We've reached the meat of things now: painting books. If you haven't read the other posts in my series you can find them here and here. And now, take a deep breath and let's dive into some paint!
The Fantasy Art Techniques Of Tim Hildebrandt, Jack Norton
Have you ever wanted to look into the mind of one of the great Fantasy illustrators? This book should fulfill that daydream nicely. Tim Hildebrandt is without a doubt one of the best ever in his genre, and certainly one of my favorites. He has invaluable things to say on a broad range of subjects from the conceptual to the specific: color, lighting, composition, using models, even putting together your portfolio. There’s sage advice from beginning to end of this lavishly illustrated volume.
Welcome to My Studio, Helen Van Wyk
Color Mixing the Van Wyk Way, Helen Van Wyk
Helen Van Wyk's Favorite Color Recipes, Helen Van Wyk
If you’re learning about Oils, these are the books for you, but as with all painting books they have fantastic value to you DIGITAL painters as well. Because principles are principles, and you can take the Oil lessons easily to Painter or Photoshop.
Helen Van Wyk was a fantastic instructor; if you find that her “Welcome to my Studio” TV shows are playing in your area, you should watch them without fail! These books do a great job of distilling her vast knowledge and presenting them in a friendly and lucid manner. Expect to find lots of information about color theory, lighting, artistic observation, composition, and most importantly "lost edges" and how to use them in an effective rendering.
One note: I have no earthly idea why the second book I've listed is out of print; it's one of the best books on color in painting I've seen. If you blanch at the price of the used books right now(I don't blame you) try looking around for a bargain. It WILL be worth the search.
Painting Sharp Focus Still Lifes: Trompe L'Oeil Oil Techniques, Ken Davies
Ken Davies, artist at work
Ken Davies is an Oil painter, and these books feature only oils, but they contain principles that should prove equally useful to artists working in any medium: Acrylic, watercolor, pencils or even digital. His techniques concentrate mainly on observation, critical thinking and practice, and these skills transfer winningly to any artistic endeavor.
The first one, “Painting Sharp Focus Still Lifes”, was released in 1974, and is the larger of the two. It is written as an art course, immediately plunging us into interesting and challenging assignments. And make no mistake - this is not a book for beginners! Davies writes in the introduction:
“The information [in this book] is intended for the serious student or the experienced painter who is willing to devote many hours of hard work to practicing the essentials. It is not for the hobbyist or the casual ‘Sunday painter.’”
The second book by Davies, “Artist at Work,” is mostly demonstrations, with a short “materials and methods” section at the beginning. What makes this book interesting in its own right is that it includes a serious discussion of how and why Davies makes individual choices in his paintings, from color to composition to subject. It's about the "What, How and Why", as he puts it in the introduction.
These books are currently out of print, but can be found online for not much more than a new high-quality hardback art book. They get my very highest recommendation - would I be overstating it to suggest that all serious painters specializing in realism should have these in their libraries? Probably, but not by much!
Oil Painting Techniques and Materials
I'll wrap up this part of the list with perhaps my favorite book on the subject of painting. As the title implies, this is a book about Oil Painting, though it covers general areas very well such as composition and aesthetics.
However, it's an amazing book not only for the things covered in the title (traditional realism techniques in oil) but for Speed's unique view of the world of Oil painting in the 1920's (it was originally printed in 1924); a time when impressionism was already mainstream and abstraction was coming into ascendance, but hadn't yet completed its complete takeover of the fine art world. Therefore, you will find many random scraps wisdom about how one can marry the useful techniques of the impressionists and other more modern schools with traditional realism, before the total polarization of styles occurred only a few years later. (A schism we're only now overcoming, sadly).
Additionally, there is an all-too-brief section on the theories and techniques of several past masters. He even has a few paragraphs on the paint-application techniques of the Pre-Raphaelites, which is quite an eye-opener (before reading this, I hadn't realized their technique was so unusual).In short, it's an essential technique book because of the content, and a great read because of the subtext. What more could you ask for?