting. I got more in color theory from it than any other source, and I have many books and so on involving color.

Another really good book that I have here is Color and Light, A Guide for the Realist Painter by James Gurney. Here's the Amazon link. (http://www.amazon.com/Color-Light-Guide-Realist-Painter/dp/0740797719/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1404161628&sr=1-1&keywords=james+gurney+color+and+light)I bought his Imaginative Realism some years ago before I moved and didn't bring it with me, his section on color was very useful and helped me a lot along with Charlie's class materials and the Sarback book. This volume focuses much more on color specifically and in relation to other elements of painting like value and composition. I think of both of these as really important books that I go back to often. Gurney's an illustrator and as an author is very good at breaking down color theory into understandable elements. I love his work, since I'm also very fond of dinosaurs and he's the artist-author of the Dinotopia series. He does use imaginative and fantasy subjects for some of his demonstrations but many are landscapes with old gas stations or diners, or wildlife and foliage. All his imaginative work is based in nature so he's really good for rendering anything natural, artificial or imagined.

Hope these help! The class thread is free and right here, so jump right in and try the exercises. It's a strange method of painting but it helps so much in unifying color and expanding color awareness. Also Charlie did go into composition more than once during it, especially in the sequences where we set up our own still lifes. Although Charlie's method starts with pure spectrum colors and I love the intense palette she uses, I sometimes get in a mood for more muted colors and have used the same method with muted browns and grays sorted into the spectrum color they most resemble. It works the same, just has a subtler color harmony. Also it's possible to build up to those muted browns and greys layering brights, so that shortened the number of pastels I need to have with me if I'm painting away from my house.

BTW "Your Artist's Brain" is fantastic for composition. I got that when I took Johannes Vloothuis classes online at his recommendation and it made things understandable that a dozen other books had left me floundering with. The examples are excellent.

06-30-2014, 08:10 PM
Mike ... Clicked on your website and my first impression was "Wow, you (and your wife) both do get composition". Great stuff from both of you! And I love the S. Cal coast.

I did check out the Carlson book from the library a few years ago. Will revisit it. Have heard of the Payne book but not seen it. Not familiar of the Henry Rankin Poore. Will check both of these out on Amazon. Thanks for the feedback.

06-30-2014, 08:17 PM
Robert ... Thanks for reminding me about Charlie's thread. It had slipped my mind. For the next couple of months I will be mostly hands off, just reading and sketching, but will visit the thread.

Have heard of Susan Sarback, probably seen here work in my internet and magazine travels. Not familiar with the Gurney book but will look into both on Amazon. Amazon is sooo convenient, but can bust the budget.

And I totally agree with you about the Artist's Brain by Purcell. If a novice could have only one book, my advice would be that one. I have the big one that has drawing and painting.

Thanks Robert.

07-01-2014, 11:41 AM
Thank you for the comments on our work Carol.

Payne's book is a bit hard to find. Despite the fact that it's still in print. For what ever reason, it's often sold used as a collectors item rather than a resouce. Your best bet is to get it from the Gallery that publishes it.


Poore's book is one of the first I bought. It has many examples of both good, and bad compostion. It's a cheap purchase off Amazon.

MacPherson gets into color theroy as well as composition. His principles on painting are applicable as well. Oil painter use a lot the same principles as pastel Artist's do. (dark to light, thin to thick....) Many pastel Artisit's also work in oil.