Friday, March 03, 2017

Favorite Art Books Part 8

Books for Beginners

There are art books that provide solid reference information for the studio--like Mayer and others. There are books that give the interested artist a handle on things like composition or color or other ideas like poetry of form. But there aren't very many books out there for beginners that give solid information clearly and concisely. Here are a few favorites of mine.

The author's battered oil-stained copy of Gasser's Guide
Henry Gasser's Guide to Painting
This now-ancient book by an now-unknown artist and teacher is still one of the best introductory books about painting for the interested beginner. Although the book is out of print, the edition shown at left can still be obtained online. As the cover indicates, this book was written before acrylic paint became common (the 1950s), and deals with oil, watercolor, and casein.

Mr. Gasser writes in clear prose with simple step-by-step illustrations of his techniques in each of the three painting media. A native of Newark, Mr. Gasser, who died in the early 1980s, was a follower of John Sloan and others of the New York Ashcan School of painters. That influence is clear in his studio work and in the examples in this little book. But once you get past the rather dated look of the images, it's clear that the methods presented are solid. Discussions of each of the three mediums are well-written and clear. Mr. Gasser shows how to lay in a drawing and then complete the painting in each medium. He spends considerable space on colors and ranges of colors as well. If the beginning painter can draw reasonably well, Mr. Gasser's book provides a concise introduction to useful methods. Highly recommended for an absolutely beginning painter.

For those who want a more comprehensive introduction to artist materials and methods, Gasser's earlier book How to Draw and Paint reportedly contains the same material on painting as the smaller book mentioned above plus introductions to pen and ink, pastels, and drawing in general. I have not read or even seen that particular edition, but you can get it by following the link.

For at least some, learning to draw accurately and well is a formidable stumbling block that ought to be a goal, instead. Despite abundant evidence to the contrary, many people believe that drawing is simply innate; you "got it" or you don't. But that's not true. Drawing is a skill that can be taught or learned on one's own. Drawing accurately and well was a key skill in the decades before photography, videos, and the like, if you wanted to show someone what a thing or place looked like. In those days almost everyone could draw, even a little.

Drawing for the Absolute Beginner by Mark and Mary Willenbrink gives hope to the reluctant neophyte. The Willenbrinks have written an entire series of instructional art books in the same vein, The Absolute Beginner Series which includes oil painting, water color, drawing, working from nature, and several more. The only one of their series that I have personally read is the one linked above.

As is customary with how-to art books, this one also contains introductory material regarding pencils, paper, erasers, and other drawing tools. The authors spend several pages on graphite drawing materials, but necessarily in a very basic book they omit pen and ink, pastel, charcoal, and other more esoteric materials. In the first of the chapters that follow they show "sight-size" drawing, how to hold one's pencil for better results, and delve into line and value sketching and drawing, contour sketching, and how to combine these methods. In the next they give the most useful information for beginners: basic shapes, angles and measurements, and perspective in its several variants. The third chapter covers value, contrast, and shadows. After those basic chapters the authors give opportunities and examples for practice, discuss basic composition, and then provide more examples and ideas. Overall, this is highly recommended for absolute beginners. For established artists, it may be a bit basic.
Previously in this series:

Favorite Art Books Part 7
Favorite Art Books Part 6
Favorite Art Books Part 5
Favorite Art Books Part 4
Favorite Art Books Part 3
Favorite Art Books Part 2
Favorite Art Books Part 1

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