Archive for category Author: Fiona Peart

Drawing and Painting with Water Soluble Media || Fiona Peart

Fiona’s in her element with this intriguing and exciting book. I’m glad to have finally laid my hands on a finished copy. The first proofs I saw were quite low-resolution and didn’t do justice in any way to what are some very subtle images that exploit the possibilities of pencils, colour sticks, ink, watercolour, acrylic and gouache to the full.

There’s a very nice progression from the properties of the various materials – you do need to know what to use when – and experimenting with them. Fiona then moves quickly on to “the creative journey”, which shows you how to use various materials for pictorial effect. What I particularly like about the book is the fact that there are no technical exercises that are there just for their own sake; everything finishes up in a painting that captures the elements of the scene and has you thinking, “you’re right, no other medium could have done that.” If you’re familiar with the lavender fields at Snowshill in the Cotswolds, you’ll know how, although they demand representation, they’re really tricky to capture convincingly. “For this panoramic painting, bold pigment was drawn onto the paper, then sprayed with clean water and left to settle into the surface.” The result is an assault of colour, exactly as you get in life, but with little attempt at detail. It’s exactly the way to go about it, I now know.

The book is full of ideas, projects, hints and tips, demonstrations and simple wisdom. It’s a real feast of painting and of imagination and should open up a world of possibilities.

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30 Minute Artist Series

Painting Water in Watercolour || Terry Harrison
Painting Flowers in Watercolour || Fiona Peart

This is a new series that Terry Harrison (whose idea it was) is justifiably proud of. There’s nothing new in the limited-time idea and I have in the past criticised some of its implementations for pandering to the “time-restricted artist”. I’m sorry, but art is something you devote time to. The whole point of it, of any recreation, is that it gives you a chance to relax and recharge. If you’re that busy-busy-busy, you probably have a time-management issue that bish-bosh painting won’t solve.

But enough of that, because that’s not the matter in hand. The proper use of the half-hour painting is to discourage fiddling and promote the skill of getting things down quickly, as you see them. It’s about spontaneity and freshness, and therefore to be applauded.

The structure here is really rather neat. The first half of the book is taken up with a series of exercises, Quick Techniques as they’re described here. These are all about ways of seeing and thinking, but also about methods of working – rocks and waves or foliage and petals in a few quick brushstrokes. The idea is to suggest your subject rather than capture it in every minor detail.

Following that is a series of projects that bring everything together. There’s always a slight contradiction when you have printed demonstrations in a book that’s supposed to be about spontaneity, but you have to describe the process somehow and these short (4 page) sections are very effective at showing you how to work within the time allowed. I suspect the best way of making this work is to read the chapter through and then work with it as just notes. If you don’t head straight for home, but keep looking at the map, the oven-timer is going to ring while you’re still getting the tops off the tubes!

There’s a nice busy feel to both these books that somehow encourages the whole idea they’re trying to promote and, price-wise, they’re a steal.

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Flowers (Trace & Paint) || Wendy Jelbert, Michael Lakin, Fiona Peart, Wendy Tait

This is a bind-up of material that has previously appeared in four of the Ready to Paint series. Apart from the portmanteau price, which is pretty good value, the different here is that, instead of tracings, you get outlines pre-printed on plain paper that are really quite difficult to transfer. If it’s this aspect that you really want, then I’d recommend giving this a miss and shelling out for the original books. However, if you think you can dispense with the outlines, then the executions are very nicely done and you can certainly learn a lot about flower painting – I’ve recommended at least two of these before.

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Tulips (Ready to Paint) || Fiona Peart

Fiona Peart has pulled off quite a coup here. There were hints in her previous book of touches of looseness that seemed to contradict the way you’d expect the Ready to Paint series to go and here she’s taken it almost to an extreme.

If you just paint a flower as a shape, it’s always going to look flat and unnatural. There are subtleties of shading that give form and substance and you’d be forgiven for thinking that this is beyond the scope of such a simple guide as this. However, Fiona has managed to include techniques such as wet-in-wet and granulation to produce results that belie their origin in pre-printed tracings.

I suspect that getting results that look like Fiona’s may be beyond the natural audience for these books, so I’d recommend this to anyone who has a basic grasp of flower painting and wants to take things to the next stage. By keeping it simple overall, there’s every chance she’s given you the key to some amazing work.

