Archive for category Medium: Various

Learn Colour in Painting Quickly || Hazel Soan

This excellently-conceived series has proved that it is possible not only to learn quickly, but that the unadorned approach is often the way to go. I’m always at least a little sceptical of such claims simply because something that can be a lifetime’s study can’t be mastered in a few minutes. However, I have to concede that getting to grips with the basics is something where speed can be a considerable help. Getting bogged down at the start is not only unhelpful, but positively discouraging to efforts to proceed.

Colour is, of course, the artist’s stock-in-trade, at once the vocabulary and grammar of the language of painting. Those for whom it’s second nature wonder at the number of books about it but, for all that, there are perfectly capable painters who struggle, at least at the outset. However, once you grasp the idea that the basic concept is really quite simple and that a lot of the difficulties are self-imposed, everything becomes much clearer.

Hazel is a master of colour in all its forms and, following the series format, shows plenty of examples linked with just enough words to make sure you know and understand what you’re looking at. She explains colour theory in practice (which means as little explanation and theory as possible) as well as demonstrating ways of creating light, shade, form, tone and hue.

I’m tempted to say that this is the complete guide, but of course it isn’t, and doesn’t pretend to be. It is, however, the complete introduction and you might find that what it teaches you is enough for you to be able to learn the rest for yourself, and that’s a heck of an achievement.

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Realistic Painting

I’ll be honest, I’m not absolutely sure what this is. The blurb tells me that it “will provide both the amateur and the seasoned creator with helpful knowledge in order to successfully execute the Realism style”. That, however, is not Magic Realism – highly detailed work that emulates photography – and looks suspiciously like conventional art that gets things like form and perspective right. There are occasional slight echoes of Edward Hopper, but I’m not convinced that’s deliberate. There is also an associated app that claims to be augmented reality but is, as far as I can tell, just a portal via on-page codes to video tutorials. I think it’s more added content than augmented reality.

So, having pretty much trashed the intent of the book, is there any point in going any further? Well, yes, because once you get past the ache to be new and high-tech, this is a very sound introduction to painting a good variety of subjects in watercolour, oil and acrylic. Yes, that old cross-media chestnut rears its head and, yes the subject you want may not be covered in the medium you use but, as long as you can follow the basic principles, the actual style of instruction, particularly working with problem areas and enlarged details is perfectly sound.

The lack of a named author is slightly odd, but there are plenty of different contributing artists and the text is concise and to the point. My initial thought was that it has the feel of a Parramon original and so, on further investigation, it turns out to be. That pedigree is generally a recommendation in itself and I’d say it is here. It’s hard to know who to recommend the book to – it’s a little too advanced for the complete beginner and sometimes a little too basic for the experienced artist. However, it’s something that may grab your attention and, as long as you feel you can get enough out of it to justify the price, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed and may well feel it has more to offer than you first thought.

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Drawing and Painting the Landscape || Philip Tyler

Although it is subtitled “a course of 50 lessons” and is intensely practical throughout, this is also a philosophical approach to both the landscape and the practice of its representation.

The use of a variety of media, from oils and acrylics to pencil, ink, oil bar and pastel betokens a book that isn’t heavily centred on technicality, even though those 50 demonstrations remain at its heart. Think of it, if you will, as an artist working and musing about creativity while they paint.

That variety of media may put some readers off. I’ve had “I only paint in …” said to me many times by buyers who literally weigh the book up and count the number of pages they wouldn’t allow to sully their delicate hands. While it’s true that most amateurs will concentrate on one or two mediums for largely practical reasons (time, cost, ability), the idea of working with what the subject suggests is an attractive one and leads to a discussion of interpretation that can be illuminating even if the details of the work are less than relevant.

There is much to get stuck into here, from the many illustrations to the well-written text that maintains your interest throughout. The icing on the cake, though, is the inclusion of the work of several other artists, which expands immeasurably the theme of understanding and interpretation.

Overall, this is a book which is a great deal more than just the sum of its parts and a worthwhile, perhaps even essential, read if you enjoy landscapes.

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Drawing and Painting Cars || Keith Woodcock

Books on this subject are not exactly thick on the ground and it is certainly pretty specialist. However, if it’s something you want to pursue, this book offers all the coverage you’re likely to need.

There are very specific requirements in this market and Keith covers them all. For those who want extreme, almost photographic detail, the rivets are there to be counted. If you want the impression of speed, that’s here too. You’ll also find era-appropriate backgrounds as well as the people who drive and fettle the vehicles. The bulk of the subjects, it’s worth pointing out, are vintage, that being where the market for this type of artwork largely lies.

