Intended as an introduction to watercolour painting, this book achieves its aim better than many another which has billed itself as a course. Well-structured, the book has six main sections, Getting Started, Handling Watercolours, Practical Advice for Watercolourists, Colour, Theory of Painting and Becoming An Artist: all of the things, basically, that you’d look for in a course that takes you from beginner towards intermediate status and in pretty much the right order.
Within the sections, you get pieces of specific information, such as the properties of colours, how to lay a wash, the use of masking fluid and so on. These are then fleshed out with demonstration paintings that show you how these individual items fit into a more complete work. Most of the demonstrations are quite simple and concentrate on the point being made without adding complications and additional information that are not necessary at that particular time. There are also practical projects, which tend to be fairly basic exercises that you can practise yourself to get familiar with handling paint, the use of colour in a sketchbook, painting shadows and so on. Finally, there are intermittent “focus on” sections which summaries some of the more important points, such as “avoiding mud” in the colour mixing section and offer a number of bullet points to bear in mind. All of these different approaches mean that each section can be tackled in a number of different ways appropriate to what’s being dealt with at the time. Important points don’t get lost in a mass of text and critical techniques don’t disappear in a larger demonstration. It also means that the book is broken up into more manageable sections so that it’s easier to absorb. The whole problem with doing a course in a book is that the tutor isn’t able to control the pace and flow of information, with the result that the student either progresses too fast and gets bogged down or works too slowly and doesn’t pick up the things that need to link together. It’s an issue that Debbie has addressed particularly well and anyone planning a book-based course should take note.
Before you think that this is the best book ever, though, it should be pointed out that most of what Debbie paints tends to be flowers. If that’s what you like, there won’t be a problem but, if it’s the last thing you want to paint, the book may not be for you. This is not to detract from it or damn it with faint praise – every book has its emphasis, but it’s a point to note.
Another possible issue is that some of the illustrations are not reproduced as well as they might be. One or two of the paintings are dated as well as signed and it looks as though some rather old photographs may have been used, instead of reproducing direct from the artwork itself, which is always the best method. Once again, don’t necessarily let this put you off, but “could do better” isn’t an entirely unfair comment.
Year published: 2005
List price: £19.95