An artist shares insights into how to create better paintings.
Katz (Sparring with Rembrandt, 2010) used to worry that his daytime career as a dentist would affect his work as a visual artist. Dentistry demands methodical precision, but as an artist, Katz wanted to be fluid and free with his lines. Then one day, his late wife, Aileen—who was often a subject of his paintings—reminded him that when he was creating dentures, he used guiding rules, but after following them, he was free to twist and turn the teeth for a more natural appearance. Painting is similar, suggests Katz, because after an artist masters “Principles of Composition,” he or she can also make changes at will. The author offers many thought-provoking anecdotes while tackling such subjects as how to convey particular feelings on a canvas and how sculpting can improve one’s painting skills. Although this isn’t a step-by-step instruction manual, Katz does give solid, hands-on advice, such as how to guide a viewer’s eye through a painting and why it pays to squint at a scene before painting it. This inspirational work is also pleasing to look at, showcasing color photos of Katz’s artwork as well as images of paintings by his hero, Rembrandt. The clearly labeled photos flow smoothly amid the accessible prose. Katz’s gentle tone is like that of a patient teacher, particularly when he addresses the reader directly. There are moments of humor, as well; for example, Katz describes his first attempt at sculpting heads of himself and his wife: “my friend’s dog, apparently an art critic, chewed off the tip of the nose of the sculpture of me.” In addition, he shows himself to be unafraid to critique his own work, laying bare some of his mistakes. For instance, when he was painting his watercolor Fisherman Tending His Net, he says that a lack of compositional finesse left him “making mud.”
A strikingly illustrated work with seasoned advice for budding artists.