Painting With Oils (Art Handbooks) || Noel Gregory Painting With Pastels (Art Handbooks) || Paul Coombs

This is a “new” series from Search Press that raids their extensive and, let’s be honest, excellent backlist. Once upon a time, my children, these books were part of the Leisure Arts series, something which itself went through more than one incarnation. These are the first two titles in what could be an extensive re-publishing programme.

They’re simple beginners’ guides (“simple” applies to the books, not the beginners, for the avoidance of confusion). What you get is a basic introduction to materials and equipment, some general notes on techniques and then some very short demonstrations that flex your muscles gently without any danger of over-exertion, all in 48 pages.

I don’t think anyone could learn to paint from just these books, but that’s not what they were intended for. As a general introduction for someone putting a toe in the water – either as a complete novice or as a newcomer to the medium, they’re a good way of easing yourself in. More perhaps than any other series, they absolutely stand or fall on how well the authors have understood the basic brief and, as Search Press usually contrive, they do it well.

These were only ever intended to be pocket guides and, although the previous release was about A4 size, these new ones are only about half that. Normally, I don’t like small-format books and I invariably fail to see the point of a book you can carry about with you. Give me illustrations I can see without my super-strength glasses, for goodness sake! However, I’ve been seduced by the way these sit in the hand. They’re slightly larger than the Top Tips series and I’ve never complained about the size of the illustrations in those. It’s also worth remarking that these books are a vindication of this site’s policy of only reviewing from finished copies, rather than advance proofs. By getting the feel of the books in my hand, I’ve discovered that what I originally thought was an incredibly bad idea actually works well.

All-in-all, a good job has been done here. The material has been brought subtly up to date and some perfectly good books whose only crime is to be middle-aged have been brought back to life. At £4.99, they compare well with the old pricing, too.



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