Archive for category Author: Matthew Palmer

Take Three Colours: Watercolour Mountains || Matthew Palmer

The latest instalment in this user-friendly series is a worthy addition to the canon. Matthew Palmer is an intelligent and sympathetic tutor who carries his abilities lightly. There’s nothing too ambitious and he is happy to take a back seat and let the student work at their own pace. There’s no grandstanding or showmanship, just solid, honest instructions and demonstrations that produce solid, worthwhile results.

It’s a Yes from me.

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Matthew Palmer’s Step-by-Step Guide to Watercolour Painting

There is always room for a good solid introduction to any subject, and this is one of the best on watercolour.

Just picking it up gives an immediate and encouragingly meaty feel. It’s substantial at 144 pages and, with the added outlines in the middle, really quite heavy. Physical feel, of course, means nothing if the content is lightweight and it’s good to know that there’s plenty here to get your teeth into. We open with a good discussion of materials that will aid the tyro though the maze of what’s available before moving on to a look at inspiration. This is the basic “what am I going to paint and where am I going to find it”, but the language used is serious and assumes that the reader is too. It’s nice to see at this level and this early in the book. Again, it inspires and engenders confidence.

After a look at basic techniques and how to use colour, the first exercise appears as early as page 38. Art is a visual medium and there’s nothing worse than having to wade through acres of talk before you get to work. You want to paint, you bought all those materials so come on, let’s get down to it – and we do. Nothing too taxing: it’s a very basic scene of some hills with a simple foreground and a graduated sky. Follow the six stages, each with its own series of steps and you’d be hard put to it to get it wrong. Look, your first painting, on day one. Way to go!

The rest of the book introduces more subjects, techniques and complexity. It’s beautifully structured, thoroughly explained and very easy to follow. And, in case you get stuck, there are the aforesaid tracings that help you get the basic sketch right. Build on solid foundations and the structure will stand.

I really don’t think you could better this.

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Matthew Palmer’s Step-by-Step Guide to Watercolour Painting/Acrylics for the Absolute Beginner || Charles Evans

These two introductions to watercolour and acrylics are published in conjunction with the SAA and are not unlike the old What to Paint series that was an early development of Ready to Paint.

Both books begin with an introduction to techniques that assumes little prior knowledge and is designed to set you on the right path from the outset. They each then build to a series of projects for which outlines are provided, allowing you to get the basic drawing with proportions and perspective out of the way without having to worry about it. This approach has proved so popular that Search Press are making quite widespread (but always appropriate) use of it.

You could argue that perspective and proportion are two of the most important aspects of art and that having them done for you is not just cheating, but flattering to deceive; if you don’t tackle them at some point, you’ll never succeed as an artist. All this is true, but it’s also true that getting bogged down in technique can be massively discouraging and that success makes you want to go on and learn more. As long as you know you can only walk, you’re less likely to try to run before you’re ready.

Both of these books will get you painting and have you producing results early and reliably. This is about learning reasonably quickly and having fun – if you find you have some talent and want to progress, there are plenty of other books that will help you in that direction. You can also join the SAA and benefit from all the services they provide.

Basically, it’s a winner all round and these are well thought-out and nicely progressive books that take as much of the mystique out of painting as is possible.

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Painting Without Paint – landscapes with your tablet || Matthew Palmer

There’s been a fairly steady stream of books on digital art over the years and they’ve got progressively simpler. The early ones required a desktop pc and a digitising tablet and also had to accommodate a wide variety of software packages, all of them more than subtly different in their approaches. The results were usually confusing and could make a computer manual look like easy bedtime reading. And then along came tablets. Suddenly, everything got simpler, with on-screen drawing and apps that imitated the conventional painting process as far as possible. There was still the technology gap to bridge, though. A digital image doesn’t work exactly like paper or canvas and working in layers involves a bit more than just adding more paint on top of what’s already there. It does allow for a great deal of flexibility, though.

There’s a review of what is probably the very best guide so far to working with tablets elsewhere in this batch of reviews. This more basic volume, though, is far from playing second fiddle.

As I hinted before, there are complications and paradigm shifts to digital art. You have to get used to working in different ways and with what’s effectively a new medium that bears little resemblance to any other (even if it tries to pretend it does). What Matthew does here is to treat digital as a medium for the beginner. He works with a preferred app, avoiding the need for multiple visits to the same topic, a basic range of virtual brushes and, when it comes to layers, sticks to three. Master the basics and you’re more than halfway to understanding; the rest can come later. All of these are explained in language that will be familiar to the artist and in as few pages as possible, all of which can be done by avoiding complication. There are also some straightforward demonstrations you can follow to make sure you’ve picked things up correctly.

The whole approach is remarkably successful and should cut through any apprehension you may have about technology. Some familiarity with hand-held touchscreen devices is probably desirable, but that’s about it.

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Watercolour For The Absolute Beginner || Matthew Palmer

Matthew Palmer is an experienced teacher of beginners’ courses and also the engaging presenter of A Splash of Paint on the SAA’s Painting & Drawing TV channel.

This is an encouraging pedigree that augurs well for what purports to be an absolute from-the-basics guide that assumes no prior knowledge or experience and merely an enthusiasm to get started.

So, does it live up to its billing? Well, starting from an introduction to materials, we’re into simple drawing by page 12. These are easy shapes, but you will have got under way with buildings, boats, people and animals almost immediately, and this can do nothing but inspire confidence. Just a few lines and it turns out you can do it after all! It’s the same with composition and perspective, each explained in only a few pages and without any added complication. It’s not the full story, of course, but it’s enough to get you on to the next stage.

Before long, we’re into demonstrations of trees, skies and water. Things are beginning to take shape nicely and you’re ready for the first full painting, with a detailed step-by-step demonstration for which there is also a pull-out tracing in the manner of the Ready To Paint series. Further demonstrations (also with tracings) bring further subjects and techniques into play.

It’s all very gentle, very progressive and, above all, it proceeds by results, which can be nothing but encouraging. If you want to learn to paint, but don’t know where to start, start here.

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