Archive for category Medium: Coloured Pencil

The 15-Minute Artist || Catherine V Holmes

Can you? Really? Should you? I’m no fan of the art-if-you-have-no-time school of book, which this proclaims itself to be. On the other hand, something that teaches you to get an image down quickly, without fiddling, while the idea is fresh in your mind and before it gets up and goes off for its lunch, I don’t have a problem with that.

So, let’s pretend, for all its protestation, that this is one of the latter. The idea of reducing the steps of drawing a wide range of subjects to a few simple stages can be liberating and enlightening, although it can also frustrate if the step reduction is achieved simply by leaving a lot out. Although there’s a tendency to do that here, the steps that are included do actually progress nicely and I don’t think you’d be too bothered by having to make giant leaps completely on your own.

The subjects chosen are, frankly, a bit weird. There’s a lightbulb, a paintbrush, a serpent and an ant. Yeah, me too, though there are also some animals and birds and what you get taught does handle what are often complex shapes rather well. The author’s style is a bit flat and unadventurous, but that also makes the book easy to follow and is, I think, one of the reasons the truncated demonstrations are easy to follow – neither of you is trying to do too much at once.

I can’t honestly say this is a must-have book but, if you want an introduction that doesn’t ask you to spend hours on a single drawing and doesn’t tax your skills too much too early, it could be quite useful.

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Colour-Pencil Drawing || Kendra Ferreira

In a field that’s not widely covered, any book is welcome, and a good one doubly so. It’s therefore something of a relief to be able to report that this ticks all the boxes.

This media-related series from GMC is intended to be fairly elementary, but the variety of subjects covered here and the quality of the results – well-reproduced so that the individual marks are easy to distinguish – should satisfy more than just the raw beginner.

The nature of the book, both in terms of scope and extent, precludes any examination of anything other than fairly basic pencil types, but both dry and water-soluble ones get a look-in, which allows for a decent variety of styles to be considered. Subjects range from landscapes and skies to still lifes, people and animals. There are plenty of exercises and demonstrations as well as a pleasantly inclusive look at materials and techniques.

Although this is not intended to be an absolutely comprehensive look at the medium that would satisfy the most demanding specialist, it nevertheless goes a lot further than being merely a quick introductory guide and is a welcome addition to a fairly small body of literature.

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Botanical Illustration From Life || Işik Güner

Isn’t all proper botanical illustration done from life?, asks a pedant. It’s a valid question, though, but one which is also unfair given the wide range of books available on the subject and relative shortage of titles.

The first thing that should be said is that this is not a manual for the budding botanical illustrator. The style of work that appears here is not the sort that would grace a species identification guide. The manner, however, is much more than the more relaxed plant portrait and includes sufficient detail for even the most demanding general painter of natural subjects.

What it does offer is probably the most thorough guide to top-end botanical painting you could wish for. At 208 pages, it’s a substantial tome and the space is not wasted. There are no establishing shots and few intrusive hands or photos of the artist at work. Rather, there are the exercises and demonstrations you’d expect, but also extensive analyses of flower, leaf and stem structure, all illustrated with some really rather exquisite paintings that make this more scientific aspect not merely interesting but a joy to work with. It’s about art and so it should be artistic.

Just about every aspect of botanical subjects is covered – I mentioned flowers, leaves and stems, but roots, fruit and seeds are here too. These, though, are only the subject matter and the technical aspects of portraying them are dealt with extensively as well. Once again, the extent is put to good use and, despite the comprehensive nature of the coverage, there’s never any sense of rush, or of things being crammed in. The pages are relaxed and very user-friendly

I quibbled over the title. If I was going to choose, I might call it The Complete Guide to Botanical Painting, but that’s probably been bagged already.

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Colored Pencil Painting Portraits || Alyona Nickelsen

Thorough and comprehensive, this is more than just a practical guide. Aloyna includes historical examples that set modern approaches in context and show how portrait painting has developed over the centuries. As well as exercises and demonstrations, there are example poses, explanations of skin tones, facial features and structure, and extended consideration of the medium itself.

