Book Review: Oil Painter’s Solution Book: Landscapes by Elizabeth Tolley

I’m on a continuous journey for knowledge and skill in the art realm; and along my path popped up the Oil Painter’s Solution Book: Landscapes by Elizabeth Tolley. I love Tolley’s artwork; it is filled with so much color and life. In this book she explores you how to paint such vivid paintings. It is often…

Oil Painter's Solution Book: Landscapes by Elizabeth Tolley
Oil Painter’s Solution Book: Landscapes by Elizabeth Tolley

I’m on a continuous journey for knowledge and skill in the art realm; and along my path popped up the Oil Painter’s Solution Book: Landscapes by Elizabeth Tolley. I love Tolley’s artwork; it is filled with so much color and life. In this book she explores you how to paint such vivid paintings. It is often so hard to decide if a book is suitable for you; so this post explores the books contents as a review to help you.

Chapter 1: Materials

The tools and materials we use can be as important to us as the skills we possess.

This chapter explores everything from brushes to setting up your art studio. Tolley includes so much helpful information; she explains what to look for in a product. For example, when she describes paints she covers what makes a pigment, transparency, permanency, safety precautions and of course the actual colors. This is a great chapter if you are new to painting as it provides an overview of all the products you will need to buy; just be aware that not all helpful items are highlighted; such as, a useful “glass scraper” is mentioned in a paragraph text and not a heading, so if you are skimming you might miss it.

Tolley has done a wonderful job of providing step-by-step guides called mini-demonstrations on how to prepare your materials, such as priming a board or canvas for painting.

Some tips on the book appear to be slightly dated technologically; for example Tolley recommends storing digital reference photos on discs for easy reference. Now-a-days computer storage often isn’t an issue, and when it is a hard-drive instead is recommended. Other tips are timeless such as Tolley’s example of a drying wall.

Tolley’s suggestions for painting indoors is a little extreme; a very large room, a dedicated sink and adequate ventilation. A dedicated studio space is ideal, and advisable if you plain to paint as a profession, but one as large as 3m x 3m  can be hard to come by for the average person. Also if you are not using toxic mediums and solvents strong ventilation fans aren’t always necessary.

This chapter includes the step-by-step demonstrations on how to prime a board for painting and how to make canvas panels.

Chapter 2: Composition and Design

Tolley covers the elements and principles of design. She teaches you how to create a composition through interesting shapes that lead the eye to the focal point.

This chapter isn’t as long as the first, merely brushing on topics such as what to include in your composition and how to decided what format to use. I would have loved to read more about landscape composition. Some excellent photograph examples were included to compliment the lesson text.

Chapter 3: Tonal Value

Tonal values are so important in an artwork; they can set the mood, help separate objects from each other and define form with light and shadow. Tolley covers general rules on how values can be applied to a landscape based upon how light commonly affects a scene. By knowing your values in a painting you can easily change the color palette or color scheme.

Chapter three ends with a demonstration on how to create a value study.

Chapter 4: Color and Light

This chapter explores the properties of color: hue, value and saturation. If you are unfamiliar with color theory you may need to write a few definitions for quick reference, such as what is an analogous color scheme.

Tolley covers the benefits of making color and value charts, though a step-by-step demonstration demonstration would have been ideal here. She also covers lighting and darkening colors, and making them appear more luminance.

Chapter 5: Techniques

As the name suggests, this chapter is all about the various techniques you can use in your artworks. Tolley covers various aspects of brushstrokes, lost and found edges, glazing and so forth. Tolley also teaches you how to include atmospheric and linear perspective.

The chapter then moves into various demonstrations on how to paint water, trees, buildings, animals and clouds.

Chapter 6: Demonstrations

The final chapter includes five demonstrations on how to paint specific scenes. Following these lessons are an excellent way to build upon the skills explored in the earlier chapters.

These are the scenes that you will learn to paint by following the step-by-step instructions:

Overall Summary

Oil Painter's Solution Book: Landscapes by Elizabeth Tolley
Oil Painter’s Solution Book: Landscapes by Elizabeth Tolley

It’s important to realise that this is a theory book and not an exercise book. Tolley will teach a number of helpful tips but not show you how to do them step-by-step; the author assumes in most cases that you have some experience painting and thus can form an understanding of the techniques and skills based upon the descriptions.

Oil Painter’s Solution Book: Landscapes by Elizabeth Tolley is not for an absolute beginner who has never painted before and is looking for a guided start. This is an ideal book for a more experienced beginner or intermediate painter who wants to has some experience using oil paints – although not too much is required – and wishes to learn how to paint landscape elements. In this case you may be familiar with many of the concepts such as underpainting, though Tolley covers these as they are essential to achieve her style of painting.

This was quite an enjoyable read. The book has gorgeous photos scattered throughout that are clear examples of the topics being discussed. The book is broken down into easy to follow lessons that won’t intimidate anyone, whilst builds up to more complex scenes towards the end to really get you primed for exploring your own landscapes.

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