Archive for category Author: Ian Sidaway
Although this isn’t a new book, I haven’t reviewed it before and it remains an excellent introduction to and overview of the medium. Books of this type are often aimed at people who buy books for someone else “because I know you like art”. This, however, is one you might well choose for yourself.
It’s big USP is its thorough coverage of materials as diverse as pen & ink, pastel, charcoal and pencil in all their forms. At the book’s heart are 25 fully demonstrated projects that are thoroughly illustrated and explained – it’s relatively unusual to find an introductory explanation that explains why you’re doing this particular subject and what you’re expecting to learn. In terms of taking the reader seriously, it really doesn’t get any better than this.
You’ll be expecting me to say that subjects range from landscapes and seascapes to still lifes, figures and buildings and I won’t disappoint you. The variety is as it should be and the illustrations admirably clear.
If you want an introductory course in drawing, you can’t do much better. However, if you’re already reasonably competent and just want to immerse yourself in all the possibilities, this is for you as well.
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This substantial volume is a bind-up of five previously-issued titles covering drawing, watercolour, oils, acrylics and pastel. The approach in each of these was the same: paint a complete picture (a still life), learning a good variety of basic techniques in the chosen medium as you went along. Most medium guides do more or less the same thing, that is to say they give you a series of demonstrations that showcase things like colour, tone, blending, washes, brushwork and so on. Normally, though, these are quite truncated sessions that may not really result in anything more than a collection of unrelated subjects and don’t always lead to anything in the way of a coherent finished result.
Where this book differs and is, as far as I know, unique, is that the authors work their way through different elements of a single overall composition to achieve the same result, so that what you get is a much more complete work of art at the end of it and a much better idea of whether what you’ve learned has been worthwhile. All this, of course, depends on whether you are comfortable with this single-minded way of working and whether you want to paint a still life. No pain, no gain, however, and it’s worth sacrificing the variety of the more traditional approach for this more seamless way of working.
Many artists choose to concentrate on one or maybe two media, so the value of a compendium such as this is necessarily limited. I’ve always suspected that this kind of book appeals to people who think they want to paint and to others who are looking for a gift book, rather than to those who are already a rung or two up the ladder. Nevertheless, there’s no shortage of these compendium guides about, so one has to assume there’s a market, though how may of their buyers or recipients then go on to pursue their craft at any length, I wouldn’t like to guess. It’s also worth observing that this volume is, at 415 pages, both longer than most and also more expensive. Its unique approach and the quality of the authors, both of them experienced and effective teachers and writers, do on the whole justify the price though.
This rather original approach to teaching is aimed pretty firmly at the beginner and Ian does his best to demystify the whole process.
The book takes the form of a series of demonstrations based on a single still life composition, each section introducing a different technique. Where this scores is that you don’t get differences of palette, lighting or type of subject that only add further layers of complication. You can therefore see much more clearly what’s going on and concentrate on the technique in hand: impasto, layering, texture, erasing, sgraffito and so on. When the whole thing comes together in the final section, you can also see absolutely clearly how everything relates, how the different techniques have been applied to different parts of the subject and what effect they’ve had. You could even go through it again and vary what’s used where to see whether you can get a better result.
A couple of extra chapters at the end of the book extend the scope by covering flowers and landscapes, applying in more traditional step-by-step demonstrations what you’ve already learnt.
As a primer in pastel painting, this approach has much to recommend it but, although there’s a basic introduction to the medium, you might want to supplement it with another short introductory one as well, just to get you familiar with handling the pastels themselves.
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