Friday, March 27, 2015

Announcing the Friday Book Club




Most of what I know about painting and art history I learned from old books, and every once in a while I like to reread them, because learning is a lifelong process.

That led to an idea. What if we created a free forum on the blog where we could all compare notes about a favorite book?

What book to start with? It could be a biography, an art history book, or an art instruction book.

And it should be broken up into chapters. We're all busy, so we can read and discuss just one chapter a week. I'd like to suggest we begin with Harold Speed's "The Practice and Science of Drawing."



Harold Speed (1872-1957) was Royal-Academy trained portrait painter. His teaching method focuses on solid principles that have stood the test of time. Check out some of his drawings and paintings at the National Gallery website. Edit: And there's a slideshow of his work at BBC (thanks, Glenn)



Like Solomon J. Solomon and some of the other great teacher/practitioners of his day, Speed expresses an insightful respect for the old masters. One thing I like about his concept of "mass drawing" is that it offers the student a natural transition between drawing and painting.

Harold Speed, Edward Grey, 1st Viscount Grey of Fallodon
Harold Speed "Drawing" (Dover Edition)
The Practice and Science of Drawing is easy for everyone to acquire, and it's available in many different forms. It is available as an inexpensive softcover edition from Dover, which I like because I can jot notes in the margins. You can also get a free Kindle edition. Or you can read it online in a free Archive.org edition. Finally, there's a Project Gutenberg version (Thanks, DMR), which is not only digitally scanned, but also reviewed by real humans.

This isn't going to be a workshop. I'm not the teacher, nor will I be comprehensively summarizing the points of the chapters. I'll just share my basic take-away from each reading, and I may show an example of how those thoughts affect — or have affected—my own practice. I'm expecting to learn from you and from the discussion. I will try to answer a few questions, but I'm hoping that members of the forum can help shoulder some of the Q and A.

We'll discuss a new chapter every Friday. The discussion will take place in the blog comments. Let's get started a week from today with the Preface and the Introduction. That's your assignment, and mine, too. Those who have time can do practice exercises related to each chapter as we move through the book.

If someone wants to set up a Facebook or Pinterest group for posting artwork, that would be great, and I'll link to it. (Edit: Here's Pinterest link, thanks Carolyn Kasper. Keita Hopkinson also created a GJ Book Club Facebook page here.) I may stop by for a quick visit, but I'll probably focus most of my attention and comments on the blog so that the forum and discussion will be archived and searchable.

Let me know in the comments what you all think of the idea.

62 comments:

Kevin Rice said...

I think this is a great idea. I've read this book a couple of times. Lots of insightful information in there. Would be interesting to see what you and other people have learned from this book. Getting others viewpoints on the concepts might be helpful in understanding them better.

Jackson Hall said...

This promises to be an amazing opportunity. I look forward to it.

Blake Downing said...

What a brilliant idea! I really need to improve in this area as well, so I'll get started reading.

dragonladych said...

Sounds really great! I'll try to have a peek.

dmr said...

It sounds like a very interesting project.

Maybe you can add the link to the Project Gutenberg version of the book (it's not just scanned, it's a digital version reviewed by actual humans). I don't know how it compares to the others you have linked to, but the HTML version looked ok: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/14264

Mike Garvey said...

Love this idea! I learned a lot from the Solomon J. Solomon book. Just bought a copy of this one. Looking forward to diving in.

seadit said...

Love the idea of a book club. A few weeks ago after a drawing session 2 people suggested books by Harold Speed and James Gurney, which is how I ended up here. Nothing has been the same since (in a good way). Where would the discussion take place, in the comment section of your blog?

Two other additions for consideration are The Natural Way to Draw, by Nicolaides, and The Human Figure by John H. Vanderpoel.

Viktoria Berg said...

I have just followed this blog for a week or so (this is my first comment; wonderful blog!), but this sounds like a great project and I am very keen to take part, being a newbie to drawing with just a few classes under my belt.

However, living all the way over in Swedish Lapland, I will probably come late to all discussions. Hopefully, I can still contribute somewhat.

Are we actually starting on Good Friday?

Jtza Garabating said...

Perfect. I'm in.

exploringandcreating said...

https://www.pinterest.com/carolynbooks/gj-friday-book-club/

Love it! I've made a pinterest page at the link above. Please let me know if it works of. (Am not sure yet how to make it so anyone participating can post. Any ideas?) Thanks!

Jenna Berry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Hart said...

I love the idea too. I just downloaded the Gutenberg version (thanks dmr) and it looks great, preferable, from what I've seen, to the scanned version. Honestly, I'm not sure how faithful I'll be with completing the weekly readings but I'm game to try!

exploringandcreating said...

