It’s nice to see books starting to appear which deal with more than just the technical aspects of acrylic painting.
The medium itself is hugely versatile and can produce effects that cannot easily be achieved in any other and is particularly useful when it comes to reproducing the effects of light. The inherent brightness of the colours that tend to be available means that the often dazzling effects of bright sunlight can be caught very effectively.
The paintings in this book are mostly done in England, France and Italy (including Venice), which gives John some very different qualities of light to work with, from the island to the continental and Mediterranean. It’s no accident that a lot of English painting tends to concentrate on skies as our island climate produces a wide variety of cloud effects and foregrounds which are illuminated by shafts of light breaking through rather than an overall brilliance. Continental light, by contrast, tends to be more consistent and the interest is to be had from the progressive recession of a broad landscape or the play of light in dappled shade in more intimate corners.
John has produced a thoroughly comprehensive guide which looks at the way in which acrylics can be used, explaining techniques in a way which should retain the interest of the more experienced painter, going beyond, as he does, simple paint application methods. Moving on, there is an extensive section on Interpreting Light in which he discusses the ways in which light appears, its many qualities and effects and shows you how to look out for how these work, this being absolutely central to successful painting.
The other main section of the book is Subjects and Inspiration, in which John looks at specific examples of composition where the effect and play of light becomes a central part of the subject rather than just another aspect of a more general work.
You may not want to paint exclusively the effects of light, but it’s going to be a central part of any outdoor work and there’s a wealth of useful advice and information to be found here. For the most part a discussion of the ways in which finished paintings were done, there are also a few step-by-step demonstrations that help to illuminate particular aspects of the methods of painting light.
It’s also good to see that this has sold out in its original hardback edition and been popular enough to make it into paperback.
Batsford 2006 (hardback published 2004)