Archive for category Author: Kevin Scully

Painting Landscapes || Kevin Scully

This is slightly spooky. No sooner have I written about one book on landscape painting from Crowood than another one turns up. This one is much more aimed at practical aspects and sticks to the opaque media: oils, acrylics and alkyd.

As is the style with this publisher’s approach, the text is much more discursive and, along with the sort of instructions you expect in a demonstration, there is a lot more explanation of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. If you are really more interested in the general than the specific, this will appeal: you learn how to paint anything, rather than just what the author happens to put in front of you. As the old adage has it: give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach him how to fish and you feed him for life.

Why aren’t all books like this, you might ask? Well, not everyone wants what we might call the deeper philosophies or to get bogged down in what they see as detail. At the start, clear, simple instructions are best. It’s only as you progress that you begin to want, or even need, the details of what’s happening under the hood. These are books for the more experienced artist and the style, authors and level of work reflect that.

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Painting Still Life in Gouache || Kevin Scully

I always get a slight sense of time-warp when I pick up a book from Crowood. That’s no bad thing and I’m sure a lot of people are in fact going to like their approach, which is a lot more wordy than many books these days. The tendency in most practical books is to be illustration-led, with extended captions making the links and relying on the pictures to carry the message. Increasing the text has the downside of sometimes submerging the images and, in some cases, making them too small in order to accommodate the verbiage. That’s if it’s done badly. Although the sense, when you flick through a Crowood book is indeed of a lot of text you will, if you slow down, also notice that the illustrations are well-reproduced and given quite as much space as they need. Some are indeed quarter-page, but they’re usually the footnotes that are at least as small in other books. The main event is still full page and enhanced by the glossy paper the publisher usually uses.

There are up and downsides to this approach, of course. The first obstacle is that you need an artist who can write and that’s not a given. People who think visually aren’t always good when plonked in front of a typewriter and the natural writer may not be the best artist. It’s a book editor’s nightmare! On the other hand, strike a balance, as we have here, and you have the chance for some reasoned discussion and explanation of the hows and whys, the choice of destination and the possible routes to it. It does mean that, if you’re looking for clear and simple teaching, you may not so easily find it but, if you want a more mature consideration, these are books you’ll welcome and blaze a trail to.

Having said all that, there’s not a great deal more to add in this particular case. Kevin Scully discusses (I think we’ve agreed we can use that word) two subjects that don’t get a lot of coverage – still life as a subject and gouache as a medium. He does so thoughtfully and in considerable detail so that, if this is a combination you want, you’ll probably find this is the only book you’ll need.

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