Archive for category Medium: Mixed Media

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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Lettering With Love || Sue Hiepler & Yasmin Reddig

This is an attractive book that’s really hard to classify. It’s not exactly art instruction, yet not quite calligraphy either. That is, of course, broadly the point and the idea is to suggest images that contain both watercolour and lettering. The subtitle, “the simple art of handwriting with watercolour embellishment” says as much.

To be absolutely honest, I think you could flick through it, say “Oh yes” and then get on with your own ideas. However, if you want projects, images and letterforms, it’s all here and, in spite of my reservations, I can’t help liking it – and that’s really quite high praise.

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Contemporary Landscapes in Mixed Media || Soraya French

Mixed media gets a mixed press and can have mixed results. Like everything else, it’s important not to use it for its own sake, but rather for the effects it offers and creative opportunities it makes available.

Soraya French’s work involves a fair degree of abstraction, which both enhances and is enhanced by her use of colour. This is a fine balance that produces results that are recognisable while going a good way beyond simple representation.

Soraya uses acrylics, watercolours, inks and gel media to create vivid images that capture mood, atmosphere and lighting. In this hugely informative book, she explains her working methods and even includes a few projects and demonstrations that give you a chance to practise for yourself. As well as traditional media, you’ll find out about texture mediums, gels and pastes and, most importantly, how to combine all these into worthwhile results. Soraya also explains how she finds inspiration and chooses formats and composition for maximum impact. She also looks at technical matters such as underpainting, lost and found edges and negative shapes that affect how the viewer sees the result.

This is a comprehensive guide to both mixed media and semi-abstract landscape painting that is full of inspiration and practical advice.

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From Sketch to Watercolour Painting || Wendy Jelbert

This isn’t the first book about sketching but it is, as far as I’m aware, at least one of the first to cover the whole process right through. Yes, other books habitually include a chapter on working your sketchbook up into something grander, but this takes the logical step of following each subject from observation right through to the finished painting. And, of course, it’s Wendy Jelbert, whose expertise in this field is second to none.

The structure of the book is familiar enough, with lessons, exercises, demonstrations and tips. This is good, as it means you’re on solid ground right from the start. What you get initially are some basic lessons in seeing and observation – getting the essence of your subject. There are also useful hints on what to draw and what to annotate so that you have structure, shapes and colours at your fingertips when you get back home. There are also plenty of demonstrations that cover buildings, people, flowers and so on – typical Wendy subjects, in fact.

It’s always going to feel a little odd working from someone else’s sketches – they are, after all, intensely personal – but the way this is put together never feels intrusive. In fact, it’s more like a sketching trip with an old friend, and all the better for that.

Since writing this, I’ve realised that this is in fact a re-working of a book that first appeared in 2003. (I should have – the back cover makes it clear!) As ever, Search Press’s work is so good that it’s by no means obvious and it felt new from the start. I don’t think you can give that aspect of it higher praise.

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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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Watercolours Unleashed || Jane Betteridge

This is one of those unfortunate titles that tells you very little about the content of the book, yet is almost impossible to think of an alternative for. If you’re not familiar with Jane’s work, you’re going to be a little nonplussed. It’s tempting to class it as mixed-media, but it’s not exactly that, because what she works with are mainly water-based media, though with quite a lot of ink thrown (almost literally) in.

The results are, I think, a bit Marmite; you’re either going to love them or hate them, though you should find them intriguing. Personally, I admire her experimentation and, when it works, it’s superb and unmatched. Sometimes, I’m not so sure. I do like the book, though. I think it’s honest, and prepared to take risks. I also don’t get the sense of this being the more successful tip of an iceberg of failed attempts piling up round the artist’s feet. If you like the idea of the watercolour version of taking a line for a walk, give this a look. If it does nothing else, it’ll stimulate your own experimental juices and get you going off on a track of your own.

The Society For All Artists (www.saa.co.uk) has produced a DVD to accompany the book. This is worth seeking out as it gives you a chance to see Jane in action, mainly with inks, and adds a sense of the dynamism that the printed page doesn’t quite convey.

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Place || Kurt Jackson and contributors

If that sounds like a different, and certainly intriguing authorship, this is a different and intriguing book. Kurt Jackson is unusual as a visual artist in that the written word is an important part of his work. He writes well himself and doesn’t adopt the painter’s common maxim that “my art speaks for itself”.

At this point, I think it’s worth quoting what amounts to a manifesto from the information sheet that came with the book: “A dedication to the environment is intrinsic to Kurt Jackson’s art and his politics, with a holistic involvement with his subjects providing a springboard for his formal innovations.” OK, I agree, that sounds about as pseud as it gets, but it also sums up Kurt’s work perfectly and I’d challenge anyone to put it better and avoid sounding as if they were wearing red spectacles and check trousers. If you know anything of Kurt’s work, you’ll know that his involvement with his environment is complete.

The book is a series of interpretations of single-point places around the United Kingdom – that’s to say, individual viewpoints rather than extensive explorations. They’re as varied as Penarth Head, the Grand Union Canal, Paddington Station and Spaghetti Junction. The places are chosen because they’re there, rather than because they necessarily have an attraction for the artist – though, of course, Kurt finds a kind of beauty in all of them. Each painting (sometimes accompanied by small details or sketches) is complemented by a description by a different writer, both friends and colleagues as well as people Kurt simply admires. A template of the letter that went out is included and this makes it clear that the locations were chosen by the writers rather than the artist, a brave and bold move that requires a large degree of confidence and even chutzpah.

If I say that the result is interesting, I mean just that, not as a sort of back-handed compliment. Kurt takes what he’s given and produces some amazing results. Many of the places have a natural beauty, or perhaps a sense of mystery, but some must have been a challenge. He’ll have known that, of course, and it’s a challenge he must have wanted to rise to. The result is an impressive, as well as rare, fusion of the verbal and the visual and there’s a link to readings of the pieces in there as well, if you want it.

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Travelling Light || Ray Balkwill

It’s a good few years since someone told me I should check out the West Country artist Ray Balkwill and I’ve been a fan of his work ever since.

This new collection showcases an excellent variety and quantity of his paintings and even includes a chapter on methods and materials – Ray is candid about the way he works and isn’t averse to sharing. Locations include his home territory, of course, but also Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Italy and France. Ray is at home with most subjects, although it has to be said that his paintings really come alive when boats and water are involved.

Ray is often characterised as a mixed media artist, but the truth is that medium isn’t the raison d’être of how he works. He’s not a “media” painter at all, I’d contend, rather a painter who works with whatever best suits and interprets the particular part of the subject he’s working on. For a more detailed demonstration and analysis of his working methods, have a look at his DVD, Capturing Coastal Moods.

This is a beautiful book and will appeal to those who appreciate good art, lovers of landscape and waterscape and, of course, fans of Ray’s work. The quantity and quality of the illustrations will pretty much guarantee that no-one will be disappointed, or even regard the book as particularly expensive.

Travelling Light: The Sketches and Paintings of Ray Balkwill
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