Books & Websites

The following are some of the resources that I have found to be useful and inspirational in my artistic development. I don’t receive any commissions from the external websites I have linked to here, and my recommendations are based purely on my own personal opinion and experience.

Reference Books

"Cast Drawing Using the Sight-Size Approach" - Darren R. Rousar

“Cast Drawing” – Darren R. Rousar

This is the book that re-ignited my interest in learning. It led me to understand the ‘sight-size’ method of drawing for the first time, and was an introduction to the Atelier system of instruction.

It is a thorough and well written book, and is an ideal guide for anyone wanting to teach themselves traditional techniques. It covers the materials you’ll need, how to set up, value and shading, edge control and focus, as well as providing many other useful pieces of advice and resources. More details…

"Sight-Size Portraiture" - Nicholas Beer

“Sight-Size Portraiture” – Nicholas Beer

Written by my teacher at Sarum Studio, this covers the method, philosophy of seeing and historical accounts of sight-size as a portraiture technique.

I had already studied with Nick for quite a while before getting hold of a copy of this book, and the projects within it work as great reminders of ideas discussed in class. There are also some excellent areas of advice for mixing mediums, preparing canvases and looking after brushes. More details…

"The Practice & Science of Drawing" - Harold Speed

“The Practice & Science of Drawing” – Harold Speed

At nearly 100 years old, this is a serious book filled with insights and theory about drawing. The rather archaic language takes a little bit of getting used to, and it is a book so filled with information, it could be re-read several times.

You have to work at understanding some of the theories put forwards here. This is an authoritative work of its time, with the discipline of academic draughtsmanship at its core. I found it a rich and rewarding read. More details…

"Oil Techniques and Materials" - Harold Speed

“Oil Techniques and Materials” – Harold Speed

A great companion to Speed’s book on drawing, this covers the practical aspects of painting from life. Discussing technique, as well as sections on mediums, varnishes and grounds etc, this is again an authoritative and serious work on the subject of oil painting.

I learned a lot from this book – not least in the insight and historical context that Speed gives in his analysis of works by Velasquez, Hals, Rembrandt, and others. More details…

"The Human Figure" - John H. Vanderpoel

“The Human Figure” – John H. Vanderpoel

Another great work from a master artist working over 100 years ago, and filled with Vanderpoel’s own exquisite drawings, this is an excellent resource for any figurative artist. It gives an insight into how to construct the human figure with more sensibility than strict anatomical study alone provides. More details…
"Oil Painting & Drawing" - Solomon J. Solomon

“Oil Painting & Drawing” – Solomon J. Solomon

In a similar vein to Vanderpoel’s ‘Human Figure’, this Victorian work is beautifully illustrated, offering the kind of practical advice that comes from a lifetime of experience. Solomon J. Solomon was clearly a fine painter and teacher. His insights into the methods of the master painters before him, are fascinating. More details…

"Alla Prima" - Richard Schmid

“Alla Prima” – Richard Schmid

I love this book. Each chapter follows on from the next in an intuitive manner that makes reading it straight through a pleasure. The language has humour and warmth, making some quite sophisticated theory easily digestible.

I think this is a must for anyone interested in direct painting. Look out for the section on colour mixing – creating swatches for your entire palette is time consuming and I hated doing it, but it pays dividends and is worth every bit of work.

Do check this book out on Amazon, but buy it directly from Schmid’s website. It is much cheaper.

"Postcard from Provence" - Julian Merrow-Smith

“Postcard from Provence” – Julian Merrow-Smith

Postcards from Provence is less a teaching resource in the style of the other books listed here, and more an excellent reference book containing over 140 full colour plates of Merrow-Smith’s daily paintings.

The small scale of his work means that they are printed more or less actual size, so you can effectively study the mark-making and construction, learning as you do so.

You can buy from Amazon or directly from the artist. Check out postage costs to work out the best value option.

Sargent Portrait Drawings

Sargent Portrait Drawings

Quite simply, a wonderful reference book of John Singer Sargent’s portrait drawings. The fluency and technical skill displayed here is beautiful and inspiring.
More details…


Given the speed at which things change online, I have decided to remove and update my list of web resources. I’m currently compiling a new collection of inspirational and educational websites that I have found helpful, and will upload them soon.

Please share your own feedback and recommendations by commenting below.