Painting Light in Oils || Peter Wileman

Books on oil painting are always thin on the ground, so a new one is to be welcomed; all the more so when you get one that combines the analytical approach that characterises a lot of Batsford books with a handy selection of step-by-step demonstrations into the bargain. In both approaches, Peter Wileman offers a lot of painting wisdom and the fact that he paints in a surprisingly wide variety of styles will widen the appeal of what he has to say.

Overall, the book has a logical progression from the customary introduction to materials and techniques (one day, could someone just say, “I use paint and brushes, just like everyone else” and leave it at that?), through subject selection and the different effects of light, to the practical aspects of outdoor painting as well as studio practice. Light, of course, is the centrepiece of the book and Peter is particularly sound on how light varies according to weather, time of day and season, what to look for and the various ways of capturing its effects. Much of this is the sort of thing that seems obvious until someone explains it and there are a lot of “oh, yes” moments here.

If I have a complaint it’s that several of the illustrations appear to have been reproduced from 35mm transparencies or less than totally high resolution digital images. This is always a problem when the author has sold their work and is relying on their own records and there’s nothing anyone can do about it, but there are several places when I found myself yearning for just a bit more detail in some of the paintings.

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