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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A genuinely helpful book for the beginning plein air painter
I am a beginning plein air painter. As a working adult, I don't have time to take a university extension course ot enroll in local art classes. For the time being, I have to make do with instruction from books, and inspiration from published collections, galleries, art shows and museums. I purchased and read a large number of books - in and out of print - on drawing...
Published on September 29, 2005 by James Lehrer

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars It's a start...
This was a bit skimpy in information, but it's probably good for beginners.
Published 1 month ago by duckfoot platypus


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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A genuinely helpful book for the beginning plein air painter, September 29, 2005
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This review is from: Plein Air Painting in Oil (Artist's Library Series) (Paperback)
I am a beginning plein air painter. As a working adult, I don't have time to take a university extension course ot enroll in local art classes. For the time being, I have to make do with instruction from books, and inspiration from published collections, galleries, art shows and museums. I purchased and read a large number of books - in and out of print - on drawing and painting. There is a great deal of fine material out there, but at the very beginning stage I find Frank Serrano's little book to be the most helpful.

Winston Churchill came to recreational painting as an adult, and in his characteristic fashion described, in another very inspiring little book ("Painting as a Pastime," Odhams, London (1965), the essential challenge (facing the blank canvas, brush in hand), and the essential quality the beginner must find within him- or herself: the audacity to put the first daub of paint on the canvas:

"Having bought the colours, an easel, and a canvas, the next step was to begin. But what a step to take! The palette gleamed with beads of colour; fair and white rose the canvas; the empty brush hung poised, heavy with destiny, irresolute in the air. My hand seemed arrested by a silent veto."

There are numerous "how to get started" books in print that deal with oil painting. What makes Serrano's so valuable is it's simple, direct approach to putting the paint on your brush and then on the canvas. It is a quality of this book, and not a failing, that it does not attempt to cover too much material. Serrano sticks to the basics, and describes them with admirable simplicity and directness. His approach is not so simple as to be condescending, though. As a beginning painter, I feel some of the lack of control that I felt when learning to drive. At first there seem to be so many things to think about: mixing the colors to replicate what you see, considering the overall compositional plan of the canvas, keeping in mind the shadows and the highlights. Just one example of a beginner's challenge is to shade the green of the leaves on a tree so that the sunlit leaves are bright and the leaves in shadow are dark, while maintaining the proper character of the green between lit and shadowed areas. The essential value of Serrano's book is that it focuses on the essentials. Any more detail, and the beginner could go into "information overload."

Getting the level of detail is very important in a book aimed at beginners in any discipline. If the student is so burdened with "do's and don'ts" and details that they become confused, or worse, discouraged, the teacher has failed. Yet, there seems to be a tendency for teachers/writers to want to "strut their stuff," to show how well they have mastered the details of the craft. They forget that beginning is not about details, its about fundamentals, and getting those fundamentals right. That's the foundation the beginner needs to progress. Frank Serrano has not forgotten what it's like to be a beginner. Reading his book, I got the impression that Serrano, accomplished as he has become, has not lost the excitement, the sheer joy, of learning. The basics seem as important to him as the more sophisticated elements of the craft. Indeed, looking at his works in the book, on various websites on the Internet, and in person (I own several of his original paintings), a simplicity and clarity of vision becomes apparent. His paintings seem to be as much about the essentials, the basics, of envisioning and experiencing nature as his book is about the essentials of the craft. I've had the pleasure of speaking with Frank on occasion, and I can honestly say the joy and excitement I sense in his paintings are communicated by him on a personal level.

Another aspect of Serrano's book that I believe is important, is that it is informed by his respect for the traditions of the plein air genre. As noted in his book, Frank was influenced by Sam Hyde Harris, who was at the center of plein air activity in Southern California in the mid 20th century. Harris was part of the art community that settled and painted at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains and along the California coast. Harris explored the effects of atmosphere - early morning haze, for example - in his paintings of Pasadena's Arroyo Seco and Los Angeles's Chavez Ravine (long before Dodger Stadium). These and other sites in California and the Western US are the locales in which Frank finds his own subjects.

