Fair warning: I am highly prejudiced in favor of this book! Why? Because not only does it contain the very best explanation and practical plan for critiquing your own work that I've ever found, but also because I am absolutely in awe of Nancy Reyner's personal painting work. Fear not, though. You can paint (or color, or collage) in a totally different style from Nancy and still learn everything you need from Create Perfect Paintings, because the subtext is to create perfect paintings for YOU.
Still...if you don't happen to like Nancy's work, you are just plain wrong. Just sayin'...
This is not a painting techniques book. Instead, it focuses on teaching you how to look deeply into an image (yours or someone else's) and to analyze the effects that it has on you as a viewer. Technique is important, but being able to manipulate your viewer's eye movements and perception is what Nancy says separates an amateur from an experienced artist.
The book starts with a short but necessary section on "Essentials," that is, the definition of artistic terms and concepts. Section two discusses the "Play Phase" of painting, in which you work from your right brain, shut off the inner critic for a spell, and avoid falling into the same old-same old trap.
Section three is my favorite. I have never been exactly sure what I should be looking for when I critique my own work. Yeah, I know that I need to look at the composition, the lines, the color, etc, etc...but so what? Nancy teaches you how exactly to look for opposites and contrast, entrances and pathways, dead zones, hot spots, spatial depth, and how to know when it's finished. She calls this The Viewing Game...which I find much less scary than the word critique!
This queen of all sections is followed by two more, which focus on check lists, color information, framing, freeing creative blocks, discovering new ideas, and forming a critique group. You just won't believe how much Nancy has managed to pack into this book!