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4.6 out of 5 stars
Fill Your Oil Paintings with Light & Color
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113 of 115 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I love this book! It is full of good solid practical suggestions that result in a better painting. His color-isolator - a piece of cardboard painted with blocks of white, gray, and black, with a peep hole through each color block - is a fantastic idea. I also liked his use of the wooden pear to show shadows, planes, and color. He placed a yellow-green wooden pear on different colored backgrounds, and took photos. The photos are the key - one can SEE how a shadow actually can can take on different hues depending on its surroundings. No guessing. Lois Griffel has a similar study in her book, using paintings of a cube, but there is no way to see how in the world she came up with using some of the colors that she did because it's all just shown through paintings.

MacPherson also gives good practical advice on laying out the foundation for the art work - setting up the underlying "bones" of the painting.

MacPherson advocates using a very limited palette, and mixing those colors to get the colors you need. The idea is to tie everything together visually. I tried using a very basic palette, and am very pleased with the results. I use acrylics, but the same general principles apply. It forces one to learn to mix colors, and also unifies the painting. MacPherson is also correct when he urges the reader to try to paint an hour every day - practice makes perfect. If one REALLY wants to, one can find the time.... Maybe outside in the daylight is not always possible, but the daily routine and discipline is well worth the effort.

Lois Griffel's book is full of beautiful paintings, and tons of narrative, but little basic practical advice. (I also got irritated with Lois' claim that she paints what she SEES, because her paintings are loaded with colors that are not in the original photos. Like gobs and gobs and gobs of rose and magenta everywhere. She does create beautiful paintings, but please - don't tell me that they are a reflection of reality...) Lois' message is that she is much more clever than the rest of us, and maybe she is. Kevin MacPherson's message is YES, you can DO this! I like his message much better.

If you can only buy one book,go for Kevin MacPHERSON!
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84 of 86 people found the following review helpful
on March 19, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book is just like Kevin's workshops. I took one with him years ago--when I should have bought his paintings--and he helped me immeasurably. One of the quickest ways you can learn to paint outdoors is to buy this book (while you still can) and then take a MacPherson workshop somewhere.

One slight caveat: his pallette is for me, a bit TOO limited. He used to say that with the three primaries, you can mix any color you wish.

Well, yes and no. For instance you can mix and mix and come up with something approximating Burnt Sienna but your mixture, I assure you, will be a subpar rendition of the color. Sienna is mined in the Sienna region of Italy and the actual Sienna pigment itself can not be duplicated, period. The mixture you'll get by trying to slop something together will mix like mud with the rest of your colors while the actual Burnt Sienna in a tube works far, far better.

Kevin cites Arthur Stern's book (out of print and expensive now) wherein Mr. Stern uses a warm and cool version of each primary.

What you could try is to add a red into Kevin's basic pallette. Add a Cadmium Red Light and a Burnt Sienna (Burnt Sienna mixes with almost everything an makes great greys) and you'll find that you have a bit more flexibility when mixing and that you can "hit" your mixtures better while still keeping the advantages of Kevin's limited pallette.

So Google the guy and find out where he's giving a workshop and get in line. You won't regret it. If you can't take a workshop, the book is the next best thing.
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68 of 70 people found the following review helpful
on June 27, 2004
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I've read a lot of painting books and this is one of my favorites. I've read it front to back several times, and I've read through different chapters numerous times. He uses a very limited palette: cad yellow light, alizarin crimson, ultramarine, and phthalo green. I've been using a limited palette since I read his book, although I often alter the colors a bit. People say the palette is too limited but once you master it you can easily change the colors and add others as required. I found they're seldom required.
He has a challenge to do 100 starts which is great. I'm current doing this with a group of artists at WetCanvas (search Google). He also has another challenge to paint a 6x8 plein air in one hour every day for 3 months. I'm quite confident that after painting 100 starts and 90 paintings I'll be a much better plein air painter. I also like his suggestion of using a black marker to make a b&w sketch before painting. This helps to see the light/shadow patterns.
Overall this book is great. Although it's for oil, his technique will work for any opaque medium. MacPherson also gives workshops and from what I've heard they're very good. The material in the book is what he presents in the workshop!
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
A book full of examples of great paintings by Kevin MacPherson, he keeps the principles of good painting simple. I keep going back to it as my eye becomes more discerning of subtleties in my subject matter and as I gain more skill in the application of oil paint. Anybody interested in a workshop by KMP and others, look for the Plein Air Painters of America (PAPA) web page.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on June 28, 2004
Format: Paperback
I purchased this book and liked it so much, I looked up where the author was giving a workshop and then took the class. Kevin spends a lot of time in both book and workshop on the 'right color' and the art of seeing. He feels that if you can isolate in your subject the correct color for the brushstroke you are about to paint, you cannot help but jump one of the biggest hurdles to having your painting look like the subject. The book is filled with his beautiful paintings, and lots of tips and techniques. I've been following his work since I purchased the book and going to the workshop, and my biggest mistake was not purchasing one of his paintings. And although the paintings in the book are more than first rate, Kevin has become even more talented in the past few years. You'll love having this book for inspiration and reference. Grade A, from the horizontal paint stroke club.
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42 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on October 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
Kevin MacPherson vs. Lois Griffel's "Painting the Impressionist Landscape?" I've checked them both out, and have done many of the exercises. I am using Liquitex acrylics, which work for both - although a little more difficult with Griffel's techniques.

