Archive for category Author: Alwyn Crawshaw

Alwyn’s Top Tips for Watercolour Artists || Alwyn Crawshaw

With a lifetime of teaching, some 25 books and several TV series and videos behind him, Alwyn is pretty much the granddaddy of art instruction. It’s no accident that his books have all been bestsellers or that he was one of Daler Rowney’s most popular demonstrators. Alwyn can not only walk the walk, he can tell you how he does it, too.

All of which preamble says that this is a book you’re going to want. It’s slightly less technical than some of the other volumes in the series and there’s always a sense that you’re seeing ideas in practice rather than just in theory. There are more demonstration pages here, too.

The subject matter is pretty much confined to landscapes because Alwyn never tries to work outside what he knows best. He still finds room for tips on skies, trees, water, people, boats and everything else you’d expect from him.

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June & Alwyn Crawshaw: their story, their paintings || Steve Hall

It’s good that a serious monograph has been devoted to Crawshaw, and not just to Alwyn but to June as well. Alwyn is, of course, well-known and has been part of the practical art scene for many years having written many books. June, however, has only emerged as an artist in her own right relatively recently and she has matured into a painter who has mastered small, intimate scenes, the details that are often overlooked. Although you can see Alwyn’s influence in her work, she has her own recognisable style and the two of them complement each other nicely.

As ever with Halsgrove books, this is mainly about the paintings – over 100 of them and pretty much equally divided between the two artists. There is, of course, no shortage of Alwyn’s work in print because of the number of books he has written, but not many of them are as generously sized as these are, or they are part of a step by step demonstration. Steve Hall’s approach is to categorise by artist and subject – Alwyn paints landscapes, June paints flowers, gardens and beaches, etc and, although it inevitably pigeonholes things a bit, this does bring some order to what could otherwise have become a bit of a ragbag and have done its subjects no justice at all.

There is also a short biographical introduction that contains most of the factual information you could want, especially if you haven’t managed to get hold of a copy of Alwyn’s painting autobiography, The Artist at Work. A pleasant surprise is the foreword by the editor of most of Alwyn’s art instruction books, which gives a very real sense of the warmth of both Alwyn and June and a clue to why it is they have been so enduringly popular in print, as demonstrators and on television.

Popularity often has the effect of trivialising – someone that ubiquitous somehow can’t really be a serious artist, can they? Look at this collection, however, and you’ll realise that the Crawshaws deserve another look.

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Learn To Paint Acrylics || Alwyn Crawshaw

Alwyn Crawshaw remains one of the most accomplished writers and demonstrators on the circuit today and this early volume in the Learn to Paint series has stood the test of time well, as has the series itself.

Conceived as basic introductions that stick closely to the medium or subject in the title, all the volumes pack a lot into their 64 pages, Alwyn’s perhaps more than many. As an primer in the increasingly popular medium of acrylics, this is hard to beat or fault, covering basic techniques as well as a good choice of subjects.

Collins 1979, reissued 2008

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30 Minute Sketching || Alwyn Crawshaw

This series is shaping up to be an excellent way of looking at a variety of media (and it’s to be hoped that it will move on to subject-based titles in the fullness of time) from a fresh viewpoint.

The idea of the timed painting is not a new one and, handled without thought, it can be little more than a gimmick. However, what it does do is make you concentrate on the subject rather than the mechanics of recording it; you can’t fuss over details or the oven timer rings and you’ve got to stop. If this was just an excuse to produce yet another series of basic media introductions, I’d greet it with a hearty yawn. There’s an awful of that kind of thing out there and, trust me, a lot of them really are awful. However, as well as encouraging the reader to look at things in a new light, the same process seems to have transferred itself to the authors (and Collins have been rather smart in their choice of artists for the series) and what you get is a catalogue of neat, quick and fresh ideas that should appeal as much to the more experienced artist as to the beginner. This is a neat trick, because this kind of thing is usually aimed at those starting out.

Collins 2008

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Alwyn Crawshaw’s Watercolour Cruise DVD

This double DVD contains all the programmes from Alwyn’s 2006 TV series.

At first sight, you’d have to suspect that this was a bit of an excuse to skive off at the production company’s expense but, whatever the real reason, they’ve certainly got their money’s worth and so will you.

To be a successful television presenter you have to be just that little bit larger than life, to have a personality that can make the jump from behind the screen to have a presence right there in the viewer’s living room and all to often this takes precedence over any true understanding of the subject in question. Where, I think, Alwyn scores in this respect is that he’s had years of experience of demonstrating to art clubs and he’s learnt the ability to paint and talk at the same time. He’s also learnt what it is that an audience wants and how to keep them entertained as well as informed.

