Archive for category Author: Charles Evans

Charles Evans’ Watercolour Rescue

The history of art publishing is littered with hints and tips books, Q&A guides and troubleshooters. This is not dissimilar to all those approaches, but comes with a reassuring title and the provenance of a popular and established tutor. Charles’ reputation rightly precedes him.

The first thing to say is that this is much more than just a lazy rehash of what has been done before, which my earlier description might have suggested. The implication in the title that things can and do go wrong is an honest one and we’re starting from a point which doesn’t pretend the opposite. What really marks the book out as different, though, is that the “mistakes” aren’t just cartoon versions painted deliberately badly to make a point. In fact, just glancing through, you might wonder what exactly the problem is. This is because not everything is wrong at once. That inharmonious landscape looks relatively acceptable until Charles points out that the blue used for the water is too deep. The revised version, using slightly less pigment is better, but not the game changer you’ll usually find in this kind of book.

There are 75 suggestions in this pocket-sized book, which has a nicely soft cover that makes reading without breaking the spine easy. None occupies more than 4 pages, and frequently less. It’s succinct – identify, analyse, get out. Where the sections are longer, a little more work is required and there may be half a dozen or so stages. For the most part, it’s a simple fix, largely because the error (if we can call it that) is relatively minor.

You could, I suppose, pack this with your painting kit and take it on location with you. Whether you really pull out a portable library on your travels, I doubt. I think the best approach would be to keep it by your chair or bed and dip into it. You’ll have plenty of “oh, that’s where I’m going wrong” moments and simply not make that mistake again. You might even get some ideas for new approaches as well. It’s fun, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

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Painting With System 3 || Charles Evans

Daler Rowney’s System 3 is an integrated set of acrylic mediums that includes heavy and soft body paints, inks and fluid colours. The overall palette remains the same across the range and all the parts are designed to work harmoniously together.

Although this is in large part a promotional piece for System 3, sticking with a single range has allowed Charles to produce a complete guide to working with acrylics that covers just about every aspect. He is able to contrast and mix styles and ways of working that would be much more difficult if different brands and types were involved.

The nature of the book means it makes complete sense to start at the absolute beginning, by introducing paints, equipment and supports and then moving on to basic methods of application and demonstrations of subjects that include landscapes, water, animals and buildings.

If you’re starting to paint, this makes an excellent introductory guide and you’ll be working with a range of materials that will be reliable and should produce no nasty surprises. You’ll also be in the hands of an experienced and generous teacher who is not afraid to explain those sometimes elementary details you really need.

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The Paint Pad Artist: Coastal Landscapes || Charles Evans

I dealt with the mechanics of this new series in the introductory review, so this is a look just at one particular volume.

Charles Evans is an experienced and popular demonstrator who is ideally suited to this introduction to painting coastal scenes. Each of the six demonstrations introduces a new topic or technique, such as drawing out colour to create clouds, capturing reflections, using a rigger to create trees and working with stormy skies and seas.

There’s plenty of variety, but nothing is too taxing and the beginner will feel at home quickly, producing worthwhile results that can only encourage further work.

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Ready to Paint in 30 Minutes – Boats & Harbours in Watercolour || Charles Evans

The re-imagining of the Ready to Paint series continues apace and continues to impress.

Charles Evans offers a good variety of subject matter and stylistic approaches through 33 step-by-step projects along with useful exercises, hints and tips. The book has a clear progression and feels busy without being confusing and there is an overall sense that you’re getting a lot for your money.

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Pocket Book for Watercolour Artists || Terry Harrison/Geoff Kersey/Charles Evans

Search Press have reissued their handy Top Tips guides in paperback format, making them available for a new audience.

Containing concise hints and tips – often with a single illustration and a short caption, but also some longer demonstrations, they offer quick and immediate advice that can be like having your favourite artist as a private tutor with you as you work.

For more complete reviews, follow the link above.

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Matthew Palmer’s Step-by-Step Guide to Watercolour Painting/Acrylics for the Absolute Beginner || Charles Evans

These two introductions to watercolour and acrylics are published in conjunction with the SAA and are not unlike the old What to Paint series that was an early development of Ready to Paint.

Both books begin with an introduction to techniques that assumes little prior knowledge and is designed to set you on the right path from the outset. They each then build to a series of projects for which outlines are provided, allowing you to get the basic drawing with proportions and perspective out of the way without having to worry about it. This approach has proved so popular that Search Press are making quite widespread (but always appropriate) use of it.

You could argue that perspective and proportion are two of the most important aspects of art and that having them done for you is not just cheating, but flattering to deceive; if you don’t tackle them at some point, you’ll never succeed as an artist. All this is true, but it’s also true that getting bogged down in technique can be massively discouraging and that success makes you want to go on and learn more. As long as you know you can only walk, you’re less likely to try to run before you’re ready.

