I just received my copy of Alla Prima II authored by Richard Schmid and Katie Swatland. Opening the package was like Christmas all over again. His first book is on my bookshelf and well worn but from all I read, the expanded edition would be chocked full of new information. And it was. I'm about a third of the way through because I'm trying to soak in all his wonderful insights about painting.
Richard Schmid is a master among masters in his art BUT his ability to articulate what he does and why is what I am drawn to. There is no dogmatic views about how he approaches the making of art. He realizes that an artist's skill level has to be taken into how he paints and how to start a painting. No other book that I have read does this.
Starts are extremely important, in my opinion, and Schmid describes each one in detail with many examples of his own work. He also gives the advantages and drawbacks to each one. There are six.
1. Line and Mass Block-In: This gives the painter more control, especially when one is in the learning stage.
2. Transparent (Oil) Monochrome Block-In: The start is a step up from the previous one. It is a nearly complete value study done with one color family on a white lead oil primed canvas. When carried to a full value stage will resemble something like an old enlarged sepia photo.
3. Transparent Monochrome as a Finished Painting: The above painting is an example of both #2 and #3 because it is so pleasing it can stand on its own.
4. Impressionistic Block-In: It is the most unstructured of all the ways Schmid uses to start a painting. The process begins with an extravagant jumble of colors applied as a scumble over his entire canvas until he gets a sense of the light that he is after. Drawing is NOT given immediate attention. There is often no dividing line between the beginning and middle stages of a work.
5. Full Color Accurate Block-In: Similar to #4 but in that they are ways to get into serious painting from the very beginning. It is his favorite start. It begins with a full color block-in with a light tone applied as a turpentine wash and then a light scumble over the entire canvas. Once it is set enough, he applies the general color and values of the larger masses immediately. The shapes are painted carefully but as non-detailed as possible. He describes in detail what comes next in his thinking and process.
6. Selective Start (Or, The Big Bang Method): The previous five starts go from a whole to its parts. In this method he goes from the parts to the whole. This is a method that evolved along the way as his skilled developed. He selects a small part of the subject, finishes it, selects the adjoining part, finishes that, selects the next, does the same, and so one-and-on with all the parts, until they are all joined to complete the painting.
As a side note, I once heard a well know artists joke about this start saying "I start with an eyelash and . . ha, ha, ha." Obviously, this is not the only way he paints, but it gets laughs. This start is really a testament to his extraordinary skills.
This topic is only one of the many chapters that are chocked full of information an artists needs to develop as a painter. Some of the other chapters are: drawing from life, values, edges, color and light, palette and vital charts, color harmony, composition, painting from life, painting from photos, to name a few. Well worth the price both in soft or hard cover edition. In the spring this year, a companion book with be available with MORE information that couldn't be put in this book.
I've added a few more images of some of my favorite paintings that move me at a visceral level.