Art Students League of New York on Painting

Title: Art Students League of New York on Painting
Author: James L. McElhinney & instructors
Genre: Nonfiction / art

Goodreads | Penguin Random House

What a wonderful book this is! It is pretty unique in its format too. I love books that showcase beautiful paintings, drawings, collages, etchings, illustrations, crafts, and other works. I also love looking at art instruction books, the ones that tell you about materials, how to use them, how to draw, and offer step-by-step instruction. This book is neither, despite its subtitle saying that it contains “lessons.” It does, in a way–but not through tutorials or really delving into technique. However what it does offer is equally or more more valuable

We hear from 18 different instructors from the Art League, and they all have something to impart. It’s like if you had 18 conversations about art with experienced artists and teachers. They only touch on the mechanics of mark making and when they do have “step by step” lessons, they are not in depth. However they still contain useful information about the way a particular artist/teacher works. What I loved about this book was all the perspectives on art and making art, what they consider important or unimportant to a work, their philosophies about painting. There are so many ideas expressed in here–it is very rich.

I felt the weakest part of the book was the middle section, which is dedicated to “advice and philosophies.” For some reason, I thought the other two sections (“Lessons and Demos” and “Interviewed”) carried a lot more information about advice and philosophies. The middle section seemed, to me, to be heavy on individuals’ biographies. However this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, since it included tons of name-dropping–in this case, quite welcome name-dropping because it’s led me to the discovery of new artists.

And of course there is art reproduced in the pages a lot of it is so gorgeous. Peter was wowed by the first page I randomly turned to when I got it. There’s lots of great stuff in here. As you might expect with so many different artists (more than 18, actually, since there are “student galleries” as well), I didn’t love every style. However it was really neat because some of the people whose art didn’t speak to me had some of the most insightful things to say.

The great value in this book is its diversity of contributors which in turn lend a diversity of thoughts on and ideas about how to approach painting–many voices add to a discussion about progression as an artist, composition, color, selling work, sketchbooks, studios, inspiration, goals. I would definitely read another book like this one. It actually made me break my acrylics out (I’ve been using watercolor almost exclusively), for which I am thankful.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.


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