Composing Pictures



In stock



A new reprinting of a classic text out of print for thirty years. An instructional textbook devoted solely to the analysis of composition ("for still and moving pictures") by the longtime Disney and CalArts instructor.

From the back cover:

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.

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.


Donald W. Graham

Condition & Attributes

Very Fine in publisher's shrinkwrap


Donald W.

Publishing Information

Los Angeles

Physical Description

11 inches
8 inches
416 pages
over 800 illustrations, eight pages in color