The subtitle refers to “a revolutionary method for rendering depth and imitating life”, which is a harmless enough strapline to aid sales. The blurb glosses this as “new layering tools and techniques”, although I do seem to have heard similar claims elsewhere. I’m not debunking the claim or the superb quality of the book, but I suspect that the author hasn’t in fact discovered something completely new, but rather adapted the glazing-like approach that coloured pencil artists have been using for some time. For all that, the results are impressive and the explanation of how to achieve them well executed, so you’d have nothing to complain about.

Watson Guptill books are characterised by their assiduous approach and detailed explanations and this is no exception. It’s one to read as well as work along with and an excellent masterclass in its subject.

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Bird Art || Alan Woollett

This is not, I think it’s fair to say, for the faint-hearted. Birds are a challenge to paint at the best of times, but in this detail, you need absolute confidence with your materials and techniques. If you’re up for it, however, this guide will satisfy the most demanding exponent. If you think of the difference between basic flower painting and botanical illustration, you’ll get the idea of what’s involved. Back when I was selling books, I was always surprised by how well this kind of thing did, so I think there’s a solid market.

The medium used is graphite and coloured pencils, which are capable of great subtlety of shading and record fine detail readily. The book has, as you’d expect, plenty of step-by-step demonstrations, but the way they’re incorporated into the overall instruction is interesting. Rather than an introductory section on materials and techniques that is separate from the main work, Alan plunges pretty much straight in. There’s no real “basic” section, but rather considerations of composition, colour, structure and the overall shape of the finished work: “leaving space” is some of the soundest advice here.

There are more words in this than you sometimes get in instructional books, but also plenty of illustrations and this betokens the fact that Alan is under no illusions about the magnitude of the task he has set himself. Although I said that this is not a book for the beginner, he doesn’t short-change the student and explains both the technical and ornithological considerations absolutely as much as is necessary.

This is a major work and Alan carries it through rather magnificently.

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The Encyclopedia of Coloured Pencil Techniques || Judy Martin

This was originally published sufficiently long ago that I’ve never reviewed it here, so let’s have a go at it as a Search Press Classic. The first thing that should be said is that there’s no clue to its age on the copyright page or in the information sheet I get in advance. I would take points off for that, but I think the “classic” billing probably has it just about covered.

The Encyclopedia series, originated by the packager Quarto, was ground-breaking in its day. Innovation often looks stale after a few years, but this still has a vitality that won’t leave you feeling you’ve been left with cast-offs, and the information is still sound. Quarto productions are always design-led and usually work on a spread-by-spread basis, so you can open this more or less at random and find a topic covered as completely as it’s going to be – which is with surprising thoroughness, given the space allocated. Quarto are always good at conveying information efficiently.

Information contained covers media, styles, subjects and techniques and there are plenty of illustrations to guide and inspire you. At £12.99, this is about the same price as it was when it was new, which is a reduction if you allow for inflation, but not a fantastic bargain. However, it’s not an unreasonable addition to the canon of Classics and emphatically one that’s worth keeping in print.

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Botanical Drawing using Graphite and Coloured Pencils || Sue Vize

Along with watercolour, pencils are a favoured medium for the botanical artist because of their ability to capture fine detail as well as blend to provide subtle colour variation.

As you would expect from Crowood Press, this is a very thorough and comprehensive guide that goes into considerable depth. As well as detailed analyses of its subject matter, it also includes step-by-step exercises that allow you to get hands-on with plenty of supervision. Each of these lists all the materials used, which are for the most part Faber Castell and Derwent. Unlike watercolours, where a limited, or relatively limited, palette is commonplace, you may need over 20 different shades for one subject. It’s worth equipping yourself, though, as you do need to be sure that you’re replicating the example exactly. Botanical illustration is not an area where interpretation is desirable.

Subject include flowers, leaves, stems, seeds and fruit and even fungi. This is a book for the serious student, who it will occupy and enlighten for a considerable period.

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