Archive for category Medium: Acrylic

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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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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