Artist Resource No 13: Color and Light

If you haven’t already, I encourage you read my post on color theory.

If you are not familiar with James Gurney, you are likely familiar with his works as creator of Dinotopia.  James is an exceedingly accomplished artist, with a well established reputation for creating exceedingly realistic renderings even when the material is often fantastical in nature.

He has written a few books for artists, and I wanted to take a moment to talk more specifically about Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter.  If you are looking for a practical guide to color theory then look no further.  If not the seminal work on the matter, it is nevertheless a tome that any serious artist can afford to ignore.

What sets this book apart is that James introduces concepts on a per 2-page pace.  Each page is filled with examples of the particular topic he is discussing, both from his and other’s portfolios.  His writing is concise and provides sufficient information to help you grasp the key concepts behind the topic.  Generally speaking, each topic lends itself to the proceeding topic such that I recommend people start from the beginning and work their way toward the back, unless you are already relatively familiar with all the topics covered.

In total, there are 12 chapters, or:

  1. Tradition
  2. Source of Light
  3. Light and Form
  4. Elements of Color
  5. Paint and Pigments
  6. Color Relationships
  7. Premixing
  8. Visual Perception
  9. Surfaces and Effects
  10. Atmospheric Effects
  11. Light’s Changing Show
  12. Resources

James starts out by talking about traditional art and how it evolved in relation to color and light.  While brief, this section helps establish how we’ve arrived at the subsequent sections of the book.  Next, he moves on to sources of light, each two-page topic within the section helping you quickly understand what things to consider to render these different light sources realistically.  He then moves onto Light and Form, followed by Elements of Color.  There are a few chapters such as Paint and Pigments, and Premixing that, while I read, can likely be ignored for digital artists.  Nevertheless, even these chapters are, I think, useful to every artist for the simple fact that James sneaks in sage advice on every single page.

What I appreciate maybe most about his book is his rather exhaustive, at least for an art book, list of resources in Chapter 12.  He includes both print and online resources, some of which I’ve referenced in previous posts.

While the book is not intended for a neophyte, the material is nevertheless laid out in a fashion that allows even the uneducated masses such as myself a toe-hold on page 1, and every page works to ensure you do not get lost in the wealth of information and insights James has to offer the reader.  I cannot recommend this book highly enough: go and buy it now!

If you prefer to watch, rather than read, more about this book, then Jason Morgan does an excellent job going through virtually every page of the book.  I highly recommend you watch his review beloe.

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