Composition of Outdoor Painting

Some books just rise above the others, some seemingly choose you, and some just keep coming back to you through all your years.

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I was introduced to “Composition of Outdoor Painting” almost two decades ago. It still is one of my go to books of choice. The book was first printed in 1941 (now in it’s 7th printing).

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Edgar Payne (1883-1947) was a gifted plein-air painter whose powerful work and impressionistic style inspired many an artist. His bold use of color and rugged landscapes captivated audiences. He was one of the first artists to illuminate the Sierras and the Southwest.

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I was lucky to see a traveling show of a large body of his work: Edgar Payne: The Scenic Journey in Pasadena several years ago. The link above is a retrospective book of his work and was printed to coincide with the show. The printing is top notch, but I have to admit seeing the originals are simply sublime.

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Here is a nice retrospective video on Edgar Payne

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Payne wrote his book at the latter part of his life and gives us a wonderful insight in his thought process and painting language. It is filled with pages and pages of thumbnails for compositions and his suggestions for what makes a “good” composition.

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I simply love his line work and simplicity of his design of composition (which is not simple at all).  His dated prose style may not be for all readers, but there is a certain tone to it that I rather enjoy. The book is filled with designs and compositional instruction that any artist will devour. Whenever I am at a loss at a composition, I am always drawn back to this excellent book for some help.

“Originality is but old thoughts made over.”

-E.A.P.

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