Archive for category Author: Joe Francis Dowden

How to Paint Water in Watercolour || Joe Francis Dowden

This is another of the bind-ups and re-workings that Search Press are making something of a speciality of at the moment. I think that needs to be said, if only to alert buyers to the fact that it is not all new material. And, as ever, the job has been done so well that you might, at first glance, think that it is.

This is based on two previous volumes, Watercolour Tips & Techniques: Painting Water from 2003 and 2014’s Joe Dowden’s Complete Guide to Painting Water in Watercolour. Only a cynic would question why the latter needs any augmentation, so I will. The simple fact of it is: simplicity. The Complete Guide was encyclopaedic in its content and something for the more experienced practitioner. The Tips & Techniques title is perhaps beginning to look a little dated and was rather more elementary. There’s clear space for something in between and, while water is not a subject that books exactly ignore, if you have Joe Dowden on hand, why not make use of him?

Bind-ups often suffer from being exactly that. Every book has its own introductory material and ways in, as well as idiosyncrasies and shoving multiple titles together leads to repetition and ungainly jumps. What you need to do is extract the best, or most suitable, bits from each one and then re-originate so that the new work is genuinely new and has a coherence of its own. If you can see the joins, it hasn’t worked.

Search Press have, as I’ve remarked, form on this and it’s very good form. This has a nice progression to it and works perfectly as an introductory course in painting water that won’t blind the beginner with science or, for that matter, leave the more experienced tutting with frustration. Those amongst you eyeing up your backlists, take note.

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Watercolour Landscapes step-by-step || Geoff Kersey, Wendy Jelbert, Arnold Lowrey, Barry Herinman, Ray Campbell Smith and Joe Francis Dowden

This is another of Search Press’s bind-ups of previous material and I’m still not sure whether I’ve reviewed it before or not – or maybe in a slightly different guise. They’ve got very good at this latterly and, rather than obvious joins where one book ends and another begins, the whole thing is now seamless.

The material may not be new, but it’s still sound and the reproduction is as fresh as it ever was, so this isn’t resurrecting a corpse but bringing excellent material to a potential new audience at a very affordable price.

As well as some technical pieces on things like perspective and composition, demonstrations from popular authors cover trees, water, snow, buildings and so on (and on). If you have other books by these authors, you’d need to check for duplication but, equally, there’s so much here, you probably won’t be getting too much cross-over.

If you only have a small library and are on a budget into the bargain, you could do a great deal worse than invest in this.

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Joe Dowden’s Complete Guide to Painting Water in Watercolour || Joe Francis Dowden

When it comes to water, Joe Dowden’s your man. If you want that elusive quality of depth and solidity, the way water occupies rather than lying on a surface, he’s got it. One of the exercises in this genuinely comprehensive book is of a wet pavement, a simple subject that’s really tricky because the water and the flagstones are effectively the same thing, but he pulls it off perfectly. Another is a child running through the shallow ripples at the edge of the tide and, again, he manages to get the passing-through-ness without the feet being engulfed or somehow tripping along on top. Both these little moments are virtuoso performances that aren’t even the big set pieces of the book.

Joe doesn’t just paint water, but the things that surround water – trees, landscapes, people (he’s particularly good on people), boats and light. The thing about water is that it’s a reactive subject, informed and shaped by the things that illuminate it, reflect in and off it and shape it with waves, ripples and spray.

There’s a huge amount of material here and I can’t find a stone that isn’t – often literally – left unturned. Books that make big claims sometimes fail to live up to them and need a qualification, but this delivers everything you could want.

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Handbook of Watercolour Landscapes Tips & Techniques || Richard Bolton, Geoff Kersey, Joe Francis Dowden & Janet Whittle

This is a reissue of a book that first appeared as a compilation in 2009 and as individual volumes between 2002 and 2006.

The difference is that it’s now a much smaller format. That doesn’t mean that the design has been changed, or the page count increased. No, it’s just been shrunk so that some of the illustrations are now postage stamp-sized. Why do publishers do this? What is the attraction of a book you have to squint to see? I’ll grant that the standard of reproduction is such that most of the pictures will stand this, but what was wrong with the A4-ish format?

It’s also a bit of an oddball contents-wise. Richard Bolton on Landscapes and Nature is on message and I’ll buy Geoff Kersey’s Skies, but Joe Dowden is exclusively water, and not really with –scapes in there either, and Janet Whittle’s Flowers and Plants are of themselves and without any setting.

At full-size, I’d also maybe buy the £12.99 price tag, but at half that, it looks a tad expensive. I suspect that it’s a book that’ll get bought as a gift. I really can’t see anyone buying it for themselves.

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Venice in Watercolour (Ready to Paint) || Joe Francis Dowden

Whether to publish a series of books on painting in specific places has been the subject of often quite anguished discussions over the years. On the one hand, people go on holiday and the idea of a guide to where to look, what to paint and what materials to take looks like the proverbial no-brainer. On the other hand, books on painting on holiday sell like stale cakes.

So it’s quite amusing to find that the Ready to Paint series has developed a branch that takes this idea one step further, with its pre-printed tracings of classic subjects in a variety of cities. But then again, with all that done for you, do you really need to spring for the air ticket as well? The real purpose here, it seems to me, is that you can paint the Grand Canal at sunset in the comfort of your own living room, and get make a decent fist of it at the same time. I mean, what’s not to like? (That was a rhetorical question, please don’t write in.)

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Watercolour Landscapes Tips & Techniques

This is another of Search Press’s bind-ups of several titles from the same series. Once again, if you haven’t already got most of the titles included, it’s very good value.

For the record, what you get is:

Painting Landscapes & Nature by Richard Bolton
Painting Skies by Geoff Kersey
Painting Water by Joe Francis Dowden
Painting Flowers & Plants by Janet Whittle

The Tips and Techniques series is aimed at artists who already have a little experience and features specific topics and subjects for them to develop their style and technique. There are step-by-step demonstrations as well as analyses of completed paintings and the whole is nicely balanced.

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The Landscape Painter's Essential Handbook || Joe Francis Dowden

Joe Dowden is widely renowned as a teacher and demonstrator and his experience flows out of every page of this book. Subtitled “how to paint 50 beautiful landscapes in watercolour”, it’s a quick canter through just about every type of subject you could wish for. At this pace, there isn’t time to hang around for long and each one only gets a single double-page spread; if it’s a detailed, structured course you’re looking for, then this probably isn’t it. Nonetheless, Joe packs a lot into a small space and he is adept at picking on the key points, explaining and illustrating them clearly.

Joe’s work may not reek with originality, but there’s a comfort about it, a sense of place and of reality – you can believe that every one of these locations does actually exist – and that provides a painting that the viewer, too, can believe in. Painting is, as much as anything else, about presentation and Joe gets this right every time.

This is a book which is mostly going to appeal to those who have acquired some basic painting skills and are wanting to progress with landscapes and it offers quick results that can only help build confidence. Most people in this position are going to feel quite happy if they can paint like Joe (and this is not to put either them, or him, down); he has an achievable style that you feel you can work towards and, by not getting bogged down in detail, he’ll keep you with him all the way.

David & Charles 2007
£18.99

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