Archive for category Author: Bee Morrison

Graphtastic || Bee Morrison

The history of graphite is the history of the universe. A direct cousin of diamond (whose properties it exactly contrasts), it is a form of carbon. It was first discovered in Cumbria in the 1500’s – accidentally, the story goes – and its suitability for drawing soon realised, but its soft, brittle nature led to it being bound in wooden sleeves. The pencil as we know it was born. The story continues by way of Friedrich Staedtler, Nicolas Conté and the Industrial Revolution to the Cumberland Pencil Company and even the work of a man reputed to be the model for James Bond’s Q.

That the humble pencil should feature names that remain familiar today simply emphasises how it is embedded in our lives and how such a simple technology has changed little since its original development. This is primarily an art book, but Bee takes time out to mention new technologies and that potential wonder product, graphene.

This is an intriguing and personal account written by an artist who, while primarily interested in graphite as a drawing medium, has also become fascinated by its history, which she relates in a gripping narrative that continually prompts the reader to want to know more. It’s no dry scientific tome. The whole thing is helped along by anecdotes and sensitive drawings (in graphite, of course) that illustrate scenes, personalities and artefacts.

It’s also worth mentioning the production. Self-published books often suffer from the lack of two things: an editor and a designer. The result can be an over-written and visually confusing mess. Bee, however, has considerable experience, having produced a number of previous books as well as instructional material. She also has a design background. All of which adds up to a tightly-written narrative with the illustrations all in the right places and sized to match their importance. To have a handwritten text is brave, but Bee writes beautifully and you’ll soon pick her style up, rather like getting attuned to a regional accent, and devouring the pages as quickly as you can turn them.

You might not think that, as an artist, you need to know all of this, but you’ll be awfully glad you found it out.

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Travelogue – round the world in watercolour || Bee Morrison

Bee Morrison is quite a traveller. Forty years as a practising artist has taken her to five continents, eighteen countries and twenty-eight ports, a journey she calculates would take some four months to complete as one trip. This journal is her imaginary tour, culled from her numerous sketchbooks.

Altogether, there are fifty illustrations which the cover tells us are “to colour”. That seems a shame, as Bee’s simple and sensitive line drawings stand well on their own and could, I think, be studied as a lesson in the art of less-is-more. However, if you want to go ahead, there’s a handy colour reference guide that gives you an idea of what that added dimension brings to the scene. Actually, I’m not sure that the paper the book is printed on would take watercolour terribly well, so you might well want to copy or trace the outlines – the upside is that they’re nicely crisp for that purpose.

This has been produced in a limited edition of 200 copies and each will be signed. If you’re a fan of Bee’s work, this is a nice personal souvenir. If she’s new to you, check out her website and have a look at some of her other books while you’re there.

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Postscript: Bee tells me that the paper in the book is in fact remarkably suitable for both watercolour and coloured pencils, so give it a try if you want to.   She says, “It is quite bizarre …you would think that it would reject pencil and paint but quite the opposite.  My sample book has had a lot of layers of a very cheap pencil and keeps on taking the colour.”   She also says, helpfully, “please quote me and tell everyone that when they buy the Travelogue they also get the right to print any page for their own personal use.”

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Brushmarks For Trees || Bee Morrison

Bee Morrison has followed her excellent little book on flowers with one on the much less extensively covered subject of trees. Very few people set out to paint a tree as a subject in its own right, but they’re an essential element of any landscape. Get them wrong, however small they appear, and everything else will follow and your finished result will always fail.

If you’ve ever watched an instructional DVD, the chances are the artist has their own trick way of painting trees: look, you just do this, this and this and it’s a convincing-looking arboricus genericus. Start including woodlands or copses, or just a prominent hedgerow tree, however, and you also need to be aware of the basic shapes of oaks, ashes and elms at least. And then, of course, they all change their outlines in the different seasons from bare branches to hints of green shoots to the fully-dressed appearance of summer and the dying fall of autumn.

All this sounds very scientific and botanical, but the thing is that your viewers all know what a tree looks like. They may not be able to tell you anything about it, but they’ll sure as hell know if you’ve got even the tiniest detail wrong! So, does this mean you’d better give up landscape painting until you’ve been on a course? Well no because, as I hinted at the beginning, the tree isn’t your main subject. All you really need to know is the basic shapes and a few ways to get them right and looking realistic. Thankfully, this is largely a matter of brushwork, hence the title of the book.

Bee packs an enormous amount into 40 pages and gives you nice, large and clear illustrations, with the words kept to a minimum, so you really won’t have trouble following her or, probably, think that you ever need to buy another book on trees.

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Brushmarks for Flowers || Bee Morrison

This privately published little book is quite one of the best introductions to flower painting I’ve seen. The clear layout and simple instructions give an immediate sense of what’s going on and a real “I could do that” feeling.

The basis of the book is nine individual demonstrations featuring a single flower type, including tulips, poppies, roses and geraniums, with a list of the colours used and clearly laid out instructions on how to use the brush to make the various marks and shapes. There are few words and they’re elegantly handwritten, giving the whole thing a feel of both quality and intimacy. A couple of pages at the end on putting figures in a painting feel like a gift.

Bee Morrison has been teaching and producing learning aids for some time and this book represents what I’ve always felt she had in her. Don’t be put off by the privately-published tag; this is a top quality piece of work that doesn’t cut any corners. At nearly £10, it’s more expensive than it would be from a commercial publisher, but it’s still worth every penny and you’d never get this much information for the money anywhere else.

Flower painting is a big subject and, for the beginner, just finding a place to start can be one of the most daunting problems. Bee has come up with a solution to that. Work through this book and you’ll be well on the way.

Every year, Artbookreview gives a little award to the best book I’ve written about in the past 12 months. No committees, no champagne receptions, no B-list celebrities, just me. When this one arrived, I already had notes for a shortlist, but then it was obvious. This really is the most useful and practical book that’s landed on my mat on 2007. You can’t buy it on Amazon (so I don’t even get a commission on sales!), but click on the link below to go to Bee’s own website.

First published 2007

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