Search Results for: roy lang

Sea & Sky in Oils || Roy Lang

This is not a new book and I’ve reviewed it before, but it remains pretty much the only work on the subject and has become something of a classic, so I think this re-origination and reissue is worth a mention. Search Press have been revisiting some of their backlist titles recently and have had the good sense to start from scratch with a complete redesign. In some cases, these make the original almost unrecognisable, though I’m not sure that’s the case here. The work, both in terms of design and the finished result, looks fresh though, and the layout and illustrations have a clarity that make this look new rather than something that’s been mucked about for the sake of it. To deconstruct something that was originally as good as it could be made and come up with something that not only looks good but also doesn’t look like a camel (which, you’ll recall, is a horse designed by a committee) is quite an achievement.

I don’t think this is one of those books I’d say is worth a look even if you have the original. However, if you’re new to painting, or to oils, and want something like this, you’d be glad to find it. It would certainly be worth springing for the new edition rather than buying an older one second-hand.

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Oil Painting Step by Step || Noel Gregory, James Horton, Roy Lang & Michael Sanders

I’m pretty sure that this is a bind-up of eight short guides that have been previously published – I certainly recognise Roy Lang’s Sea & Sky in Oils, but publishers are getting a lot better at the stitching-together trick these days and it’s really quite hard to see the joins here. At a mere £12.99, though, it’s hardly worth quibbling in the face of the huge variety of material you get.

Because everything runs together so neatly, it’s best to look as this as a compendium of single-subject demonstrations, albeit a themed one. Turning the pages more or less at random reveals all sorts of useful information on subjects such as on skies, light, reflections, choosing a subject, underpainting and glazing, as well as a good selection of demonstration paintings on subjects including flowers, landscapes and water.

The individual volumes were definitely something to work through, but I rather favour serendipity here. Just let the book fall open and read from there; it’s full of wisdom and good advice.

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Sea & Sky In Oils || Roy Lang

Books on painting water appear from time to time, but ones totally devoted to the sea are by no means common. In fact, I can only immediately think of the ones by E John Robinson. As many readers will be aware, books on oil painting also tend to be conspicuous by their absence, so this one neatly fills two gaps at once.

So, it’s got a lot riding on it. If I have a reservation, it’s that Roy tends to go for the over-dramatic. It’s entirely understandable that he doesn’t really want to paint flat calm waters, although that could well be what you’d find in a broader, more general seascape, but I’m not completely sure that we need, or will find useful, quite the proportion of night-time and storm scenes he includes. As paintings, they’re impressive but, as teaching exercises, maybe a tad indulgent.

I don’t think this is something that should automatically put you off, but you do need to be aware of it as this book isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea. That’s a shame, because Roy crams an awful lot into just 64 pages – Search Press have become particularly good at making the maximum use of page space without overcrowding – and it’s worth persevering and seeing past what may, at first sight, appear to be objections because Roy is a good and helpful teacher and includes some excellently detailed step by step demonstrations.

As a book on painting the sea in oils, this doesn’t really have any competition and, all things being equal, it probably won’t have for some time to come so, if this is what you want to do, then this is the book you’re going to need. Does that mean you’re stuck with Hobson’s Choice? Well, no, not really because it’s well done and you will undoubtedly get a lot out of it, especially if it’s a subject you’re new to. Yes, there are a few pictures that you might pass over, but the rest of the book is sound and excellent value for money.

First published 2007
£8.99

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Refuge and Renewal: migration and British art || Peter Wakelin

Incomers provide a new perspective on their adoptive territory and also contribute to the development of its art through the integration of styles and techniques. This is not the same as internationalism, where artists from one country observe those in others and adopt and adapt their ways of working. Integration provides a fuller amount of exchange and symbiosis that works both ways. Something as simple as differing light can affect the way scenes are depicted, just as social mores and patterns of dress influence figurative work.

This book is based on a British perspective – to treat the subject from a completely international viewpoint would be enormous and far beyond the scope of this book and the exhibition, at the Royal West of England Academy, it accompanies.

For all that, it goes far enough back into history to look at the Sixteenth Century portraits of Hans Holbein and other artists who learnt their trade abroad. Peter Wakelin also considers the work of fleeing Huguenots such as Marcellus Laroon, whose Cryes of London has given identity to some of the forgotten masses – foreshadowing, in a way, Henry Mayhew’s Nineteenth Century narrative London Labour and the London Poor.

