In my second art book review, it will be an instructional one, I really loved this one. I burned through all 300+ pages in less than a week, if that’s any indication other than the title of this review to get this book, (you might want to get the PDF version since 300+ pages is a HUGE artbook unless you have a lot of space in your bookshelf) then this review has served its purpose, go forth.
For a more in-depth explanation, carry on reading, I would say if you have any interest in painting at all, traditionally or not. This books is insanely good for your needs.
In both my non-instructional and instructional art book reviews, I don’t really want to give a score/rating system to the books but have categories in which I feel are important for an artbook to succeed.
For non-instructional art books, like say artbooks of movies, games, etc. I have certain categories to access them, for instructional/how-to books I have other categories.
Art books do take up a lot of space and if you don’t have a lot of space, its best to buy only the best of the best or what you yourself like.
The categories for instructional books are, Overview, Inspiration, Ease of Access (Beginner, Intermediate, Expert), Usefulness, Summary.
Overview: General, short, introduction of the book.
Inspiration: Does the book give a spark to light the artistic flames of creation or whatever, does the book inspire/make you want to draw and create your own things yourself.
Ease of Access: Certain books are only helpful to certain levels of artists, by this I mean technical skill, some books won’t make sense to beginners, others will be telling what experts already know, so starting from Beginner, to Intermediate, to Expert. Which level, the book caters to.
Usefulness: How useful the book is, does the book help to solve the problem you bought the book for.
Summary: Whether you should buy this book or not. (which I already spoilt)
So, lets get to it.
Overview: Alla Prima II(2) Everything I Know About Painting is what it the title is. It’s Richard Schmid’s 60+ years worth of observational painting/painting from life, in one big book. It is the second edition, with over 300+ pages covering everything you need about observational painting, from not just starting a painting but to Schmid’s inspiring opinions on abstract things like “natural talent”, learning/how to learn, etc.
Inspiration: The very first chapter, about good ideas and free advice is enough to be inspiring to a lot of artists, as Schmid with his 60+ years of experience dishes out candid, no punches pulled, personal opinions on a lot of subjects that plague all artists. Concepts like natural talent, failure, learning, confidence, about the process etc. The first proper chapter alone is enough to inspire or have artists reflect on, what makes them confident, what their process is like etc. It alone is good enough for the book to be had.
Ease of Access: This book is really really good for beginners to observational painting but also not only to them but to all artists of every skill level as well. There are great refreshers for experts, tips for beginners, clarifications for intermediates, etc. The level of beginner knowledge needed is quite minimal.
Usefulness: Alla Prima 2, is insanely useful, from laying out what the bare basic materials you need, for example what colours, etc. (you dont have to buy every different shade for example), to how to start a painting, how to discern/find out what is wrong with a painting if you feel something is wrong. This book is really useful for observational painting which should/can affect the way one does painting from imagination, it has to be used as a companion book to other books if you want to say paint from imagination, and paint a dragon for example, this book cannot help you directly as it comes from a point of purely observational painting but mastering observational painting will directly affect your painting capability in general by studying/painting the effects of light to replicate in your imaginative paintings.
Summary: This book to painters should be how the book “The Animator’s Survival Kit” is to animators. It is so essential that I feel that it should be mandatory reading for all beginner painters. There’s just so much good information, inspiration, practical, technical, some are of course disputable, but in the end the general message is there and it is Schmid wants you to improve your observational art and learn from his mistakes and his experience and its wonderful and inspiring to read all of it in one book. Schmid also talks about the history of art and how impressionists and modern art came about and the thinking behind each movement. It makes even primarily digital artists like my generation, want to try out plein air observational painting outside.
If you have to get one book on observational painting its this one. If you want to draw from your imagination, combining this with James Gurney’s Imaginative Realism and Colour and Light are sure to help you bring another level to your work.