Monday, May 30, 2011

Which are the best books about oil painting?

I wonder how many would-be oil painters start, like me, by buying books and trying to get to grips with the basics before actually starting to grapple with the paint?

I've been a long time coming to oil painting.  It's not for the want of buying books about it!  I do like to read around a topic before jumping in!

Today over on Four Go Painting in Provence, I will be lisitng the oil painting books I've bought and why - some of which will travel to France.  

Take a look below if you want to see some of the books I've bought.

Books about oil painting and oil painters
Working out which are the best books about oil painting

I'm a huge believer in the wisdom of crowds - when they are speaking from their own personal experience - and I'm very interested in your personal views about which are the best books about oil painting.   

I did a similar exercise on this blog in relation to water colour painting last year - see Which are the best art books about watercolour painting?  It was absolutely fascinating what that threw up as books people raved about (eg Making Colour Sing by Jeanne Dobie - which has just been republished) and ones which people recommended very highly - and yet were ones which could not be found in the shops.

I'd also emphasise that this is about the best books which are available and is NOT about which books are in print.  Many excellent books are available online as used books and are well worth purchasing for their content.

With your help I'm aiming to develop a "resources for artists" listing of:
  • 'The Best Books' of instruction in oil painting - for all types of abilities
  • 'The Best Books' about artists painting in oils - past and present 
If your recommendation is used, you and your website and/or blog will be accredited with a link which should generate repeat traffic to your site.


Which oil painting books do you recommend?
 
I know I've bought books on the basis of recommendations by other artists when doing similar exercises on this blog.  I'd like you too to be able to share those recommendations - both in terms of giving and receiving
Identifying the best oil painting instruction books

If you would like to share your views, please TELL ME and the readers of this blog the answers to the following questions about books which have taught you about painting in oils and/or helped you to improve your knowledge and skills in painting in oils.

If it helps you, try giving them marks out of 10 to indicate how good they are and how you rank them in terms of value.
  1. Personal preference: Which are your personal top three (or five or ten!) books about oil painting.  Ranking is good and reasons for your choice are most helpful
  2. Beginners:  Which is the best book for somebody starting to learn to paint in oils - and why?
  3. Improvers:  Which is the best book for somebody looking to improve their painting in oils - and why?
  4. Advanced:  Which is the best book for a more experienced artist looking to refine their work - and why?
Identifying the best books about oil painters

Please share the book or books about oil painters which you have found most stimulating and helpful

13 comments:

Maggie Latham said...

Here are six books that I either own or have owned…. with a little commentary of why I like them. Good luck with your new oil painting adventure, Katherine. I have been flirting with oils for several years now, and prefer the indirect approach of under painting then glazing…. but the concept and patience needed has been hard for me to grasp and consequently I have very few paintings I have painted in this manner that I have not ended up in the bin!

BOOKS:

The Oil Painting Book by Bill Creavy.
I love this book and it is full of interesting tid-bits you can go back to over and oer again. It’s more about experimenting with different type of oil and different approaches to painting in oil, rather than a how to paint an oil painting type of book. It was written 20 years ago, so may possibly need updating. I love Bill's enthusiasm for experimenting.

Oils ~ Ron Ranson’s Painting School by Trevor Chamberlain.
A good all-rounder in the direct approach to oil painting, lovely loose style of landscape work.

Mastering Composition by Ian Richardson.
A great book about composition but includes a lot of technical advice about oil painting. His DVD”S are excellent too.

Inspired by Light ~ A Personal View by Ken Howard.
More of a narrative about his own thought and painting process rather than a ‘how to’ book. Lovely paintings and inspiring words.


Classic Still Life Painting ~ A Contemporary Master Reveals How to Achieve Old Master Effects Using Today's Art Materials by Jane Jones. This is a great book for teaching the indirect method of oil painting. Lots of technical advice of choosing and mixing colour palettes and painting luminous grounds. Mostly focused on still life painting, but beautiful work. Best for oil painters with some experience of the medium. I used to own this book, but like so many of my books I have either given them away or have leant them out. At the time I bought this book I was not skilled enough with oils to fully appreciate the nuances.

