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  1. #1
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    Definitive texts on composition, color theory?

    Hi all! I read these forums an awful lot, especially following the CHOW and EOW competitions, but I don’t post too often. Anyway I’ve got a question that I think would be beneficial to a lot of people, but something I haven’t see discussed all that frequently.

    There seems to be a general consensus that the best books available on figurative anatomy are from Bridgman and Loomis, and I see Vlippu’s name mentioned quite a bit as well.

    I’m wondering… are there definitive texts out there for other facets of foundational studies? I’m most interested in finding something on composition, but I think solid refrences on color theory and perspective would be great to have as well.

    Any suggestions? Thanks guys & gals!

    Last edited by Jussslic; April 22nd, 2010 at 11:42 PM.
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  3. #2
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    Books on Color and Composition

    You are going to get fifty million opinions so here are my top picks.

    'Composition' by Arthur Wesly Dow
    Covers color and composition

    'The Color of Design' Maitland Graves
    Covers color and composition

    'Creative Illustration' Andrew Loomis
    Covers color and composition

    'The composition of Outdoor Painting Edgar Payne
    This book is written for the landscap'e painter but the compositional theories apply to anything and are worth a look

    Jim Gurney has a new book coming out in October I believe 'Color and Light: a Guide for the Realist Painter'
    Which will be a great addition to the subject

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  5. #3
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    I'v yet to hear of a definitive source that has the caliber of bridgmens or Loomis. Try http://www.huevaluechroma.com/index.php its pretty advanced but if you can muscle your way through it will pay off

    Last edited by Demo; April 23rd, 2010 at 12:11 AM.
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    I second dpaint's list.

    My favorite book on composition is "Drawing Scenery; Landscapes and Seascapes" by Jack Hamm - inexpensive - also oriented toward landscape but the principles apply to anything.

    Creative Illustration by Loomis is a must have - and it's free - just search around for a .pdf.

    For color theory I expect Gurney's book to be the new standard. I would stay away from huevaluechroma.com myself - makes the subject far more complicated than necessary and is formulaic in approach as opposed to observational.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    I would stay away from huevaluechroma.com myself - makes the subject far more complicated than necessary and is formulaic in approach as opposed to observational.

    He he, do you find anatomy and perspective formulaic as opposed to observational?

    Understanding doesn't preclude observation: it greatly assists it.

    Anyway, the big G sent me a draft of part of his book for comment, and I can say that it promises to be an exceptonally reliable introduction to the basics of colour for painters. Any beginner who reads it first will certainly find huevaluechroma.com perfectly approachable.

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    Picture This: How Pictures Work. by Molly Bang is a great one for composition


    "The New Munsell Student Colour Set" is good for showing colour and setting up excercises for you to learn colour. Look for a used one on Amazon. Try and get one that has the colour chips still in the bags.

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    I would just like to say that in addition to Bridgman and Loomis on anatomy, Stephen Roger Peck's Atlas of Human Anatomy is very clear and easy to understand, as a complement to Bridgman's sometimes... unclear drawings.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Serpian View Post
    I would just like to say that in addition to Bridgman and Loomis on anatomy, Stephen Roger Peck's Atlas of Human Anatomy is very clear and easy to understand, as a complement to Bridgman's sometimes... unclear drawings.
    Peck was my bible for a long minute!



    "Everything must serve the idea. The means used to convey the idea should be the simplest and clear. Just what is required. No extra images. To me this is a universal principle of art. Saying as much as possible with a minimum of means."
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    Quote Originally Posted by briggsy@ashtons View Post
    He he, do you find anatomy and perspective formulaic as opposed to observational?
    Anatomy and perspective are significantly different from color theory. The main difference is they are objective rather than subjective. Plus they are relatively "fixed", ie: an individual's proportions do not change according to the lighting, atmosphere, weather, etc. But yes, to answer your question, anatomy formula only takes one so far - an extremely foreshortened figure is not a certain number of heads high - you must rely on observation, not formula to accurately capture the pose.

