I think we need a new term for the style introduced by this really rather charming book, and I’m calling it Soft Realism.
As with pen & wash, the use of ink creates sharply defined outlines that provide immediate impact, with a softer core that accentuates colour and adds a more impressionistic feel. The difference between watercolour and pencil, however is that the latter works with finer lines, more shading and includes detail itself. The result is that landscapes can recede subtly by the use not just of cooler colour, but by a softer focus and a reduction in detail.
What is surprising is that this is, as far as I can remember, the first book devoted to this method of working, which has much to recommend it. Yes, there have been books on ink drawing and, yes, there have been books on pencil work and, yes, again, all of them have covered mixed media, but it’s never been the star of the show as it is here. In a whole book, there’s nowhere to hide, and you’d better have plenty to say and a very clear idea of what you’re about.
Helen covers not just the broad sweep of landscape, but details such as flowers, trees, rocks and water, and explains both her approach and working methods thoroughly but concisely. As is the way with Crowood, there are more words than some publishers, but these are well-chosen and a pleasure to read, complementing the exercises and demonstrations nicely.
If you hadn’t thought about this way of working, Helen should convert you quickly and have you fully proficient by the time you’re through.
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