It is rare for an art book to combine history, theory, and practice in one volume, but this book really delivers.
Painting inanimate objects under controlled conditions has always served as a laboratory for artists to study the behavior of light and form. As a laboratory of learning for art students, still life setups are a regular part of atelier practice. Students arrange objects under fixed lights and capture as perfect an illusion as possible.
After an introduction that tells his personal story, Casey shares his knowledge about oil painting in a series of clear-headed explanations, demonstrations, and exercises. The book covers materials for drawing and painting, principles of composition, light and shadow, drawing procedure, color theory, modeling of form, and paint technique.
It ends with a practical step-by-step guide that walks you through all the decisions you’ll need to make as you execute a painting from start to finish. The coverage would be helpful for any artist, beginner or advanced, and whether or not they specialize in still life.
James Gurney, Gurney Journey
When another still life book arrived, I was convinced it would be just another book to review, which is about the same as any other. But, once I dug in, I discovered it was anything but just another book. The Art of the Still Life, A Contemporary Guide to Classical Techniques, Composition, and Painting in Oil, by Todd Casey is an extraordinary painting technique book unlike any I’ve seen before.
The coffee table book, 320 pages in all is filled with rich color reproductions of still life paintings through history, as well as paintings by contemporary still life artists. But the book is so much more. Not only does it outline technique, it provides technique on steroids, with amazing graphs, charts and illustrations which make things like lighting, light drop off, color, color temperature, form and so much more easy to grasp. Though I’ve been around the principles in my own life for the past couple of decades, I discovered concepts I never had seen or understood before. The book offers examples in lighting, examples of various forms of still life from common household objects, food, flowers, fish, game and birds, narrative themes, painting interiors, various backgrounds and more. Its chapters on light and another on composition are worth the price of the book alone, but there is so much more, with incredible information on color, on light planes and form, the science of painting and color, painting methods and more. And, the exercises and demonstrations are clear to understand and to follow.
The price tag of $40 is a bargain, I’d pay $150 or $200 for the content in this book. It is one of the finest examples of a painting instruction book I’ve experienced in my collection of over 500 art books.
B. Eric Rhoads, Publisher
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