|Notice how Gury scratches through the paint in his oil painting
Autumn Glow, reinforcing the shape and outline of the tree limbs.
I'm not one to ask or judge someone by their resume or
history because we all walk our own paths and get meaningful life experiences
in different ways. But when I saw that Al Gury, whose work I enjoy looking at, was
the chair of the painting department at the first fine arts institution in the
country—the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA)—I knew I wanted to
know more about this artist and his approach.
Since then I've been a big ol' bookworm, reading two of
Gury's books and trying to implement what I've learned when I get into the
studio. I wanted "pay it forward" and share a few key painting tips from him that have
I read Color for
Painters first because I. Love. Color. Gury covers a lot of ground in this
book, and I came away knowing a lot more about the history of color and the
different ways artists have codified color throughout the centuries.
First, I was really pumped to read about the tinting
strength of paints. Up until now, it has mostly been a trial and error kind of
situation for me to see how a pigment will tint white or another mixture. But
Gury offers up a few tips—like the fact that most colors in a "classic" palette
are balanced in terms of tinting ability; that a color like Indian red has a
high tinting strength but a color like Naples yellow has a low tinting
strength—and gives readers an exercise on color identity that helped me
internalize the tinting strengths of different colors.
||Gury is quite aware of the tinting strengths of
his pigments, as the lack of heavy handed
color in Quiet Room 1 shows.
I also got involved in figuring out the difference between
subtractive and additive color. Subtractive color is the basis for the color
wheel most of us use. Additive color is also interesting because it is based on
working back from black by adding colored light, like you do with stage
lighting, and the additive primaries are red, green, and blue, which I didn't
Gury is also a committed alla prima painter, hence the title
of his other book, Alla Prima. The
biggest eye-opener I had was about layering while painting. Sometimes when I'm
painting I'll lose my original big shapes because I'm introducing successive layers of paint.
Gury pointed out that bringing these original shapes to the surface again in an oil painting by repainting
their outline is not only helpful for a painter trying to juggle a lot, but it
can also add to the visual interest of the work. So now I feel free to
reintroduce those shapes in a bold, unapologetic way.
A lot of publications from various publishers, artists, and
authors come across my desk every week. Al Gury's stood out because Color for Painters and Alla Prima covered
topics I am deeply interested in and came from a source I trusted. That is a
rare combination and I hope it turns out that they are as useful and insightful
for you. Enjoy!