Drawn To JLC



January 2018



That Post Where I Review “Color and Light” by James Gurney

Written by , Posted in Artist Notes, Book Review

Since each month is dedicated to building a specific skill, I’ve been purchasing one or two art books each month that cover that particular skill. For the Month of December, I was working on values, and nothing effects values more than light. So I grabbed James Gurney’s book titled “Color and Light, A Guide for the Realist Painter”

This book most likely graces the shelves of many, many artists out there. I’ve seen this book on the shelves of digital artists and traditional artists, fantasy artists and landscape artist, and just about every artist in between. So if you have this book, have read it front to back, then by all means, you are welcome to skip my review and make a cup of coffee or paint something. For the rest of you, here it goes…

James Gurney is an amazing painter of realistic and fantasy art. He is found all over the internet. He has a Youtube Channel, an Instagram account, and he is on Twitter. With what seems like just a few brush strokes, he is able to create awe inspiring paintings in his sketchbook that he takes wherever he goes.  He is also the creator of “Dinotopia”, a picture book series filled with people and dinosaurs living together in a fantasy world.

In “Color and Light” James goes over all the details of the effects light can have on a subject while explaining what the artist should be looking for and how to use those lighting effects in their paintings.  He covers all areas of lighting from natural lighting found outside like overcast light and twilight, to indoor and artificial lighting situations like up-lights and back lights.

Gurney also covers color (it’s in the title after all) and goes over color wheels, limited color palettes, warm and cool colors and combines the color info with the light info and discusses how they work together in various lighting situations. He goes over different surfaces and how light and color effects those surfaces, like skin, hair, water, etc.  Then he covers these effects out in nature, the changing colors found during a sunset, on a foggy day, and the uneven blues found in the sky on a clear day.

Overall, this book has a plethora of information, which is why it is helpful for an artist to keep one on hand for reference.  It is filled mostly with Jame’s paintings, and each painting provides a great visual example of each topic he covers. Since artists tend to be visual learners, these examples are perfect ways to help us see what he is writing about. This book is a great resource for the intermediate artist and up. He writes with an assumption that the person reading this book already knows and has practiced the basics of art (Line, value, composition, etc.) This isn’t a how-to book, it is more like a “take your art to the next level book” but that is not to say a beginning artist wouldn’t enjoy or gain any information from it. I also want to add, for those of you who are watercolor artists, most of his descriptions of palettes and painting methods are meant for layering paints like gouache and oils. So there will be a few times when we need to use his stated methods in an opposite direction (Applying light colors first..) Having said that, I do recommend this book for anyone ready to take their use of lighting, color and values to the next level.

Have a super week exploring your creativity!


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