Alla Prima ~ Everything I Know About Painting by Richard Schmid.
Schmid is hailed in the USA as one of the great living ‘alla prima’ painters. I used to own the paper back version of this book, but leant it to a friend and never had it returned. I do miss the book as it had very useful commentary on the value of creating colour charts....

Maggie Latham said...

Ooops!!!

Sorry about the typos in my last comment. Here are the corrections:

My comment should have read:
Mastering Composition by Ian Roberts…..not Richardson

Also: Bill Creevy, not Creavy.

jake gumbleton said...

The Richard Schmid Alla Prima book has had a massive impact on me. It is an incredible resource. I am on my 5th read of it so far and continues to offer greater and greater incites into direct painting.
Harold Speed's second book 'Oil Painting Techniques and Materials ' is also incredible (as is his first book).
I also highly recommend James Gurney's book about colour and light that came out this year.
Also 'Creative Illustration' by Andrew Loomis is an incredible all round art book. Many of its themes are completely relevant to successful realist oil painting. His books are currently being reprinted after a 50 year wait but this particular one has not appeared so far.

Sharon said...

I will give a BIG thumbs up to "Alla Prima ~ Everything I Know About Painting" by Richard Schmid. It is a very thorough book -I have 2 copies, one for highlighting, and one for good. John Carlson's Guide To Landscape Painting is a must read, as is Mitch Alba's new book "Landscape Painting". Those last two books are great no matter what media, but the paintings are all done in oil. I also own Kevin Macpherson's books and also a good one by Ted Goerschner called "Oil Painting:The Workshop Experience". This book is great because Ted walks you through the process with step-by-step photos as well as 'paint on' critiques of some of his student's paintings. "Mastering Color" by Vicki McMurry is excellent as it deals with the potential for mud making that oils has in spades. Lastly "The Painterly Approach" by Bob Rohm is good as it focuses on a personal response to a location. Demos are presented in oils, pastels and acrylic.
Hope this helps!
Sharon Lynn Williams
http://sharonlynnwilliams.blogspot.com

Judy said...

I would second the recommendation of Ian Roberts Mastering Composition--a very helpful book.

Thanks for doing this, I'm eagerly awaiting more comments.

Judy Warner

Sophie said...

Richard Schmid’s Alla Prima I recently read and was very, very impressed. This is the best book on painting I’ve ever read. Love it. Not for beginners, but the ones who are already stuck into painting.
Michel Albala’s Landscape Painting is another one of my favourites, even though I do not paint landscapes. Great intelligent info about composition, colour etc. Again not really for the beginner although suitable perhaps for a beginner in oils who is experienced in other media.
Colour and Light by Gurney is great for all media, beginners and onwards. It brings home some real basic truths and is clear and fun to read. Nice one.
Cateura’s ‘Oil painting Secrest from a Master’ was my first oil painting book and I find it excellent. Easy to read, great for beginners and great images.
for inspiration I like ‘Colour and Light in Oils’ by Verrall, or ‘Daphne Todd’ or books on Sargent etc.
Hensche on Painting is interesting too, again, not solely for oil painters and probably for the more advanced.
A big dissappointment for me was Aristides Classical Painting Atelier. It is like wading through syrup....heavy, hard, slow, academic. Great images though.
A real beginner in oils just needs to get stuck in, I feel. A brush, a few tubes and some canvas and get going. That’s all you need. Really.
Happy Reading!

Fred Marsh said...

Hi Katherine,
My top books on oil painting are listed below. I suppose my ranking is based on where I am now in my development. At earlier times I would have ranked higher some books identified as “beginner” . Beginners may find higher value in the more practical books which I have identified. If we are including portraits I would add some more.

10 Inspired by Light ~ A Personal View by Ken Howard.
This is my most inspirational book and I really cherish it to the point that it goes everywhere with me. Inspirational words and paintings. Whilst not a step by step how to paint, there are many conceptual gems in this book. Covers figure and landscape/beach painting mainly in Ken Howard’s preferred contre jour aspect. Combine it with the DVD of the same name and it does become a text to refine and improve. Inspirational for beginners , more experienced artists will also get good value.

