Archive for category Medium: Pastel

Pastel Pointers || Richard McKinley

Books on pastel have always been a bit thin on the ground, so a new one is always welcome. And when it’s as good as this, it’s to be welcomed with open arms.

This is by no means a book of merely pretty or attractive pictures with a few notes on how you too can achieve this result. Rather, it’s a thorough look at a wide variety of techniques in the medium that goes into considerable depth. On a quick flick-through, you might even think that it’s a bit light on the illustrations, but this is not the case and, just when you feel the need for a visual pointer, one will appear.

As well as materials, techniques, styles and working methods, Richard also looks at finishing, framing, record-keeping and even tax. As this is a US publication, you might think this last won’t be much use, but it’s sufficiently general that it could be applied to any tax regime and that attention to detail (or in this case, lack of it) is typical of the whole book.

If you work in pastel, buy this: it’s the best you’ll see in a long time. There’s even a 27 minute DVD covering landscape painting included.

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Tony Garner’s Enchanted Light – pastels of the Norfolk Broads || Adrian Hill

The calm, flat landscapes of Norfolk seem ideally suited to the medium of pastel and Tony Garner explores both the broad vistas and intimate corners of this enchanting county.

Generally speaking, pastels fall into one of two categories, the very loose or the very tight and Tony’s fall into the detailed end of the latter; some of his work has the appearance of some Victorian watercolours.

If you want to explore the county of Norfolk or the possibilities of the medium of pastel, this is a book that’s certainly worth an extended look. Personally, I have the feeling that some of Tony’s work is a little grandstanding – it’s perhaps a trifle over-dramatic and some of the colour choices are a little adventurous, shall we say. However, that doesn’t, in the end, detract from a book that has considerable appeal on many levels.

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The Pastel Colour Wheel Book || John Barber

The format of this series is becoming familiar and the idea is that you can use the 8 projects, which include full-colour step by step demonstrations, in conjunction with the colour wheel built into the front cover. Yes, it’s a gimmick, but sometimes gimmicks concentrate the mind and, with the emphasis here on relatively simple combinations of colours, you can explore the possibilities of the medium, freed from at least one layer of complication.

If there’s a gripe, it’s that the paper chosen makes the illustrations look dull which is, it has to be said, a neat trick when the medium is the pure colour of pastel.

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Pastels: How to Paint || Carol Hodgson

There aren’t that many books around on pastels, which is a pity, because it’s an attractive and relatively simple medium. To have one that concentrates on the absolute basics and comes from a series that assumes very little previous knowledge on the part of the reader is a double treat.

Carol Hodgson shows you how to handle pastels and then provides three very thoroughly illustrated step by step demonstrations of sunflowers, an olive grove and a Venetian scene that cover a good variety of both subject and techniques. Everything you need is there, all that’s missing is the mystique.

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Be An Artist in 10 Steps || Ian Sidaway & Patricia Seligman

This substantial volume is a bind-up of five previously-issued titles covering drawing, watercolour, oils, acrylics and pastel. The approach in each of these was the same: paint a complete picture (a still life), learning a good variety of basic techniques in the chosen medium as you went along. Most medium guides do more or less the same thing, that is to say they give you a series of demonstrations that showcase things like colour, tone, blending, washes, brushwork and so on. Normally, though, these are quite truncated sessions that may not really result in anything more than a collection of unrelated subjects and don’t always lead to anything in the way of a coherent finished result.

Where this book differs and is, as far as I know, unique, is that the authors work their way through different elements of a single overall composition to achieve the same result, so that what you get is a much more complete work of art at the end of it and a much better idea of whether what you’ve learned has been worthwhile. All this, of course, depends on whether you are comfortable with this single-minded way of working and whether you want to paint a still life. No pain, no gain, however, and it’s worth sacrificing the variety of the more traditional approach for this more seamless way of working.

Many artists choose to concentrate on one or maybe two media, so the value of a compendium such as this is necessarily limited. I’ve always suspected that this kind of book appeals to people who think they want to paint and to others who are looking for a gift book, rather than to those who are already a rung or two up the ladder. Nevertheless, there’s no shortage of these compendium guides about, so one has to assume there’s a market, though how may of their buyers or recipients then go on to pursue their craft at any length, I wouldn’t like to guess. It’s also worth observing that this volume is, at 415 pages, both longer than most and also more expensive. Its unique approach and the quality of the authors, both of them experienced and effective teachers and writers, do on the whole justify the price though.

