Alwyn Crawshaw’s Watercolour Cruise DVD

This double DVD contains all the programmes from Alwyn’s 2006 TV series.

At first sight, you’d have to suspect that this was a bit of an excuse to skive off at the production company’s expense but, whatever the real reason, they’ve certainly got their money’s worth and so will you.

To be a successful television presenter you have to be just that little bit larger than life, to have a personality that can make the jump from behind the screen to have a presence right there in the viewer’s living room and all to often this takes precedence over any true understanding of the subject in question. Where, I think, Alwyn scores in this respect is that he’s had years of experience of demonstrating to art clubs and he’s learnt the ability to paint and talk at the same time. He’s also learnt what it is that an audience wants and how to keep them entertained as well as informed.

Inevitably, of course, with this sort of thing, you have to like the personality that the presenter gives you. If a rather chatty delivery style isn’t your cup of tea, you’ll find yourself being annoyed by the presentation style and not being able to get at the content and there’s really nothing that can be done about that. However, just watch a bad presenter at work and you may find yourself pining for the most annoyingly matey one you’ve ever come across.

Where all this is going is that I’m trying to say that Alwyn is comfortable (or “cumfertubble” as he’d have it – he has the odd mannerism of delivery that could just prove annoying) and confident in front of a camera. The other thing is that he’s very good at explaining what he’s painting or drawing with a minimum of fuss, which leaves him room to talk about the subject as well as the techniques. Made for a general audience as well as a painting one, these programmes don’t contain a huge amount of technical information, but you do get a lot on how to paint and draw on location with a minimum of equipment. You also get considerably more background information about the location than you do in many a travelogue which is no bad thing. In the first programme, at Petra, for example, Alwyn goes beyond the most obvious angle and gets behind the more familiar scenes to give you a far more complete sense of the place than usual.

A studio-based film will always give you far more painting information but, if you want something that will keep you entertained as well as offering useful insights into both places and techniques, this won’t disappoint. The only minor downside might be that it’s encoded in NTSC rather than PAL. A few DVD players seem to have trouble with this and you also might find the colours aren’t quite as sharp as you’d like – or even that you can only see it in black & white. Different setups seem to vary in sensitivity to this so, equally, you might have no problem at all.

First published 2006

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