Artist's HandbookOf Materials And Techniques
by Ralph Mayer
Is a reference that I find to be indispensable. I keep mine on
my bookshelf, and believe that every artist should have a copy
Elements of Color
An excellent analysis of the properties and psychology of color.
Rex Vicat Cole
The Practice and Theory of Perspective As Applied to Pictures
With a Section Dealing With Its Application to Architecture
Painting Tips from the Artist
Tips to help you with your paintings
Composition and Design
Sometimes we spend too much time worrying about paint, mediums,
brushes and technique, but overlook one of the most important
foundations of art - good composition. It's important that the
painting is built on a good foundation, just as we would do if
we were building our house.
The first thing to consider is what the subject will be, and
what to say (visually) about it. If we choose to paint a still
life, maybe a bowl of fruit, surely we want to say something
more than what they look like. Perhaps there is an interesting
relationship between colors, texture, form or light. This allows
us to add drama to our paintings.
placement of these objects is extremely important. Some of the
best compositions are developed using the Golden Section,
however it is sufficient to use a simplified little diagram
(employed by photographers as well) to help develop the
composition that works. Placement of our objects is one of the
things that help force the viewer's attention to our subject.
First, we decide what is the most important subject in the
composition. This we shall call our visual emphasis. We insure,
throughout the entire painting process, that nothing is allowed
to overpower this emphasis. Using our diagram, the best location
for it will be at points A, B, C, or D. We do not want it to be
at point X, because this would make the painting to appear as a
If we were painting a landscape, good location for the horizon
might be the line through B & D, or through A & C. Surely, they
can be adjusted up or down a bit, but a horizon through the
middle of the canvas would be difficult to make work.
We might choose to place this emphasis in the general area of
A-B. This, of course, makes the composition asymmetrical, and
presently, off balance. We solve this by adding an object of
secondary importance (a secondary emphasis) at another
intersection, say, at D. It will be smaller, and maybe not quite
as colorful, or bright as the main emphasis, however it creates
a little tension that causes our eyes to move back and forth,
from the one, to the other. Now, we have sort of an asymmetrical
Two objects always seem visually unstable and competing, if you
will. So, we can add a third element to the composition,
inferior to the secondary emphasis. We can continue to develop
sub compositions within our design, and sub compositions within
those, and so on.
To test our design, sketch a small thumbnail drawing, in black
and white, using a soft graphite or charcoal pencil. Don't get
carried away with detail at this time, but deal only with the
mass value of the objects. Remember, if it doesn't work in black
& white, it probably won't work in color, either.
If you are interested in learning more about the Golden Section,
a method of geometric proportioning that dates back to the
ancient Greeks, Amazon.com has some books on the topic:
Hans Walser, Peter Hilton
The English translation of the original German text discusses
the Golden Section.
Studies in Proportion and Composition
Hans Walser, Peter Hilton
The Golden Section is a mathemetical relationship of proportion
that dates back to the ancient Greeks.
The Divine Proportion : A Study in Mathematical Beauty
H. E. Huntley
For the most part an excellent, easy to follow work
Runion, Garth E. Runion