I have to admit that I’m struggling to work out quite how the Design bit comes into this. Michelle Scragg paints in a style that’s just a step away from representation and she uses blocks of bold and often solid colour that would certainly lend themselves to fabric design, which appears in fact to be her main interest. However, in spite of the hint at this in the subtitle, this is a painting book and has to be judged as such.
There is also a problem because, for a book on colour, it lacks brilliance. I’ve gone through it in some detail and, although it’s consistent throughout, I can’t help feeling that it’s badly let down by the quality of the reproduction. One of two of the illustrations aren’t sharp and a lot of the others are of suspiciously high contrast, which doesn’t seem to go with the chosen medium. Others seem muddy and there is a suspicion that areas which should be white are coming out as grey. There doesn’t seem to be any suggestion that Michelle has adopted a novel way of mixing and applying paint, and I’m not sure that it would be possible to obtain the end result in this way anyway. I have a horrible feeling that she’s supplied the publisher with less than perfect transparencies, or possibly colour prints rather than originals or good quality digital images. This is a major let-down because it simply distracts from anything she might be trying to say. There are some good ideas here and, while they are probably of limited appeal to the general watercolourist, they do offer a novel approach and a welcome bridge between the strictly representational and the purely abstract.
I’m stuck. If this is how it’s meant to appear, then I’ve simply missed the point and I apologise, but I have a horrible feeling it isn’t. There’s no doubt that there are some good ideas here and, if you can see through to them, then this is a book which should and will excite you.