Archive for category Author: 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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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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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
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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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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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.
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.
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.
Like Geoff Kersey’s Trees & Woodlands in the same series, this little book is an excellent primer in its subject matter, even without the pre-drawn sketches that allow you to concentrate on getting the colour down on paper.
The idea behind the series is that you have 6 re-usable tracings that allow you to get the drawing and the composition out of the way. This is, of course, no substitute for learning either of those techniques, and you’ll have to do that in the end. However, by helping you avoid getting bogged down at the very start, these guides allow you to achieve a finished result you can justifiably be pleased with and which will encourage you to develop the other necessary skills as you progress – which you will because you weren’t discouraged at the first turn.
Charles Evans is an excellent teacher and he explains all the techniques you’ll need clearly and economically. As part of a series which is growing in popularity, this can’t be faulted. However, the information on the details of boats and harbours is so good that more experienced artists shouldn’t pass it by as just painting by numbers.
Search Press 2008
Author Charles Evans
Publisher Search Press
Series Ready to Paint
The “In A Weekend” series from David and Charles has been around for a good many years now and has progressed from general media books to subjects and what we now have is one specific artist’s approach to the idea that, if you sit down and practice with suitable guidance, you really can get a workable result in two days (and 10 out of 10 for not starting on Friday evening and putting the finishing touches in first thing on Monday morning, too!).
The great granddaddy of this idea was Ron Ranson, who used to offer weekend courses from his studio in the Wye valley which he’d refined to the point where this rather bold claim – come with no experience and leave with a painting you’ve no need to be ashamed of – could be put into practice. Like a lot of demonstrating, there’s a degree of sleight of hand, but not of dishonesty. Ron’s trick was to get his students to use a hake brush, a broad and ostensibly unwieldy implement that made fiddling and over-attention to detail impossible, forcing the student to concentrate on the painting rather than the manner of producing it.
To put Charles Evans in the same category is meant as praise and you shouldn’t think that he’s simply copying what Ron did, either. There aren’t many books aimed at the complete beginner which understand that the student needs to be taken by the hand and led patiently through what, to anyone with even a modicum of experience, would be the blindingly obvious. One of the first things he does in the book is to explain colour mixing and the need for simplicity. So much so conventional, but he goes on to explain a few basic mixes you’ll need and also the reason why he chooses the component colours that he does. All of this has been done a thousand times before, but rarely with such clarity and it’s an encouraging start.
The rest of the book is devoted to a series of eight projects, each designed to occupy a weekend (and only a pedant would quibble that that’s eight weekends, then, isn’t it?!). These cover all the main subjects you’re likely to want to paint from landscapes, skies and water to building flowers and figures. It’s a good selection that flexes all the right muscles and allows anyone wanting to progress to decide which areas they’re best at and want to concentrate on – and could save you a fortune in further books you buy to develop your skills, too. These projects are illustrated with well-chosen step-by-step photographs that show all the major stages of completing the exercises or the main painting and there’s a good sense of things developing, almost like a video, rather than new sections appearing as if by magic. Each step has a concise caption that tells you what’s going on and the book is entirely led by its illustrations – there are no heavy textual sections to make sense of unaided.
Charles Evans is an experienced teacher and he’s put his course together with imagination and a skill that conceals a lot of the mechanics behind it. The essence of a good teacher is that they can understand the problems faced by the learner and explain ways round them. This usually means that they’ve had to learn themselves and are not instinctive practitioners. It would be fair to say that Charles is not one of the great painters of the world, but this isn’t a book about him, it’s a book about you, the reader and it requires a quality of self-effacement on the part of the author who has to be pleased by your progress, not his success in being a clever teacher: it requires a generosity which Charles appears to have in bundles. And, truth be told, if you can produce a result half as good as his examples, you’ll be well pleased.
This is a well thought-out book that bears the hallmarks of everyone involved having clearly understood and believed in. It’s presented in a square format that allows the designer plenty of scope to keep the progression fluid and to work equally with pictures that are upright or landscape. The colour reproduction is also extremely good, something which isn’t always the case – though it should be, of course. First impressions in this sort of thing are important and anyone picking this up, I think, is going to feel immediately that it’s accessible and understandable and that’s the first major hurdle over before you even start. I’ve rarely seen better, although, at £18.99, it’s a tad pricey.
First published 2007
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