If you are interested in starting plein air painting, and want a good guide to the essentials without extraneous detail, I don't think you can do better than to buy Frank Serrano's "Plein Air Painting in Oil." You will be learning from a fine artist in the plein air tradition, who has not lost the enthusiasm for learning and the sense of sheer fun that is - or should be - so important to anyone starting out to learn a new craft.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Do not miss this gem in the making. Get it now., June 6, 2005
By 
Jay Siena (From Japan with love...) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Plein Air Painting in Oil (Artist's Library Series) (Paperback)
This little gem is one of the FINEST how-to books about oil painting that you will ever read, or come across in your life-time. I strongly suggest that you get this book before it goes out of print-and enjoy it forever.

For a mere price of a fish-and-chips order, you just cannot go wrong. But, the problem with that fish-and-chips order is that once eaten, everything is gone forever. You will have this book for as long as you live to enjoy, and possibly to share, if you were to buy a copy. You simply cannot go wrong there. Can you?

The hidden beauty of this amazing little book is that it is only 64 fantastic pages that you could read again, and again without getting bored. Every single line of the text is full of secrets.

Serrano uses only eight oil paints, and three brushes in order to create those depths, and textures in each painting in the book.

When he describes each painting in the book, it is like you are painting that painting by yourself alone, and Serrano is behind you holding your hand with your brush. For example, how to do trees simply, and rapidly without fiddling endlessly with details; or, skies; or the time of the day; or foggy/misty scenes; or whatever you fancy...

I wish I had this incredible book back during my university days...

There are 12 painting lessons from easy to complex topics; and a wonderful gallery at the end.

Here are the lessons: painting step by step; creating dynamic compositions; simplifying a subject; capturing light & shadow; expressing mood; building texture; finding a good focus; conveying time of day; depicting distance; deciding what to paint; using negative space, and exercising artistic licence.

Here are the chapters: introduction; a word from the author; tools & materials; colour in Plein air painting; painting techniques; painting skies & clouds; painting trees/water/rocks/figures; gallery, and conclusion.

This book has taken my breath away. It may take yours, too!

You have nothing to lose, but an order of those stupid fatting fish-and-chips. Get this book, now; before it is too late-if you know what I mean.

Frank Serrano is a disguised masterpiece painter.

(The above review has been written with the British spelling.)
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A workshop for the price of lunch!!, August 24, 2005
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This review is from: Plein Air Painting in Oil (Artist's Library Series) (Paperback)
This is by far the best plein air painting book for the money that I've ever purchased! It's packed full of easy-to-understand lessons on every page. Excellent for either the beginner or intermediate-level oil painters out there. Advanced painters probably already know most of this stuff, so should probably turn to Richard Schmid's "Alla Prima." I think the only other plein air painting book that's as good as this one is Kevin MacPherson's.

The author presents step-by-step lessons throughout the book, and de-mystifies a lot of concepts and techniques. I think many people will learn more from this book than from a typical plein air workshop as the writing and photos are well-done, and because Frank has put a lot of effort into clear and concise writing.

My only complaint is that I wish it was much longer!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Good Plein Air Painting Primer, August 24, 2008
This review is from: Plein Air Painting in Oil (Artist's Library Series) (Paperback)
This book is simple and straight forward. I really simplifies the whole process of this technique. The author even specifically tells which palette colors to use! Love this book!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars the sort of book self taught artists need, April 24, 2011
By 
J. Janssen (San Diego, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Plein Air Painting in Oil (Artist's Library Series) (Paperback)
As a bit of background, Walter Foster was a real painter and early on in his career circa 1930 started a specialty publishing company churning out art instruction books usually filled with step by step demonstrations. When I first started painting as a kid you could find dozens of these covering different genres. They were usually large format (maybe 12 x 16"), nicely printed on heavy stock, ran 18 to 24 pages and sold for about a $1 each. To a kid who wanted to learn how to paint getting a new one with exotic images to emulate was like opening presents on XMAS.

