Archive for category Medium: Mixed Media

Sketching Perspective || Ilga Leimanis

This not unattractive guide is either a visual feast or an assault on the senses, depending on your point of view. You might even say it’s both, and like it all the more for that.

Books on perspective usually fall into one of two camps: technical drawing manuals, or attempts to teach the subject without any technicality at all. The former can be daunting, especially for the general artist and the latter as frustrating as a language course that pretends that grammar doesn’t exist.

Perspective is part of the grammar of art, as much as colour and colour mixing or the techniques for application of materials. It’s a thing you have to get to grips with, but also something a lot of people are afraid of, but as necessary as declension of nouns or conjugation of verbs.

Ilga is an urban sketcher, so perspective is central to her craft. She also, as is common with the genre, works quickly and loosely, so you won’t find architectural or measured drawings here, and hooray for that. It does mean that you get what I referred to at the beginning – the visual feast or assault on the senses. However, it also means that, where there are lines and diagrams (you know you need them really), they’re organic and mostly freehand, which makes them a lot more friendly and approachable. There’s also quite a lot of text, but it’s largely there to explain the images rather than a lot of theory to read, so hooray for that too.

What mainly sets this apart from other books on perspective is the way Ilga uses the technique in very fluid drawings that capture character as much as appearance. Only you can decide whether this works for you but, if it does, it should be rather successful.

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Experimental Coasts in Mixed Media || Mike Bernard with Susie Hodge

Mike Bernard’s approach to mixed media is well known by now and involves quite a lot of collage. It’s probably therefore fair to say that this is a book that will have instant appeal to his many followers, although it is by no means a closed shop and there is plenty of explanation of materials and techniques that will instruct those new to the form.

There is always a danger with mixed media that it becomes an end in itself, ignoring the basic tenets of creativity. Here, though, the starting point is always the subject – how it appears, what it tells the artist and what they can then say about it to the viewer. The opening sections, for example, are Motivation, Inspiration, Location and Focal Point. The next chapter covers the palette, which is where the choice of materials comes in, but also includes a section on “releasing the inner child” (basically, looking and seeing anew). This is followed by a chapter on Creative Techniques, so we’re quickly back with ideas rather than methods.

Mike’s way of working is largely instinctive. This is probably true of any artist who has extensive experience, but he has a broad range of materials and techniques available to him that encourage a keen analytical eye, which this book will help you to develop too.

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Contemporary Flowers in Mixed Media || Soraya French

When a publisher uses the word “contemporary” in a title, it can all too often mean “we’re not quite sure about this one, it’s a bit off the wall and perhaps not quite what we had in mind”. Mixed media can have multiple meanings too, from the artist using a bit of gouache or maybe pastel here and there to frankly alarming amounts of collage.

It’s therefore a pleasure to be able to report that this is a thoroughly thought through guide to flower painting that fits well into the Impressionist wing of the art and sometimes even borders on abstraction. These are flowers as they appeal to the emotions rather than as botanical specimens. You’d expect no less from Soraya French. “When working on personal projects”, she says, “I am careful not to let the analytical side stifle the intuitive process”. Amen, I think we can say, to that.

Although this is a relatively short book, it packs in a lot of analysis, wisdom and creative ideas, all concisely expressed and thoroughly illustrated. There are musings (I think that’s the right word) about the properties of media: watercolour, gouache, acrylic, inks and oils as well as dry media, and quite a lot about colour, light and palettes. This is entirely appropriate as the book itself is the proverbial riot of colour that’s often applied to gardens.

The whole thing is about exploration, both creative and technical – Soraya talks quite a lot about mediums, for instance, but also examines shades, tints, complementary colours and colour harmony.

I honestly think this is, as much as anything else, a book that will lift your spirits (and don’t we need that right now?) as much as teach you about painting. I’m not a flower painter, but I’m itching to have a go just looking at it.

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Abstract Painting || Petra Thölken

There was a time when books on abstract painting were rarer than hens’ teeth and a very hard sell indeed. One infamous one rather gloriously had the signature on the rear cover illustration in the top left-hand corner, confirming the old joke about frames needing to be labelled “top” and “bottom”.