The main focus though, perhaps unsurprisingly, is on the Twentieth Century when wars and upheaval caused many, often large, population shifts. Helmut Herzfeld (who Anglicised his name to John Heartfield) portrayed those sought by the Gestapo in 1930s Germany, while Dobrivoje Beljkašic recorded his native Sarajevo in the 1990s.

Despite the potentially gloomy nature of the subject matter, this is an optimistic book, as reflected in the “renewal” of the title. The narrative is a complex one and Peter Wakelin is aware that he is dealing not with historical shifts but with individuals, each with their own stories and concerns. Ultimately, this is a book about art, not national and social history, and Wakelin marshals his material well, sparking interest at all points.

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The Golden Age of Dutch and Flemish Painting || Norbert Wolf

A very long time ago, a remainder dealer managed to convince me that a book he was flogging called Florentine Art Treasures would be a perfect fit for my market. It was a hasty paste-up job, not very well reproduced, but it was large format and did contain a lot of illustrations for the relatively modest sum he was charging. In my defence I was young, rather naïve and a bit of a sitting duck. No, we didn’t manage to sell more than a small handful.

Some years later, reminiscing with another bookseller, we started talking about that dealer and my friend asked, “Did he try to sell you Florentine Art Treasures?” I admitted the truth. The story was, apparently, that the dealer used to drive around London with a box of the cursed things in the boot of his Rolls Royce (yes, it’s possible to make money out of bookselling, but you have to be sharp as a razor) on the off-chance that someone would run into him and he could offload a couple of dozen onto the insurance.

All of which preamble is a way of saying that large books of art treasures and I have a chequered history and that my view of them may be just a touch jaundiced.

This is a big book – I mean, really big. If you want your own private art gallery on your coffee table (it’s not something to sit with in your lap for long), this will give you one of the best collections of Lowlands art it’s possible to have. No more peering into tight spines or at really-too-small reproductions, the illustrations here are as near to being in a gallery as you’re going to get. There is also a good narrative of the history of the times and critical analysis of schools and artists. Rather handily, several of the major works are set alongside comparison pieces by other artists that treat the same subject or use similar compositions.

Excellent though this is, the reproduction does seem a trifle soft in places and you might find yourself struggling to see some of the detail. This doesn’t impose, though, and may be something you only really notice when you start looking really closely. It’s a shame, but sometimes publishers are restricted by the quality of the photographs they can get (high-resolution scanning is not generally available for priceless paintings in public collections). For all that, if I was going to part with a whisker under £100 for a book, I might expect it to be the acme of perfection.

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Edwin G Lucas – an individual eye || Helen E Scott

The art of Edwin Lucas (1911-1990) defies categorisation. Largely self-taught, he was prolific in his output and exhibited regularly at the Royal Scottish Academy and Society of Scottish artists; he was much more than a talented amateur.

Coinciding, as Sansom publications frequently do, with a retrospective exhibition, this book contains a generous and representative selection of Lucas’s work as well as useful biographical and critical material. The development of the artist’s style can be traced from relatively conventional beginnings to his encounter with Surrealism in the 1930s and his incorporation of this with his very individual, and often Expressionist, world view. “Idiosyncrasy” can often be a codeword for “difficult”, but Lucas’s paintings are more than that and invite, rather than demand, further scrutiny which they reward with humour and insight.

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The Power Of The Sea – Making waves in British art 1790-2014 || Janette Kerr & Christiana Payne

This is the catalogue of an exhibition at the Royal West of England Academy. However, it also stands alone and contains much useful background material that covers the history of maritime painting as well as the practical aspects of painting such subjects, what the sea means to those who commit themselves to it and even a discourse on the structure of waves.

The main meat of it is the catalogue, though, which is an excellent and representative selection of paintings that include works by Constable and Turner as well as Francis Danby, Walter Langley and John Piper from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and Kurt Jackson and Terry Setch from the contemporary section. The division into those two sections is unusual, and does rather place the emphasis on the last fourteen years, but I don’t think this detracts from the book. The exhibition, of course, flows as it does.

All of the entries are chronological, so it is possible to see styles and movements develop in front of you and there are handy label descriptions of each painting that introduce both the piece and its artist.

This is not, nor does it attempt to be, an exhaustive survey, but the entries are well-chosen and representative of the times and places they stand for. As an overview of the history of British maritime painting, it’s hard to beat.

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