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.