Book Review: Composition; Understanding Line, Notan and Color
Today, I re-read the book Composition by Arthur Wesley Dow and took away different points than I did the first time through it.
My previous blog post on the book can be found here. In that post you will find some details on the authors three main points:
Following are the different aspects of the book that resonated with me this time:
- I really respect how the author relates decorative art to fine art. Even today they are treated as very different art forms. Dow points out the similarities and benefits of exploring both.
- Dow presents exercises for the student to complete in order to see the compositional elements. Of course, this book is older so all exercises are with traditional media. I was trained in traditional media and worked exclusively with traditional media until last year when I started working digitally. Now, I have no desire to stand at the easel. With this I'm always thinking about this change and what the pros and cons are of the different approaches. The reason Dow presents exercises using specific media is that those media inherently provide limitations that will help the student learn the lesson [for example working in woodblock in order to study two value compositions]. This has me thinking that the seasoned artist should use whatever media gets their idea across best, however, the student who is still filling their "art toolbox" should start with traditional media. To Dow's point it will force the student to learn valuable art lessons they may miss with all the freedom digital tools provide.
- When discussing color theory, Dow points out that the intensity of color from bright to grey wasn't recognized as a key component of color theory in the 1890's. I think this is really interesting because when you do a quick study of color theory or look at color wheels they usually only discuss the hue relationships. That is apparently elementary even to 1890's standards.
It's awesome when you experience something a second time and take away new ideas! This book is a classic and has some very valuable lessons. My only word of caution is to understand it's a "fill your art toolbox" kind of book. Meaning it's strictly technique. Remember that good artists don't use all their tools; instead they select the perfect tools for the job.