Oils are generally not the medium of the beginner and this is certainly not a beginner’s book. However, that gives it considerably more appeal to anyone who has some experience with oil painting and will be glad not to be re-taught the basics for the umpteenth time.
One of the things you notice first about this book is that the type is a little smaller than is usual. If you have poor eyesight, this might present a minor problem, but it’s worth persevering because there’s a good reason: Nicholas has a lot more to say than many artists. The old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words is absolutely true and many books get along just fine with a nice big illustration and a short caption saying what was done, why it was done and extrapolating this into a hint or a mini-tutorial. Add to that the fact that artists, by their very nature, tend to express themselves visually rather than verbally and we should perhaps be thankful. One or two books have been published in the past that would have benefited from a hefty application of blue pencil! As Shakespeare put it, “he draweth the thread of his verbosity finer than the staple of his argument” (OK, maybe you had to be there…).
Anyway, Nicholas has a lot to say about the practice of painting and he’s very eloquent about it. The book has been filtered through an excellent editor in Robin Capon, so it’s all very much to the point and it’s refreshingly different to be able to read about the subject as well as just looking at pictures and this is a book it’s worth sitting down and spending time with.
Stylistically, Nicholas Verrall isn’t an obviously typical oil painter, assuming such a beast exists. His paintings are not textural and he’s not a great advocate of the knife and heavy impasto – rather his work is quite well brushed-out, more akin to acrylics really. He does, however, use blocks of colour (rather like a low-resolution pointilliste) to impressionistic effect. His subjects tend to be buildings, but buildings in context, so that landscapes, flowers, water and people find their way in as well and he is particularly good on lighting effects.
Batsford 2004, paperback reissue 2008