Archive for category Medium: Pastel

Pastels for the Absolute Beginner || Rebecca de Mendonça

The idea of an Absolute Beginner series is a good one. Anyone taking up painting, or starting with a new medium needs a sound guide that is well-grounded in the basics and assumes no previous knowledge. Previous volumes have taken that very much to heart and included some very basic work that doesn’t tax the creative or technical endeavours too heavily.

This is a bit different and, although there’s a sound introduction to materials and techniques, I can’t help feeling it fits better with Search Press’s surveys of the Cinderella media (gouache and oil pastels, for instance). This is by no means a criticism and indeed, if you were looking for a complete guide to pastel – while it’s maybe not a completely Cinderella medium, it’s certainly a lot less published than some – this could well be it.

The book is certainly thorough. Subjects include landscapes, waterscapes, people and animals, with skies, trees and waves thrown in along the way. Rebecca is primarily a portrait and equestrian artist and this shows – these are easily her strongest subjects. However, she is thoroughly at home with her medium and handles everything well. Her demonstrations and explanations are concise, but easy to follow. They will, I think, be of value to anyone – at whatever level – working with pastel.

If you’re a complete beginner, I perhaps wouldn’t make this your very first book. The comprehensive nature of its coverage might put you off. I’d probably start with the compilation Pastel Painting Step-by-Step that Search Press are handily republishing in February 2020. However, once you’ve mastered the basics, you may well find that this one will take you as far as you want to go. If you’re already a practitioner with some experience, it could be the only book you’ll ever need.

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Start to Paint with Pastels || Jenny Keal

This, one of the best introductions to pastels around, has been reissued. You can read the original review here.

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Drawing and Painting Animals with Expression || Marjolein Kruijt

There are two things that need to be said about this from the outset. First, it’s not a book for the beginner and second, most of the illustrations are in pastel or oil. Neither of these counts against it, of course, but they do define its market.

There is a lot more to what is in fact a comprehensive guide – just about every species and many breeds are here, from domestic to wild animals and even birds. As becomes clear, expression is as important with animals as with people and this is much more than anthropomorphism – there are no cute portraits here. It is perhaps as important as form, structure and perspective, aspects at which Marjolein Kruijt is equally adept.

Most of the illustration is by example and the few lessons are at the end of the book. The bulk of the text discusses the structure and form of both the subject and the resulting painting. Although there is a very useful introduction to materials and media, Marjolein tends to assume that you will know about methods of application. If you do, you’ll be thankful not to find 50% of the book taken up with things you don’t need to be told. If you don’t, well, to be honest, capturing character in such detail is probably not the skill you most need to learn. Think of it as a masterclass.

This is a serious book that takes its subject and its readership seriously and is all the better for that.

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Painting Pastel Landscapes || Jeremy Ford

There’s arguably not a lot to be said about this. The title tells you what it’s about and there are no surprises, unless you count just how much variety there is. Jeremy Ford has established himself as an engaging and generous teacher and the book is full of good advice that’s well presented.

It’s a book for the beginner, or those at least in the early stages of their artistic career and everything is explained clearly and in detail. Even the technical section at the beginning is more comprehensive than some and the clearly and extensively illustrated sections on basic mark-making, blending and underpainting are worth the cover price in themselves. Demonstrations include winter and summer scenes, skies, trees and water as well as technical aspects such as perspective and horizons.

It’s not the first book on painting landscapes in pastels, but it is one of the most accessible and comprehensive.

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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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Tales of The Brothers Grimm with drawings by Natalie Frank

I’m not a great fan of fairy tales. They belong (to me) to a slightly alien world and, in spite of claims that they’re part of folk art, collections made from the oral tradition, I get a strong sense of authorship – that the “compilers” in fact altered things to fit their own morality and world view. Presenting them, as they so often are, as something for children is also misleading. It’s an infantilising of now-forgotten origins, just as with nursery rhymes, that does no service either to the stories or the children whose nights are traumatised by the frankly horrific.

All that said, if you disagree with me, then I think you’ll love this new edition. The thirty-six stories that are included here are unsanitized (as the blurb has it) and therefore appear as their authors/compilers intended. The seventy five gouache and pastel illustrations are properly scary, Gothic and Surrealist and the marginalia maintain a sense of mystery and menace throughout.

Just, please, don’t buy this for your children!

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Edgar Degas – Drawings & Pastels || Christopher Lloyd

Edgar Degas was one of the most outstanding draughtsmen of his day and he also produced some of the best figurative art there has ever been.

Christopher Lloyd recounts Degas’s life through his work, beginning from the development of his career copying Old Masters up to 1912 when he stopped working due to failing eyesight. This is a thorough, but also accessible account of a remarkable artist by an accomplished writer and critic. It includes 212 colour images, which can be used for reference due to the gloss paper it is printed on, that trace the development of the artist’s skill and powers throughout his life. It is probably one of the most compete books on Degas available.

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