Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Thousand Words


What does an artist do when they just don’t feel like painting?

I snuggle up in big soft chair and leaf through my favorite books.

Disclaimer:  To be honest, I don’t actually read these books. I mostly page through them, every now and then stopping to peruse a chapter or a paragraph.  I’d probably be a better painter if I actually read the sentences, paragraphs and chapters in the order they were written.  I’ll start doing that as soon as I hop off that stationary bike we bought back when it seemed like a good idea to ride a bike inside instead of going for a ride outside, where we might get somewhere.

But I digress.

Here’s what’s piled up by my favorite chair:
Books about Claude Monet and John Singer Sargent. Duh, I look through these for the paintings,  of course.  Every now and then I actually read the words, but not very often.
     "Claude Monet, Life and Work", by Virginia Spate.  ©1992 Thames and Hudson Ltd, London (Out of print)
     "John Singer Sargent, The Sensualist", Trevor Fairbrother, ©2000 Seattle Art Museum
Another disclaimer:  I'm not an investor in Amazon Books.  These were the most direct links to the books I could find. Look them up yourselves if you'd rather.
I love paging through  "Alla Prima, A Contemporary Guide to Traditional Direct Painting", by Al Gury. (©2008 Al Gury, Watson-Guptill Publications). The paintings chosen to represent what Gury is talking about are beautiful.  Quite honestly, I get a little lost in the text; he is, after all, a college professor.  Skip the intro and go for the 'how-to' parts. Luckily for me he showcases diverse artists like Jon Redmond, Cecilia Beaux and WalterSchofield.  

     "Harley Brown’s Eternal Truths for Every Artist", by Harley Brown, International Artist Publishing, Inc. (Sorry, I couldn't find a copyright date.)
This book always makes me smile. It is visually gorgeous, and written with wit and a deep understanding of what it takes to make great art. Brown takes complicated ideas, like color theory, and shakes out the simple parts for his readers without taking himself too seriously.  I love it for the images, and the fact that I can read just one page and still learn something.
     "Carlson’s Guide to Landscape Painting", by John Carlson. (©1929 John Carlson, © 1953 Sterling Publishing Co., ©1973 Dover Publications, Inc.)
John Carlson would have been an amazing teacher. A huge plus is that his writing style is clear, concise, descriptive and charming. As I read, and re-read I find that I’ve already underlined many of his beautifully worded explanations and, in fact, have circled entire paragraphs.  The images of his work are in black and white, but still gorgeous and informative.
Of course, there's always Alyson Stanfield's  "I'd Rather be in the Studio", affectionately known as "IRBITS". (©2008 Alyson Stanfield, published by Pentas Press, Colorado.)

     "Composition, A Painter’s Guide to Basic Problems and Solutions", by John Friend.  (©1975 John Friend, Published by Watson-Guptill Publications.)

I’ve had this on my bookshelf for probably 20 years, and am just now realizing what a gold mine it is.  Reading about composition is not the most exciting, or easy way to spend a rainy day. There are no funny characters or fiendish sub-plots to keep me interested. To his credit, Friend is a clear communicator who uses lots of ‘before and after’ images to explain what good composition in painting is about.

 Mostly I admire the images. After all, one picture is worth a thousand words.

What's on your reading list?

6 comments:

Vickie said...

Ah, well, My post disappeared. Now it is time to start supper. Short story: The Artist's Way, What Color is Your Parachute, The Down Comforter, Getting Up When You Are Feeling Down, Bird by Bird, The Forest for the Trees, and Dawn Light. The last two are relatively new to me. The rest have been life-reference books for a dozen years or so.

Patty said...

Oh, I'm so sorry you went to the trouble of commenting, only to have it vanish! Thanks for the additions. A new stack is forming for winter reading - thanks!

Vickie said...

Joys of the internet. I won't say I'm used to it, but it sure isn't the first time. ;- Waiting in the wings: A Writer's Life by Gay Talese; The Old Way, by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas; and A Natural History of the Sense, by Diane Ackerman. I don't have stock in Amazon either, but I probably should. I think I have a dozen different wish lists, and they are keepers of the things recommended by friends or stumbled over while reading other books, or reviewed in magazines. When my first writing class came to an end I asked the teacher to recommend a book. She recommended The Artist's Way, which cleared the brush blocking the path to experimenting with writing and upended my views on creativity. Parachute speaks for itself, most likely. The next two gave me tools that helped me smooth out my roller coaster emotions. My first online friend recommended Bird by Bird, which pointed me on down the road. Dawn Light, by Diane Ackerman, is just the prettiest, prettiest writing I have ever, ever read. I only allowed myself one chapter a day, and saved that chapter for a time in the day when I most needed to be transported to a beautiful place. The Forest for the Trees, by Betsy Lerner, is the first book I've read in about 30 years without underlining as I went. It almost drew me in too much, if that makes any sense. Time after time, I paused to let words sink in. Then I reread, putting 3 x 5's in Evernote. My books on painting are few and far between, I'm afraid. Lots of children's craft books, though. (I think my favorite of those might be the one of "edible art," although it works best if you have garden that is putting out more cucumbers than you and your neighbors can eat.)

Patty said...

Awesome list!!
And, uh, sorry about the cucumbers. : D

Karine said...

Thanks for the reading list, Patty. I definitely added some new ones to mine.
My favorites? Art related: War of Art by Steven Pressfield
Pictures of Nothing by Varnadoe (Kurt? maybe.)
IRBITS, of course, but also Jackie Battenfield's book.
Just read Night Studio - a memoir of Philip Guston by Musa Mayer. (his daughter) loved it.

Cheers!

Patty said...

Ah,yes, War of Art is excellent. I'm looking forward to adding the others to my pile. Thanks!!