Things have changed. If the regular appearance of books is anything to go by (and it should be), everyone wants a piece of the action. It’s not unreasonable, because abstraction, at its best, is about distilling the essence of your subject, then reconstructing it in a way that tells the viewer more than they could get from looking at it themselves. We’ve become so used to loose and impressionistic ways of working which are the first step on this particular road that we’re not just prepared, but willing, to take those further steps.

With plenty of choice, the reader can have their pick of approaches. Given that abstraction is as much a state of mind as anything else, how-to is not the obvious way to come at it and, indeed, step by step demonstrations are rarely offered.

This is a project-based book that does, in fact, offer demonstrations. Do you want to copy someone else’s ideas? Well, if you’re new to all this, it’s as good a starting point as any other. The fact is, abstraction is such a personal thing that it’s entirely up to you to choose the way in that works best for you personally.

To sum up: I can’t review this, other than to say it’s nicely produced. If you like it, buy it.

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Dynamic Seascapes || Judith Yates

Social media gets a bad press. However, it was also responsible for the genesis of this book. The publishers of Leisure Painter and The Artist magazines put one of Judith’s pictures on Twitter. I thought it looked interesting and decided to investigate further. It quickly became apparent that she is one of the best seascape artists I’d seen for a long time, so I suggested that Search Press might like to talk to her. And here, a couple of years later, we are.

Water is one of the hardest subjects to paint. It’s hardly ever static, has no real substance and no colour of its own, yet it presents in many different moods, almost all of them related to movement and surroundings. So, how do you represent that in a single image? Well, that’s what the book is all about. The subtitle is “how to paint seas and skies with drama and energy” and it has that in spades.

Working in watercolour, acrylic, ink and mixed media, Judith will show you how to capture all the forms and moods of the sea, from a calm evening estuary to storm-blown waves breaking on a rocky shore. Although water is the primary subject, Judith does not forget the shorelines, landscapes and of course skies that make up a complete seascape. She’ll show you how light both affects the appearance of water and is affected by it through refraction and reflection. She’ll also demonstrate ways of capturing the solid appearance of a breaking wave and how to create the sense of power and movement that are essential to giving your image a feeling of being anything but static and two-dimensional.

There are plenty of examples, exercises and demonstrations as well as explanations of the way water behaves in just about every situation. The book is every bit as exciting as its subject.

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Urban Sketching || Isabel Carmona Andreu

I’ve remarked before that there’s no shortage of, and seemingly no lack of appetite for books on urban sketching. Whether that can survive lockdown and working from home remains to be seen, but if you feel a nostalgia for the crowded streets, such volumes may provide some relief.

This subtitles itself “an artist’s guide”, which you might think is a statement of the obvious. However, it presages an approach (and goodness knows, we need a bit of variety in this field) that is more interpretive and painterly than some. Isabel’s medium is mainly watercolour and she uses its properties to considerable effect, with loose washes standing for a lot of architectural detail and providing the opportunity to block in quite large areas quickly. Most urban sketching books rely on pencils, which are easy to carry and quick to get out and put away. Watercolour requires a little more baggage and preparation, but Isabel’s work amply demonstrates that the extra labour is worthwhile.

There are plenty of exercises, projects, lessons, demonstrations and examples as well as case studies of work by other artists that introduce a pleasant additional perspective. The whole is packed with ideas and inspiration backed up with the technical information you’d want.

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Drawing Dramatic Landscapes || Robert Dutton

It is to be hoped that this new series from Search Press will be expanded in the not too distant future. The idea of featuring work by artists who explore and expand the horizons of their medium is an attractive one and there are enough around that it shouldn’t be necessary to stretch the criteria just for the sake of it.

Robert Dutton works mostly in graphite media – pencils, sticks, powder and liquid – but also charcoal, acrylics, inks and pastels. These latter for the most part provide accents and colour, but what he can do with straightforward monochrome will take your breath away. That’s what makes this such an exciting book.

Search Press are, of course, mainly publishers of instructional books rather than monographs, so there has to be a strong how-to element as well as the valuable featured work. They are well-practised, both in content and layout as well as selection of authors. It should come as no surprise therefore that this works as inspiration and creative encouragement just as well as straightforward technical lessons and demonstrations. The approach and style, however, make it less of a course and more of an exploratory tour in the company of an informed and competent guide. Robert has a teaching background and it shows – he is excellent at explaining what he has done, but why it was achieved that way.

