The very first impression you get from flicking through the pages of this book is one of relaxation and confidence, a sense that you can tell what it’s about. I was tempted to add familiarity to this, but this implies that it contains recycled material, which is doesn’t; Alwyn is a very honest writer and all of his books start with a completely blank script.
The reason for all this well-being is that Alwyn is one of the most experienced writers and teachers there is: he has a lifetime’s experience of it and he knows how to do it. Every stage of every demonstration is carefully planned and each page is laid out so that you can get all the information you need at a single glance and without any extraneous, confusing detail. Quite simply, he gives you room to move.
Normally, I’d be wary of the “complete course” approach that’s all things to all men (and women and boys and girls), covering more than one medium. Most people who are serious about learning to paint will stick to one medium, usually watercolour, because they don’t want to buy more equipment than is absolutely necessary and because they perceive trying to do more than one thing as being too much to take in all at once. And they’d not wrong in that last assumption. Of course, a lot of professional painters do work in several media, but, in the amateur world, some people regard it as a kind of apostasy.
So, “a complete beginner’s guide to painting in watercolour, oil and acrylic”. Well, dear me, that’s only a third of a book for any one medium, that’s not worth 18 quid, is it? But this is a different approach. If you’re a total beginner, the first thing you have to decide is what medium you’re going to concentrate on and Alwyn will show you the advantages, disadvantages, capabilities and suitabilities of each of them. He’s not promoting any one medium but rather showing you how each one can be better suited to a particular style of painting or a particular type of subject. You might start of thinking, “watercolour’s for me, all the paintings I like are watercolours” and then discover that, actually, you’d be better off investing in a box of acrylics.
Does this book have anything for the more experienced painter? Well, in terms of instruction, possibly not, but as a means of evaluating where you are and deciding where to go next, I’d say it does. You might even be tempted to try another medium. Now there’s a thing!
First published 2006