Archive for category Medium: Ink

Drawing & Painting Cats || Vic Bearcroft

I had my doubts about Vic’s previous book. I felt that, excellent as his wildlife paintings were, some of his backgrounds were a bit flat. I couldn’t decide if this was deliberate – to push the main subject forward or not, but I felt a lack of impact. There are no such worries here. All the works in this volume are complete and the subjects are either set properly in context or isolated against a plain wash that’s entirely suitable for a portrait.

There’s no doubt that Vic loves cats – it’s apparent on every page, both in the way he depicts them and a hundred small details I’ll leave you to find for yourself. His dedication indicates that he’s lived with them and it shows. There are plenty of domestic moggies here, both young and old, alert and at rest and Vic captures perfectly both their physical and mental attitudes. My favourite is of a black Tom sitting on a roof in moonlight. Its posture and expression say both “I’m lord of all I survey” and “What am I doing here?”. And that’s pure cat.

This understanding extends to the larger cats, too, and Vic has some excellent demonstrations of a prowling black leopard and of lions and tigers. He works in watercolour, acrylic, pastel, pencil and ink, so there’s something for everyone. As long as you like cats, of course.

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The Art of Sumi-E || Naomi Okamoto

Sumi-E is what we generally regard as the classic Japanese art of ink painting that uses a simple medium, the white of the paper, and carefully crafted and placed brushstrokes to create an image. The essence of it is just that, the essence of the subject, which is usually a natural form.

This is a complete guide that includes advice on materials – particularly the specialised brushes and papers – as well as instruction in the basics of painting with ink, both black and colour. From here, a series of exercises gets you practising with shapes – a fish with a single stroke for instance. Naomi also includes the philosophical aspects of Japanese painting, which is as much a state of mind as a technical exercise. In the foregoing example, for instance, it is she, not the imagined fish, that feels the touch of the water. It’s a hard concept to convey, but she does it rather well.

As your skills and confidence (and you need to be confident to achieve the single-stroke structure) develop, you’ll move on to flowers, animals, landscapes and even figures. These last are perhaps the most rewarding as they turn the whole idea of figurative work on its head, with less becoming more and detail only barely hinted at.

This is as comprehensive a guide as you could wish to a fascinating and absorbing art form. My only reservation is that it seems to be printed on a paper that knocks some of the colour back and has a slight tooth, meaning that the illustrations look very slightly unsharp.

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Chinese Brush Painted Flowers || Joan Lok

This straightforward guide includes demonstrations covering 36 different varieties, each in a two-page spread. Some of them will probably be more familiar than others and I suspect that there’s been some internationalisation – my knowledge of plants being zero, I can’t confirm that, but the Baltimore Oriole (a bird) that crops up, does tend to confirm it.

The jacket proudly announces on the front that the demonstrations are “for all levels of artist from beginner up” and there’s certainly a sound introduction covering brushstrokes, foliage and composition that will help you get started. This being perhaps a less familiar technique, this will be useful to more people than many materials-and-techniques openers.

The demonstrations, covering two pages, are necessarily short, but do include a fair amount of detail: not much is required as the Chinese technique is very loose and certainly doesn’t fall into the category of botanical illustration. I suspect that you’re going to find the whole thing much easier if you have some basic experience, though. I probably wouldn’t choose this as an introduction to flower painting.

All in all, this is a thorough and varied guide, nicely presented (and I do like the fact that the editors have resisted the temptation to put the flowers in alphabetical order!). It’s unlikely to disappoint.

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DVD Pastel Alchemy – a masterclass in ink over pastel || Jason Bowyer

The title and subtitle of this film, taken together, sum it up perfectly. What Jason Bowyer does with watercolour wash, ink applied with brushes and reed pens and with textures and highlights added with pastel does feel like the legendary philosopher’s stone.

Jason provides a more or less continuous and comprehensive narrative that builds up through the various sections into a discussion of the creative process itself. In this, the editing is very like Paintwork’s previous offering on Patrick George, although here there are demonstrations to run alongside the commentary.

It’s a film that’s in many ways best taken in reverse. The main meat of it is the complete demonstration, filmed over two days at Kew Bridge Steam Museum (now the London Museum of Water and Steam). Boiled down into a little under an hour, this nevertheless feels like the complete thing, covering all the processes from the initial sketch through the blocking out of the basic shapes with brush-applied ink and the gradual build-up of detail through to the finished work.

It should be said that, as the location implies, the subject is industrial. Please don’t let this put you off, though, as Jason is much more interested in working with shapes and light than he is in the details of a piece of machinery – “[painting the same thing repeatedly] gives you the freedom to play with the abstract nature of your motif.” Although that has the potential to sound as though it comes straight from Pseud’s Corner, it demonstrates the way Jason regards any subject matter. It is merely the starting point for a creative process and a journey that ends with a piece of art that is about much more than simple representation – although, it should be said, his work is not in itself abstract.

