bookOne of my most cherished artistic possessions is the little book, Composition of Outdoor Painting by California Impressionist, Edgar Payne . Often referred to as the ‘Bible’, it is an indispensable tool that can be found in the studio of most every serious landscape and plein air painter. If you can buy only one art book on composition, this should be it!

Multi talented, Edgar Payne was one of the great California Impressionist painters as well as a great teacher and author. Rather unassuming, his famous little book is roughly about 6×9.. This Upon further perusal, the reader will find that the book primarily consists of words. But, don’t let the small size fool you, this book is packed with words that are motivational, instructional and filled with invaluable insights, ideas and techniques on ‘what to do’ and ‘not to do’ whether you are in the studio or out in the field.
In the later editions the visual artist will be pleased to find there are a number of black and white thumbnail illustrations and a few color plates of Payne’s finished paintings to illustrate the text and show us the results he achieved.


To the novice painter, Edgar Payne’s book may seem a bit antiquated or even academic. Nevertheless, I encourage you to stick with this reading because you will learn so much! Once you wade through the book’s formalized verbiage, Payne’s suggestions and principles will become clearer and you will be rewarded. Just like any other discipline, you must learn step by step. Edgar Payne’s methods and painting style have inspired many contemporary painters including my talented friends, Scott Christensen and Russell Case.

Copy_of_Payne mtn_lake

Originally published back in 1941, this small and indispensable book has been through several editions. Be forewarned, it periodically goes in and out of print. I purchased my latest copy of this hard-to-find-classic online about 5 years ago from Sullivan Goss Book & Prints of Santa Barbara, CA. for a hefty, $42.50. To insure your personal satisfaction, I suggest you inquire about which addition is available before you make your purchase. I myself prefer the illustrations – of course! For artists, this book is a Five Star! ~Lori
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