A Review of Books of Oil Painting For Beginners

Sunflower by Louise DeMore

It is beautiful oil paintings like the one on the left that inspire me to pick up this new hobby (“Sunflower” by Louise DeMore). I have a belief that every hobby needs 10 years to mature and to turn into something more serious. If you pick up guitar as a hobby today and keep practicing it on a regular basis, 10 years later you should have decent skill to please a crowd (if that is the case, please come back to this site and tell me that I was right). Same theory applies. If I pick up oil painting now, in my 40s, my friends should be proud of hanging my paintings in their homes. By 50s, people may start collecting my paintings. Who knows?

Smart readers of my website must be asking: is this guy for real? It may not look very real right now but between you and me, I have already invested more than S$160 into acquiring all the basic stuffs that I need to start painting oils (as of now, I wonder if Cynthia has discovered the large painting board, bags of equipment, and an … easel – all hiding inside the common bedroom). I still have not created my first oil painting yet and to tell you the truth, it is a bit scary – given the fact that I hated art classes at school.

One of my friends insists that art in general (including music) cannot be taught. It is either you have the talent or you don’t have it. You may get a teacher to get you going with the basic but the rest will depend on your talent no matter how hard you practice or train. I wish to follow one of the painter’s philosophy – “Don’t worry about talent; it means nothing without perseverance”.

In his recent interview by the Reader’s Digest, Will Smith said: Give me the book, and I do not need somebody to stand up in front the class. I am no Will Smith but I am happy to start off my new hobby with tons of books I have borrowed from the National Library. If you wish to start painting oils, you may wish to get hold of some of the books listed below. One thing I noticed as I moved from one book to another is that there may be contradicting teaching points. Some prefer to use pencil to create a draft and some give reasons why not to do it. Some prefer to use diluted black colour as the underpaint and some say otherwise. Even for brushes, different painters have their preferences. Some are more the old school type while others encourage you to start painting before you learn how to draw. Some insist that all painting must be modelled after real life objects or subjects while some use photographs or even imagination. Of course, another advantage of absorbing multiple books at one go is that there are bound to be some techniques that one author penned them down in details while others did not.

Painting Oils (First Step Series) by Louise DeMore

A wonderful book with examples relatively simple enough to demonstrate the techniques. I especially like her 5-step approach in completing any kind of painting. She likes to use warm colour a lot and the examples look even beautiful to look at. What I like about the book too is that the examples given seems achievable for even beginners to attempt. The author seems to have lots of experience in teaching students.

Oils by Peter John Garrand

Garrand’s book has some interesting tips that others may have missed out such as how to look after the brushes and how to stack the canvases amongst others. The examples though are not that easy to follow. His teaching more encourages people to start painting and go back to drawing techniques if you find that you cannot improve anymore.

Oils for the Beginner by Alwyn Crawshaw

One of the best narration, very well explained, and I felt motivated just by reading the words. Lots of useful information and seemingly achievable examples. Crawshaw has lots of passion and experiences in painting.

You Can Paint Oils by Linda Birch

Beautifully written for absolute beginners. The steps are clear and the example are simple enough. Perhaps Birch has illustrated many children’s books besides teaching painting and drawing, she tends to teach drawing from imagination (compares to others who paint based on a real setting).

Oils by Patricia Seligman

Although this book belongs to the “Step by Step Art School” series, it is definitely not for beginners. Even some of the techniques seem unconventional. The examples, though, are professionally beautiful. One example even gives a “paper-folding” effect on an oil painting. In no way I am going to draw those examples in the very near future, I am sure.

Oil Painting for Beginners by Francisco Asensio Cerver

I bought this book at Kinokuniya because first, it didn’t cross my mind that I can borrow oil painting books from the library and second, it is relatively affordable (S$15.65). It turns out to be a good buy as it is packed with information and examples. And it is always a good idea to have a book within reach to refer to at all time for beginners.

Leadership and Self-Deception – A Book That May Change How You Deal With People

“It was Friday night when my son Bryan wanted to use the car. I didn’t want him to use it – partly because I saw him as someone irresponsible, troublemaking, and disrespectful – so I gave an insanely early curfew time (10.30pm) that I didn’t think he would accept. Bryan accepted the condition, took the car key, and stormed out of the house. My husband and I were both complaining about Bryan while keeping an eye on the clock. At 10.29pm, we heard the squeal of tires in the driveway. And you know what? In that moment, when I saw the time, I felt a keen pang of disappointment.”summarised version of a case study (page 91 to 98) of how we may just want the problem to occur to prove that we are right.

