Alvaro Castagnet’s Watercolour Masterclass

If you’ve seen Alvaro’s DVDs, you’ll know that he’s an enthusiastic demonstrator who has plenty to say and who puts on a gripping performance. You might also wonder how he would get on when put into the static confines of a book. Maybe the magic would be lost or, if it was retained, would it be possible to make any sense of the result? Well, I did anyway.

I think the first thing to say is that this is privately published, and that can be a very bad thing. Most authors need a good editor and it’s very hard to be your own. On top of that, artists are rarely good book designers. It doesn’t bode well, does it? To go against that, I think it’s fair to say that the last thing a characterful demonstrator needs is a conventional approach.

So, having got the pitfalls out of the way, how does the book shape up? Well, it’s certainly not conventional. The pages are, at first sight, an assault on the senses. There’s lot of colour, drawing and typically Alvaro-esque pearls of wisdom and they seem to be scattered around. Look more closely and you’ll see that the exercises and demonstrations are all there, but well-disguised. This is a book to absorb, rather than to read. It should also be said that the editing and design are just what’s needed. There’s a good list of production credits and Alvaro has assembled an excellent team around him and hasn’t indulged himself.

The core premise is the Four Pillars of Watercolour. These turn out to be Colour, Shape, Value and Edges – not exactly unconventional, but an excellent place to start and a nice summing-up of the basics. Everyone has their own variation and this is as good as any and better presented than many. Overall, the book has a nice progression and I particularly like the very first chapter: Think and Feel Your Way to Emotive Art, which places creativity firmly before the mechanics (Materials follows it). The Four Pillars follow and there is then a series of demonstrations in locations around the world. These are mostly in places where the sun shines, so expect a lot of light – if Alvaro does damp, rainy climates, he’s keeping it to himself.

I suspect you have to buy into Alvaro’s persona of The Passionate Painter to get the most out of the book, but he’s an engaging demonstrator and, on the evidence of this, an absorbing writer as well. The pearls of wisdom I mentioned earlier are succinct summings-up of whole rafts of sound advice and have the great merit of being memorable.

Available from APV Films

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