The Simple Secret to Better Painting, by Greg Albert – a book review

This is an awesome book that changed the way I view each of my oil pastels before, during and after painting them.  There are many good books in the market today on composition, so I’m not disparaging any of them in the least.  I just feel very comfortable in recommending this gem.

What I like about the book is that Mr. Albert boils down the complexity of composition quickly and efficiently, and through illustrations (sometimes these are paintings in which he describes how a concept is satisfied).  I learned a tremendous amount in a very short read.

There are only nine chapters (126 pages) as follows:  design, making things interesting, balance, pleasing the eye, tonal value and contrast, color, still lifes, landscapes, figures and portraits.

Here are the top three things that I got from this book, but trust me there are many to learn from:

  1. The front cover of the book states, “how to immediately improve your art with this one rule of composition.”  That rule of composition was repeated throughout the book:   “never make any two intervals the same … intervals that are the same are boring.  Intervals that vary are interesting.”  Simple enough, but hit me between the eyes.  For example when there are two areas of trees in a landscape, and both areas have two trees this would be boring, so make one of areas have three trees.  Never make the two intervals  the same.
  2. Chapter Two, Making Things Interesting had a large impact in my landscape paintings, his explanation and examples are excellent.  He talks about what makes things interesting for the viewer “Some visual arrangements are more interesting than others, or are more pleasurable to look at.  What makes things visually interesting?  In a word, variation.”  For example when I paint a landscape and there is a line of trees – I ask myself, are they all the same height?  The point here is to change the tree line so that it’s not a straight line across the tops of the trees.  Mr. Albert showed throughout this chapter a number of ways to create interest in a painting.
  3. Chapter 5, Tonal Value and Contrast was an “ah” read for me that I continue to appreciate the more I paint.  “If a painting has little value contrast – that is, if there is a little difference between the darkest and the lightest tonal values in a picture – no part of the picture will be particularly attractive to the eye . . . If a picture has only darks, only lights or only middle grays, nothing will stand out sufficiently to be a focal point.”  I used this concept in my recent painting, Red Cabbage, where I used the darker values to create more depth and giving the painting a 3-d appearance.

For some readers you may already be familiar with the concepts, but as it was suggested to me by very talented artists I took the recommendation and purchased the book –  it’s been well worth the price.  I found it Amazon.

It’s one of my favorite books to refer too when I’m struggling with a painting.  I highly recommend this read to both experienced and new artists, there are a lot of gold nuggets contained within the pages.

About Mary

Oil Pastelist
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8 Responses to The Simple Secret to Better Painting, by Greg Albert – a book review

  1. Anonymous says:

    Mary that is very interesting points enjoy reading.

  2. iarxiv says:

    Thanks for the review – I added that book to my wish list! 🙂

  3. Mary, this is great info! Thanks for taking the time to write this and sharing it with us.

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