Book Report: Working with Oils by Norman Battershill (1982, 1991)

Book coverThis book is a short British painting project book that shows some quick things you can do to get started painting with oil paints. I believe it’s distributed by an art supply company. I remember back counting these out of boxes when I was a shipping receiving clerk at an art supply store. I read the book because I read anything, not because I’m taking up painting.

The book presents five paintings to try from a variety of painting types. There are a couple landscapes, an interior painting, and a still life. There are also samples for sketches made before drawing and basic information about equipment that you use and whatnot, which is typical for a hobby book like this.

The individual projects include five steps and then five pictures to illustrate the step, but for some reason, the book was laid out so that the steps are together and the pictures are together, but on different, often non-facing pages, so if you want to see the result of each step after you read the text, you’re going to do a lot of page flipping.

The artist’s style is somewhere between impressionism and realism, with blocky shape outlines. He works from the back to the front, which I guess is standard. It’s been a long time since I took an art class, but I watch a lot of Bob Ross’s The Joy of Painting, which I prefer and is much closer to inspiring me than this book is. I wonder how The Joy of Painting translated to print, as there are undoubtedly many books in the line.

Come to think of it, when I was in high school, The Joy of Painting did inspire me to try some painting using cheap watercolors from the department store and the cut-out tops of fresh doughnut boxes as canvases. It wasn’t half bad. It was more bad than that. Which is why I continued on my path to becoming a not half bad writer on the Internet.

At any rate, the book is a short primer on the art, so it shouldn’t be a major investment like a $30, 200 page hardback craft book would be. Especially if you buy it at a book fair bag day like I undoubtedly did.

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