Spotlight: Portrait Painter Favorites!
If you are a professional portrait painter, your input regarding favorite books is appreciated. Please email me. Some books here may not make a "favorites" list for a professional portrait artist, but keep in mind that this page attempts to address both the beginner and experienced artist.
The Practice and Science of Drawing by Harold, Speed – Paperback: 296 pages; Dover Publications; 3rd edition (Sep 1980) Best Seller

Classic approach to the dynamics of drawing by brilliant teacher with insights and practical advice on line drawing, mass drawing, visual memory, materials and much more. 84 plates and diagrams reinforce Speed’s clear presentation.

Portraits from Life in 29 Steps by John Howard Sanden, Elizabeth Sanden – Hardcover: 144 pages; North Light Books (Aug 1999)

Creating a likeness of a person is one of the greatest challenges an artist can face. In this book, John Howard Sanden makes the challenge much more achievable by breaking it down into 29 logical steps. Working in the exciting premier coup tradition, you will learn to execute a finished portrait in a single sitting, starting with your very first stroke. Perfected by Sanden over three decades of painting and teaching, this 29-step method will help you create convincing, lively portraits every time.

Making Color Sing by Jeanne Dobie – Paperback: 160 pages; Watson-Guptill (Apr 15, 2000)

Through clear, illuminating exercises, this best-selling book stimulates new ways to think about color, generating responses that unlock personal creativity and allow artists to express themselves with paint as never before.

Readers are shown how the interplay of complementary hues can trigger vibrations; how the push and pull of warm and cool colors can create a feeling of space; how to disguise one color in a scene to accent another; and many more tidbits of colorful advice.

From SOG artist Chris Saper: "Hands down, one of the most well written and usefully illustrated book on color theory available."

The Painted Word by Tom Wolfe – Paperback: 112 pages; Bantam Doubleday Dell (Oct 5, 1999)

Much of The Painted Word is a superb burlesque on that modern mating ritual whereby artists get to despise their middle-class audience and accommodate it at the same time. The painter, Wolfe writes, "had to dedicate himself to the quirky god Avant-Garde". The Painted Word isn't about the history of art. It's about the history of taste and middlebrow acquisition—and nobody has chronicled these two topics as hilariously or accurately as Tom Wolfe.

Color Choices by Stephen Quiller – Paperback: 144 pages; Watson-Guptill; New edition (May 2002)

From SOG artist Chris Saper: "Hands down, one of the most well written and usefully illustrated book on color theory available."

Internationally renowned artist and best-selling author Stephen Quiller shows readers how to discover their own personal "color sense" in Color Choices, a book that offers readers a fresh perspective on refining their own color styles. With the help of his own "Quiller Wheel," a special foldout wheel featuring 68 precisely placed colors, the author shows artists how they can develop their own unique color blends. First, Quiller demonstrates how to use the wheel to interpret color relationships and mix colors more clearly. Then he explains, step by step, how to develop five structured color schemes; apply underlays and overlays; and use color in striking, unusual ways. This book will bring out every artist's unique sense of color whether he or she works in oil, watercolor, acrylic, gouache, or casein.

The Best of Portrait Painting by Rachel Wolf (Editor) – Hardcover: 144 pages; North Light Books; 1st edition (Feb 1, 1998)

Artists on this site featured are Margaret Carter Baumgaertner, Chris Saper.

My People: The Portraits of Robert Henri by Valerie Ann Leeds – Paperback: 119 page; University of Washington Press, 1995

Painting People by Burt Silverman – Hardcover: 142 pages; Watson-Guptill (1977)

Breaking the Rules of Watercolor by Burt Silverman – Reprint Edition, Paperback: Watson-Guptill, 1991

Problem Solving for Oil Painters by Gregg Kreutz – Paperback: 144 pages; Watson-Guptill, 1997 Best Seller

Reader review:I stumbled on this book by accident in an art store library. Upon browsing through it, I realized that I was looking at something very different than the bulk of "art instruction" books available. The author is exceptionally knowledgable about the medium of oils, as well as surfaces on which to paint, but most importantly, he shows many color photos of "bad" paintings and how to correct them. He discusses, composition, lighting, unifying color, shadow color,etc. It is an education in itself. An outstanding work.

Oil Painting Secrets from a Master by Linda Brandi Cateura, with David Leffel – Paperback: 144 pages; Watson-Guptill (Sep 1, 1995) Best Seller

The insights, philosophy, painting hints, and general comments of David A. Leffel, a popular instructor at the Art Students League in New York. David did a painting demonstration at the ASOPA 2000 Portrait Arts Festival at the Met.

Human Figure by John H. Vanderpoel – Paperback: 144 pages; Dover Publications; 2nd edition (Jun 1, 1958) Best Seller

Reader review: One of the finest books available on figure drawing, written by someone who could do it! His advice helps you look at the big picture, rather than getting lost in details. It requires some patience to read, but most worthwhile things do. A real gem!

Oil Painting Techniques and Materials by Harold Speed – Paperback: 280 pages; Dover Publications (Feb 1988) Best Seller

Reader review: This book is a treasure. I have checked it out of the library several times already and now have finally decided to buy it. I have yet to find a better guide to traditonal painting techniques. In a world of modern techniques based on 20th century aesthetics, this is the book for those of us who follow a different path. If you want to paint like Velasquez, Titian, or Nerdrum, this is the place to start.

The Art Spirit: Notes, Articles, Fragments of Letters and Talks to Students, Bearing on the Concept and Technique of Picture Making, the Study of Art by Robert Henri, Margery A. Ryerson (Editor) – Paperback: 284 pages; Reprint edition (Apr 1984) Icon (Harpe)

Within his treatise on art and its many facets, well-known artist and teacher Robert Henri shares insight on the making and viewing of art. He offers insight on areas which all artists must eventually come to terms with, including proportion, technique, color, style, and subject matter. He discloses a lifetime of his personal "life-lessons" about his own art and his personal struggles as an artist, and he shares honestly the perils and triumphs of both he and his students. In a mere moment the reader learns lessons about art and its making which take artists years to learn. This book is a joy in every sense of the word—from Henri's suggestions on rendering light reflecting from a woman's lower lip to his secrets to making a portrait "glow". Henri's The Art Spirit is a must-read for any reader interested in any aspect of art.

Portraits by David Seidner – Hardcover: 80 pages; Assouline (Oct 1999)

Recommended by Karin Wells.

David Seidner's portrait photography is elegant, lavish and exceptionally wonderful. With their hedonistic overstones and sumptuous beauty, they always stand on sphere of their own. Impossible to do them justice, the work must be seen.

In this extraordinary and beautiful new book, Seidner's work pays homage to the great portrait painters of the early nineteenth-century. Fusing history and stylish antiquarianism with a contemporary sensibility, Seidner creates a distinctive and remarkable array of images. Modern day actors, actresses, aristocrats and others who fill the social pages, don the costumes and postures of their earlier counterparts. Counterparts who were painted by artists such as Ingres, Boldini and Americans, John Singer Sargent and John Singleton Copley.

With models such as Jessye Norman, Helena Bonham Carter (this photograph was selected as one of the top 100 photographs of the century by the National Portrait Gallery in London), Lord Glenconner, Princess Alexandra von Furstenburg, Edwina Hicks, and India Hicks, David Seidner captures the present in the past and the past in the present. The photographs assume at once both history painting and portrait.

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