Meant to type: "Please let me know if it works."
Trying again to make it a link:
www.pinterest.com/carolynbooks/gj-friday-book-club/

Jenna Berry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carolyn Arcabascio said...

This is fantastic. I'm in!

Jared Cullum said...

Brilliant!

sfox said...

I have the book and I'm in.

James Gurney said...

Thanks, everybody! This will be a fun kind of "communal self-teaching." Carolyn, I added your Pinterest link—perfect!

Jenna, I agree, some of the most valuable books are not instructional. There are some wonderful accounts of the art students' life in 19th century Paris that are fabulous, and I'd like to one of those in the future. There are also some early and offbeat art histories that we could do in the future.

Viktoria, welcome, and thanks for the comment, all the way from Sweden. Whatever or whenever you feel like contributing would be wonderful. Yes, sorry it's Good Friday, but if that's a problem for you, I'm sure the discussion will continue into the weekend.

Seadit, Glad to meet you, and you have helpful friends. Good suggestions, by the way. And yes, the discussion will be here in the comments.

DMR, thanks for the Gutenberg link. I added that to the post.

Kevin, this book should be fascinating for us all to read or reread, and I'm sure commentators will bring some surprising perspectives.

Katie said...

Yay, this sounds wonderful. Thanks :)

Glenn said...

Looking forward to this.

BBC's "Your Paintings" site has a selection of 54 of Harold Speed's paintings. Included are some landscapes, a couple on the more impressionistic side.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/artists/Harold-Speed/paintings/slideshow

Kevin Rice said...

Yes, James. It will be interesting. By the way, do you know yet where the forum will be hosted?

James Gurney said...

Kevin, the forum will be on the blog comments. Of course with Blogger you can sign up for Email followup comments, and you can add non commercial links in your comments if you want.

Kevin Rice said...

Thanks James. Looking forward to it.

Rich said...

Good idea!
Don't know "The Practice & Science of Drawing". Must have a look into this book. Harold Speed has drawn Duerer's Mother on the cover: That alone guaranteers quality.

Sesco said...

This will give me a reason to use my Kindle! Great idea!

Five Fives said...

Great idea! I've had this book on my wishlist for a long time, but this is more than enough reason to purchase it.

Rob Fullmer said...

Great idea! I was just looking at my copy of Speed's book two days ago. I was looking for a different book, saw that one on the shelf and thought, "I should read that one again."

krystal said...

Sound great! I"m stoked!

Vladimir Venkov said...

Great idea. I've red it once and was thinking of reading it for a second time.

Roger Bansemer said...

No better book than your book, Color and Light. That's more helpful than any book I've ever seen.
For pure thoughts on art, Robert Henri's book "The Art Spirit" is great.

allenmorrisart said...

I think this an amazing idea, and will help me personally direct my attention fully to a book. I'm terrible at Pinterest... So I made an Open Facebook Page!

https://www.facebook.com/groups/355795164623552/

My Pen Name said...

great idea James. I read this book years ago (along with his painting one) and found it very helpful. As Twyla Tharpe says in her book (I may i suggest this one? ) the creative habit- masters always return to and respect the fundamentals.

My Pen Name said...

PS Speed's book along with other classics like Vanderpool's drawing - inexpensive dover versions - are still in the art student's league (NYC) store.

Janet Oliver said...

What fun! Count me in.

David King said...

I can't promise how active I'll be but I'll give it a try, this is a great opportunity.

Gayle said...

I'd like to cast my "YEAH" vote as well. I have a copy downloaded from the Gutenberg site and have started to read it and make notes.

charisedanielle said...

This is my first comment here, though I've been reading your blog for a while. :) I happen to have this book and haven't read it yet, so I'd love to join in!

Roberto Quintana said...

This sounds great! I recently began re-reading all my old (and new) drawing books “…because learning is a lifelong process”.
I don’t have this one, but I’m getting it, and looking forward to the discussions. Should be an interesting journey. –RQ

P.S.- In addition to the usual suspects, may I also suggest:
Leonard Shlain: ‘Art & Physics’ (highly recommended)
Matilde Marcolli: ‘Still Life as a Model of Spacetime’
Tom Wolfe: ‘The Painted Word’
Wassily Kandinsky: ‘Concerning the Spiritual in Art’
Mark Levy: ‘Technicians of Ecstasy’
Eliot Hutchinson: ‘How to think Creatively’
Michael J. Gelb: ‘How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci’

Barry Van Clief said...

Great!

