Archive for category Author: 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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