Archive for category Medium: Watercolour

The Paint Pad Artist (Watercolour Landscapes || Grahame Booth/Watercolour Flowers || Julie King)

This new series builds on the theme of the hugely successful Ready to Paint books and provides outlines pre-printed on watercolour paper. I’ve looked for a watermark, but can’t find one, so it’s very much a take-it-as-it-is option. This shouldn’t matter, however, as these are very much aimed at the beginner and, as long as the material doesn’t have any particularly difficult characteristics, just having it there ready to use should be fine. You still have to provide your own paint and brushes, of course, but there’s a handy list of What You Need in the concise but informative introductory section to each book. Given the level of skill this is aimed at, getting the right balance between thoroughness and not being so detailed as to be off-putting is a difficult thing to judge. The decision here has been to start on practical work as soon as possible and develop skills there.

The core of each book is a series of six projects with detailed step-by-step-illustrations. There’s plenty of hand-holding and a very real sense of having a guide and tutor at your shoulder throughout. A nice touch is the suggestion of making copies of the outlines so that you can practice and repeat the exercises without the pressure of having to get it right first time or waste the material provided. This is advice any newcomer would be advised to follow as (spoiler alert), art isn’t something you can pick up in a few minutes.

There’s much to like here, quite apart from the approach and presentation. The books are spiral bound inside a substantial hard cover and the attention to detail includes an elasticated band that holds the whole thing together in the manner of a portfolio. It’s very professionally done and makes the student feel both taken, and that they’re taking it all, seriously.

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The Greenwood Trees || Christina Hart-Davies

This celebration of native British trees has been inspired by the 800th anniversary of the Forest Charter. Coeval with Magna Carta, this document established the right and responsibilities of the king, nobles and commoners. It covered activities such as hunting, gathering wood, coppicing and pannage – collecting the acorns that fed domestic pigs. In many ways, it was the more important of the two charters, certainly for the daily life of the majority of people.

Trees have been central to the life of man for millennia. They provide food, fuel, shelter and even medicine. Although we now build mostly in brick and stone, our houses still contain a great deal of timber. In the course of this, myths, legends and tales have grown up and forests have acquired a life that takes them from the physical to the spiritual world.

This delightful book celebrates the role of trees and illustrates them with superb watercolours that show form, structure and detail as well as the way trees change through the seasons. Although it is not an art book as such, the quality of the work will inspire any botanical painter and show what can be done with simple materials.

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Lettering With Love || Sue Hiepler & Yasmin Reddig

This is an attractive book that’s really hard to classify. It’s not exactly art instruction, yet not quite calligraphy either. That is, of course, broadly the point and the idea is to suggest images that contain both watercolour and lettering. The subtitle, “the simple art of handwriting with watercolour embellishment” says as much.

To be absolutely honest, I think you could flick through it, say “Oh yes” and then get on with your own ideas. However, if you want projects, images and letterforms, it’s all here and, in spite of my reservations, I can’t help liking it – and that’s really quite high praise.

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Dynamic Watercolours || Jane Betteridge

This is an interesting approach to watercolour that concentrates as much on technical opportunities as it does on pure creativity. That’s not to imply that Jane is devoid of ideas – she’s brimming with them – but this is an exploration of what can be done with what’s often regarded as quite a demure medium when you push and stretch it to its limits.

Whether you like the results will depend a lot on how you feel about “pure” watercolour, about which plenty has been written. Even if this isn’t your cup of tea you will, I think, be impressed by what Jane manages to achieve and the boldness with which she’s prepared to go out on something of a limb, both technically and creatively. When you find innovative ways of working, it’s also worth looking for the same in your method of expression and this is a very happy marriage of those two strands.

So, if you’re still with me, I think we’ve established that you have a sense of adventure and are up for a challenge. Will you get that? Emphatically, yes, you will. Jane works with surfaces, textured grounds, crackle and modelling pastes and applied materials. She attacks her images with wire brushes and stamps as well as deploying inks and granulations, salt, impasto and pearlescent colours. Does that sound like a theme park ride? Prepare to hang on.

Search Press have become adept at making the illustrations an integral part of their books, rather than, more formal counterpoints to the text. The result can be an assault on the senses and an overall impression of busyness that can sometimes be difficult to take in at a glance. Delve further though and it all becomes clear as themes and subjects coalesce out of the wider view. Add to this Jane’s very clear sense of where she’s going and how she wants to get there and you land up with a coherent composition that is at once exciting and convincing.

If this isn’t a book that immediately excites you, you might find it somewhat hard to like. However, stay with it and I think you’ll be at least partly convinced by the end.

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Pocket Book for Watercolour Artists || Terry Harrison/Geoff Kersey/Charles Evans

Search Press have reissued their handy Top Tips guides in paperback format, making them available for a new audience.

Containing concise hints and tips – often with a single illustration and a short caption, but also some longer demonstrations, they offer quick and immediate advice that can be like having your favourite artist as a private tutor with you as you work.

For more complete reviews, follow the link above.

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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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