Apart from the fact that it’s a substantial offering, the first thing that strikes you about this rather beautiful new book is the quote from John Constable on the front flap. Let’s be clear, it’s the only thing on the front flap, so it wants you to take notice. It’s bold and confident, being if nothing else, a hostage to fortune – it’s a lot to live up to. The gist of the quote is that the world is constantly changing, “no two days are alike, nor even two hours; nor were there ever two leaves of a tree alike”. In short, it’s about the moment, and that’s where the atmosphere comes from.
At 192 pages this is, as I said, a substantial volume and Fraser makes full use of the available space to discuss a good variety of subjects, lighting conditions and seasons as well as materials and the practicalities of working outdoors. Given room, authors too often indulge themselves or go off a tangents. Fraser, however, has a clear plan and the book flows nicely and includes plenty of generously-sized illustrations without resorting to endless demonstrations with almost identical steps.
As well as all the variations above, there’s also handy information on skies, clouds, trees, buildings and other elements that go to make up a scene. I do have a couple of reservations: Fraser’s style can be rather dark and Old Masterly. I’m writing this review a couple of weeks before Christmas. It’s already dark and I haven’t had my tea yet, so maybe I’m feeling a little jaded and in need of summer meadows. The other thing is that, although Fraser is very good at buildings on the skyline, he’s not so hot when they’re close up. There are only a few of these, though, so you can ignore them without feeling short-changed.
One thing I particularly like is a clever detail of the production. When it matters, the paintings are photographed in raking light so that you can see the texture of the impasto, which adds a lot, just where it matters. I haven’t seen it before and it’s a nice touch.
Overall, this is an impressive book that’s well worth its not excessive cover price.
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