Interesting how the faces by Speed in the National Gallery all seem to be holding their faces in such a way that when they talk, they'll have English accents. Pretty cool.

Frances Buckmaster said...

Love this idea. Thank you. I'm in!

Julia said...

Wonderful idea. I think I love you.

Beth said...

Ordering! Love this idea.

Paulette Lane said...

Downloaded my copy, have read the first few pages and I'm ready to go. this is such a great idea. Never would have found this book without you.

Gardenart said...

Love this! I'm looking forward to it. Alice

Ricky Mujica said...

Great idea! I'm in! Haven't read this in many, many years. Would be good to reread!

Ricky Mujica said...

We should do his painting book too!

Dominik Litwiniak said...

Great idea! I was planning to study it and copy some of the drawings. They are really amazing.

Vladimir Venkov said...

Great to see you here Ricky. Thanks for the great help on the "Mudbox" and "The Art of Anatomy" forums many, many years ago.

Karen Thumm said...

Love the idea! I am really going to look forward to this! Now to see if I have a copy of the book.

I always take your book suggestions to heart and have most of the books you've recommended.

Ted Byrom said...

If you are a Kindle user be aware that there are two downloadable versions on Amazon. One is free and it is almost useless as to cross references and navigation. The other is $0.99 and is considerably better because it is specifically formatted for the Kindle. Neither is as good as the hard copy version for use as a reference book though.

Christian said...

I love the idea, and I'm in! :-)

Jared Cullum said...

Ordered my copy yesterday- getting really excited about this!

Annie C Curtis said...

Sounds interesting and useful in equal measure. Excellent, I'll need to re-read Speed.

Ricky Mujica said...

Wow Vladimir Venkov! Those were great days! I miss the old Mudbox forum! Great to see you here too!

David Still said...

For people ordering this particular book - be aware that since it's out of copyright, any hack can take a PDF, print it, and sell it. I have this particular version: http://goo.gl/KlPgIe and it's TERRIBLE. The text is of course the original text, only there seems to be a lot of weird copying errors here and there. It's small format, and worst of all the images are all very low resolution. I mean painfully so, it's so obvious that the image files used for this book weren't suitable for print. Even the cover is pixelated.

Speed's book is a great one, so before you order it, make sure to read some reviews for that particular version.

Carol Berning said...

I'm a retired teacher who spent 38 years teaching language arts. During those 38 years, the teaching of formal grammar waxed and waned, came in and out of popularity. I always felt the teaching of formal grammar was a necessity. Although one can write creatively without knowing the definition for a participial phrase, having the language to discuss style, form, and usage is so important. And so it is with art. Speed gives us the language of drawing so that we can employ and analyze--understand the creation of form.

LizPryz said...

Is this book club and its readings for experienced artists? I have little formal training...a couple of college art drawing classes that I took while still in high school. But I've always been artistic. My experience is mainly through practice/creation and less so a knowledge of theory and principles. The latter is what I am hoping to gain!! Will these books be over my head?

James Gurney said...

LizPryz, it's for all levels, from beginner to advanced. We can all learn from each other.

Carol, I agree. Knowing the fundamentals gives the vocabulary for both doing and understanding.

David, thanks for that. Didn't know about that edition. I'll be using the Dover edition, which is well printed.

Ted Byrom, thanks for letting folks know about the different Kindle editions.

Ricky, if the drawing book goes well, yes, we should do Speed's great color/painting book next.

Roberto, great suggestions. Julia--Love you, too!

ChariseDaniel, thanks for commenting. I have so many books that I've been "meaning to read." This one will benefit from a Group Mind.

David, no need to be active every week. On the internet no one can take attendance.

Janet, Frances, Beth, and others: Glad to have you with us!

My Pen Name: Vanderpoel is great. When I was first learning I did pages of copies from his book. It's a candidate for future.

Barry, interesting. I never noticed that. I suppose the way one holds one's lips to pronounce a given language shapes the face.

Thank you, Roger!

Igor said...

Hi! I've juste received the book. I'm french and I'll try to follow the discussions here. This book will only be the second one I read in English. I'm happy to get the opportunity to improve my English and my art knoledge. So, what could be a better reading for the next months than this book?

QueenvArtz said...

As always, you are so inspiring in your breadth of artistic sharing. Thank you so much for another wonderful opportunity!

Michael Hancock said...

I just got the Kindle edition. I've never been in a book club before so I'm not sure how much I can add but I'll tag along for the ride. Sounds fun.

carol edan said...

"if the drawing book goes well, yes, we should do Speed's great color/painting book next."
Have a hard copy YAY
Thanks so much ... enjoying reading.. and the discussion!!!