Archive for category Author: Patricia Seligman

Be An Artist in 10 Steps || Ian Sidaway & Patricia Seligman

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.

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The Watercolour Flower Painter's Handbook || Patricia Seligman

Flower painting is probably the most widely covered subject in art. Whether you want paint flowers in the landscape, flower portraits, still lifes or detailed botanical studies, you’ll be able to find at least one book covering that aspect in some detail.

Given its rather small format you might be forgiven, then, for passing this one by, but that would be to miss what is, in fact, a rather original approach. At its simplest, this book doesn’t actually tell you how to paint flowers at all. There’s some basic advice at the beginning on choosing materials, keeping a sketchbook, learning to look (which is basically about flower structures and shapes, lighting and composition) and a section on mixing colours. All of this is done in 28 pages and, good though it is, a lot of it is likely to be familiar, so it’s commendable that it doesn’t occupy are more precious space!

The rest of the 144 pages (what this book lacks in size it makes up for in length) are taken up with 13 artists talking about their individual approaches to painting flowers and specific aspects that interest them and it’s worth listing them all to give you an idea of the variety you’re getting:

Peggy Macnamara: Slow Studies
Jane Leycester-Paige: Wild Flowers As They Grow
Marene Hill Donnelly: Sketching In The Field
Sharon Himes: Experiencing Nature Through Sketching
Iris Edey: Love Affair With Nature
Ann Blockley: Interpreting Flowers
Freda Cox: Floral Abundance On Every Page
Lizzie Harper: Closely Observed Flowers
Olivia Petrides: Observing And Recording Nature
Carole Andrews: Painting Flowers: Life & Light
Sally Robertson: The Art Of The Contour Line
Ann Smith: Exuberance of Scale
Tracy Hall: Learning Through Detailed Sketching

The book is very attractively presented as though taken from an artist’s sketchbook, but this is not done to an extreme where it becomes mannered or gets in the way of what it’s trying to put across. The loose placing of the illustrations (the pages are not designed to a rigid grid) gives an impression of a profusion of material – which indeed there is. It’s subtitled “Step by step demonstrations and practical advice”. Although the former aren’t a major feature, there’s no doubt that there is plenty that’s of very practical use in here. It’s probably not a book for someone just starting to paint flowers, but it’s one to enjoy if you’ve already got a bit of experience and you should pick up a lot of useful tips, too.

Year published: 2005
List price: £12.99

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