Picture This How Pictures Work, 2000, Molly Bang, San Francisco: Chronicle Books LLC. ISBN: 978-1-58717-030-0.
I purchased this book in my charity shop. This is a great little book that takes you back to basics. Using just shapes and colours, Molly Bang deconstructs composition and examines each element that makes a good picture work. The principles that she discusses apply to all forms of visual art, it applies to drawing and painting, photography, and I could even argue for stage and screen. Most of what is discussed may come to most of us naturally, but it is one thing to simply automatically apply it and another to fully understand why. I believe understanding why is just as important, knowing these natural rules can possibly make us better artists, they can certainly help us be more creative, particularly when composing the frame for a photograph. My first thoughts of where this book may prove valuable is for composing for street photography, landscape and still-life.
The book cover image represents Little Red Ridinghood as she makes her way through the forest, whilst being stalked by the Big Bad Wolf. She is the red triangle, the shape chosen for it’s simple connection to a cape, equal sides for stability, symbiotic symbol of caution or danger. Size to suggest vulnerability, colour for both her name, danger and blood. The trees are just back rectangles at different widths to suggest depth and height emphasising Red Ridinghood’s size and vulnerability. Some of the trees are leaning over towards Red Ridinghood, creating a further sense of danger and entrapment. The background is a lilac colour to imply night. The Wolf is made up of sharp triangles that make him look very scary. His position is lower and projects into the picture suggesting both movement and grounded and in the foreground. Red Ridinghood is higher suggesting distance and lighter / floating / angelic. Bang points out that a picture always has a horizon and a sense of gravity and these elements help create the aforementioned senses and feelings. All these feelings and senses created simply by choices of shapes colours and placement.
A very easy read with large simple illustrated examples, Amazon suggests this book is for children but when you read the preface you will see that it was not.