Composing Pictures
Donald W. Graham


416 Pages
8x11 Paper
B&W and Color Illustrations
Silman-James Press

The principles of and approaches to composition have been intriguing and challenging subjects of study since the beginning of pictorial art. In Composing Pictures, both traditional and contemporary principles and approaches are explored and clearly explained. This lucid, insightful encyclopedia of how pictures are put together, a classic in its field, is an invaluable book for long-term study, reference, and even browsing.

A picture cannot be weighed, measured, and appraised like a sack of potatoes. Composing Pictures avoids the "discussion by dissection" method of picture analysis, stressing instead the graphic forces that remain valid and essential regardless of how art forms and fashions may change.

In thirty-five short chapters, each devoted to a single important concept, the author covers the basics and complexities of graphic composition, including the illusion of depth, the enigma of surface, manifesting and symbolizing force and motion, utilizing borders, graphic accents, patterns, handling dark and light, directing the viewer's eye, and creating storyboards. These concepts are illustrated by hundreds of diagrams and the work of great artists from myriad historical ages, cultures, and styles.

The book not only contains a section on film graphics, but also consistently reminds the reader that the principles of composition relate to the moving picture as well as the still picture.

About Donald W. Graham

Donald W. Graham devoted his life to teaching drawing and perspective, probably teaching more practicing artists from all fields-fine arts, advertising, fashion, animation, and film-than any other teacher in the country. He had literally thousands of students at Chouinard Art Institute (now California Institute of the Arts), the Disney studio training school, the New Orleans Art Institute, and the Tacoma Art Center. While an engineering student at Stanford University, Graham happened to visit an art school, where the aroma of paint and turpentine so intrigued him that he decided to become an artist. He attended the Chouinard Art Institute. Here his command of mechanical perspective, learned from engineering, soon qualified him to teach a perspective class. Then a young film producer named Walt Disney, expanding his animation studio, hired Graham as a drawing instructor for his studio's training school. During the formative years of the Disney studio, Graham was in charge of its training school, instructing hundreds of artists in special drawing skills. He also continued his work at Chouinard, where for twenty-five years his large night classes were attended almost exclusively by professional artists.

"The mark of a great art teacher is indicated by the quality and accomplishment of his students. By this measurement, Don Graham must be considered the finest teacher in America. His students range from people who have won innumerable awards in all fields and all media. ...Composing Pictures. Read it. Draw it. Read it for pleasure, for reward, and for understanding. If you want to be an animator, you MUST read and draw this volume. It is not a luxury to you; it is a necessity."
—Chuck Jones, Academy Award-winning animator

"Don was a true scholar of the art of drawing [who] knew as much about art as anybody I've ever come in contact with."
—Marc Davis, celebrated Disney animator (one of Walt Disney's "Nine Old Men")

"Of twentieth-century artists, Donald Graham was one of a handful who deeply understood the language of art. Mr. Graham mentored me in his final class at Chouinard Art Institute and his lessons have been part of my painting and teaching career. Eschewing the superficial, his book contains deep answers on how we see and how artists have expressed their vision through history. It should be part of every serious artist's library."
—Timothy J. Clark, painter

"Don Graham, a former engineering student at Stanford University, is responsible, probably more than any other single individual besides Walt himself, for bringing Disney's dream of animation as an art form to reality."
—David Johnson, "The Disney Art School-Part One" (Animation Artist magazine)

"Composing Pictures is a sort of culminating primer that sets down Graham's art theories and teachings, and features many of the illustrations he used over the years to demonstrate his ideas. In addition to Graham's being an expert in representing moving bodies in space, he was considered one of the foremost authorities on line drawing as well."
—Richard Neupert, Professor of Film Studies, University of Georgia, "Color, Lines, and Nudes: Teaching Disney's Animators" (Film History)

"This book is a rare treat. Profound ideas are modestly presented. Recommended."
Library Journal

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