Archive for category Medium: Watercolour

DVD Planning Your Painting || Joseph Zbukvic

This is a film about looking, seeing and refining. It’s less about the mechanics of painting and Joseph spends quite a lot of time walking around Rome in search of subjects, rejecting the obvious, the pretty and the main tourist sites – “Don’t start just because it’s beautiful”, he says.

He begins with a short lesson in the basic shapes of composition and shows how these guide the viewer in and balance the elements of the picture. This leads on to a watercolour sketch in a quiet back street that demonstrates the use of shapes and tones: “I don’t think about colour, I just think about tone … warm, cool”.

Rome is a busy, bustling city and Joseph is at pains to show you how to find and isolate a subject in the middle of crowds and confusion. He is looking all the time for shapes and edges and the time spent not painting in this film contains some of the most important lessons. He is insistent about understanding and absorbing a place in order to commit it to memory: a photograph takes a moment and isn’t a real memory, he explains. Joseph is also insistent on the importance of working and sketching all the time: “Not matter how good you are, you should practise your craft”, he reminds us. The result of this is that he is able to produce pencil sketches quickly and accurately, although he also emphasises the importance of not getting bogged down in detail and accuracy: “Just because it’s there, doesn’t mean you have to put it in” is perhaps the most sound piece of advice in the whole film. Details can overwhelm both the composition and the viewer.

This film comes from a different perspective to many, but Joseph is an astute observer and an excellent communicator and his message: observe, practise, simplify comes across loud and clear.

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The Watercolour Enigma || Stephen Coates

The science of watercolour is intriguing but, if the very idea makes your eyes glaze over, prepare to be intrigued. This bills itself as “a complete course revealing the secrets and science of watercolour” and, while I wouldn’t quite classify it as nose-to-tail eating, it oozes practicality on every page.

Stephen quite rightly understands that a watercolourist’s only interest in the physical properties of their medium relates to what it can do for them and how they can exploit and control its behaviour. To this end, he explains the properties of water, how and why washes blend and the ways in which different pigments mix. The whole process is constructed as a series of exercises and demonstrations that show you what’s happening rather than simply telling you, although there are also panels that explain the technicalities in simple terms.

If you want to get the most out of your medium, this is a fascinating and absorbing look under the hood.

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Ready to Paint in 30 Minutes – Landscapes|| Dave Woollass/Trees & Woodlands || Geoff Kersey

For a general appreciation, please look at the series tag above. I like the new iteration of the old Ready to Paint series a lot and these latest volumes diminish that not a jot.

Dave Woollass is a new author and one I hope we’ll see more of. He has a pleasantly loose style that’s readily achievable and explains his working methods well. He’s also comfortable with the variety of subject matter that the series demands and this would be a book worth seeking out even if the series in general isn’t your regular cup of tea.

Geoff Kersey is a familiar figure who’s well-practised in art instruction. Working with this will be familiar territory to many and a comfortable amble through the byways of watercolour. While there’s nothing excessively taxing (here or in the series in general), you won’t feel constrained or short-changed, your creative skills rather being gently stretched; a work-up rather than a work-out, perhaps.

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Painting Rivers || Rob Dudley

The subtitle of this fascinating and enjoyable book is “from source to sea” and it encapsulates Rob Dudley’s original approach to painting water. There have been a lot of books about that subject, but this is the first I can recall that eschews lakes and the sea in favour of the variety that can be found in what flows between them.

Water is a living thing. It has form and substance, but its shape is defined by what contains it and its outward manifestation – colour and appearance – and by the light that falls and the forces that are exerted on it. It’s a truism that you can never step into the same river twice and, on the same basis, you can never paint it twice either. Indeed, as a painting is effectively a moment frozen in time, you can’t really paint a river at all – but let’s keep well away from metaphysics!

This is as thorough and comprehensive a book as you could wish. Rob explains approaches and techniques in his chosen medium of watercolour as well as how to capture light, movement and reflection. He considers not just the river itself, but its surroundings and the people, objects and creatures that occupy it.

There are plenty of demonstrations and projects to get to work on, as well as discussions of the life of the river as it progresses downstream. This is an original idea that’s well thought-out and executed.

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Painting Flowers – a creative approach || Siȃn Dudley

This is not a book about painting flowers. I think it’s best to clear that up at the outset. What I mean is that it isn’t about how to paint botanical illustrations or flower portraits. If the details aren’t exactly correct, every stamen in place or the species immediately available for identification purposes, that’s fine. This is what the creative approach of the subtitle is.

What we do have is a book about creating stunning images using flowers as the main subject, but as a jumping-off point. What the non-specialist sees is shapes, colours and hues. Names and identities are unimportant and what matters is the infinite variety of possibility that flowers present. They can be indoors or out, alone or in arrangements, solitary clumps or jostling for space in a meadow. Light, shade and weather will change the way they appear. In this world, nothing is ever the same twice, no ideal specimen has to be found to create the perfect illustration; it’s all about creativity and paint.

If you’re fascinated by flowers but put off painting them because of the sometimes overly scientific approach and the fact that true enthusiasts know the exact names of everything, this is for you. It revels in its subject and makes the most of the properties of light, colour, watercolour and art.

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Everyday Watercolor || Jenna Rainey

This is another of those “learn watercolour in 30 days” books. I don’t mean that to sound dismissive, but it’s important to distinguish it from guides that encourage you to look at the mundane and to paint as often as possible so that you have to find subjects wherever you are. It isn’t one of those.

The initial impression is favourable. This is important because any book in this category has to make you feel welcome, encouraged, and that you want to get stuck in. We’re here for a month, not just a one night stand. The lessons are straightforward, short and simple. You may be painting every day, but not all day and, by tea time, you won’t have forgotten what you learnt at breakfast. You’ve got time to practise, absorb and make sure you’re fully up to speed before the alarm clock tomorrow. You won’t even have to take leave of absence from your job; there’s plenty you can do while dinner’s cooking.

All that’s absolutely fine, but where I do have a reservation is that the execution isn’t all that good. Many of the examples seem flat and lacking any real sense of atmosphere, and there are too many cacti. It does mean that you’re not going to be faced with something you feel you can never hope to emulate, but there’s also a sense that you have a teacher who maybe only completed the book themselves last week. You might think that the method outweighs that, though.

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Anna Mason’s Watercolour World

notice that I had reservations about the reproduction in Anna’s previous book. I’m pleased to say that the same does not apply here and this is, indeed, an absolute delight.

The basis of the book is a series of natural subjects: birds, animals, flowers, leaves and fruit and, in each of the demonstrations, Anna shows you how to build up colour and details in layers. An added feature is the oversize final illustration which allows you to see the brushwork in considerable detail; this is where the quality of reproduction really counts. Any unsharpness here would render the book useless.

This is one of Search Press’s larger format offerings and they’ve made good use of the real estate by providing space on the pages and allowing quite a lot of white paper. The result is an overall feeling of lightness that’s enhanced by the rather surprising number of pictures of the author painting in a sunlit garden. Are these absolutely necessary: unequivocally, no. Do they intrude or detract from the content: again, no. In fact, I think they actually add to the overall experience by providing a warmth and lightness and a sense of Anna’s presence in the text.

The sense I get from the book is of a pleasant afternoon spent with a congenial companion and teacher. There are the demonstrations I’ve mentioned already, but also more general advice on technique, composition, form, structure and style – how naturalistic do you want to be?

In this respect, the book is absolutely sound and, although I’ve made quite a lot of the overall experience, the quality of the instruction, which is what ultimately matters, is of the best.

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