Of all the subjects that attract the painter, for no particularly obvious reason, boats & harbours have always been the poor relation when it comes to publishing. Apart from the odd slim paperback, very little has been written about this varied and rewarding subject which also presents a whole range of opportunities and challenges.
Anthony Flemming has lead a full life that has encompassed painting, sailing and odd bouts of motor racing into the bargain and all of this experience filters through into his debut work in print. An artist of great skill and sensitivity, he’s at home in both watercolours and oils and confident and competent with landscapes, seascapes, boats, buildings and people – all, in fact, of the elements that present themselves where the water meets the land.
This isn’t a book in the simple how-to mould. There are no step-by-step demonstrations, although there are diagrams, detail sketches and some quite intricate drawings where they are required. The text is more discursive than instructional as well; that is to say, it’s more about the practice and the experience of painting than it is about the minutiae of applying colour to paper or canvas. For all that, there’s a wealth of information imparted and a sense of being led by example – you just want to get down to it and see if you can’t manage something even half as good as Anthony.
Production quality is up to Black’s usual exacting standard, although one or two of the many illustrations do betray their origin in older, possibly 35mm, transparencies that aren’t perhaps as sharp as more modern equivalents. For all that, nothing is so unclear as to be worthless and many publishers will include much worse as a matter of course. It’s as much as anything else a mark of how much colour reproduction has improved even in the last 10 or 20 years and maybe I’m being picky even mentioning it.
Overall, there’s nothing here that won’t excite the artist or satisfy the lover of boats and the enduring sense is of being led gently through an engrossing and rewarding subject by a true lover of all things maritime and an amateur in the best sense of the word.
First published 2006