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« Recession-Proof Employment | Main | Movies and Video, Pro and Am »

March 23, 2009

Alla Prima Alla Time

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I can't remember when I consecutively bought two books that were different aside from their title. Until now.

They are:



Both are of the ever-expanding torrent of how-to-paint books. The first is by Al Gury, chairman of the painting department of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. It's fairly recent. He treats alla prima (the Italian term for producing a painting in one session) to mean wet-into-wet oil paintings that are completed in a very few sessions if one won't do. Included is an interesting list of color palettes assumed to have been used by a number of Masters over the years.

Another feature I liked was the step-by-step demonstrations. Gury has a decent style (I pretty much ignore step-by-steps by artists whose work doesn't appeal to me) and his demonstrations are well illustrated. That is, there are enough stages shown that the reader has a pretty good idea of what was going on. Yes, there are videos available that show the entire painting process, but they can be pricey if the artist is well known.

My verdict: worth the money if you buy it at the Amazon price.

I would have grabbed the Schmid book a long time ago but, out of ignorance, thought it was out of print and that prices of used copies were high. Well, that's the impression Amazon's site gave me.

It turns out that Schmid has been self-publishing his book for years and new copies are available via his web site and that of his publishing company. I bought the paperback version for around $50.

Schmid says that he almost always produces a painting in one session, but his book has next to nothing in the way of step-by-step demonstrations; almost all the illustrations are of completed works. On the other hand, there is a lot of text that gives the reader a pretty good idea how Schmid approached painting a dozen or so years ago when he wrote the book. This means that his book is more useful to jouneyman artists -- those with some experience -- than the usual how-to fare.

What makes the book useful to the likes of me is that Schmid (in my opinion) is a top-notch painter and I like what he produces. Any information from a painter I respect I consider highly useful.

As an aside, in many places he mentions the names of John Singer Sargent, Anders Zorn and Joaquin Sorolla as well as some of the Masters. Those make for a good crowd of heroes or models; I like where Schmid is coming from.

Apparently he has a new book on landscape painting in the works.



posted by Donald at March 23, 2009


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