Thursday, March 24, 2011

Book Review: Color and Light. A Guide for the Realist Painter.

A book by James Gurney, creator of DINOTOPIA.

"This book examines the painter's two most fundamental tools: color and light. It is intended for artists of all media interested in a traditional realist approach, as well as for anyone who is curious about the workings of the visual world." (Introduction, p. 8)

I have rarely seen a book that is as clearly structured and at the same time as thoroughly informative as Color and Light by James Gurney. Even artists who have no interest in realism or oil painting benefit a lot from the extensive knowledge in this book.

Gurney's approach doesn't "contain recipes for mixing colors or step-by-step painting procedures." He sets out to "bridge the gap between abstract color theory and practical knowledge" and succeeds in giving us a set of tools which help us translate our observations into the pictures we're working on.

The book is divided into 10 chapters on specific topics like “Sources of Light” or “Color Relationships”. Each of these chapters is broken down into 6 to 16 double-page spreads devoted to one single subject.

After analyzing some acclaimed realist painting by old masters in the first chapter, Gurney then reverts to his own paintings. That way, without coming across as narcissistic, he is able to explain the thinking behind each picture.
Gurney's illustrations demonstrate that he knows what he talks about.
Limiting himself to just two to four paintings, some explanatory graphics and photographs and one spread per topic, his writing is very focused and precise: always enjoyable, never colloquial. The compressed but easily readable text alone offers a lot to chew over. It contains eye-openers (about color reflections in shadow areas) and reminders of well-known concepts that we too often tend to ignore when working in color (the virtue of using grays and neutrals).

A short 11th chapter summarizes the themes that came up in the previous chapters. The book is rounded off by a “Resources” chapter that contains among other things a guide to “modern, familiar, reliable pigments” and a commented “Recommended Reading” section – each filling exactly one double-page.

No matter whether I’ll be able to successfully incorporate the lessons into my future work, the book has already sharpened my perception and triggered my imagination. What more can I wish?


Anonymous said...

Dear Osi

Let this one challenge your "I have rarely seen a book that is as clearly structured and at the same time as thoroughly informative"-claim:

Have fun.

Delfos said...

I really wanted this book, but it sold out.

Perhaps in a distant future.... pehaps.