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Vibrant Flowers in Watercolour || Fiona Peart

Please, you’re spoiling me; two books by Fiona Peart in one batch! Seriously, though, Fiona is rapidly colonising the market in good, clear flower painting books and this is one of the best, even though it’s masquerading as one for the complete beginner.

I must say that I’m particularly impressed by the way she’s managed to introduce some quite loose touches into a format (the pre-drawn tracings) that you’d instinctively think would preclude them. At this point, I’d normally be telling you that I’m not sure what a vibrant painting is, even if I do think I know one when I see one. Here, however, it’s clear: it’s those loose touches combined with a willingness to use quite bright (and yet not inappropriate) colours that bring light and vivacity to the results.

As with the book on Mackintosh Flowers, there’s a huge amount here that should please and instruct even the most experienced flower painter and the book is a positive triumph.

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Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Watercolour Flowers (Ready to Paint) || Fiona Peart

Charles Rennie Mackintosh is one of the most iconic designers of the twentieth century and his style falls somewhere between Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts, taking the best of both and distilling them into something simple, elegant and timeless.

As such, any book that looks at his flower painting is going to have a lot to teach you about bringing those qualities to a subject that positively cries out for them. Using the pre-drawn tracings that are the bedrock of this series, Fiona Peart includes five classic images ranging from single blooms and stems to varied arrangements.

This isn’t a book just (even?) for the beginner. If you feel anything but confident with your flower painting, give it a go. The approach is elementary, but the results are anything but that.

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Watercolour Washes (How to Paint) || Fiona Peart

Now here’s something the world has been needing for a good number of years – a really good, simple introduction to the mysteries of the watercolour wash.

Fiona Peart’s loose, relaxed style is ideally suited to this most basic of techniques, which she approaches in a way that even the most inexperienced beginner should have no trouble following. The wash is, of course, one of watercolour’s best tricks, allowing subtle shading and blending as well as impressionistic backgrounds that can make the main subject really stand out. A lot of books talking about skies will begin, for example, by saying, “lay a basic wash of Cerulean Blue mixed with a little Payne’s Gray” and assume you know how.

If the wash is watercolour’s trick, then Fiona has one of her own: she paints a superb variety of subjects – flowers, figures, waterscapes, buildings – all using washes. Ordinarily, this is probably more than you’d want or need to do, but it does serve to emphasise just how versatile a wash can be. All this is on top of an introduction to basic materials and techniques, making this one of the best value books you can buy.

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30 Minute Watercolours || Fiona Peart

The idea of the quick painting is that it teaches you to see and work quickly, visualising your subject in a short time and then getting it down on paper or canvas with a minimum of fiddling and thus retaining the freshness of what attracted you in the first place. “Sketching, in other words”, I hear from the back. Well, yes, but only up to a point, because sketching doesn’t actually have a time limit and you can spend hours recording a series of quite small details that are notes to a later work; a sketch is not necessarily a painting in itself.

Overdone, this quick-working technique can lead you into bad habits (“30 minutes, bah, I’ll give you The 10-Minute Watercolour”) and sloppy working where the timing is more important than the result. However, sensitively handled, it can teach you to take in a scene almost at a glance, to concentrate on the subject that attracted you in the first place and not to worry about (and at) all the details that surround it. Many artists have had a go at it, from Edward Wesson’s varnishing brush or Ron Ranson’s hake, both big brushes that provided the broad stroke and defied fiddling, and it’s a valuable teaching aid. I also suspect that it’s an excuse for publishers to come up with a series of small books that don’t obviously duplicate all the other small books that are out there. Cynical? Moi?

What you get here is a series of ideas and executions that stand out for their simplicity and freshness. Did they all take exactly half an hour? Well, frankly, am I bovvered? These are images with a minimum of detail, the painting equivalent of a good spring clean or some decluttering. It’s a book to flick through and stop when you see something that makes you go, “ooh”, or just at random. For something so simple, you’ll be surprised if I say it probably has more for the experienced painter than the beginner, just because it’s a way of blowing out the cobwebs and stimulating new ideas rather than a manual.

It’s fresh and it’s interesting. Don’t expect a clearly structured course of instruction, or even a list of ideas. Do expect to be intrigued, maybe surprised, and certainly stimulated.

Collins 2007

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