Friday, January 15, 2016

Review: Art Students League of New York on Painting

 Art Students League of New York on Painting
Lessons and Meditations on Mediums, Styles, and Methods
James L. McElhinney and the Instructors of The Art Students League of New York.
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Watson-Guptill (November 10, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385345437
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385345439

Back in the day, I used to paint. And play the violin. And play the piano. And do calligraphy. But I've kinda let those arts and crafts fall to the side as I focused on my writing and my fabric designs. But this book is seriously inspiring.

If you've seen art books, they tend to fall into the following categories: art how to's, art history, art culture, memoirs by art professionals. This book is a little of all those categories. First of all, it's a book with really great paintings. In this day of photoshop and illustrator, one generally doesn't see acrylic, oil, etc paintings unless one visits galleries and museums. And realistic paintings are often done by cameras. This book reminds the reader of the craft of painting. Simply speaking, it's not a book that one has to read. But I would recommend reading it.

Cause these artists have some important stuff they want to say.

I've run into this before where people have been resentful because of the way critics and teachers of modern art have derided realism as passe and unimportant. So yeah, there is a whole lot of that. But hey, they're telling the truth and they're speaking their art. With the advent of people like Lucien Freud and Philip Pearlstein and others, realism with an emphasis on figure realism has come back into vogue in many quarters of critical opinion.

The commentary and personal histories of the artists will definitely help many modern artists understand the paths and pitfalls of the art life and will also give information on the state of contemporary realistic painting to future artists. This is a great book to give to any artist interested in realistic painting. I will add though that there are a lot of nude paintings. I don't really mind it. (I was a model for painters in college but I was one of those models who never removed her clothing. Imagine then me being dressed and my partner being fully nude! Ah, those days!) But some folks who have a problem with seeing the nude human body --even in a painting-- might be perturbed.

Founded in 1875, the venerable Art Students League of New York still instructs some 2500 students each month. In this copiously illustrated  book on painting, we get an in-depth look into the methods and inspirations of contemporary artists teaching at the League. The book is divided into three parts: Lessons and Demos, Advice and Philosophies, and Interviews. Some of the artists  in Part One include Henry Finkelstein (On Painting, with a Critique); Thomas Torak (A Contemporary Approach to Classical Painting); Naomi Campbell (Working Large in Watercolor); and Costa Vavagiakis (The Evolution of a Concept).
 
    Part Two features, among others, William Scharf (Knowing that Miracles Happen), Peter Homitzky (inventing from Observation), and Deborah Winiarski (Painting and Encaustic).
    Part Three features three interviews: Frank O'Cain (Abstraction from Nature); Ronnie Landfield (On Learning and Teaching); Knox Martin (Learning From Old  and Modern Masters).
 
    Most of the art is representational, with emphasis on the human figure. After every chapter there is a student gallery which reproduces recent paintings from the students.
    There are lots of good tips in the illustrated demos that would profit an  experienced artist as well as the beginner. I received this book free of charge in exchange for a honest review.
   

 


 
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