I always find the hardest books to review are the ones I like before I even start. Why do I like them?
David Curtis is an absolute master of atmosphere and light and much of the magic of his paintings comes from the fact that they’re done, for a good part, on location. So, any book by him is going to have to have one or more of those words in the title. It’s also not going to be hugely different to anything else he’s done before – he belongs to that category of artists whose work you want to see, rather than, if you’re following me, whose instructions you want to read.
Yes, of course you want to hear what he has to say, but you want to hear him talking about a completed painting and of his approaches, rather than follow a detailed demonstration. I sometimes refer to these as “aspirational artists”, meaning that, if you took the top off a magic tube of paint and a genie popped out offering you one wish, you’d say, “I’d like to paint like …” You don’t read the books because you think you’re probably ever going to be in the same league, you just want the ideas, to be able to at least make an approach or to be touched by greatness.
So, what you have here is the usual mix of David’s subjects, painted in both watercolour and oils. Exactly how much of each painting was done on location and how much was finished off in the studio, he doesn’t always say, though there’s a section at the end of the book on working from location sketches and notes. Because David’s honest and we know how he works, as well as from the style of the illustrations, I’d say the most part was done in the field.
Artists are not always the best writers, or perhaps just don’t want to sit behind a typewriter when they could be standing behind an easel and this is where Robin Capon comes in. Robin’s been doing this for longer than I can remember and he captures the artist’s voice perfectly.
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