MacPherson is certainly more explicit and easy to follow; his teaching gives more technical detail and really aims to help the reader become a better painter. It is geared more towards the beginning/intermediate painter (like myself), and is very encouraging.

There are some fundamental differences between the results that MacPherson and Griffel achieve, and this is what should drive you to purchase one book or the other. One cannot compare the luminosity, brilliance and depth of Griffel's work to MacPherson's. MacPherson's limited palette of 4 colors creates a "unified" look, because the paint applied to the canvas will generally need to be a mix of 2 or 3 of his primary colors. He also extensively employs neutral and earth toned mixtures. The price for this is color saturation - mixtures are always less saturated than single pigments applied straight from the tube. MacPherson's work, while colorful, is rather drab compared to Griffel's because of his limited color gamut, and his more traditional technique of layering lights, darks and shadows.

Griffel, however, teaches the use of saturated color straight from the tube, wherever possible. This forces the painter to make discrete choices in the beginning, rather than try to mix a continuum of color, and helps put the focus on seeing, recognizing and choosing colors. The other technique Griffel uses extensively is scrumbling, or the juxtaposition of two pure colors against each other. This is a key technique employed by impressionist painters, and it is also the reason why Griffel's paintings are so much more vibrant. I did find Griffel's palette huge, so I created my own, which provides very high saturation, either alone or when mixing two adjacent colors:

Hansa yellow lt

Cad yellow med

Cad orange

Cad red lt

Acra magenta

Dioxazine purple

Ultramarine blue (RS)

Phthalo blue (GS)

Phthalo green (BS)

Permanent green lt

I found Griffel's book much more enjoyable and enlightening, because I liked the wonderful effects I was getting following her simple exercises. I am learning a ton about color choices, value and seeing color. She gives lots of detail with respect to her thought process and how she chooses each and every color. This you will not find in any other book, including Susan Sarback's "Capturing Radiant Colors in Oils," which is based on the same techniques. Painting is reduced to what it is - just putting down one spot of color next to another.

If you like MacPherson's work and prefer a technically detailed, more traditional painting approach, get his book, it is really a great book on how to paint. If you like Griffel's paintings, perhaps already have some painting experience, and are willing to open your mind and experiment, go with her, you won't regret it!
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on August 9, 2001
Format: Paperback
I am a watercolorist but just knew I had to buy Kevin Macpherson's book, "Fill your Oil Paintings w/ Light and Color". I figured the principles would be the same for all painting and I was right. This book is my best investment of the year.
The principles he lays down for building a painting are tremendously helpful, but the best part for me was the opportunity to see so much of his work beautifully reproduced. It was a powerful lesson without words. I am learning to see lots more color in all my surroundings, and even to mix them!
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 24, 2004
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This is a great book. Macpherson covers everything you need to know about oil painting from the beginning and on. He discusses materials, gives plenty of step-by-step demonstrations. I particularly like his emphasis on composition. He covers painting in the field, quick studies, painting in the studio, what to include and what to leave out. I also like his use of the pochade box which forces the artist to do quick studies. There aren't too many art books that even mention a pochade box. Although he initially suggests a limited palette, as noted by a prior reviewer, later you can see that his own palette is much broader. I would definitely recommend this book to any aspiring oil painter.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on February 17, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is the best "how to" book on oil painting I have found yet. Although he focuses on outdoor landscape painting, his techniques could be applied to any subject. There are many books that cover the basics and can get you started with oil painting, but this book will also help take you to the next level. If anyone knows of any painting workshops taught by Kevin MacPherson, I would appreciate information on them.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on July 12, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Great for the beginner and advanced painter alike. I have already noticed an improvement in my paintings. This book really helps you learn to look at your subject and see the colors and shapes you need to paint.
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