When was the last time that you even before interacting with someone, you have formed this perception on him or her that affected your subsequent actions without you consciously knowing it? A partner who places career as a higher priority than you because he or she works late most of the time, a client who is demanding and unreasonable because every time you talk to him or her on the phone your blood pressure goes up, a coworker who is incompetent because he or she just can’t deliver what you asked for. With this sort of perceptions in mind, do you see each of them as a person with his or her own needs or an obstacle to what you are trying to achieve? People have this tendency to put blame on others without realising that by doing so creates the problem of resistance that is hard to solve. The problem is this: How can we simultaneously (1) create our own problems, (2) be unable to see that we are creating our own problems, and (3) resist any attempts to help us stop creating those problems?

“Leadership and Self-Deception” is written by The Arbinger Institutes. I first heard of this book from one of my clients (a large organisation in the public sector). For those entities that have sent their executives to this Arbinger Course, I noticed a significant difference to those entities that have not. Executives who are trained for this course communicate in a much open manner to people across levels. Issues are discussed and decisions are made with everyone feeling good on how the situations are handled. Compare this with some of the meetings I have participated with clients getting personal with one and other, issues beget more issues, and at the end of the meeting, nothing gets done.

Not only have I seen the difference between entities that have attended the training and the entities that have not, I have also witnessed the difference in people’s behaviour before and after the training. At the beginning of the project with one of the entities in this large organisation, we had difficulties even to gather the executives of each branch (took 6 months to arrange) and when the “big day” came, some were late, some were on the phone, some even suggested to abort the project. Then one day, one of the branch head invited us, the consultants, for a coffee break and he apologised for not being supportive throughout this project. And he went on sharing with us what he has learned in this “Leadership and Self-Deception” course. From that day onwards, we have witnessed that the branch heads were more engaging during workshops and a common goal was achieved.

After seeing all these wonderful effects this course has on people, I have picked up the book from a bookstore and started reading. I would say the concept is not new, the methodology is straightforward, and the authors have chosen a storytelling mode to educate the readers. It is not easy I suppose because unlike workshops, book reading is a one way communication. The scenarios painted in the book have to be generic enough to appeal to the general public.

At the personal level, I started reading the book with the mindset of “I don’t have this problem and just read for fun” and halfway through the materials, it was changed into “I do at times have this problem and thank God I am reading this”. Since then, I have passed the book to Cynthia. “Leadership and Self-Deception” is not a tool to solve all your problems (Cynthia and I initially thought so). But it helps you to solve one of the most persistent problems you have – self-deception.

Winkie – A Book Worth Reading

Winkie is a book about a teddy bear came alive. And I cannot believe that I got hooked with a teddy bear story and I did. Winkie is a modern day portrait of terrorism, propaganda, and religious faith. As a teddy bear of 80 years old, Winkie has seen it all. The story began with Winkie being at the wrong place at the wrong time. He was arrested for a crime that he did not commit and the entire story evolves around how this teddy bear came alive only to get himself a misfortune after another.

Winkie is a dark comedy. This book will make you laugh and it will make you cry as well. What I learned the book is that every little step in life is a miracle and it takes a certain act of faith to realise that.

Cathleen Schine’s She Is Me

Impressed by one of her previous novels The Love Letter that was adopted both by a Hollywood movie as well as a Japanese film, I picked up She Is Me from the library. I must have read The Love Letter some ten years ago so I was eager to find out if She Is Me is as good.

When I read a book, I usually try to look out for something fresh. In a way, the narration changes from the grumpy grandma Lotte, to mother Greta who never complained leaving the people around her having to anticipate her needs, and finally to Greta’s daughter Elizabeth who has a son Harry and insisted to stay out of marriage.

Grandma Lotte was dying of skin cancer and Elizabeth has quited her job as a professor and took up screenplay writing in order to stay with her grandmother. To Elizabeth, marriage is the cause of adultery because if there is no marriage, there is no such thing as adultery.

As Lotte’s health was deteriorating and Greta was diagnosed having colon cancer and have to undergo treatment, it is when the whole depression of death sinking into readers’ minds. Greta’s falling in love with another woman and Elizabeth’s affair added drama to the whole novel and I especially like the question raised: where does privacy end and secrecy begins?

I enjoyed the novel. Not a page turner I must say and I suspect even if I have read Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary” – Elizabeth was supposed to write a modern script based on that – I would not have gained much out from it.

Towards the end of the novel, it was mentioned that passion is pointless. Or is it?

Milan Kundera’s Ignorance

I am a huge fan of Milan Kundera, a Franco-Czech novelist. His recent novels “Slowness” and “Identity” left me wanting for more. This short novel Ignorance was published in 2002 and it was only recently I have managed to read it. While “Slowness” took us for a tour of a parallel stories that happened simultaneously in the past and at present in the same physical space and “Identity” allowed us to witness a love story whereby one person started to lose her identity, “Ignorance” reminded us how unreliable memories are and two persons though shared the same experience may not have the same memory. In “Ignorance”, Milan Kundera describes “Nostalgia” in the most details fashion sharing with us what nostalgia really means through the origin of languages, through great work by writers in the past, through his personal point of view, and through the very story he told.
“Ignorance” is not an easy read. It is a book worth reading time and time again.