Archive for category Medium: Acrylic

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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Painting Urban and Cityscapes || Hashim Akib

Time was, you couldn’t shift books on townscapes for love nor money. Now, we seem to be drowning in them. I’m not sure what has caused the shift; there’s been no great move to cities, no evidence that we’ve suddenly fallen in love with them, no explosion of interest in art (that I’ve detected) among the urban population. The fact is, though, that drawing and sketching in towns has gained popularity quite suddenly and there have been some fascinating books as a result.

This volume is slightly different, in that it concentrates on painting, a slower and more considered process than a few minutes spent with a sketchbook and some pencils. It does, however, retain the same vibrancy that the sketching books labour to maintain. Hashim Akib’s style absolutely lends itself to the subject and his work is permeated by a sense of movement and colour that suits street scenes.

Hashim considers all the aspects of city working, from techniques to composition, perspective and weather. The presentation of the book is as a discussion rather than a series of demonstrations and it’s definitely something to read at leisure rather than work through. There are plenty of illustrations and explanations that will give you ideas as well as clarify the points being made. The medium is largely acrylic, used in impasto, and it is these blocks of colour that mainly give the results the life they exude.

The book sparkles with the confidence of an author who’s on comfortable home ground, making it one of the most worthwhile of these guides around.

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How to Paint Atmospheric Landscapes in Acrylics || Fraser Scarfe

Apart from the fact that it’s a substantial offering, the first thing that strikes you about this rather beautiful new book is the quote from John Constable on the front flap. Let’s be clear, it’s the only thing on the front flap, so it wants you to take notice. It’s bold and confident, being if nothing else, a hostage to fortune – it’s a lot to live up to. The gist of the quote is that the world is constantly changing, “no two days are alike, nor even two hours; nor were there ever two leaves of a tree alike”. In short, it’s about the moment, and that’s where the atmosphere comes from.

At 192 pages this is, as I said, a substantial volume and Fraser makes full use of the available space to discuss a good variety of subjects, lighting conditions and seasons as well as materials and the practicalities of working outdoors. Given room, authors too often indulge themselves or go off a tangents. Fraser, however, has a clear plan and the book flows nicely and includes plenty of generously-sized illustrations without resorting to endless demonstrations with almost identical steps.

As well as all the variations above, there’s also handy information on skies, clouds, trees, buildings and other elements that go to make up a scene. I do have a couple of reservations: Fraser’s style can be rather dark and Old Masterly. I’m writing this review a couple of weeks before Christmas. It’s already dark and I haven’t had my tea yet, so maybe I’m feeling a little jaded and in need of summer meadows. The other thing is that, although Fraser is very good at buildings on the skyline, he’s not so hot when they’re close up. There are only a few of these, though, so you can ignore them without feeling short-changed.

One thing I particularly like is a clever detail of the production. When it matters, the paintings are photographed in raking light so that you can see the texture of the impasto, which adds a lot, just where it matters. I haven’t seen it before and it’s a nice touch.

Overall, this is an impressive book that’s well worth its not excessive cover price.

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The Acrylic Painter || James van Patten

A lot of books on acrylic painting tend to concentrate on its appeal to the beginner. It’s easy to see why – something opaque and quick-drying is relatively easy to handle. At the same time, it is often dismissed as suitable for fine art for the same reasons, as well as its poster paint associations. Great Art demands oils, although professional painters have long realised that something which doesn’t take six months to dry can (at least in theory) be painted one day and sold the next.

When acrylics first appeared, the range of colours was somewhat limited and drying times were ultra-quick, leading to a whole new range of problems. All that, however, has been addressed: artist’s quality paints are available in a full range of colours and there are plenty of retarder mediums that allow full control over drying. It has, in a word, come of age.

This comprehensive survey provides a through overview of techniques and practice with acrylics. It doesn’t attempt to be an in-depth study of everything – that would result in multiple heavy volumes, but James does cover an excellent range of topics, both practical and aesthetic. If you paint in acrylics and want something that takes the medium, and you, seriously, this is it.

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Abstract Nature || Waltraud Nawratil

Open this and the first thing that’s going to strike you are the blocks of frankly garish colour behind some of the text. It’s a shame, as they tend to overshadow the illustrations, which are similarly bright. It’s worth mentioning at the outset and you shouldn’t let it put you off what is an excellent and useful guide.

If you’re interested in abstraction but unsure of where and how to get started, this is a very good jumping-off point. Each demonstration occupies only 2 or 4 pages and is very straightforward, with a finished result, an enlarged detail, a materials list and a short series of simple steps. There is guidance in the introductory section on basic techniques and what to look for.

In truth, this isn’t pure abstraction, and every example is easily recognisable. Rather, it’s more an exploration of the limits of representation, and it’s none the worse for that. Abstraction itself is the culmination of a journey of which this is a part and you should be able to take further steps yourself once you’ve mastered the basics.

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Pop Art || Thomas Böhler

If you want to tick the retro box and are into what seems to be a minor vogue for imitation, you’ll love this. And I’m sorry if that sounds like faint praise, because it isn’t meant to be. This is going to have a very definite audience and I can’t help feeling it’s something you’re either going to want the moment you see it, or never want to see again.

But let’s concentrate on the positives. Pop art is about bright colours, usually counted in single figures in one image. The Coke bottle (cautiously labelled “cola”) in blue on an orange background instantly references Andy Warhol’s soup can, and the author openly acknowledges this. There are other striking images, most of whose influences you’ll recognise even if you can’t immediately place them.

This is a slim, inexpensive volume that won’t tax either your wallet or your time. The author has had the good sense to accept that most people will approach this subject as a piece of fun, neither needing nor wanting and in-depth study. Pop art was about the throw-away society and didn’t expect you to spend time on it, so the book is entirely consistent in reflecting that. It’s striking, easy to follow and exactly as much fun as it needs and is intended to be.

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Glyn Macey’s World of Acrylics

There’s what amounts to a neologism in the subtitle to this: “How to paint sea, sky, land and life”. That’s right, “life” – not nature, animals or portraits, just life. This is a clue to the style of the book, and to Glyn’s work, which is itself full of vitality, like the man himself. I said quite a lot about this in relation to his first book.

Flick quickly through the pages here and you get the feeling more of a magazine than a book. You’ll see images, features and stand-outs rather than the more usual progression of projects, exercises and demonstrations. Delve further, though, and they’re all there; it’s just that the design brings Glyn’s own dynamism to the pages. I must say I like it and, if this is a new dimension in the layout of books, you can say you saw it here first. That doesn’t mean that I want all future publications to be about appearance rather than content, form rather than function, just that it works here and I think it’s worth following up.

Glyn is a passionate ambassador for his medium – not as an end in itself, but for what it can do – and this is a book that takes paint, brushes and supports by the scruff of their necks and explores their possibilities. Although Glyn is more or less a representational painter, it’s images rather than depictions that are his stock in trade and it’s the colours, tones, shades and brushwork that convey the subject rather than detailed observation. That’s not to say that he doesn’t observe at all: distillations only come from intimate understanding.

So, in sum, this isn’t a book about how to paint, it’s a book about how to paint. In the immortal words of Captain Beefheart: get me? What I mean is that this is a celebration of both painting and of acrylics. It’s about understanding your subject and feeling passionate about painting it. It’s about exploration, not least in the challenges it presents, such as “What next” and “What else could you do” that take each demonstration beyond its normal confines. Every stage is a jumping-off point for something else, every successful exercise a challenge for the next one and the journey is never complete. It’s an exhilarating, thrilling ride and the joy is that there may be no safety net.

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