Archive for category Author: Cecil Rice

Cecil Rice: The Colour of Light

This is an intriguing title that points directly to the meat of Cecil Rice’s work. I’ve never come across anyone who paints light so exclusively as a subject. Every painting, of course, is informed by light but here it’s the main subject matter. The physical forms are merely an adjunct that allow it to manifest itself and they are often reduced to almost abstract shapes.

To be honest, in a book that features over 120 illustrations, this can be a bit exhausting. This is a showcase of Cecil’s work and, if it was an exhibition, it would be a substantial one which, I can’t help feeling, would leave you bewildered and maybe not sure what you might want to buy. It’s a case where less is most definitely more. However, this is a book and you can pick it up and put it down at will, and you should. If you’re an admirer of the artist, you’ll be overjoyed to find such an amount of his work in your hand for such a modest price (forty quid’s a lot for a book, but not a lot for 120 good illustrations).

Coming at this from the perspective of this blog, which is aimed at the practising artist, the lack of explanatory captions is noticeable. It’s not a fair criticism, as it’s not the main intention of the book, but it’s worth knowing. You can learn a great deal by looking at the many, many variations and qualities of light that Cecil paints, but you have to work it out for yourself. The introductory text is short and the section on working methods tells us little beyond “I have to have a clear idea of the underlying structure … behind a painting” and that he strives to maintain tonal logic throughout each work. You’d certainly hope so though, to be fair, Cecil didn’t write it, although the blurb does quote author Zoe Cooper as saying “I am always fascinated to learn what makes an artist tick”. Let’s just say that here, she had to pack a lot into a short space.

If you want to learn about painting with light, repeated perusal will provide plenty of examples and inspiration, and you could also have a look at Cecil’s DVD.

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DVD: Painting The Light In Watercolour || Cecil Rice

Books and films about painting the light usually treat it as an adjunct to capturing a more general scene – reflections in water, highlights on waves, perhaps the bright colours as the sun shines through a beach windbreak. We’re talking David Curtis here, aren’t we?

In this film, however, Cecil Rice treats light as a subject in its own right. It’s an interesting approach and not one totally without merit, although I think you’re bound to land up thinking, “does he really do that all the time?” Well, rather amazingly, having had a look at his website, I think the answer is yes. To be fair, it’s not quite as overt as it is here, and these paintings are demonstrations done to illustrate a point, but the style is definitely prevalent.

So, the sixty-four-thousand dollar question: do you want to shell out the best part of thirty quid for something you’re probably not going to emulate? Alright, the thirty-quid question. Pedant. I think the answer to that depends on who you are and what you want to do. There’s a surprise! What I mean is that, if you really want to get to grips with light, then looking at it this way will concentrate the mind wonderfully and develop your techniques by leaps and bounds. If you’ve only got the aforesaid thirty smackers, you might think twice and spend it on something more general.

So, let’s say you’ve shelled out, what do you get? In a nutshell, three demonstrations (a sunrise, an illuminated night-time scene and a sunset), a general introduction that includes a good ten minutes spent squeezing out colour, and a gallery. I mentioned the paint-squeezing thing because Cecil is either rock-solid on the use of materials or a terminal bore, depending on whether he has insights for you or not. I’m not fully decided on the matter, but you need to know as it could spoil the film for you. All artists feel they have to tell you about their favourite brushes and how they use them in a way that’s totally unique and, you know what? They’re pretty much all the same. They have hairs attached to a wooden handle and they hold paint. (And so do the brushes). Personally, I’d much rather have, “and here you can see how I’m using the point/edge of the brush to create fine detail/imply a shape.” The rest I can work out for myself. Seeing it in action is much better than a five minute lecture.

As you can see from this, I’m very much ambivalent about this film. It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just that I’m not sure I like it that much. You might buy it and have it on repeat, or you could watch it once and never really get round to it again. A Marmite one, I think.

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