Best Book on Painting for Artists


Best Book on Painting

As An artist and a writer, I study all the time the masters in those fields, those who struggled and won. Why? Because I am still struggling and need their tools to win.

Best Book on Painting

I recently read Charles Webster Hawthorne on Painting, collected by Mrs. Charles. W. Hawthorne with an Introduction by Edwin Dickinson, an Appreciation by Hans Hoffman, and Biographical Notes by Joseph Hawthorne, his son.

Here are the forty tools I gleaned from Hawthorne’s tips to help his students create more masterful paintings. In working to understand these forty tools, I felt like one of his students. I wish the same for you:

  1.  Never try to recreate a painting
  2. Anything is beautiful If you have a vision and want to appeal to humanity
  3. The painter is a high priest who believes in the beauty and the glory of human existence, showing sympathy and understanding
  4. An artist is a poet and a poet is an artist; both are preachers
  5. An artist must learn to see the beauty in the ugly, even if they do not paint it
  6. Rather make something big out of something small than vice versa
  7. Anything is painter’s fodder
  8. Surprise
  9. Good painting is an excitement, an aesthetic emotion; reasonable painting destroys emotion
  10. Study continually; develop yourself
  11. Know when you are licked; start another
  12. No amount of good drawing will pull your painting out if your colors don’t work
  13. Fundamental skill patterns one spot of paint next to another artistically
  14. Overdo in color rather than go limp
  15. Think color first, then object and paint the color you see
  16. Hold light against shadow, rather than light against light
  17. Everything in painting is a matter of silhouettes
  18. Nothing cheapens a canvas more than the same color running through it
  19. Harmony and vitality come from the use of different colors
  20. There is nothing harder than black in sunlight and beware of brown outdoors
  21. There is no such thing as an edge in nature
  22. When white goes warm it loses its power
  23. In floral still lifes, the background is as important as the subject
  24. Do what you see not what you know
  25. Look out for being too lavish in accents—it makes your painting look spotty and dry
  26. There is sincerity in painting from nature that is lost when you make it up
  27. A painting is like an after-dinner talk—if you want to be remembered, say one thing and stop
  28. The light does not stop at the fold of the upper lid but stops at the pupil
  29. Avoid painting the whites of the eye too light
  30. The highlight should be complementary to the color it falls on
  31. Make edges subtle rather than obvious
  32. See the big simple music the old masters saw when they painted the figure and paint the big note on your own canvas
  33. Paint people as if they would bleed if you pricked them
  34. A painting of high intensity looks better unvarnished
  35. If you don’t do what you don’t know, you don’t give yourself away—never fire your last show—power is real strength—don’t give all, have a reserve
  36. Study Manet to study how to make spots of watercolor come together as one
  37. Always use good watercolor paper
  38. Work watercolor very wet and allow the colors to run together
  39. Yell with watercolor
  40. Study Sargent’s watercolors to get an education in the study of edges, architecture in shadow

Read Charles Webster Hawthorne on your own and make your own notes out of your understanding of what you need to grow as a painting artist. We all come to our paints and pictures from different talents and places. However, I do suggest you find the 1939 first edition if you can, because the 1960 paperback has no illustrations, which makes Hawthorne’s notes much more meaningful.

Happy painting, collecting, viewing, and being in the beauty others have created for your enjoyment!


1 Comment
  1. Avatar of Paula Boer
    Paula Boer says

    A great list. I’ve sent the link to a couple of my painter friends.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept

Angie's Diary