Archive for category Medium: Watercolour

DVD My Chinese Vision || Herman Pekel

In my review of Herman’s previous film with APV, I described him as a magician. To that, I think I’ll add alchemist. Although this is filmed in China, the city street and beach scenes could be almost anywhere, although a session around (newly built) traditional architecture does give more sense of place. All the sessions are dogged by heat, humidity and a dense haze (which might be smog). It’s clear that working in these conditions is hard labour and Herman does well to keep going and produce what can really only be described as pure gold from base metal.

What makes the film watchable, indeed compelling, is Herman himself. His commentary is continuous – few other artists can manage to work and talk at the same time as well as he does – and includes nuggets of wisdom you’ll want to write down. In the city, where buildings, street furniture and signs abound, he remarks, “The more complex a subject is, the more I tend to use just drybrush”. This combines with advice to “Let the water, pigment and paper do the work for you” to demonstrate ways of simplifying not just the subject, but your technique. He adds later, “You must have a vision, you must see the painting finished before you start.”

The scenes Herman chooses are unpromising and the haze makes things more difficult as details are obscured and distances barely visible. His ability to focus on a small area and to manipulate it into an effective composition is the alchemy I referred to earlier. He also has sound advice, especially in the conditions, to do 90% of the work on location, but to leave the remainder for later (on this occasion in the comfort of an air-conditioned hotel room) when you have had a chance to rethink. Here, outlines are tightened up and further details added that pull everything together.

I’m not sure how much of a flavour of China this presents, apart from the heat and the crowds, and it would be unreasonable to suggest that it was something to look at from that point of view. However, as a lesson on painting in unpromising conditions, and on working on location with watercolour, it’s utterly gripping.

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Watercolour Techniques and Tutorials For The Complete Beginner || Paul Clark

There’s a lot to like about this straightforward, patient and thorough guide. I might take slight issue with the idea of it being for “the complete beginner”. In truth, I think a little facility with the medium would probably help, although the explanations are simple and concise and certainly won’t blind you with terminology.

Paul explains materials, the basics of colour theory and technical matters such as brushstrokes and washes in short paragraphs and simple illustrations that are completely to the point. He even manages to cover perspective pretty adequately in just two pages. No, this isn’t exhaustive but, if you’ve been put off by some of the whole books dedicated to the subject, this one might be worth the cover price for that topic alone.

The rest of the book is devoted to a series of demonstrations, many of which I think the complete tyro might struggle with. Inevitably, the results are complex and the use of washes and wet-in-wet could well seem daunting. Paul has a facility with the medium that makes for excellent results and his clear explanations will probably make you think that following him is worth the effort, though.

The range of subjects covered is impressive and this is entirely teaching by example. There are buildings, landscapes, birds, still lifes, trees and clouds as well as handy hints on figures, skies, flowers and much more. If you’re serious about learning watercolour, this is a guide that should keep you satisfied for quite a long time and one which, in spite of the somewhat virtuoso illustrations, you won’t lose patience with.

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Venice: a watercolour journey || P L Hobbs

Venice is one of the most visited, photographed and painted places in the world. This, however, is a bit more than just another tourist souvenir.

Phil Hobbs has been visiting the city for over twenty years and paints not just the grand vistas, but also the forgotten corners and the people who live there, as well as those who come to stand and stare. The result is a vibrant portrait of a living entity that captures the sense of place to perfection. Anecdotes and historical snippets add to the life and vibrancy that leap off the pages.

Phil’s style is fairly conventional loose(ish) watercolour, but he also varies it subtly so that there are more washes when atmosphere is key and it becomes a little tighter when detail is important. People are identifiable as individuals rather than simple place-holding blobs.

If you’re a lover of watercolour and of Venice, this is a book you’ll really want. It’s almost a visit in itself.

Available from http://www.plhobbs.co.uk/

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Pure Watercolour Painting || Peter Cronin

As you might expect, Peter is a member of the Pure Watercolour Society and this is a hymn to the medium.. Forewords by David Curtis and David Bellamy should leave you in no doubt about how good it is.

My first question on opening the book was: what is “pure” watercolour and how does it differ from any other kind? Peter helpfully enlightens us: “One may suspect that there is perhaps more to good painting than a huge toolkit, and it may be possible to take simple tools and use them well. This concept and approach to painting are at the heart of pure watercolour”. Put kindly, I take that to mean that simplicity is always best and that you should work with your imagination and media rather than your tools; they’re not what makes a painting, you do.

In the wrong hands, this could come across as a fundamentalist rant, but Peter lets his brushes do the talking and the work here is simply extraordinary. If he wasn’t such a good explainer and demonstrator, you could easily be put off by his virtuosity. As it is, follow his advice carefully and you’ll stand a very good chance of finishing this book a much better painter then when you started.

Watercolour is, as I think we all know, a very special medium. It’s one that does sometimes seem to have a mind of its own and is nowhere near as controllable as the opaque ones. The skill is to work with that and to learn ways of encouraging it to do what you want rather than trying to wrestle it into submission and merely working against it. Handle a wash sensitively, know when colours are going to bleed and blend and large sections will almost complete themselves.

Peter explains much about the properties of watercolour and the techniques you’ll need. He also demonstrates extensively and these paintings will show you how to produce some really quite advanced work.

It’s a bit of a tour de force.

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Complete Guide to Watercolour || David Webb

This really rather attractive book is arranged more or less in an encyclopaedia format, but without quite falling into the tabulated effect that implies. It’s a difficult thing to define, but the result is both a rattle bag and the basis of a nicely-structured course at the same time.

Subtitling itself “all the essential skills and techniques you need” is a pointer to this: it’s not so much a manual as a connected series of lessons that you can work with in almost any order. And there lies its attraction: each section is easily separated out and you can read up about what you need or what interests you at the moment. It would be possible to work through from cover to cover and, indeed, you’ll probably want to at some point. For the rest, it’s something to keep by you and dip into serendipitously. It has many treasures to reveal and these are best discovered by chance.

There are hints, tips, lessons, exercises and demonstrations and the book finishes rather pleasingly with a section titled “Approaches to Watercolour”, introducing a range of other contributors who present their own ways of working.

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Beginner’s Guide to Botanical Painting || Michael Lakin

This is another of Search Press’s mashups, combining material from 2010’s Ready to Paint Botanical Flowers in Watercolour and 2012’s A-Z of Botanical Flowers in Watercolour, bringing together the best from both.

If it’s possible to teach beginners something that takes a lifetime to master, this comes at least somewhere near to achieving its aim. There are 13 pre-printed tracings (familiar from the Ready to Paint series) with their detailed demonstrations. Alongside and really rather well integrated with this elementary process is the more detailed information from the larger book. This includes an explanation of Michael’s six-stage process for flower painting that does a lot to remove the confusing mystique that surrounds the subject. There are also exercises for further development once you’ve mastered the basics.

As an introduction to realistic flower painting, this is really rather good.

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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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