Jean Haines’ World of Watercolour

Well, if nothing else, this is a brave title! It tells you nothing about the content but focuses entirely on the author. If you don’t know who Jean Haines is, you’ll be at sea. Not, though, that I think there’s much danger of that. Jean Haines writes and exhibits extensively and, if anyone can survive the “my work” approach, she can.

Popular for her extremely loose approach to watercolour, Jean paints a variety of mostly natural subjects – there are a couple of portraits and street scenes here as well. The kingfisher on the cover will give you a good feel of what she’s about. There’s hardly any detail, the colours are subdued compared to (say) a photograph and the form is getting lost in the looseness of the wash on the left-hand side. And yet. It is a kingfisher, isn’t it? Not a static, stuffed exhibit in a museum, but a living, breathing, moving bird about to dart away from the barely-suggested branch it’s sitting on. In fact, are you even sure it hasn’t darted away already, while your attention was briefly elsewhere?

It takes the most enormous skill to reduce your subjects to mere suggestions of form as Jean does. You need not only immense ability and confidence with your materials, but an inherent, instinctive understanding of what your subjects are about. Not just their character, but how they move, how they think even. That kingfisher has vitality not just because we know what it’s about to do but because it does too.

I’m not sure that most people would be able to achieve what Jean does and, because it’s so individual, so idiosyncratic, I’m not sure they’d want to – maybe even should. However, in terms of a masterclass in what you can do with colour and a lot of water, this is it. Read it, marvel and enjoy.

PS. The publisher’s short name for this on their advance material was Jean Haines’ WOW. They got that right!

Click the picture to view on Amazon

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