Archive for category Medium: Coloured Pencil
Search Press have been packing a lot into their art instruction books lately, and this is no exception. It follows the pattern of Trudy’s previous books in having break-out details of completed paintings, but there are also some longer demonstrations as well as hints and tips. The overall impression is of a busy and fact-packed book, and this is borne out in practice.
Trudy begins with a useful survey of the various materials available today (and it’s become so diverse that this is rather more than the basic overview), from simple coloured pencils to those from Coloursoft and Academy and on to Iktense and Aquatone, before looking at pastels, papers and the various watercolour options. The quite detailed illustrations in this section drive out any dryness and you can easily see how the different types produce individual results. The same thing applies to the Techniques chapter, where basic marks are quickly worked up into an example – perhaps a leaf or a petal.
The detailed sections are divided into Flowers in Containers, Flowers in the Garden and Flowers in the Countryside. The categories are relatively arbitrary, but serve to avoid what could otherwise become a lengthy and perhaps even indigestible final chapter. It really doesn’t matter, because this is a section you’re going to want to dip into, pick and choose and just have a go. It’s that sort of book: do you keep reading or put it down and get drawing?
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David Howell travels light. It’s the motorbike, which doesn’t really cater for large or heavy equipment.
This stripped-down approach does, however, allow him to concentrate on the painting, the “Just Watercolour” of the title. A small half-pan box, a couple of brushes, a block of paper and a really quite generous roll of pencils are all he needs.
Ah yes, the pencils. David explains at the beginning that he doesn’t like to sketch on the watercolour block itself; rather he prefers to make a coloured pencil sketch that gets the composition, provides a record “in case anything changes” and also helps with details that may be important later.
With this done, David works straight onto the paper. His first outing, on the Somerset levels, is a series of washes that blend into one another, with more defined shapes, such as a gateway, done wet-in-wet, the result being a graduated progression of colours that captures a misty morning perfectly.
Later demonstrations at Brixham and Salcombe are more complex scenes with boats and buildings and it is interesting to see how David uses blocks of colour, building up a composition of initially unconnected shapes, gradually bringing them together using the pencil sketch as a guide.
The result is an intriguing and delightful wander through the ways of watercolour, with lots of good advice along the way.
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This is a tour de force of coloured pencil work and very much a book for the more advanced practitioner.
As well as being artistically creative, the book is also technically adventurous. Although only one author is credited, there are illustrations and demonstrations from a variety of contributors, who show us an enormous variety of work which exploits both the characteristics of pencils themselves and also their use in combination with other media.
It’s not really possible to convey just how much there is here or how varied and surprising the results are unless you can see the book itself, so it’s to be hoped that the distributor can get it into shops. There are several images on the front cover, which you can see here, but they don’t convey the half of it.
This is part of a new series from North Light which comes under the umbrella title of “Essential Artist Techniques”. Octavo format, 96 pages long, they’re clearly intended as quick and easy guides and perhaps also as impulse purchases – the sort of thing a shop might put on a display table or by the till, if art books ever make it off the lower back shelves, that is.
The pleasant surprise is how well they’re done. Small books are often rather dashed off, but care has clearly been taken over the production of these and the smaller page-size isn’t an immediate disadvantage – the illustrations are mostly full or half page and it’s the text rather than the pictures that has been condensed. There’s also a lot of colour, which is also credibly placed rather than feeling as though it’s just there to make the book look more attractive.
For the subject in question, the stripped-back approach works remarkably well and there are plenty of different poses and subjects, with sketches, diagrams and fully worked drawings. It works best, I think, as something to use for specific reference rather than to progress through from start to finish. It’s also effective if you just open it at random and take what serendipity gives you. Most topics are dealt with in a single page or spread, even the demonstrations only running to 4 pages, so you can pick up an idea quickly and easily.
As an aid to stimulating the imagination, this is superb. If you want to study a topic or the whole subject in more depth, there are plenty of other books, but they can be exhaustive (and exhausting; this is a big subject) and this has a sense of freshness and pace I really like.
You could be forgiven for thinking that this franchise might be nearing the end of its shelf life and that the authors must be struggling for something new to say. However, this latest volume (the fourth, if you include Natural History Painting as part of the canon) is as fresh as ever and, in many ways, could be regarded as the best yet.
The first thing you’re likely to think is, “Hmm, exotic plants, how likely am I to come across those?” and the answer is: not much. However, open the book almost anywhere and the surprise is just how familiar the subjects are. It’s probably all down to television, the armchair explorer. Orchids, check. Carnivorous plants, check. Pak Choi and Globe Artichokes, check. Pumpkins and maize – hang on, how exotic are they? But that’s the point, you don’t have to be a Joseph Banks to be at least aware of practically everything here. And then, when you delve deeper, the book turns out not to be half so much how to paint all the things that didn’t appear in the earlier books as how to paint plants full stop.