    Quote Originally Posted by briggsy@ashtons View Post
    Understanding doesn't preclude observation: it greatly assists it.
    Absolutely. Some theory and knowledge is essential. I'm just saying in my experience understanding has come more from observation than from theory and formula.


    Quote Originally Posted by briggsy@ashtons View Post
    Anyway, the big G sent me a draft of part of his book for comment, and I can say that it promises to be an exceptonally reliable introduction to the basics of colour for painters. Any beginner who reads it first will certainly find huevaluechroma.com perfectly approachable.
    Yes, I think his book will become the new standard "must read", mainly because Jim's understanding comes from observation.
    Certainly meant no offense Briggsy - I respect how much you've put into your work. Just my opinion...and I think people are better off keeping things as simple as possible...especially when beginning their journey.

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    There has not been, as yet, a book written that promotes understanding of what is unique about and peculiar to the vocabulary and grammar of painting. The formulas and 'tips' contained in these volumes are generally providing codes for replicating ways of building images.
    Its a situation rather like someone learning the guitar by memorising chord shapes in sequence to play their favourite songs without having any idea about the the grammar of harmony. It sounds like they know their instrument, but only if they are asked to play their party pieces.

    So, for example, in a book about landscape composition, all we are getting is a couple of generalised pointers about how to make one's efforts 'balance' by superimposing a vague template crudely sifted from some successful pictures in the past.
    'Knowledge' used in this fashion is in fact a prison.
    Understanding the engine behind these codes is what enables you to speak as an artist.
    Unfortunately, I know of no book that addresses this comprehensively. You have to find it by asking yourself some tough questions about what on earth it is you are doing, what it is for and why you are not trying to do it in any other, more expedient, way.

    I think this has something to do with what JeffX99 was meaning about learning most from observation. But by extension, I'm referring to the intense scrutiny of the fundamental means you employ as a plastic artist and thereby the understanding of what belongs only to this means and is not common to anything else.
    When you discover this, all else follows in the beat of a heart.

    Last edited by Chris Bennett; April 24th, 2010 at 08:12 AM.
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    I've just thought of a book that, whilst it won't answer the OP's stated requirements is one of the profoundest books on colour I have ever come across. I read it many years ago as an art student and it opened doors that may have remained closed to me forever had I not been told about it.
    It is Adrian Stokes' "Colour and Form".

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  21. #12
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    Wink

    Hey everybody, thanks so much for your responses! Lot to look into.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Bennett View Post
    I've just thought of a book that, whilst it won't answer the OP's stated requirements is one of the profoundest books on colour I have ever come across. I read it many years ago as an art student and it opened doors that may have remained closed to me forever had I not been told about it.
    It is Adrian Stokes' "Colour and Form".
    Thanks for your in depth responses Chris...that's a pretty glowing review of Stokes's Color and Form... I'll definitely have to look into it. Actually, the way you talk about it really reminds me of how some people mention how Harold Speed's Practice and Science of Drawing really opened their eyes to things they never saw before.

    I agree with a lot of what you said on composition, and the fact that most books are a list of guidelines superimposed onto successful images.... It never helps to know a rule if you don't understand why the rule works, which I think is the reason Bridgman's instruction on really understanding how to construct the figure is so revered.

    Even so I've never really had any instruction on composition, so i think perhaps even a mediocre text on the subject could help me.

    As long as you don't let supposed "rules" become either a crutch or a prison, it can certainly be beneficial to know them. With that said, has anyone read Mastering Composition by Ian Roberts, or Pictorial Composition by Henry Rankin Poore? Both have very strong reviews on Amazon, and I'm wondering if they'd be worth a look.

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  22. #13
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    @briggsy: wow, I just saw your ebook thread. what an incredible resource, AND I see it includes the full original version of the Henry Poore book I mentioned. guess that'll be as good a place for me to start as any

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