For all that, there is sufficient infrastructure that you could use the techniques to paint just about any model in any style and setting you choose. Media run from pencil and pen & wash to oils, watercolour, pastel, gouache and acrylic. As well as the many examples, there are detailed lessons in perspective specifically as applied to cars, as well as lighting, reflections and shadows. This really is as comprehensive as it’s possible to get.

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Drawing & Painting – the complete artist’s handbook || Gabriel Martin

There is much to like about this refreshing approach to the “all things to all people” school of literature. On the face of it, this is the sort of book you’d buy if you were thinking about taking up art but didn’t know where to start. That seems odd, as I’d assume most people have at least some idea of what they like in the first place, but there are enough books of this nature to imply a continuing market. Or maybe non-artists buy them as an ad hoc gift?

Delving further, though, suggests a more serious intent as, on top of just about every drawing and painting medium, a wide variety of styles, techniques and subjects are covered. It’s a bit of a scattergun approach and I think, to be honest, that a beginner would find themselves not a little confused and considerably overwhelmed by the sheer weight of information and lack of an obvious course-like progression. For the more experienced artist – who I’d assume would be more set in their ways and media – there’s bound to be something in the considerable cornucopia that will catch the eye. I said at the outset that there’s a lot to like and the freshness of the style and layout contribute a great deal to that. Books of this nature are often quite stuffy and old-fashioned. This is bright, vibrant and positively invites you in.

Although this is, at 288 pages, a substantial book, it’s not especially cheap, and perhaps not quite an impulse purchase. Nevertheless, I doubt you’d find it disappointing, even if it wasn’t something you kept by your side for everyday reference.

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The Arborealists: the art of the tree

Who doesn’t like trees? Put your hand down, Figgins Minor, it’s not funny and it’s not clever. Trees are under threat as never before, or so we’re led to believe, so this is, if nothing else, timely.

When it comes to instructional books (which this is not), those on trees are thin on the ground; the paper used to print them certainly wouldn’t threaten a forest. They are, however, ubiquitous in landscapes, but few people bother to paint them as subjects in themselves. This is a shame as, apart from the representational challenges, they present an infinite variety of shapes, colours, textures and forms and change with every season.

What a book such as this does, for me above all, is to throw together a wonderfully varied collection of artists, styles and media that otherwise would probably never be found within a single collection. My antennae quickly said “exhibition” and this indeed did grow out of Under The Greenwood: Picturing The British Tree, which was held at the St Barbe Museum & Art Gallery in 2013. I warm to that “grew out of”, because this isn’t (just) a catalogue, but rather a determination to give a temporary collection greater permanence. The Arborealists isn’t just a handy title for the book, it’s a conscious grouping of the artists involved, a loose association borne out of a sense of camaraderie and which exhibits across the south of England.

No fewer than thirty-seven artists have contributed to the book, each given a double-page spread and, for the most part, two illustrations. It’s inevitably a sampler, but the format also emphasises the variety of the work on show from oils to watercolour to ink and printmaking. Each artist has a short introduction, either biographical or in their own words, but these never take over from the illustrations, which are given generous space, as they should be.

There are also some useful background essays which deal with trees and their position in culture, as well as a handy history of trees in art, which has some particularly nicely-chosen illustrations.

Overall, if you love trees, or painting, or even just happily miscellaneous collections, this is a book not to miss.

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Art Students League of New York on Painting || James L McElhinny

This new volume follows on from The Visual Language of Drawing that appeared a few years ago and drew on the work of a well-established institution to provide a variety of views and approaches to its subject.

This, unsurprisingly, follows the same formula. It’s subtitle, Lessons and Meditations on Mediums, Styles and Methods, might lead you to think it’s a bit abstract and academic, but you’d only be partly right. It’s more discussions than meditations and the thoughts of the instructors of the ASL are worth reading. While we’re deconstructing titles, the word Lessons doesn’t mean that there’s overt instruction here: it’s more of a seminar. If you want your books to get you painting with one hand while you read and follow exercises with the other, this won’t cut it. If, though, you enjoy reading about the practice of painting, you might well find the book hard to put down.

The essays that comprise the content are quite long, hugely varied and thoroughly illustrated – the quality of these is excellent, both in terms of the work presented and the reproduction. Above all, it’s not dull. You might find that the views of artists you’ve never heard of are harder to get to grips with but, equally, you might value the fresh viewpoints that brings. Money paid, choice taken.

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