There’s a huge amount here about how to draw (pencils and coloured pencils come into it quite a lot) and paint plants, from the use of colour (including “difficult colours”) to capturing textures and sheens. The subjects may not be completely common or garden, but this is one of the best technical manuals I’ve seen, simply because it’s not actually aiming to be one. What Rosie and Meriel are trying to do is show you, in as practical a way as possible, how to capture your subjects. I think they’ve actually sublimated the technical stuff and, as a result, explained it extraordinarily well just because they’re not trying to.
Oh, and the book is just a joy to look at as well.
If you’re looking for a guide that covers a wide variety of different species (and most of them not US-specific, although this is a American book), you’ve found it.
This is not a comprehensive guide to drawing flowers, each demonstration being limited to a single page, or a spread at most, but all of the information is there, with generous illustrations and notes on how specific details were done and on the colours used.
There’s a lot of useful information here and it’s concisely presented, so that those who want to work by example rather than wading through acres of text will be well served.
As a quick and easy to access guide, this volume, originally published in 1996, is hard to beat. It pretty much says what it does in the title, and each subject is dealt with in a single page. This inevitably means that coverage is sparse and you’re left on your own to develop techniques further, but conciseness has its virtue and you get everything quickly and straightforwardly.
The range of subjects varies from the inevitable rusty metal and weather-beaten timber to water, flowers and human faces. There really isn’t much more you could wish for. I do take issue with the cover’s claim of “50+ step-by-step demonstrations”, as a single image and 5 or 6 numbered steps does not, in my humble opinion, make for a full-on demonstration. However the information is all there and you may find that you far prefer the lack of fuss to pages and pages of only slightly different steps.
As life drawing books go, you won’t get many that are better than the ones written by Giovanni Civardi. He has a pleasantly straightforward style and simple explanations that are hard to beat.
In spite of his having written many books, this is a new one rather than a reissue and it’s also nice to report that his style seems to have lost that slightly old-fashioned tinge it once had. The other innovation is the introduction of colour. As well as the drawings, which are in the majority, there are also illustrations in watercolour, gouache and coloured pencil which include useful hints on getting skin tones right.
The only thing you might want to note is that there are a lot more female than male studies here so, if you’re looking for the latter, you might feel a bit let down. If not, it’s superb.
Whenever I come across a book that calls itself the ultimate anything, I give it my particular attention. My antennae are up because it’s a bold claim and, almost invariably, they can’t live up to it. So, it give me great pleasure to say that this is one of those rare volumes that totally fails to disappoint.
There’s a nice progression here, from a concise yet comprehensive introduction to the many types of pencil available as well as other tools such as paper, sharpeners, solvents and erasers. The next section is devoted to the use of reference photographs which, although not strictly necessary, is really rather well-handled and alone worth having the book for.
The practical sections progress from basic techniques to demonstrations covering layering, burnishing and underpainting as well as the use of water-soluble pencils. Subject matter is pleasantly varied (in this type of book, you often find you have to insert a caveat that it’s a bit limited) and there are plenty of step by step demonstrations. Oh, and the book even comes with a 55 minute DVD showing all the stages of painting a rose.
All-in-all, this is amazingly good value and an excellent introduction to coloured pencils as a serious drawing medium.
There’s a lot to recommend this new book from a seasoned North Light author, but also one or two reservations you should be aware of.
The first thing you’ll notice is the breadth of its coverage: people, animals, buildings, plants, still lifes as well as techniques including shapes, colours and textures. It’s comprehensive and, in fact, you could easily use it as a very thorough introduction to drawing before you even start to think about working with colour.
The layout of the book reveals an author who is confident with their medium and material. Rather than divide the progression into sections, Lee intersperses the technical lessons – shapes, perspective. textures, that sort of thing, with the demonstrations, each of which deals with one particular subject falling into the general category list above. The result is something that’s easy to follow, doesn’t bog you down with an endless list of things to learn and varies the pace as you pick up a bit of information and then put it into practice in an actual drawing. Other art instruction books please note this!
Although this is a relatively slim volume, you in fact get 144 pages and a real wealth of valuable instruction. In terms of bangs per buck, I’ve rarely seen a book that betters this, and it does it both in terms of quantity and quality. At under £15, it’s an absolute steal.
I said there was a reservation. Well, the colours are, frankly, a bit garish and some of the drawing style is perhaps a little bit coarse. I’m not sure if this is a consequence of the reproduction or whether it’s Lee’s style, though I suspect the latter. Does this outweigh all the positive things I’ve said before, though? Well, no, I don’t think it does and there is a small advantage in that the illustrations aren’t wishy-washy, as coloured pencil books can so easily be. When it comes to seeing what’s going on, you’re never in any doubt.
On balance, I think the verdict has to be: buy this book if you’re at all interested in drawing and, if you’re a beginner who’s got beyond the basic mark-making stage, consider it as a very well structured course that could help you progress a long way.
North Light 2008
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