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Alla Prima: A Contemporary Guide to Traditional Direct Painting [Hardcover]

Al Gury
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
List Price: CDN$ 40.00
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Book Description

Jan. 6 2009
"Alla Prima" is a practical and comprehensive guide to direct painting (characterised by bold, expressive brushwork and a painterly, atmospheric surface), particularly as it is expressed though the work of the author's mentor, Arthur DeCosta, the legendary master teacher. The book covers the history of the direct methods in both Europe and America. From there, it covers detailed step-by-step lessons and invaluable discussions on drawing structure, broken and smooth brushwork and colour development. Further lessons on colour mixing, palettes and materials, brush technique, drawing and paint layering, portraiture, still life, figure and landscape painting are provided, all through illustrated steps, analysis and historical information.Throughout, the book features the work of the European masters of the direct approach, from the old masters (Rubens, Rembrandt, Velazquez) and the late 19th and early 20th century masters (Degas, Renoir, Manet, Monet, Matisse, Cezanne) to the American Prime masters (Sargent, Whistler, Henri, Eakins, Bellows) who spawned such vibrant late 20th century painters as Alice Noel, Wayne Thichaud and Jim Dinc.

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A Pleasant Surprise June 15 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As an artist I am dismayed at the horrendous quality of most "how-to" art books—especially for the more experienced artist. Alla Prima, however, isn't one of them. This book is indeed worth the investment and I'm glad I have it in my library.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  58 reviews
158 of 166 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Student knows best April 20 2009
By David O. Bunting - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I own and make use of over 900 books about art covering all the possible related topics in what is my field of business as a professional artist and part-time art teacher. Needless to say, I buy art books now only on their merits and not by reputation, even when they are written (as this one has been) by an esteemed teacher, Al Gury, Chair of the Painting Department at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, Pa. I have bought this one first of all for its clarity of presentation in explaining the direct painting method, and second, its generous use of close-up full color photo documentation of the actual painting process. There are many other reasons too such as the effective use as examples throughout the book of excellent historic and contemporary alla prima art works. Nothing about `Alla Prima' painting is left out or `jumped-over'. This is an important consideration. I find many art books on technique suffer from what I call `skip-over'. How many times have you been following an author/artist's text only to turn the page and see a photo of a nearly completely painted head or figure and the written command under it, "First, establish the form and correct colors." "Well, excuse me! If I knew how to do that would I be reading your "How-to" book?" Too many art books on technique are just excuses for beautiful reproductions or long-winded self-aggrandizements. Mr. Gury's book does have beautiful reproductions but every one of them is there to illustrate informatively, and they do it very well. As for `self-aggrandizement' it is obvious this book is a labor-of-love on behalf of Mr. Gury for his profession as an art teacher, and in grateful acknowledgement of his own teachers, such as Mr. Arthur DeCosta. Therefore, anyone purchusing this is not buying a book so much as they are receiving the keys to a long and worthy tradition in the visual arts. I have found that these keys really do unlock many a subborn door. Take, for example, the close-ups of his working palette in chapter four. Again, most books show the palette set up in the first chapter on `Materials', and then the you're lucky to catch a glimpse of it in the background, if at all, after that. Al Gury's palette is photographed repeatedly in use in each of the four genres demonstrated there. Do not be too quick to look away from these photographs of his working palette for Mr. Gury is providing you therein with a invaluable tool to master color mixing . Did you notice, for instance, that the "pools of color" on his palette, as he calls his spread- out paint mixtures, stay clean in their centers providing `a way back' to the original mixture, and by mixing on the edges of this `home base' rather than creating piles of single, separate hues, these latter colors are all related be they warm or cool, darker or lighter. This enforces a pleasing color harmony without hardly having to think about it!
I am fortunate to currently be a student of Mr. Gury's and have waited for the end of the academic semester to free my review of his book from any worries of favoritism by either of us. I am too serious a student and Mr. Gury too secure in his profession for any thing I say here, positive or negative to have the least consequence in our academic relationship. That observation alone is probably a better review of his worthy book than anything I have written above for you have the man, and his teaching, very much alive in this solidly useful book.
38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Sensitive and Knowledgeable Book on Painting March 31 2009
By Eric Merrell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Al Gury is an artist's artist. When you're buying a book on how to approach painting, the author's experience and knowledge is tantamount. His work is admired by students and fellow artists alike, and as a teacher he is extremely sought after. If you can't take a painting class from this great instructor, this book is the next best thing. His approaches and explanations in the book are clearly reflected and practiced in his own work. As an artist and a landscape painting instructor myself, I can vouch that the simple approach is something that every artist keeps returning to, regardless of experience level or years painting. Indeed, many great and well-known artists continually sought to simplify their work and get back to those basic, all-important ideas. This book is a breath of fresh air in an overcrowded art book world.

Al Gury's approach to teaching is easy to understand and apply to one's own work, and most importantly, the information is coming directly from the source. Al Gury is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Painting Department at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, as well as an instructor at the Fleisher Art Memorial and the University of the Arts, all in Philadelphia.
61 of 73 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing Sept. 20 2009
By Jodi-Hummingbird - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I agree with evrything the other 2 star reviewers said. The cover art was misleading as this painting quality was not repeated inside the book, the paintings (with a small number of exceptions) there were very uninteresting and uninspiring.

I relied on all the good reviews here and bought this book and feel really misled and ripped off.

The information in the book is useless as it is so so basic. The book is suitable for absolute beginners only, in my opinion.

For those who want to see a truly amazing and inspiring and breathtaking and immensely useful book on alla prima painting see instead 'Alla Prima: Everything I Know About Painting' by Richard Schmid. It is more than twice the price, but wow, it's more than 20 times as good too. Now THAT is a 5 star book! This book just doesn't even begin to compare.

For general painting books that are also excellent, see: Classical Painting Atelier: A Contemporary Guide to Traditional Studio Practice by Juliette Aristides, and Oil Painting Secrets from a Master: 25th Anniversary Edition by Linda Cateura.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Book! Feb. 3 2009
By Linda K. Robinson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Alla Prima is a book that artists, art students, art appreciators should have in their personal library. This is a beautiful book that touches on every aspect of Alla Prima painting, including demonstrations of portrait, landscape and still-life. Al Gury is knowledgeable of Art History, painting and an exceptional artist. This is a very organized book, with extremely useful information for all artists. As an artist and an art instructor I would highly recommend this book!
20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed with this book ! July 10 2010
By love books - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I had high hopes from this book considering all the glowing reviews it's been getting here. I feel I've wasted my money. I usually hate writing negative reviews, since an author puts in a lot of hard work into his/her book. But I guess people have a right to know what they are buying.
I bought it as some reviews mentioned it's very good for beginners..... I am a beginner and this book has not helped me at all. Very,very basic information that can be found elsewhere. There are much better books out there. Some that I have liked for painting Alla Prima are
"All books by Emile Gruppe" - Out of print and sometimes expensive,be patient and you might get them at a good price
"Alla Prima by Richard Schmid"- more advanced ,cheaper to buy from his web site
"Timeless techniques for Better Oil Painting by Tom Browning"- Excellent book for Beginners and Advanced levels, in league with Richard Schmid's book
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