Archive for category Medium: Acrylic

Painting Dog Portraits in Acrylics || Dave White

This extensive study will tell you everything you could conceivably want to know about painting dogs. It is not, it should be said, a guide for the beginner and Dave makes no attempt to explain the very basics. However, if you have some facility with painting in general and animals in particular, you’re unlikely to want any more than you get here.

There’s plenty of technical information about hair, fur, eyes, ears, noses and structure as well as the all-important methods of combining all those details into a result that looks like your subject. Dave is a professional dog painter and his audience – the owners themselves – is a demanding one. They don’t want a dog, they want their dog and Dave explains what to look for in order to capture the character of the subject as well as how to transfer that to canvas.

Although there is a section on working from photographs, which can provide a useful aide-mémoire, Dave explains the importance of spending time with the animal you’re about to paint in order to get to know it properly. He also deals with the important but often overlooked matter of the owner, of how the two relate and also what the person who is ultimately paying for the work is looking for.

This is a thorough and thoughtful guide that delivers on every count.

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Acrylics || Adrian Burrows

This is a further instalment in GMC’s series of media guides for the complete beginner. Slim and uncomplicated, these introduce basic techniques in a straightforward manner and include lessons, exercises and demonstrations that will guide even the most tentative through the processes required.

There isn’t a lot more to say than that. Adrian Burrows’ style is readily accessible and he includes a good variety of subjects and techniques. That he mostly works in the oil rather than the watercolour/wash style is no bad thing as it reduces complication and confusion. These are not intended to be exhaustive guides, and certainly not masterclasses – there are plenty of books that offer further study if you decide that the medium is for you and you want to take it further.

As a starting point, this is hard to better.

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Abstract Acrylics || Waltraud Nawratil

If you want to experiment with abstraction, but are unsure where to start, this handy guide offers a series of simple lessons that will get you pointed in the right direction.

The images included have at least one foot firmly entrenched in representation and the technique is mainly one of working with colours, shapes and spaces while keeping the main subject broadly recognisable. Each of the 27 projects occupies only a single spread, so there are no multiple and detailed steps to follow – these are ideas rather than full-on demonstrations and this is a book more about seeing and interpreting than it is about technical details. For all that, Waltraud looks at a good variety of ways of working, including transferred images, spray painting, knife-work and mixed media.

In some cases, the work is medium-specific but, as a lot of it is also about observation and inspiration, there’s plenty here that should appeal even if you don’t work in acrylics.

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Learn Acrylics Quickly || Soraya French

This series from Batsford is shaping up nicely. The key to its success is to use authors who are at home with larger books, rather than to assume that, because the format is simple, the approach can be too. In fact, it’s quite the opposite and simplicity requires greater communication skill than does complexity.

Soraya French has a pleasant, approachable and colourful style that suits the medium well. The series method is to concentrate on illustrations, explain them with straightforward captions and link them with concise paragraphs that carry the narrative and the reader forward and retain their interest.

There’s plenty here, from different types of acrylic to colours and colour mixing, working methods and a good range of subjects. If you want to get started, this will live up to its title and get you producing worthwhile results with a minimum of fuss. The more experienced student might also find it a handy source of recapping and revision.

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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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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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Learn to Paint Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings || Mark Daniel Nelson

I am now completely confused. When I saw this, I didn’t like it. It doesn’t compare well with its companion volume on watercolour and seems to lack the fizz that has. However, I now realise that it is, in fact, a reissue of Little Ways to Learn Acrylics, which I liked a lot.

The moral of this, I think, is always to check that books aren’t quiet reissues (this one isn’t completely silent and is acknowledged in small print on the title page). What is interesting, though, is how perception can change when comparison is made to something else. In this case, Learn to Paint in Watercolour with 50 Small Paintings has a huge amount of originality and this now looks like a pale comparison and a feeble attempt to jump on a series bandwagon. And yet it’s the same book that I liked two years ago.

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