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Marine Painting || Françoise Coffrant

The littoral, that is to say, the area where the land meets the sea, offers a wide variety of subject matter as well as constantly changing conditions that can be both a challenge and an opportunity for the artist. As such, it’s a huge subject and one which is often covered in parts, boats and harbours being the most popular.

It’s not possible to cover the whole subject in great detail in only 96 pages, but this guide, based on a French original, makes a surprisingly good job of it. The author deals mainly with coastal landscapes, but also ventures into boats, harbours, buildings and people. The structure of the book is to begin with an overall survey of subject matter and painting elements (skies, waves, high and low tide, boats and so on). These are covered concisely and, at this stage, the main concern is simply to note what’s there and what the possibilities are. Françoise then looks in more detail at six paintings by different artists, with step-by-step analyses of their progress. These are rather like demonstrations except that the approach is more that of “this is what was done” rather than “this is what you do”. It’s a subtle differentiation, but one which more experienced painters may appreciate, it being more analytic than prescriptive. The artists themselves won’t be familiar to a British audience, but don’t feel you won’t be at home with their style and subject matter: these are people of whom we’d be glad to see more. The final section is a gallery of paintings by professional artists that more than adequately demonstrate what you can achieve at the edge of the water.

This is, in many ways, much more a book of ideas than it is of techniques, and this well suits its approach of being a survey rather than a detailed guide. It would be ideal for someone who has a reasonable amount of basic technical ability and is interested in learning more about subject matter than just the nuts and bolts of how to apply paint to paper or canvas.

New Holland 2008

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Pastels In 10 Steps || Ian Sidaway

This rather original approach to teaching is aimed pretty firmly at the beginner and Ian does his best to demystify the whole process.

The book takes the form of a series of demonstrations based on a single still life composition, each section introducing a different technique. Where this scores is that you don’t get differences of palette, lighting or type of subject that only add further layers of complication. You can therefore see much more clearly what’s going on and concentrate on the technique in hand: impasto, layering, texture, erasing, sgraffito and so on. When the whole thing comes together in the final section, you can also see absolutely clearly how everything relates, how the different techniques have been applied to different parts of the subject and what effect they’ve had. You could even go through it again and vary what’s used where to see whether you can get a better result.

A couple of extra chapters at the end of the book extend the scope by covering flowers and landscapes, applying in more traditional step-by-step demonstrations what you’ve already learnt.

As a primer in pastel painting, this approach has much to recommend it but, although there’s a basic introduction to the medium, you might want to supplement it with another short introductory one as well, just to get you familiar with handling the pastels themselves.

Hamlyn 2008

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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

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30 Minute Pastels || Margaret Evans

This series is shaping up to be an excellent way of looking at a variety of media (and it’s to be hoped that it will move on to subject-based titles in the fullness of time) from a fresh viewpoint.

The idea of the timed painting is not a new one and, handled without thought, it can be little more than a gimmick. However, what it does do is make you concentrate on the subject rather than the mechanics of recording it; you can’t fuss over details or the oven timer rings and you’ve got to stop. If this was just an excuse to produce yet another series of basic media introductions, I’d greet it with a hearty yawn. There’s an awful of that kind of thing out there and, trust me, a lot of them really are awful. However, as well as encouraging the reader to look at things in a new light, the same process seems to have transferred itself to the authors (and Collins have been rather smart in their choice of artists for the series) and what you get is a catalogue of neat, quick and fresh ideas that should appeal as much to the more experienced artist as to the beginner. This is a neat trick, because this kind of thing is usually aimed at those starting out.

Collins 2008

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Lionel Aggett's Italy || Lionel Aggett

This is an intriguing book because it’s about as near as I’ve seen the printed page get to a film documentary.

Lionel Aggett has been in love with Italy for most of his life and this sumptuously illustrated volume records his travels in Puglia, Umbria, Tuscany and Venice. The finished paintings, most of them pastels, are the staple of the pages, but there are also sketchbooks, sketch diaries, maps, photographs and words, all skilfully put together to tell a story. This is a book which pretty much turns its own pages; it’s far more than just a collection of pictures.

If you have any love at all for Italy, buy this book before they run out. Even if you know nothing of the country, it could easily convert you and you may find yourself revising your holiday plans! All travel books should be this good.

Halsgrove 2007

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