The film actually begins with a series of technical demonstrations, from stretching paper to making a reed pen, mark-making and the use of pastel with ink. Interesting as these are (and the paper-stretching section even has Zen-like qualities), they become more informative if you re-visit them after watching the set-piece, the main demonstration. What can be perhaps slightly dry now has context and relevance. You can see exactly why you need to make what look like random marks with pastel over heavily-laid ink washes and where the initially-applied blocks of watercolour fit in.

Jason has a warm and engaging delivery that encourages you to relax and listen. If you like Radio 4, you’ll feel at home here. Visually, this is not always the easiest film to get to grips with – the colours are dark and some of the marks uncompromising, but the narrative that I referred to earlier carries it all forward and makes the whole thing subtly compulsive.

Available from http://www.paintworkfilms.com

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How to Draw & Paint Science Fiction Art || Geoff Taylor

This particular branch of fantasy art is highly specialised and there’s more to it than can really be covered in a single volume. However, this introductory guide makes a very good job of introducing landscapes, buildings, characters and visions. There’s a good variety of subjects from the technical (machines and robots) to figures, animals and aliens. Techniques used include traditional pen & pencil as well as digital work, but it’s probably best that you have a basic grounding in your tools as this is more about working with them than learning to work with them. Geoff Taylor has worked for Disney Interactive Studios and has also done work for Microsoft and his experience and expertise really show.

This is an excellent production and to be recommended on that basis alone.


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Drawing & Painting Buildings || Jonathan Newey

It’s good to find a book on painting buildings that isn’t by Richard Taylor. Not, I should say at once, that there’s anything wrong with Richard; far from it, his many books on the subject are so good that he has, until now, pretty much defined and cornered the market. Rather, it’s good to find a new author who stands comparison with him.

This is nothing if not thorough and it’s well thought-out, with step-by-step demonstrations as well as detail sketches and completed paintings that are analysed. In contrast to a lot of recent art books, where the text tends to be confined to extended captions, this is much more fully written and is one to read through as much as it is to look at. The less-text approach works well and the argument in its favour is that it allows the pictures themselves to do the talking. Some readers, however, nay find that they want more detail in the explanations and they’ll get them here because, for each of the exercises featured, Jonathan explains both the intention and approach as well as the techniques used.

There’s a generous variety of building types and locations, including houses, castles, bridges and churches – even new buildings – and a handy section on architectural detail which deals with carvings, windows, bricks, tiles and all those little things that give a building character.

This is a very comprehensive look at just about every aspect of painting buildings and one which should sustain you for along time to come.

Crowood Press 2008
£16.99

http://rcm-uk.amazon.co.uk/e/cm?t=artbookreview-21&o=2&p=8&l=as1&asins=1861269994&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr

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Colour Mixing Index || Julie Collins

Everything about this book is right: the size, the coverage, the format, what it doesn’t include and even the flexible covers that allow you to flick through it easily yet are more than a paperback so that it doesn’t get dog-eared.

Do you need it? Well, only you can tell. If colour mixing comes naturally to you, if you can look at a cloud and say, “oh yes, Payne’s Grey with Alizarin Crimson and just a touch of Cadmium Yellow Deep”, then you’re unlikely to want a guide to colour mixing. If, on the other hand, that last statement brings you out in a cold sweat, then you’re one of the legions who struggle and whose existence is hinted at by the plethora of guides that are already on the market.

OK, so this is just another one? Well, yes, but someone has taken the trouble to look at the competition and come up with something different. First up, this little book (it’s jacket pocket size, but fat at 320 pages) doesn’t attempt to teach you how to paint. There’s 10 pages at the beginning on the basics of mixing colours and then it’s nothing but colour swatches, arranged by medium, base colour and tint. It’s not a book to sit down and read, it’s one to flick through (this is where the clever production design comes in), find what you want and look up the constituent parts. It’s small enough to take with you in the field, so you don’t ever need to be without it and it covers watercolour, oils, acrylic, gouache and ink – the only book of this type to include that last one, as far as I’m aware.

The only thing you might need to be aware of it before you shell out is that the colour names are from the Winsor & Newton range. This necessarily narrows its appeal if you don’t use their paints, but it does mean you get specific recommendations rather than generic names you then have to translate. You can’t have everything, I suppose. That small caveat aside, this is a book worth buying if you have the slightest trouble with colour mixing and even if you have other guides already. It feels nice in the hand which is a better quality in a book than is often credited.

David & Charles 2007
£14.99

http://rcm-uk.amazon.co.uk/e/cm?t=artbookreview-21&o=2&p=8&l=as1&asins=0715322958&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr

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