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Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter
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Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter

4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  2,725 ratings  ·  47 reviews
From New York Times best-selling author of the Dinotopia series, James Gurney, comes a carefully crafted and researched study on color and light in paintings. This art instruction book will accompany the acclaimed Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn’t Exist.

James Gurney, New York Times best-selling author and artist of the Dinotopia
Paperback, 224 pages
Published November 30th 2010 by Andrews McMeel Publishing (first published November 9th 2010)
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Oct 07, 2011 Makingamark rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: art students, people wanting to improve their painting
Summary review: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - Let me be very clear on this point. This book comes very highly recommended by me. James Gurney's coverage of the topic of colour and light is comprehensive. Plus it is accessible art instruction of a very high order. I've not come across any other book about colour by a practising artist and illustrator which covers this topic in such breadth and depth and makes it accessible as well.
* I've got ones which are more technical - but they're much less accessible

(More pictures at

Color and Light is the latest book from James Gurney and it's fantastic. It is a very accessible guide that's filled with interesting and useful information on color and light. It's fortunate we have so many colors today at our disposable, and now with this book, something to help make sense of them.

The book talks about color in a very practical sense, as you would see them in life. The lessons are observations of light and colors from James Gurney's years of pa
A companion volume to Gurney's excellent "Imaginative Realism," "Color and Light" provides intelligent, practical advice on what the author describes as "the painter's two most fundamental tools." Gurney discusses elements of color, color mixing, surfaces and effects, light and form, atmospheric perspective, and much more in clear, understandable terms. The book is lavishly illustrated with examples and includes a brief but comprehensive history of the title subjects from the Renaissance to the ...more
Nate B
James Gurney is the best. This book is a practical and unadorned guide to color and light, and from my limited experience the first book I'd recommend someone interested in the subject. The book is filled with useful information and contains no unnecessary fluff. Each section is paired with useful examples that clearly shows the principle he is discussing. I'll be returning to it for years.
I’m usually not a fan of instructional art books. All to often, they devolve into breaking things down into a series of steps, or simply showing a the different stages of one image. While this breakdown might be helpful in creating that one painting or drawing, it rarely helps you develop the skills needed to apply to original work.

Thankfully, Color and Light is not that sort of book. Instead it is a wonderfully useful guide to how color and light works and how to incorporate them into your artw
An absolute gem of a book. Every page is packed with exactly the sort of technical discussion that most other authors of art method books avoid. James Gurney has put together a concise but quite thorough compendium of technical aspects of representational work, regardless of material really. Whether you are working with oils or lace ribbons or Maya, this book should be required reading. Approaching the topics from the angles of optics, pigment history, traditional technique and computer graphics ...more
Void lon iXaarii
Overall I found the book quite interesting, his works and illustrations are also often impressive and there are a lot of interesting fun facts in it... however these latter two points are also the places where I think the book could have been better. I was expecting based on the promotion for the book to be more of an educational book, with more teaching, instead a good portion of it seemed to be oriented towards showcasing the author's works and trivia. I would have appreciated it even more if ...more
I would recommend this book to any artist wanting to paint in a more realistic style. James Gurney explains what is involved when painting subjects, both observed and imagined, when it comes to the use of color and light. He discusses color choices for specific situations and how light affects what we see and how we paint. This is not a "how to" book with specific suggested lessons, but every page has information that can be used for experimentation. The book is beautifully illustrated, mostly w ...more
Tallulah Belle
Love love love this book and cannot recommend it enough! This is a must-have for any artist. Each topic is clear and concise, and Mr.Gurney dealt with the analysis of colour in such a manner that is easy to understand.
Great and insightful book written by a very skilled artist. Everyone and their mothers recommended this book to me, and the only regret I have after buying it - is that I haven't read it sooner :).
More advanced than his previous book, the techniques in this one can only really be grasped through your own application of them. Test his methods and see for yourself.
Tiphaine Tatin De Lattre
A bit tedious at times (probably because english is not my first language), but Gurney is very good at vulgarizing complex concepts. It definitely changed my understanding of color and my paintings have dramatically improved thanks to it!
Simon Yoong
Fantastic resource for painters, i'd give it six stars if goodreads allowed 6 stars.

Although the title and description doesn't mention oil painting specifically, almost all the paintings shown in this book are in oil. But the basics are applicable to any medium. He guides you through the basics thoroughly, how colour theory started, how it light in the sky refracts, etc. He covers every aspect there is, even those you won't think you would need (but one day will). This isn't a step by step tutor
I Read
Fantastic book - just what I was looking for.