Not everything in the book will be to everyone’s taste – you may prefer the sometimes dark graphite drawing, I may feel happier with coloured pencils and inked highlights. For all that, Robert’s explanations have a superb clarity and are always interesting – whatever your preferences, there’s nothing here you’d want to skip.

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Mixed Media Landscapes and Seascapes || Chris Forsey

If you’re into mixed media, or Alison C Board’s excellent introduction has whetted your appetite, you’ll welcome this thorough guide to landscapes.

Chris works in watercolour, oil, ink, acrylic and pastel and he shows you here how to create what can only be called dynamic images by judicious combinations of some or all of them. From the simple application of gouache to highlight breaking waves to a summer lane done in watersoluble and oil pastel, Chris demonstrates ways of capturing atmosphere through careful use of materials. He is particularly sound on the use of texture to create form and pick out highlights.

The book itself has a good mixture of discussion, exercises and demonstrations. Chris will show you what you’re trying to achieve, allow you to practise the effects you want and then move on to a full demonstration that brings everything together nicely.

There’s plenty of variety here and a host of illustrations that make everything clear and easy to follow. My only complaint is that some of the reproduction is a little unsharp, making it difficult to see some of the detail when that’s what you really want.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Watercolour With Mixed Media || Alison C Board

Mixed media is all too often an excuse for playing with technique to no specific end. Alternatively, it’s a footnote in a book about another medium – “you can always add a bit of gouache to create highlights” or “how about rolling up some cling film and seeing what happens?”

Alison has made something of a career out of working with a huge variety of techniques and media and her armoury is huge. So huge, in fact, that if she wasn’t absolutely on top of it, this would be the messiest book ever, both in terms of results and organisation. She is, however, absolutely confident with her methods and this is a masterpiece.

Its main merit is that it isn’t a technical book at all. Or, rather, it’s absolutely about technique, but only for creative ends. You don’t put paint on paper to cover up the surface, you do it to create an image that satisfies both you and the viewer. You might want to convey the tranquillity of a rolling landscape, or the play of light and colour in a flower or plant, but the point is that it’s all about the end result, not how you got there. A chef creates a dish that delights the diner and, if another chef admires the method of cooking, that’s just a sideshow.

So, buckle up and prepare to be astounded. The projects here include flowers, landscapes, people and animals. Materials include both wet and dry media as well as accessories such as hessian, bubble wrap and even chicken wire to create texture. All these things you’d expect, but look at the results – they don’t scream “clever” at you, they invite you to study the inner character of the subject. Less is more, the invisible is the first thing you see. Oh, and by the way, the figure demonstration is of a dancer: the sense of movement Alison (a trained ballet teacher) gets into a static pose will just take your breath away.

If you haven’t already gathered that I’m calling this the best book ever on mixed media, well, I am.

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Kurt Jackson’s Botanical Landscape

Kurt Jackson is that rare creature, a creator who is as at home with the written word as he is with the paintbrush. Eloquent in both media, this is his account of the natural world as he sees it. If this was a collaboration such as say, Robert Macfarlane’s The Lost Words, you’d describe it as an illustrated account, or perhaps a curated portrait. As it is, though, the two strands are inseparable and the paintings, drawings, poems and accounts of travels, excursions and experiences are a single piece.

I said that Jackson is a rare creature, and the truth is that this is a unique work and has to be taken as a whole. The words don’t explain the pictures and the pictures don’t illustrate the words; both account for the landscape as it is and as Jackson sees and experiences it. To open the book is to enter a world that is very personal, and yet at once recognisable. As individuals, we’ve all been caught in motorway jams and wondered at the variety of flora that populate the verges. (That’s from a chapter entitled Weeds that makes it clear that these neglected plants are anything but second-class citizens). We’ve also marvelled at the majesty of an oak tree and perhaps wandered through the undergrowth of a woodland, disturbing small creatures as we go.

So, what is the book like? Well, imagine looking out of an all-seeing window and listening to the words of an eloquent writer. Somehow, the two meld and sound becomes vision, vision sound. It’s no accident that Robert Macfarlane contributes a preface. He gets it.

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