Well, time marches on and Walter Foster publications are still with us, albeit in a smaller format, but the formula is still pretty much the same. A working artist scripts a booklet with a limited number of demonstrations on a central theme, adds in some equipment recommendations, some technique/instructional material, and a book is born. This particular title is from the "Artist Library Series" and is useful for the beginning oil painter that wants to move outdoors for the plein air experience. There are a great many books available covering outdoor painting and this one is a good example of the "quick sketch/loose realism" style. The author summons up a dozen or so lessons each with a practice painting shown in 3 or 4 steps of completion which the reader can emulate and alter to suit their needs. Most of the scenes are of southern CA and I could recognize several without looking at the title or origin info, which is a good sign when you're learning landscape painting as opposed to just painting generic skies, trees and rocks.

This is exactly the sort of book a beginning outdoor oil painter should be looking for. The painting style is accessible and not intimidating, the scenes themselves are relatively simple and easy to "copy" and, while the cover price is no longer a buck it's certainly within reach of most art students. There are a lot of "plein air" books out there to buy, but for the beginning painter this is probably a better choice than most since it encourages taking paint and brush to canvas rather than having numerous arcane discussions about paint brands, brush selection or some other distraction.

These books aren't going to turn you into a Turner, but they will get you out to actually paint, which is 50% of the battle.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best buy for the money by far, September 18, 2008
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This review is from: Plein Air Painting in Oil (Artist's Library Series) (Paperback)
LOVE THIS CHEAP BOOK!! Step by step instructions. List of tools to use. Easy to understand language on painting. Gets to the meat of the subject without all the frills. Highly recommend this book as a staple in your painting education if you havent had a class like this.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Book Covered Exactly What the Title Stated - Great!, April 22, 2013
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This review is from: Plein Air Painting in Oil (Artist's Library Series) (Paperback)
This is a very useful and informative book that provides lots of illustrations and examples. I found the quality of art used for illustrative purposes much higher than that typically used in this sort of book, which helped this reader to value the information all the more. I also have a DVD by the author and have participated in a Plein Air Basics workshop Mr. Serrano contributed to, and recommend his instructional style and this book highly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Small, but heavy-hitter, March 1, 2011
By 
V. Lewis (Sonoma, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Plein Air Painting in Oil (Artist's Library Series) (Paperback)
Page for page, pound for pound, my favorite plein air painting guide. Simple and easy to follow and the only one of my plein air books that I've taken into the field to reference while painting.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Small Gem of a Book, January 21, 2010
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This review is from: Plein Air Painting in Oil (Artist's Library Series) (Paperback)
Frank Serrano is a terrific painter, and lucky for those not quite as good, a talented teacher. This book is meant to serve the beginning painter, and which it does quite well with very clear descriptions on how mix color, what color to use for certain effects, etc. I think the intermediate painter would gain a lot from this book as well. It could easily serve as the source of one's approach to landscape painting for almost any level artist. I consider myself pretty advanced, but after I go through a period of experimentation with different palettes, a few painting trips that didn't work out like I wanted, I go back to this book and follow Frank's advice! For the money this is a great value and should be part of any landscape painter's library. (Just an aside the sketches in the book don't represent the high level of his work--they are meant for demonstration only)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Frank Serrano is great!, July 5, 2014
By 
Gary B. McMann (Vancouver, WA, US) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Plein Air Painting in Oil (Artist's Library Series) (Paperback)
It was everything I expected and more.
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Plein Air Painting in Oil (Artist's Library Series)
Plein Air Painting in Oil (Artist's Library Series) by Frank Serrano (Paperback - January 1, 2002)
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