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Review: Art Students League of New York on Painting by James L. McElhinney

Art Students League of New York on Painting book reviewArt Students League of New York on Painting by James L. McElhinney & the Instructors of The Art Students League of New York

Published November 10th 2015 by Watson-Guptill.


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A lushly illustrated, comprehensive guide to painting in all media from the prestigious visual arts education institution Art Students League of New York. The Art Students League of New York is America’s signature art school, run by artists for artists. Founded in 1875, it has nurtured students like Jackson Pollock and Georgia O’Keefe. Today, more than 2,500 students of all ages, backgrounds, and skill levels study there each month. This unique book brings you into the studio classrooms of some of the League’s most celebrated painters—including William Scharf, Mary Beth McKenzie, Henry Finkelstein, and Knox Martin—for lessons on a variety of fundamental topics, idiosyncratic approaches, and quirky philosophies. Scanning the table of contents is like flipping through a course catalog: do you want to take Naomi Campbell’s “Working Large in Watercolor,” James McElhinney’s “Journal Painting and Composition,” Sharon Sprung’s “Figure Painting from Life in Oil,” or Ellen Eagle’s “Poetic Realism in Pastel”? Now you can—from the comfort of your own home studio (or living room). Richly illustrated with artwork from the League’s considerable archives, its instructors, and its students, this guide will inspire painters across all mediums, subjects, and styles. (Goodreads)

For serious art students, art teachers and professors, as well as artists alike you will marvel at the clean design of this book. The cover is striking and makes for a great coffee table book for those of us who are not serious artists. I was hoping for it to be a bit more approachable, but it reads much like a college art class textbook. If you’re unaware James McElhinney and the Instructors of The Art Students League of New York offer classes, workshops, events, and other opportunities on their website. The book however is a great tool for artists who are not in the New York area. There are 3 parts: Lessons and Demos, Advice and Philosophies, and finally Interviews. There are 10 artists featured in the Lessons and Demos section, 5 featured in the Advice and Philosophies section, and there are 3 artists who are interviewed. For art professors I think this would be a great tool in the class as well as required reading for students. From an art student perspective I think it’s more modern and engaging. Also if you’re a fan of any of the artists featured it’s great to have.

It is heavy on paintings of people, or at least it felt that way to me. The art and illustrations included are top notch quality and I marked a few pieces that were simply stunning. Some of my favorite pieces were: Still Life with Burned Books by Ephraim Rubenstein, Irina by Dan Thompson, Portrait of L by Sharon Sprung, and the life-like work of Costa Vavagiakis. Again this is definitely a book for serious art folks.

I received this book in exchange for an honest review via Blogging for Books.

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