The littoral, that is to say, the area where the land meets the sea, offers a wide variety of subject matter as well as constantly changing conditions that can be both a challenge and an opportunity for the artist. As such, it’s a huge subject and one which is often covered in parts, boats and harbours being the most popular.
It’s not possible to cover the whole subject in great detail in only 96 pages, but this guide, based on a French original, makes a surprisingly good job of it. The author deals mainly with coastal landscapes, but also ventures into boats, harbours, buildings and people. The structure of the book is to begin with an overall survey of subject matter and painting elements (skies, waves, high and low tide, boats and so on). These are covered concisely and, at this stage, the main concern is simply to note what’s there and what the possibilities are. Françoise then looks in more detail at six paintings by different artists, with step-by-step analyses of their progress. These are rather like demonstrations except that the approach is more that of “this is what was done” rather than “this is what you do”. It’s a subtle differentiation, but one which more experienced painters may appreciate, it being more analytic than prescriptive. The artists themselves won’t be familiar to a British audience, but don’t feel you won’t be at home with their style and subject matter: these are people of whom we’d be glad to see more. The final section is a gallery of paintings by professional artists that more than adequately demonstrate what you can achieve at the edge of the water.
This is, in many ways, much more a book of ideas than it is of techniques, and this well suits its approach of being a survey rather than a detailed guide. It would be ideal for someone who has a reasonable amount of basic technical ability and is interested in learning more about subject matter than just the nuts and bolts of how to apply paint to paper or canvas.
New Holland 2008