Inevitably, of course, with this sort of thing, you have to like the personality that the presenter gives you. If a rather chatty delivery style isn’t your cup of tea, you’ll find yourself being annoyed by the presentation style and not being able to get at the content and there’s really nothing that can be done about that. However, just watch a bad presenter at work and you may find yourself pining for the most annoyingly matey one you’ve ever come across.

Where all this is going is that I’m trying to say that Alwyn is comfortable (or “cumfertubble” as he’d have it – he has the odd mannerism of delivery that could just prove annoying) and confident in front of a camera. The other thing is that he’s very good at explaining what he’s painting or drawing with a minimum of fuss, which leaves him room to talk about the subject as well as the techniques. Made for a general audience as well as a painting one, these programmes don’t contain a huge amount of technical information, but you do get a lot on how to paint and draw on location with a minimum of equipment. You also get considerably more background information about the location than you do in many a travelogue which is no bad thing. In the first programme, at Petra, for example, Alwyn goes beyond the most obvious angle and gets behind the more familiar scenes to give you a far more complete sense of the place than usual.

A studio-based film will always give you far more painting information but, if you want something that will keep you entertained as well as offering useful insights into both places and techniques, this won’t disappoint. The only minor downside might be that it’s encoded in NTSC rather than PAL. A few DVD players seem to have trouble with this and you also might find the colours aren’t quite as sharp as you’d like – or even that you can only see it in black & white. Different setups seem to vary in sensitivity to this so, equally, you might have no problem at all.

First published 2006

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Alwyn Crawshaw's Ultimate Painting Course

The very first impression you get from flicking through the pages of this book is one of relaxation and confidence, a sense that you can tell what it’s about. I was tempted to add familiarity to this, but this implies that it contains recycled material, which is doesn’t; Alwyn is a very honest writer and all of his books start with a completely blank script.

The reason for all this well-being is that Alwyn is one of the most experienced writers and teachers there is: he has a lifetime’s experience of it and he knows how to do it. Every stage of every demonstration is carefully planned and each page is laid out so that you can get all the information you need at a single glance and without any extraneous, confusing detail. Quite simply, he gives you room to move.

Normally, I’d be wary of the “complete course” approach that’s all things to all men (and women and boys and girls), covering more than one medium. Most people who are serious about learning to paint will stick to one medium, usually watercolour, because they don’t want to buy more equipment than is absolutely necessary and because they perceive trying to do more than one thing as being too much to take in all at once. And they’d not wrong in that last assumption. Of course, a lot of professional painters do work in several media, but, in the amateur world, some people regard it as a kind of apostasy.

So, “a complete beginner’s guide to painting in watercolour, oil and acrylic”. Well, dear me, that’s only a third of a book for any one medium, that’s not worth 18 quid, is it? But this is a different approach. If you’re a total beginner, the first thing you have to decide is what medium you’re going to concentrate on and Alwyn will show you the advantages, disadvantages, capabilities and suitabilities of each of them. He’s not promoting any one medium but rather showing you how each one can be better suited to a particular style of painting or a particular type of subject. You might start of thinking, “watercolour’s for me, all the paintings I like are watercolours” and then discover that, actually, you’d be better off investing in a box of acrylics.

Does this book have anything for the more experienced painter? Well, in terms of instruction, possibly not, but as a means of evaluating where you are and deciding where to go next, I’d say it does. You might even be tempted to try another medium. Now there’s a thing!

First published 2006

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You Can Paint Series

This series of basic introductions to a variety of painting media and subjects has been reissued in paperback and is certainly worth another look. As they’re all here in one pile, it makes sense to review them all of a piece as there is a very strong series identity and they all follow a quite tightly-defined format.

Each book begins with a short introduction on “How to use this book” in which the author tells you that this is a book for the beginner, and to work through it without worrying too much about mistakes as you go – the whole idea is to learn. It’s nice that these sections are individually written rather than being copied wholesale from one volume to another. You could argue that it’s a couple of pages devoted to something that probably has more value in focussing the author’s mind than in helping the reader, but it can also be seen as an example of the care that has gone into what, superficially, seem to be very simple books. Now, as we clever people all know, simplicity is an art in itself and frequently conceals a great deal of work, and such is the case here. With only 96 medium format pages, each of the authors has to introduce materials and techniques, teach basic principles and then demonstrate as many different subjects as possible. There’s no room for waffle and so a lot of pictures and not too many words combine with a nice clear layout that gives a feeling of space to the pages to make these books easy to follow and unintimidating. They are perfect for the absolute beginner, the very person they’re aimed at.

Linda Birch
First published 2001, reissued 2006

Alwyn Crawshaw
First published 200, reissued 2006

Jackie Simmonds
First published 2001, reissued 2006

Melanie Cambridge
First published 2003, reissued 2006

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