Friday, September 10, 2010

66 The Best 5 Books about Thick Paint

I have a large library of art books that I enjoy looking through from time to time. But what if I could only have the best five books? Which ones would they be? It didn’t take long to pick out my favorites. For one thing they are near my easel for easy reference. Although there are other books I have greatly enjoyed these are the best.

CARLSON’S GUIDE TO LANDSCAPE PAINTING by John F. Carlson  Of all the books in my library this the the most essential. Although not specifically about painting with thick paint it gives all the principles necessary to paint with confidence with thick applications. This is probably the most recommended book on landscape painting.

VAN GOGH BY D. M. Field There are lots of books about Van Gogh but most have poor reproductions. This is one of the best for the price. Van Gogh is one of the all time great painters in thick paint so you need at least one of his books in your library.

WHAT PAINTING IS by James Elkins Although this book will not suit everyone’s tastes it is one of the few books that discusses in detail the physical act of mixing and applying paint.

THE GROUP OF SEVEN by David P. Wilcox This book is replete with beautifully composed landscapes. Not all of the Seven painted thickly but there is a lot of virtuoso painting in this volume.

RUSSIAN IMPRESSIONISM by Vladimir Kruglov and Vladimir Lenyashin This beautiful book is replete with fantastic paintings few have seen. And there are lots of paintings with thick, lush strokes since many of the Russian painters of the era specialized in thick applications. I noticed that this book is currently quite expensive but check back occasionally. I have seen it used for a reasonable price. Until then you may want to substitute the book Pioneering Modern Painting: Cezanne and Pizzarro (see link below) which is a beautiful book in its own way. It contains lots of detailed close-ups and has a great deal to teach about thick paint.


Brad Teare –


  1. Thanks for sharing Brad. I have loved the Group of Seven for a long time. I think I go thte first book on them about ten or 12 years ago and also bought the Silcox volume a few years back. I found a nice book on J.E.H. MacDonald a while ago that deals mostly with his engravings and design work, but I got it because he was one of the Seven. Still looking for the a good Tom Thomson stand alone volume- do you know if one exists? Of course everyone should own the Carlson book- it's the best for any outdoor painter. I added your other suggestions to my own list. Keep bringing the interesting stuff!

  2. Great post, Brad. After reading this I just purchased a copy of the Carlson book.
    One question: It seems like just about every prominent landscape painter these days mentions Edgar Payne's Composition of Outdoor Painting. Do you have this book? If so, what is your opinion of it?

  3. Greg,

    I haven't found a Thom Thomson book that has really great reproductions. When I do I plan on buying it. One thing about the books I mention is that they all have excellent color, which is vital for me before I will actually buy an art book.

    I will check out that J. E. H. MacDonald book. I am a big fan of Rockwell Kent and was surprised at how much he was influenced by the graphic style of the Group of Seven.


    I do have Edgar Payne's book on composition but while it has some good ideas, like most books on composition it ultimately is too formulaic for me. It shows a series of archetypal compositions which if adhered to will give predictable and overworked results. Edgar Payne didn't actually follow his formulas very strictly. It is still a great book.

    Few things are as important as composition but it is also a subject that is easily compressed into a formula. I think my idea of composition being a balance between the tension of the square of stretcher and the circular nature of the center is quite fascinating but ironically that video is one of the least viewed, which tells me that people aren't really connecting with it. I probably need to rethink it and see if I can present the ideas in a more compelling fashion.

    One thing I like about the tension between the circle and the square is that it allows each artist to find, or invent, his or her own idiosyncratic mode of composition rather than simple finding balance like some of Edgar Payne's solutions. I do love Edgar Payne's work though. He is a real master. I especially like his Sierra Mountain paintings.

    The best treatment I have seen on composition is Ian Robert's video on composition. It is a bit expensive but is quite good.

    Thanks for your comments!

  4. Thanks Brad! This is excellent information. When I have a bit of spare cash I'll deffinetly be buying a couple of these. A book I have turned to over and over again, when experimenting with thick paint and with landscape painting, is Elizabeth Tolley's "Oil Painter's Solution Book -Landscapes" . Have you come across this book?

  5. Thanks Matthew. I put Elizabeth Trolley's book on my wish list. It looks like a good resource.

  6. Hi Brad, just wanted to say that I appreciate you doing these videos. I really enjoy watching them and get a lot out of them. The relaxed way in which you articulate your thoughts is an added bonus, thanks!

  7. Brad, I watched the composition video and thought the concepts you put forward are all really valid. I did end up wanting to see how you ultimately resolved that picture though.
    When I talk to my students, I break it down into three areas when talking about creating an area of emphasis (or focus) in a painting. These concepts mirror what you are saying but when I spell it out this simply, they seem to get it. I tell them that the three methods that create focus are: 1- Value Contrast- the higher the contrast, the more emphasis that area will draw- that is why a black and white silhouette works so well. 2- Edges- the hardness of an edge (draws attention), or softness (diminishes it. 3- Color Intensity (saturation) A vibrant color will draw more attention in contrast to a muted color. That is why a splash of red- ala Howard Pyle, worked so effectively to draw the eye. When used in the proper combination, you can lead the eye exactly where you want it to, assuming you have made no critical errors in the division of space. I am sure you know all this, it's just a different way of explaining it. Students seem to get it (after I drill it in all semester)

  8. Greg, Good points. It is easy for student to feel that composition is all about line, forgetting that it is abut placement of visual elements. I feel one of the worst things a student can do is adopt the rule of thirds principle of composition. It only get you half way where you want to be and gives the impression that it is all you need to know.

    I find that emphasizing the tension between center and edge is much more useful. My composition video is one of the least watched of the series so I apparently didn't explain my ideas as well as I could have. I will probably do another at some point to further refine my thinking. I actually never finished that painting!

    Your idea that composition is about focusing attention is right on. Thanks for the insights!


Thanks for your comments!


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