« Art Critics' Reading List


Scott Thorp is an artist, writer and educator specializing in creativity. He is chairperson of the Department of Art at Augusta University, as well as a contributing writer and editor for ARTPULSE. Additionally, he serves on the board of directors for Westobou Festival and is vice president of the Mid-America College Art Association. With an MFA in drawing and painting from the Mount Royal Graduate School at The Maryland Institute College of Art, he has exhibited often in museums and galleries in the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S., including the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Before arriving at Augusta University, he served for 10 years as professor and design coordinator of foundation studies at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).

Marcia Hall. Color and Meaning: Practice and Theory in Renaissance Painting. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

Painters can often judge the quality of a book from the quantity of paint smudges left behind from past readers. Pull Marcia Hall’s treatise on color usage from the shelves of any university library and you’ll find an array of dried colors smeared among the outer edges. What makes this book popular among artists is its applied approach to art history-a narrative of color theory from the standpoint of trial and error through the evolution of pigments, binders and methods. Hall systematically reveals the transformation of techniques used by Renaissance painters with regard to color. Her insight into color application during the Cinquecento concludes in four modes of color usage. These modes she then pairs with the masters known best for utilizing them: sfumato (Leonardo da Vinci), chiaroscuro (Sebastiano del Piombo), unione (Raphael) and cangiantismo (Michelangelo). Truly a cult classic among painters.

H.E. Huntley. The Divine Proportion: A Study in Mathematical Beauty. New York: Dover Publications, Inc, 1970.

This compelling approach to artistic form is told through the lens of mathematics. H.E. Huntley’s poetic assertions combine aesthetic properties within mathematical formulas. He seamlessly relates properties within patterns to the world of art. To Huntley, the awareness of rhythm and variation is the discovery of aesthetic appreciation. A parabola in this book is a sensuous experience evoking a “tang of infinity.” Its curve elegantly charts a line’s journey into “uncharted space.” With the golden section, or phi, at the core of his observation, he reveals the beauty within many relationships and patterns from the realm of mathematics to include Fibonacci, Pascal and Pythagoras. It is philosophical and sometimes dreamy but concise in its approach. After reading it, the harmony and balance within fine works of art are aptly revealed as non-coincidental.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. New York: Harper Perennial, 1996.

Not all artists are creative-only those whose works alter their domain. This is the definition of the systems model of creativity. This seminal book on the subject written by the famed researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a must for those trying to make sense of the creative act. Csikszentmihalyi’s compelling accounts of creative people and their habits demonstrate the varied nature of the process. From this we find there is no simple formula or specific character trait to distill. For some, his definition can be vexing to acknowledge. He removes the mystery, but not the magic. But all can relate to the state of flow he coined. It’s a state of consciousness experienced during creative acts as time slips away and risk-engaged activity becomes autotelic. As a whole, creativity is not as elusive as people tend to think. But its magic has all the ability to change the world.