Gurney has a great inquisitiveness about the world and why things are how they are. Fortunately his has collated his years of study into Colour and Light so that we have the knowledge at our fingertips.

I did feel the book fell down sometimes in the explanation and consider more scientific diagrams might have helped in places, but if needed one can always explore the subject matter more thoroughly. The main thing is he gives aspects that might not ha
Samuel Valentino
A fantastic book, by someone who paints as well as instructs. I was introduced to this at work (I work as an illustrator), when I was struggling with depth of field. It was meant to show artwork as examples, but I read and loved the whole thing. Technical knowledge is combined with artistry, which made this one of the best art instruction books I've ever read. I'm sure I will be returning to it again and again!
Serge Pierro
James Gurney (creator of "Dinotopia") has delivered an amazing book on the subjects of Color and Light. Both practical and insightful, the instruction provided throughout this book is top notch. This is a book that every serious artist should read. Each of the topics are represented by gorgeous paintings by the author - including "Dinotopia" and personal work. Having never read "Dinotopia", I have already ordered it based on the fantastic paintings that are represented throughout the book, and ...more
Arpad Hervanek
Probably the only art book that I've ever actually referenced more than once.
a book resloves lots of problems bothering me for a long time
15 March 20013 - 30 January 2014
Good book, the writing and art of James Gurney are great but I'm no longer creating realist art. His blog is worthwhile too.

2 June 2014
Restarted reading because I realised that abstract artists need to learn many of the same skills as realist artists. Unfortunately there are no technical books for abstract art. At least I like reading James Gurney
As an illustrator, I am on a constant quest to improve my skills and marketability in my field. This book was a fine investment in that it offered knowledge that I still use to this day (writing this review years later, as I never considered looking up artbooks on Shelfari. Yeah, I know, shame on me!). In fact, I am thinking it is time for a re-read, though I intend to read Gurney's other book, Imaginative Realism before that. Its time for some new artistic inspiration!
Chris Griffith
Everything a painter needs to know about light and color (and then some.) Outstanding.
I absolutely love this book! It is jam-packed full of information on color and light and how it interacts with our eyes and perspective of the world. This is great information for the artist, but it is not technically a "beginner" introduction. James Gurney actually goes into the science behind vision and how it works, and even explains some myths. For example, moon light is not blue! I highly recommend this book! ^_^
Beautiful and comprehensive book. I took my time with this one reading a little bit at a time and thinking over the points he made as I looked around at different artworks and the way colors and lights look at different times around me. Really letting the lessons sink in was a wonderful experience and I am sure I will come back to this book many times to review different aspects as I continue to draw and paint.
This is the sort of art book you want to study carefully. I wish I had more time to practice all the techniques as I read it and it's definitely a book I'll return to. If you want to better understand light, color, and how to paint them and have an amazing set of both realistic and fantastical paintings to go along with what you're learning, then this book is for you.
Fantastic - I've never seen anything quite like it. Most art instruction books are pretty basic and yet still manage to be confusing...this is the opposite. It goes into so many aspects of color and light, some of them fairly complex, but it's explained extremely well. I love the examples. I would highly recommend this to anyone serious about art.
For years I didn't read this book thinking it was about dinosaurs etc. This guy knows his stuff. This is serious information packaged in an imaginative cover, probably one of the most serious art instruction books out there & probably not for a beginner either, unless you are serious about learning.
Agnes Preszler
Beautifully illustrated, very informative, this book explains many natural phenomena that quite all art technique books simply skip. Illumination types, color of light and shadow, gamut masks, a lot of useful information for realist painters.
Linda Yesline Yesline
I'm not interested in futuristic sci fi stuff (that's the subject matter of a lot of the illustrations) but the info about color and light is fantastic! I'm definitely checking this book out of the library again.
Marjorie Elwood
This is a truly comprehensive look at how light affects color and how, specifically, you can paint light effects into your art. The author (the creator of Dinotopa) is clear in his directions and fascinating.
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Born June 14, 1958 in Glendale, California. Raised in Palo Alto, the youngest of five children of Joanna and Robert Gurney (a mechanical engineer). Earned a B.A. in Anthropology in 1979 with Phi Beta Kappa honors from the University of California at Berkeley. Studied painting at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena,California, where he met his wife Jeanette. In 1984 they moved to the Hudso ...more
More about James Gurney...
Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn't Exist Dinotopia: The World Beneath Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara Dinotopia: First Flight

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