30 Minute Watercolours || Fiona Peart

The idea of the quick painting is that it teaches you to see and work quickly, visualising your subject in a short time and then getting it down on paper or canvas with a minimum of fiddling and thus retaining the freshness of what attracted you in the first place. “Sketching, in other words”, I hear from the back. Well, yes, but only up to a point, because sketching doesn’t actually have a time limit and you can spend hours recording a series of quite small details that are notes to a later work; a sketch is not necessarily a painting in itself.

Overdone, this quick-working technique can lead you into bad habits (“30 minutes, bah, I’ll give you The 10-Minute Watercolour”) and sloppy working where the timing is more important than the result. However, sensitively handled, it can teach you to take in a scene almost at a glance, to concentrate on the subject that attracted you in the first place and not to worry about (and at) all the details that surround it. Many artists have had a go at it, from Edward Wesson’s varnishing brush or Ron Ranson’s hake, both big brushes that provided the broad stroke and defied fiddling, and it’s a valuable teaching aid. I also suspect that it’s an excuse for publishers to come up with a series of small books that don’t obviously duplicate all the other small books that are out there. Cynical? Moi?

What you get here is a series of ideas and executions that stand out for their simplicity and freshness. Did they all take exactly half an hour? Well, frankly, am I bovvered? These are images with a minimum of detail, the painting equivalent of a good spring clean or some decluttering. It’s a book to flick through and stop when you see something that makes you go, “ooh”, or just at random. For something so simple, you’ll be surprised if I say it probably has more for the experienced painter than the beginner, just because it’s a way of blowing out the cobwebs and stimulating new ideas rather than a manual.

It’s fresh and it’s interesting. Don’t expect a clearly structured course of instruction, or even a list of ideas. Do expect to be intrigued, maybe surprised, and certainly stimulated.

Collins 2007
£7.99

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