Archive for Aug, 2009

Creative Acrylic Landscapes || Wendy Jelbert

The Tips & Techniques series provides an excellent variety of extensively illustrated demonstrations frequently focussing on quite a narrow subject area. The advantage of this is that you can pick exactly what you want without having to wade through the author’s obsession with something in which you have no interest, at the same time giving yourself a deep immersion in a single topic.

There’s a good variety of subject matter here and Wendy offers tips covering all the main landscape elements as well as techniques for recession, colour and perspective. Overall, it’s excellent value for money and something you should find yourself coming back to again and again for both advice and inspiration.

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Landscapes in Oils: Ready to Paint || Noel Gregory

It’s good to see Noel Gregory, one of Search Press’s best oil painters, back in their lists. His brush-applied impasto style and use of bright colours produces attractive and not over-worked results that have an instant appeal. This is, as far as I know, the first time the Ready to Paint series, with its pre-printed tracings, has ventured into oils and you might think that it’ll struggle with what’s sometimes seen as the expert’s medium. However, that’s a myth Noel easily dispels and, by allowing you to concentrate on the painting without worrying about the draughtsmanship, he’ll show that results can come quickly and with relative ease.

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Ireland: Ready to Paint || Terry Harrison

With its rich colour and widely varied landscape, Ireland is bordering on artistic overload. At first glance, the idea of reducing a whole country down to five paintings (you get the usual pre-printed tracings that come with this series) sounds like a definition of the absurd, but Terry has picked subjects that capture the essence of what Ireland has to offer: a mountain, a castle, a seascape, cliffs and a townscape detail.

What you finish up with is as much a good primer in many of the subjects you might want to tackle in any situation as it is a practice run at a location where you might well be wondering where to start. Just remember to stock up on that Emerald Green, to be sure.

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Pattern, Colour & Form: new approaches to creativity || Carolyn Genders

This is interesting. Best not to read the jacket blurb, which gets a bit precious and which has as hard a job as I do trying to explain what the book is all about. I think, reduced down to a nutshell, that it’s a look at the way creative people interpret their subject matter. Carolyn Genders looks at everything from painting and photography to jewellery, textiles and glass-making and does actually manage to come up with a coherent analysis of how the same (or at least similar) starting points both inspire and are interpreted.

The end result is a visually-based analysis of the creative process that has you getting further and further into the book rather than being put off by a load of wild theorising. The secret is the huge number of illustrations, the variety of material and the number of different practitioners included. Carolyn doesn’t ask you to believe that all these people create in different ways from a common starting point, she shows you, allows you to make up your own mind and decide for yourself what works and what doesn’t.

It’s rare, indeed almost unheard of, to have not just so many different approaches and techniques, but so many different art forms in one book and it could so easily not work, but we have here an author with a coherent thesis that she presents well.

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The Art Of The Printmaker 1500-1860 || Roger Baynton-Williams

This sumptuous and quite modestly priced volume is going to delight anyone who has any interest in printmaking. If you’re more of a dilettante, then there’s a good mix of things you recognise and things that are new. If you’ve already developed an interest, then you’ll enjoy the well-selected collection of illustrations and the excellent coverage of both history and technique that accompanies it.

I think it’s fair to say that someone with an extensive knowledge of the history of printmaking isn’t going to find much here that they don’t know already, but this is not meant to be a definitive book. Rather, it’s an accessible guide that takes the reader beyond the primer stage and leads them to a greater understanding of the period covered (and that’s important because this is not something that attempts to look at contemporary printmaking, which is a whole subject in its own right). The very best compliment I can pay it is to say that, as what I believe to be its target audience, I absolutely love it. The quality of the reproduction, as you’d expect from Black’s, is stunning.

You can view the author’s own website

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How To Read Pattern: a crash course in textile design || Clive Edwards

OK, this is what it says on the back of the book: “How to Read Pattern is a practical introduction to looking at and appreciating the decorative art of pattern in textile design. It is a lavishly illustrated guide to the use of pattern, exploring themes and motifs across a range of cultural aesthetics. Small enough to carry in your pocket and serious enough to offer real answers.”

I have a number of issues with this. Firstly, I think the word “lavishly” doesn’t sit well with something that’s six and a half inches square. Extensive, maybe, but this feels like something that’s been shoehorned into a format just for the sake of it. What you get is a lot (3 or 4 per page) of small reproductions of well-known and/or typical fabric patterns from oriental carpets to William Morris’s Strawberry Thief as well as modernist and psychedelic designs. Each of these comes with a short caption telling you what it is and the whole thing is arranged into groups of subjects and pattern types.

Why the pocket format? This is never something you’re going to cart round the shops or galleries and consult so that you can say, “Oh yes, that’s a landscape and those are stripes”. You’ll know that. If you want a history of textile design, you’ll buy something else, something that has room for decent-sized illustrations and text that has some meaning, not something that states what Basil Fawlty would refer to as “the bleedin’ obvious”.

As you’d expect from Black’s the quality of the illustrations is excellent, but save your tenner for a cup of tea and a Bath bun in the cafeteria.

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