What to get the artist who has everything but a good idea? What else–a reference book. Now when your favorite artist has no inspiration, she can browse color and light optical effects or check the toxicity levels of her favorite solvents, all from the convenient location of her comfy chair.
Here are two I like a lot and use all the time:
Mayer, Ralph. The Artist’s Handbook of Materials and Techniques, 5th ed. New York: Viking Penguin. 1991. I often mention mi brujo, Ralph. He’s the Man, andThe Artist’s Handbook is the Book. Ralph Mayer first published his handbook in the 1940’s and it has been updated in later editions to discuss modern, non-trad materials. Starting with a chapter on pigments, which includes composition, optical effects, theories, and anything else you want to know, it continues through detailed chapters on oil painting, acrylics, solvents, thinners, waxes, resins, encaustic, chemistry and conservation of art. The chapter on encaustic gives all the basic information an artist needs, as well as the why behind the ancient methods.
Gottsegen, Mark David. The Painter’s Handbook: A Complete Reference, Revised and Expanded. New York: Watson:Guptill Publications. 2006. A modern sidekick for Ralph Mayer, Gottsegen’s text is full of useful shortcuts and up-to-date information. His sketches and illustrations are very helpful. When the words “graduated cylinder” and “gravy separator” bring nothing to mind, his sketches tell you everything you need to know. While describing damar varnish, his definition of “five-pound cut” made sense instantly, while I’m still confused about whatever Ralph Mayer was saying. The Painter’s Handbook goes a step further, explaining not only what a substance or technique is but explains exactly how to use it. These two handbooks are indispensable additions to an artist’s library.
This blog will be having a long winter’s nap next week, saving herself for a brilliant and gleefully messy 2013.