Archive for category Medium: Watercolour

The Essence of Watercolour || Hazel Soan

It’s a measure of the quality of Hazel’s work and, indeed, of the production of this book, that it looks as fresh today as it did when it first appeared in hardback in 2011. You can see what I said about it at the time here.

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Take Three Colours: Watercolour Seascapes || Geoff Kersey

This is the second outing for a promising new series that breaks popular subjects down into manageable form. The idea of using just three colours (red, blue and yellow) is that there’s a minimum of fussing about with mixing. What’s impressive, though, is the range of tints and hues that Geoff manages to achieve and there’s no hint of the extremely limited palette.

These books are, as you might have guessed, aimed at the beginner and the instruction and hand-holding are comprehensive; you’re never left feeling that something has been missed out, that there was another stage in there somewhere. Handy jargon busters deal with any technical terms that may be unfamiliar.

The pictures you’ll work on are not complex images, but that’s not what you’d want. The tone and detail are nicely judged.

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Take Three Colours: Watercolour Flowers || Julie King

Flower painting being the tricky subject that it is, anything that simplifies the painting process has to be a good thing, just as long as it doesn’t over-simplify and trivialise. It’s therefore something of a relief to be able to say that Julie manages her task with considerable success.

You will, I’m sure, be amazed by the variety of tints and hues she manages to achieve with just three base colours (the same ones throughout). Yes, if you look closely, the results lack some of the subtlety that could be achieved with more, but you wouldn’t feel dissatisfied with the results, for all that. I also have a feeling that the reproduction may not be as sharp as it could be, and that what you see on paper might be better that it is on the pages of the book. I also wouldn’t have chosen that sunflower as the cover illustration as it really doesn’t convey the variety of what you can achieve. Please don’t let it put you off.

In keeping with the series style, there are plenty of generously-sized stage illustrations, short captions telling you what’s going on and sidebars that include a variety of tips and jargon busters.

With 9 projects and clear instruction, this is the ideal place to start on a rewarding subject. You might also find it useful if you’ve already had a go, but are struggling.

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Sketchits! Faces & Fashion || Christopher Hart

The always entertaining and informative Christopher Hart is back with a simple guide to drawing clothed figures. “More than 7 million books sold”, the cover proclaims and it’s not hard to see why. Christopher manages to simplify everything and to be elementary without talking down to the reader.

“Got Color? Just add lines”, the blurb tells us, adding that it’s “introducing an entirely new approach to drawing”. Well, up to a point, but the idea is ingenious – paint the basic shape, then add facial features, hair, accessories and detail such as folds and shadows. “Jump-start your creativity”.

If you want a simple guide to drawing figures, this would fit the bill nicely. If you don’t, you might find that the absence of complication encourages you to add your own simplification.

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Ready to Paint in 30 Minutes – street scenes, flowers

There was much to like about the old Ready to Paint series. The pre-drawn outlines and extended demonstrations made light work of a wide variety of subjects.

This new departure is more than just a re-vamp or extension of the original idea. In place of the complete paintings, there are thirty-odd smaller exercises that concentrate on a particular element of the subject, or a technique in the medium. Being A6, they can be completed in the field if you want, and using a pocketable watercolour pad (the series is all watercolour so far). The finale is 3 full-size (A4) paintings that bring everything together – the full orchestral run-though, as it were.

The approach is nicely progressive and these first two volumes cover subjects (street scenes and flowers) that benefit from the breakdown approach. Two more are in the pipeline for next year . There’s a pleasantly solid feel to the books and plenty of technical sections, hints, tips and generous instruction in the step-by-steps.

The original series went a long way and this deserves to as well.

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Painting Watercolour Snow Scenes the Easy Way || Terry Harrison

Sadly, this is going to be my last review of a new Terry Harrison book. His death has left a huge hole in the world of art instruction and many readers are going to be asking where they will go now. Terry was one of the best explainers and his relaxed style of both painting and demonstrating made the results look, while easy, not too easy. You think, “With a bit of effort, I could do that too” and the real secret is that you can. Terry always gave a polished performance, but there was never any sleight of hand, no secrets he kept to himself. Follow the instructions, maybe even use his own range of brushes (they really do what they promise) and the results will follow. He may be gone, but there’s a substantial legacy of books and articles that we can refer to for many years to come.

This new book was the one he always wanted to write. Given a free choice of topic, it was the one he chose and I’ve been told he saw the proofs and was delighted by the result.

Snow is one of the hardest things to paint, harder even than water, which is all about reflections. Snow looks white, but isn’t. It’s blue, it’s grey and it’s every colour in between. It obscures familiar shapes but creates new ones and has a structure and perspective all of its own. All the techniques are here, along with exercises and demonstrations that cover tracks, trees, mountains, water, buildings and much else. There are even some well-wrapped figures and one snowman! Snow is an impermanent thing, but Terry gives it the substance you’d expect.

It’s both ironic and typical of him that Terry chose to subtitle this “the easy way”. As we all know, there is no quick or easy way to paint and it’s a private joke between us and the author that there might be. This, though, is Terry saying “trust me” and very gently showing you the way without leading. If it was mountaineering, he’d be holding the rope, but still letting you do the climb. He may be gone, but all the belays are still there.

A version of this review appeared in The Artist magazine for August 2017.

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Painting in Watercolour || David Howell

This general and wide-ranging discussion of watercolour makes for an enjoyable read. Although it contains a number of demonstrations, these are more of the analytical than prescriptive type, taking consideration of what was done rather than providing instruction on how to replicate them.

David’s style is pleasantly loose and makes frequent use of granulation. He also includes preliminary pencil sketches that show how the composition was settled.

While there is plenty of information, this is a book to sit down with rather than use while you’re working. The examination of approaches and consideration of colour, tone and perspective contain more detail than a simple instruction manual and are related both to the medium in general and the subject in particular.

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