What is my number one book on Composition?

My book Review for August is titled Composition - Understanding Line, Notan and Colour by Arthur Wesley Dow. This book was first published in 1899, however, don't let that fool you. I came across this book when I was researching Georgia O'Keeffe's art practice and found out that she was greatly influenced by Arthur Wesley Dow. He in turn was greatly influenced by Japanese painting and drawing practices and introduced her to the concept of Notan.

Notan refers to the amount of light reflected, or the massing of tones of different values.

"Notan beauty means the harmony resulting from the combination of dark and light spaces - whether coloured or not' (A L Dow) regardless of subject matter. The ancient Yin Yang symbol is an example of Notan in design in action.



This is probably one of the best books I own on drawing/composition. Drawing books tend to focus on drawing for specific objects, and don't go into the more complex theory behind creating a great composition. His approach is that it should be approached through composition rather than imitative drawing. He proposes that we begin with structure as opposed to the time honoured method of art



through imitation, of nature and historic styles. Dow explains,' Study of Composition, of Line, and Colour leads to an appreciation of all forms of art and of the beauty of nature. Drawing of natural objects then becomes a language of expression. They are drawn because they are beautiful.'

In my experience, these things are all connected and understanding how they affect and enhance each other, only moves us towards producing better art.

Like all good art books, this one is filled with many drawings and several colour plates. It is written in a way that is easy to understand and comes with exercises to try out as well.

So if you are looking to enhance your drawing and composition skills I highly recommend it.


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