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Art Class: A Complete Guide to Painting

Art Class: A Complete Guide to Painting

by Simon Jennings, Chronicle Books, Sally Bulgin (Editor), Simon Jennings

From the team behind Chronicle Books' best-selling art reference book Artist's Manual comes the ultimate painting compendium, Art Class. The perfect complement to its predecessor, Art Class is filled with page after page of beautiful paintings and expert teaching. It is packed with ideas and inspirations, tools and techniques, photos and


From the team behind Chronicle Books' best-selling art reference book Artist's Manual comes the ultimate painting compendium, Art Class. The perfect complement to its predecessor, Art Class is filled with page after page of beautiful paintings and expert teaching. It is packed with ideas and inspirations, tools and techniques, photos and illustrations, as well as detailed instructions on working with media ranging from watercolor to acrylic to oil. With an entire section devoted to step-by-step demonstrations by renowned artists—where they reveal their personal secrets, tips, and methods—Art Class is like having an instructor guiding each and every brush stroke. Learn how to paint an eye or a portrait, a tree or an entire landscape, by following the many artist-led descriptions and full-page color spreads that illustrate the most basic to the most advanced painting techniques. Whether they work in gouache or watercolor, oil or pastel, aspiring or seasoned artists will find that Art Class offers everything they need to create successful paintings. With 500 color photographs and featured works of art, a visual glossary of the language and mechanics behind painting, and an extensive resource listing, Art Class is the definitive studio companion for every painter.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Jennings surveys a broad variety of media, from charcoal to pastels, watercolor, gouache, oils, and more, and he relies on the advice and work of a large group of artists to help the beginner choose media, tools, and techniques. Unlike the authors of Art School, Jennings creates an actual curriculum here. Exercises that compare the same subject, e.g., a red-enameled coffeepot, painted in both acrylic and pastel, are enlightening. Very highly recommended. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

Chronicle Books LLC
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

do I

Where do I start? INTRODUCTION Drawing for painting

Starting to paint

Where do I start? A difficult question but an easy answer — you have taken the first step by picking up this book and leafing through the pages. Maybe you are returning to painting and have not picked up a paintbrush since leaving school, but have a warm memory of a rewarding and engaging pursuit. Or maybe you are an absolute beginner whose experience of landscape painting is to put blue at the top, brown in the middle, and green at the bottom. This book covers many levels of ability, but this page is aimed at the absolute beginner rather than the painter whose interests have been focused and techniques honed through years of dedication and experience.

Beginner painters

As an inexperienced painter, you will probably be among those who find it difficult to begin a painting. However, there are plenty of instances where the the serious amateur or semiprofessional artist, or even the full-time professional, will "draw a blank" or have considerable difficulty in getting going. Indeed, getting going is often the hardest part of all. Making those first marks on a blank canvas can be a daunting prospect. If you feel daunted, you will not be alone.

    Many of the artists who have contributed to this book have remarked that there are no rules in painting. This seems to be particularly true of getting started. There are all sorts of ways to begin a painting, but the desire to do so is the most important requirement.Once you have made a start, you can pick the route you want to go down.

Professional advice

Among the words that kept cropping up during interviews with the professional artists who contributed to this book were expressions such as "choices," "freedom" and "satisfaction." These key words point to the fact that although painting is not an easy process, it is an enjoyable and rewarding one. They also imply that there are a number of steps you can take to help you get started — and that, combined with perseverance, these steps gradually lead toward a pleasing finished painting.

    Opposite and on the following pages you will find a variety of practical hints and suggestions for choosing subjects and starting a painting.

Getting started

So, in order to get started, what do I do? From the outset try to avoid setting yourself up for disappointment. Choose a subject and a medium that you feel comfortable with, one that you feel you can handle. Don't try to run before you can walk — but by the same token don't be too timid or too tight in your approach, or scared to try an unfamiliar medium. Be bold and confident, and remember that it is your choice. You have decided to paint and what to paint; you are not in a competition, and you aren't under any pressure or under an obligation to anyone other than yourself.

Shine through

Choose a subject that is enjoyable and interesting. Be open-minded in your approach. Let the painting sometimes lead you — celebrate the accidental brushstroke, the chance blending of colors, the misplaced or quirkily drawn object. Painting is not photography; if you want to get an exact copy of a scene or an object, go out and buy a camera.

    Let your own style and personality come through. Painting is an opportunity for you to be yourself, and it will give you an opportunity to convey feeling and atmosphere. Do not be afraid of paint or color. Artists' paints are relatively expensive materials and you may be reluctant to squander them — but many a potentially good amateur painting has been spoilt through lack of boldness in the application of paint.

First steps

Many painters like to start by making pencil or color studies and sketches. Some make meticulous drawings and transfer them to canvas; some put in the simplest and most basic of drawn lines; some make a thin wash drawing with a brush; and others prefer to jump right in with brush and knife and pure, umixed color. Shown right is a selection of photographs of the first steps taken in the creation of four paintings.

Keeping a sketchbook

An artist's sketchbook takes on many guises. It can be a means of recording fleeting impressions, color notes, and compositions for turning into paintings. It can be a portable scrapbook in which to collect interesting pieces of printed ephemera and pictorial references. It can be a notebook for observations and ideas that, one day, may provide that essential spark of inspiration. And if nothing else, a sketchbook gives you somewhere to develop and practice your drawing and painting skills.

Collecting resources and references

Artists are invariably avid collectors of what to the uninitiated eye is nothing short of junk. Accumulating anything and everything of interest is a fascinating and often amusing way to build an invaluable resource of objects for the still-life table. Printed ephemera and reproductions can inspire ideas for paintings and provide visual information that may be difficult to acquire firsthand. They also constitute a rich yet inexpensive source of material for collages.

    In the world of art, "copying" is a time-honored way of learning to paint and draw. Traditionally, students were encouraged to make studies of what were known as "antiques" — plaster casts of statues from antiquity, usually including Venus de Milo, Michelangelo's David and fragments of the Parthenon frieze.

Eventually students would progress to copying Old Masters in museums and galleries. In addition, a sound knowledge of human anatomy was required before pupils were allowed to set foot in the life studio. In many ways, students sought to become accomplished artists by learning to see through other people's eyes.

    Today these traditional approaches to teaching have mostly been superseded by a quest for free expression and personal exploration. However, while slavish copying is not recommended, it is always of value to see how other artists have tackled particular themes, and you may be able to pick up useful tips on methods and materials along the way.

A lively interest in the world around you is an essential grounding for good observational drawing and painting. Training yourself to see with an artist's eye develops an awareness of form, color, texture and pattern, without putting brush to canvas.

Meet the Author

Simon Jennings is an accomplished graphic artist, painter, and educator. Trained at the Royal College of Art, London, he lives in the UK.

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