10 Alla Prima - Everything I Know About Painting by Richard Schmid.
Comprehensive coverage of all aspects of alla prima painting. Design, tone, lowering chroma and colour charts were the things that I valued. Beginners through to advanced painters will get great value from this book

9 Oil Painting Secrets of a Master (on David Leffel) by Linda Cateura
Wonderful choice snippets picked up by Linda C when a student of David Leffel. Thought provoking ideas & hints which makes one think when constructing a painting. Coverage includes the importance of developing a concept for a painting, brushstroke techniques, Values, colour etc. Probably best for someone looking to improve and advanced, particularly if you paint still life. (Leffels are to die for.)

9 Capuring Light in Oils -Paul Strisik (out of print but used are avalaible through Amazon . I found mine on Ebay)
Covers Materials, composition, and some good step by steps. However to me the chapters on the logic of painting light, illuminating buildings & the landscape and achieving luminosity using cool / warm colours were break through moments.

8 Fill your paintings with light and colour - Kevin Macpherson
I prefer this one to his other book on Landscape Painting. In particular I received good value on the coverage of plein air painting, traveling with paints and using a very limited palette

8 Oils ~ Ron Ranson’s Painting School by Trevor Chamberlain.
This book was the one that inspired me to get out and paint plein air and introduced the pochade box. Trevor Chamberlains loose representational work is used to take one through most aspects of painting outdoors. A good succinct text for beginners and improvers , particularly who want to paint outside. A few years ago I would have rated this a ten.

8 Composing your Paintings by Bernard Dunstan . A small book within the Studio Vista Series (Probably out of print)
Wonderful little book on composition by a master. Says so much in a little package.

7 A Proven Strategy for Creating Great Art - Dan McGraw.
Comprehensive course in painting know how using a loose impressionist style. I find it inspirational and it has solved problems when I have been looking for solutions. For beginners and improvers alike

7 Problem solving for oil painters - Gregg Kreutz
Recognizing Problems and how to fix them. Good reference when things don’t look right but cannot quite put ones finger on the solution. Beginners to Improvers

7 Postcard from Provence- Julian Merrow Smith
Not really an “instructional” book per se but wonderful inspiration in how to make the ordinary become extraordinary. There are many lessons to be learnt by studying Julian’s economy of stroke and application of light.

Fred Marsh

Fred Marsh said...

Hi Katherine,
My top books on oil painting are listed below. I suppose my ranking is based on where I am now in my development. At earlier times I would have ranked higher some books identified as “beginner” . Beginners may find higher value in the more practical books which I have identified. If we are including portraits I would add some more.

10 Inspired by Light ~ A Personal View by Ken Howard.
This is my most inspirational book and I really cherish it to the point that it goes everywhere with me. Inspirational words and paintings. Whilst not a step by step how to paint, there are many conceptual gems in this book. Covers figure and landscape/beach painting mainly in Ken Howard’s preferred contre jour aspect. Combine it with the DVD of the same name and it does become a text to refine and improve. Inspirational for beginners , more experienced artists will also get good value.

10 Alla Prima - Everything I Know About Painting by Richard Schmid.
Comprehensive coverage of all aspects of alla prima painting. Design, tone, lowering chroma and colour charts were the things that I valued. Beginners through to advanced painters will get great value from this book

9 Oil Painting Secrets of a Master (on David Leffel) by Linda Cateura
Wonderful choice snippets picked up by Linda C when a student of David Leffel. Thought provoking ideas & hints which makes one think when constructing a painting. Coverage includes the importance of developing a concept for a painting, brushstroke techniques, Values, colour etc. Probably best for someone looking to improve and advanced, particularly if you paint still life. (Leffels are to die for.)

9 Capuring Light in Oils -Paul Strisik (out of print but used are avalaible through Amazon . I found mine on Ebay)
Covers Materials, composition, and some good step by steps. However to me the chapters on the logic of painting light, illuminating buildings & the landscape and achieving luminosity using cool / warm colours were break through moments.

8 Fill your paintings with light and colour - Kevin Macpherson
I prefer this one to his other book on Landscape Painting. In particular I received good value on the coverage of plein air painting, traveling with paints and using a very limited palette

8 Oils ~ Ron Ranson’s Painting School by Trevor Chamberlain.
This book was the one that inspired me to get out and paint plein air and introduced the pochade box. Trevor Chamberlains loose representational work is used to take one through most aspects of painting outdoors. A good succinct text for beginners and improvers , particularly who want to paint outside. A few years ago I would have rated this a ten.

