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Guide to Landscape Painting Paperback – 1 June 1973
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An essential addition to any artist's bookshelf
Beginning with clear, concise, immediately applicable discussions of the horizon, vanishing point, and the crucial relationship of eye level to perspective drawing, you'll learn how to place figures and objects in a drawing, depict interiors, create shade and shadows, and achieve all the other elements necessary for a successful perspective drawing.
From the Back Cover
Through his profound understanding of the physical nature of landscapes and his highly developed artistic sense, John Carlson is able to explain both the whys and the hows of the various aspects of landscape painting. Among the subjects covered are angles and consequent values (an insightful concept necessary for strong overall unity of design), aerial and linear perspective, the painting of trees, the emotional properties of line and mass in composition, light, unity of tone, choice of subject, and memory work. In the beginning chapters, the author tells how to make the best of canvas, palette, colors, brushes, and other materials and gives valuable advice about texture, glazing, varnishing, bleaching, retouching, and framing. Thirty-four reproductions of Mr. Carlson's own work and 58 of his explanatory diagrams are shown on pages adjoining the text.
As Howard Simon says in the introduction: "Crammed into its pages are the thoughts and experiences of a lifetime of painting and teaching. Undoubtedly it is a good book for the beginner, but the old hand at art will appreciate its honesty and broadness of viewpoint. It confines itself to the mechanics of landscape painting but, philosophically, it roams far and wide. . . . This is a book to keep, to read at leisure, and to look into for the solution of problems as they arise, when the need for an experienced hand is felt."
Unabridged republication of the revised (1958) edition.
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Primarily this book addresses how to properly see landscape, why it looks as it does and how to make a painting of it. It is packed with observations and information that explains why some things work and others don't explained in a simple but memorable way. In it I discovered explanations for why some of my watercolours had worked and others did not and a lot of very cheering reinforcement for the way I tackle things.
If you want help in getting clouds and skies to look right, getting your trees to look convincing or are struggling to convey depth in your landscapes you will probably find useful information and solutions in this brilliant book. (I was especially cheered by seeing where I had accidentally hit on one of his recommendations and now understanding why it made a good painting, so I can consistently repeat it in future.)
I am unsure how much benefit a complete beginner would get from this book, although it was originally developed as a text book for Carlson's art students. I think anyone who wishes to progress in their approach to landscape would get a lot from it though.
The fact it is illustrated in black and white was not a problem for me as this is not a step by step book, however I found the copious explanatory diagrams to be very informative and useful. There are some parts of the book I think can safely be ignored, the early 20th century idea of Art was very different to how it is now and the author was a painter of his time espousing contemporary philosophies.
However there is so much in this book that is useful that I really do wish I had discovered it years ago and recommend it to any painter of landscape as essential reading.
My reason for reading it was because I'd read about 'Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting' for years in internet art forums - it's regarded as the absolute standard for traditional instruction on landscape painting. When I came to read for myself I quickly began to understand why people raved about it - and lamented when I had to leave because I'd never seen it for sale in an art bookshop in England.
Which is where the wonders of the Internet and Amazon comes in - I was able to order a copy for myself and it's now prominent in my collection of books about landscape painting.
One thing - you need to understand this book was written a long time ago. I think it was first published in 1929 - and in those days the language used for art instruction was rather different. This is also not a big picture book - it only includes monochrome illustrations and there's not a lot of those. Which means that this book will come as quite a big shock to the system for those who are only used to modern art instruction books.
That doesn't make any of its content any less valid - you just have to adjust to a different approach to instruction and a different way of saying things.
Plus keep reminding yourself of two facts:
1) Having fewer illustrations means that there are MORE words covering MORE topics. This is emphatically not a dumbed down book! It's excellent in its coverage of topics relevant to landscape painting
2) This is a book which has stayed popular for the last 85 years because it's a very good instruction book which people keep buying!
With that out of the way, this is indispensable to anyone who seeks to paint nature. Ruskin praises the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood for “putting nothing in, leaving nothing out”. Carson fundamentally disagrees - he asks us to look at our view, discern the essential motif and then arrange the structure of the painting around that motif. He states that nature is rarely beautiful of itself - it must be arranged to make it so. Such profound thinking is then added to by layers of essential detail, from a life of observation and narrow eyed study.
One can disagree with much of what he writes - for example, his recommendation of Rose Madder is totally out of date given that other, less fugitive, versions are available, but take the golden pieces of advice and leave the things aside that don’t fit with you. But buy the book and make the most of it. It will improve your sight, your vision and your painting.
Having painted for about 20 years, I found I was becoming a bit stale and decided to go back to basics. The monochromatic pictures in this book takes me back to when I first took a brush and started painting and learning about tonal values and composition, without the added distraction of colour, for now.
Thankyou to the supplier for the swift distribution, appreciated.