Both of these books will get you painting and have you producing results early and reliably. This is about learning reasonably quickly and having fun – if you find you have some talent and want to progress, there are plenty of other books that will help you in that direction. You can also join the SAA and benefit from all the services they provide.

Basically, it’s a winner all round and these are well thought-out and nicely progressive books that take as much of the mystique out of painting as is possible.

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Boats & Harbours in Acrylic (What to Paint) || Charles Evans

I’ve written elsewhere about the basics of this series, so maybe this isn’t the place to repeat everything.

Suffice it to say that Charles Evans is always good value and has an excellent eye (or should that be nose?) for what the budding painter needs. There’s a splendid variety of subjects here from Polperro to a Greek boatyard and small craft to an icebreaker and a galleon in full sail. Seas are rough, choppy and calm and there are plenty of different weather and lighting conditions.

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Quick & Clever Watercolours || Charles Evans

Charles Evans has developed a reputation as one of the best exponents of the “how it’s done” approach to art instruction currently around and he disposes of many of the technical problems that plague the beginner with confidence and aplomb.

The meat of this not insubstantial book (192 pages) is a series of 24 exercises and projects that cover landscapes, water & sky, buildings and people & animals – in short, most of the things you might want to paint. The exercises are simple one-subject sketches that show you, for example, how tree shapes work, while the projects work up a detailed step-by-step demonstration of a more complete subject. Each leads on to the other, so that practice with trees is followed with a project of a landscape consisting of fields and woodlands. Each project opens with the finished work so that you’re presented with your final goal before you start looking at the detail and this is good.

The demonstrations themselves are illustrated in some detail and the book’s designers have attempted to break up the regimented grid layout this can lead to with cascades and overlays of the illustrations. This does mean that you have to look at each page quite hard to work out where it’s going this time, but that’s not a bad thing either as it means you don’t just turn over and find yourself missing some of the stages.

All in all, you can’t fault either the approach or the execution and this is a book that will teach anyone just getting to grips with watercolour a lot.

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Charlie’s Top Tips for Watercolour Artists || Charles Evans

Ever since he sprang onto the scene a few years ago, Charles Evans has been in demand as a teacher, demonstrator and author. Although maybe not one of the greatest artists alive, he’s one of those technical painters who can (and do) explain their techniques and who has a wealth of little tricks that make some of watercolour’s more difficult aspects a little easier to get on with.

I always feel I’m being unfair when I suggest that an artist isn’t among the greats, not just because, frankly, I am, but because I’m open to the charge that I couldn’t do any better. I’ll come back to that in a minute. What I mean is that, if you were a collector of contemporary watercolours, you might not find yourself bidding competitively against other collectors as you could for someone like (say) John Yardley. If I could paint like Charles, I’d be perfectly happy to display the results on my wall, though.

And that brings me back to the “could you do better?” issue. The simple answer to that is: no, and that’s where this book and this type of author come in. It’s hard to learn techniques from someone whose style you idolise and aspire to only in dreams. However, there are quite a few painters like Charles Evans who have a sound technical ability that they are willing and, most importantly, are able to communicate. If you or I could absorb just a little of what they have, we’d be infinitely better at what we do. We buy the books, we get what we wanted and we’ve learnt something.

So, take this as a recommendation and gain a wealth of handy tips on skies, trees, animals, people, perspective, depth, distance and a whole lot more. Every volume in this series has been a mine of information and this one doesn’t disappoint.

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Landscapes in Acrylics: Ready to Paint || Charles Evans

It’s nice to see that this well-conceived series is at last branching out from watercolour.

I don’t think it’s being unfair to Charles Evans to say that his work is probably not going to find its way onto too many walls other than his own and that he’s unlikely to be troubling the fine art dealers much. In the present context, though, that isn’t the point. Charles is a competent painter and many aspiring amateurs would be well pleased to be able to emulate him. He is also very good at explaining what he does, the mark of someone who has had to learn their craft rather than having acquired it instinctively. There’s an old adage that says that “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach”. This is a calumny against teachers because doing and teaching are completely different skills and the greatest practitioners or minds often make the worst teachers because they’ve never had to try to understand what it is they do. The best teacher has a reasonable amount of ability, but has had to work to build on that and, as a result, knows the processes and pitfalls faced by a learner.

Anyway, that little rant out of the way, what do you get here? Well, the by now familiar Ready to Paint layout with five pre-drawn images you can trace onto your own paper and then complete by following the very detailed step-by-step instructions that accompany them. Yes, it’s an advanced form of painting by numbers, but it frees the beginner from the tyranny of the blank page and allows them to concentrate on the use of paint rather than also having to shape the image at the same time. Does it work? Well, the success of the books does rather suggest that it does. Successful results tend to breed confidence and enthusiasm and it’s better to have a bit of hand-holding at this early stage than to plod on against discouragement and unsatisfactory work. Of course you should try to break away from the pre-drawn sketch as soon as you can, but when and how is up to you.

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