8 Composing your Paintings by Bernard Dunstan . A small book within the Studio Vista Series (Probably out of print)
Wonderful little book on composition by a master. Says so much in a little package.

7 A Proven Strategy for Creating Great Art - Dan McGraw.
Comprehensive course in painting know how using a loose impressionist style. I find it inspirational and it has solved problems when I have been looking for solutions. For beginners and improvers alike

7 Problem solving for oil painters - Gregg Kreutz
Recognizing Problems and how to fix them. Good reference when things don’t look right but cannot quite put ones finger on the solution. Beginners to Improvers

7 Postcard from Provence- Julian Merrow Smith
Not really an “instructional” book per se but wonderful inspiration in how to make the ordinary become extraordinary. There are many lessons to be learnt by studying Julian’s economy of stroke and application of light.

Fred Marsh

Katherine Tyrrell said...

I understand some people are having difficulty posting comments at present. I gather it might be a Blogger problem.

Anyway - this one came in from Walt Taylor

"I wanted to make a recommendation on your blog entry about oil painting books, but when I clicked on "Post a comment" I just got a blank screen. Anyway, here's a book I highly recommend: Alla Prima, by Richard Schmid. It's full of practical and down-to-earth advice. I've just started to get back into oil painting (my last one was done in 1975) and his help has been invaluable."

hw (hallie) farber said...

An Artist Teaches by David Leffel is my No. 1; it is about seeing first-- then painting.

I look forward to your list.

sea-blue-sky & abstracts said...

When I made the transition from painting in watercolour to oils (Winsor & Newton Griffin Alkyd) Bill Creevy's 'The Oil Painting Book' was (and is my bible). I wanted to know more about glazing in the first instance and this book has it all, different media, different techniques and materials, analysed and presented to the interested artist by an accomplished creative. I wanted to paint like him!!! This book is a treasure.

Colours and Textures said...

OIL PAINTING BOOKS

This is a useful post with interesting responses. I went on amazon and bought Bill Creevy's book. I have rummaged through my bookshelves to pick out some favourites.

100 Great Oil Painting Tips
Helen Douglas Cooper pub Batsford 1995

I find this a user friendly and practical little book that packs a lot of information between its covers. The tips come with useful illustrations making it easy to flip through and find the information without wading through acres of verbiage.
I think it would be useful for a complete beginner. For artists experienced in other media, the mystery of fat over lean is explained and how to transport a wet canvas!

To make it 101 great tips I would have added one about alkyds.
However Helen has produced several books since then including 100 Keys to Oil Painting so it may have been included in one of these.
This book is out of print but available second hand online.


Inspired by Light Ken Howard pub David and Charles
Mmmm and I am inspired by watching Ken Howard painting. This is one of my favourite books to return to again and again. I would suggest seeing the DVDs first.
DVDs
Inspired by Light, Painting in Oils
A Vision of Venice in Oil

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJKG4siWPac
trailer for Variations on a Theme


Oils Masterclass
Learning from professional artists at work.
Sally Bulgin Pub Harper Collins

This book starts with a chapter on techniques and materials then follows a series of 8 masterclasses with different artists.
I like the aim of this book which is to give insights into the range of different ways of painting in oils and inspiration for developing ones own visual language. It is not a ‘How to’ book in the sense of following a prescribed ‘step by step’ approach. Ken Howard works in oils and watercolours and in his masterclass the merging of techniques from both is discussed in the way he portrays light in oils.

Oils by Trevor Chamberlain ( Ron Ranson’s Painting School)

A good choice for beginners and improvers, the first section deals with the basics. Each area covered is followed up with ideas for practice. The second section looks at the elements of a painting again with plenty of examples of Trevor’s work and more practical tasks.

John Walker said...

I recently discovered Bob Rohm.
I had heard about values in painting, but somehow the lesson clicked. But Bob Rohm has a way of explaining things and his painting style is just the thing I was looking for. My style won't be the same as his, certainly not so proficient. However, since reading his book 'The Painterly Approach', I find my self looking at the landscape in an entirely different way. Just discovering HOW to see and use values has encouraged me to go outside with my oils; something I wouldn't have considered a mere six weeks ago. All I need now is for life to stop getting in my way, so I can find some wedges of time.



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