Archive for category Author: 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.
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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