When it comes to art books, I’m very picky about which ones I purchase and which ones I would recommend to other artists. I first started collecting books on John Singer Sargent, Anders Zorn, Joaquin Sorolla, Cecilia Beaux, Frank Benson and many other great painters of the past as an art student in college. I remember seeing my first book on Sargent by Carter Ratcliff sitting on the desk of another art student and quickly being drawn to the portrait of Lady Agnew on the front cover. I didn’t know who the artist was but I could sense that this was a master painter. Every great painting produces an emotional response within the viewer and Sargent’s work left me speechless. After class, I immediately went straight to the library and checked out the same book on Sargent and began studying each reproduction in hopes of learning something new that I could apply to my own work.
John Singer Sargent by Carter Ratcliff
That day was an eye opener for me in many ways. Up until that point, I had been measuring my own progress as a painter by comparing my work to others in my class. It wasn’t until I opened that Sargent book that I realized that I had been using the wrong measuring stick as my guide. I remember taking one of my paintings that I had felt really good about in class and placing it next to one of the reproductions in the Sargent book. I was immediately humbled. I realized that I had so much to learn and so far to go. From that day on, I began an intense study of my favorite painters which continues to this day.
Books have been an important part of my education as a painter, especially those with good color reproductions to study from. There have been many times when I have had the opportunity to study an original painting in a museum as well as a reproduction of the same painting in a book. On both occasions, I’ve learned something new. The original allowed me to see the subtle qualities that are often missed when reproduced in photographs. The reproduction provided me the opportunity to see the painting on a smaller scale and be able to study and evaluate the entire composition and design as a whole. For me, art books are not just a conversation piece to have on the coffee table, but are vital tools in my art education.
Whenever I come across a book that I get excited about, I like to pass along that information to other artists so that they, too, can be inspired as well. Dan Gerhartz’s book, Not Far from Home has quickly become one of my favorites in recent years. I first wrote about this find under the “Notes” section on my Facebook page last year. Since then, I’ve shared the book with other artists who have also had a difficult time putting it down.
If there’s one word that I would use to describe Dan’s book, it would be “Inspiring”. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this artist, I would highly recommend taking a look at some of his work on his website at www.danielgerhartz.com. There is so much that can be learned from each of his paintings. In addition to the artwork, Dan has also been posting Technical Insights on his blog which explores the thought processes involved when painting, while using selected works from his book as examples. It’s not often that you get an artist of Dan’s caliber who is so willing to share what he has learned with others in such an open format. I had the opportunity to experience this generosity first hand when I met Dan a few months ago at his home and studio in Kewaskum, Wisconsin. After our visit, I walked away with not only a greater appreciation of Dan Gerhartz’s work, but a greater appreciation of the character of the man behind the paintings.
The book contains over 130 full color images of Dan Gerhartz’s paintings, most of which are full page reproductions. The images are crystal clear and in focus. I say this because there have been many times when I’ve purchased an art book, only to find that many of the pictures are blurry and out of focus. The outstanding quality of these reproductions allows an artist to study every detail of any particular painting that they choose. The book measures 12 ¼ “ x 11 ¼” and contains some of the best color reproductions that I have seen.
Here are a few examples of some of my favorite paintings that are included in Not Far from Home.
You Carried Me, 36″ x 48″, Oil
A True Gentleman, 20″ x 16″, Pastel
Looking Back, 48″ x 30″, Oil
Mink Creek, 18″ x 24″, Oil
Amaryllis, 40″ x 30″, Oil
Sunset on Still Water, 40″ x 24″, Oil
Sparkle, 40″ x 40″, Oil
Porcelina, 40″ x 60″, Oil
If you’re looking for a book that will help inspire you as an artist, I would highly recommend this one by Dan Gerhartz. Also, if you get a chance, be sure to take a look at some of Dan’s work. I’m confident that you, too, will be inspired to pick up a paint brush and start on your own masterpiece after seeing the work of this great painter.