Archive for category Medium: Watercolour

Watercolour With Love || Lena Yokotha-Barth

This is a strange book, which I suspect you’ll either love or hate. The subtitle describes it as “50 modern motifs to paint in 5 easy steps” and it does have the feeling of icons or emojis. There’s no great technical subtlety and the colour tends to work in blocks producing, it has to be said, often attractive and different images.

The various projects, which include a watermelon, ice cream cone, toucan and orange, are the end result in themselves. This is not a book about watercolour technique, but really one of design. If you want simple images to decorate your home that you can say you’ve created yourself, this is a slam-dunk.

I’m trying not to damn it with faint praise, but I think the market I normally write for isn’t the one this is addressing. Within the confines of what it is, my reservation is that there are no instructions beyond the very basic and, if you want to know how to create shading using a wash, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Given that its average buyer probably isn’t at all experienced in the medium, I think that could be quite a drawback.

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Peggy Dean’s Guide to Nature Drawing & Watercolor

This is a simple guide that uses simple shapes to help you build up images of flowers, trees, plants and animals. The text is written in a pleasantly conversational style that comes across as warm and accessible, rather than affected and mannered, as these things often can. I get the feeling that Peggy would be an appealing tutor in person and that you could have a lot of fun as well as learning a great deal with her.

As it is, we just have the book, but the author’s personality shines through. The presentation is at all times down-to-earth and business-like and the whole thing is generally easy to follow. That the illustrations are graphic – made up from printed colours – rather than being half-tones of actual paint – doesn’t matter and actually just seems to make things clearer.

The initial impression is of a cornucopia, of much more than you can take in at a glance and this is borne out by further examination. Given the wide variety of subjects covered, this isn’t so much a book to read from cover to cover as one to turn to when you want advice on a particular topic. That you may also find yourself straying further afield just adds to the sense of fun and adventure it engenders.

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Learn Flower Painting Quickly || Trevor Waugh

This excellent series continues apace, bringing with it a welcome return by Trevor Waugh, whose loose, evocative style is admirably suited to a book where fine-detail work is not the main criterion.

Loose washes and broad brushwork create flowers that are about shape, colour and impression rather than botanical illustration. If this is what you want to do, you’ll feel right at home. Similarly, if for you flowers are more of an adjunct to a larger painting, you’ll be glad of the lack of intricate work with small brushes and of botanical information that’s irrelevant to you.

As is the series style, instruction is by example, with the text being mainly confined to guiding you through what you’re seeing. Exercises and demonstrations are short, but there’s plenty of information on shape, colour and composition, as well as foliage and backgrounds.

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Everyday Watercolor Flowers || Jenna Rainey

This very simple guide is an ideal introduction to flower painting. The format is a standard series of steps covering a wide variety of flower types and there are good instructions that go into plenty of detail about the processes involved.

Following the same working method means that, once you’ve got the hang of how the book works, you can concentrate on the results, rather than having to learn the ropes every time and this promotes both confidence and positive results.

The quality of the illustrations isn’t as good as it might be, though. Detail is often obscured and the colours seem rather washed out. Although this is a drawback, the approach throughout is sound and it’s still a very worthwhile book.

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Painting Nature’s Details || Meriel Thurstan and Rosie Martin

This was originally published in 2009 as Natural History Painting With The Eden Project and has now been reissued in paperback.

You can read my original review here.

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Paint Yourself Positive || Jean Haines

This is the successor to 2016’s Paint Yourself Calm and is ostensibly about mindfulness and working with your imagination rather than a visible subject.

Does that sound unbearably new-agey? You bet it does and in less skilled hands it could be a mess, both in terms of concept, presentation and results. However, Jean is a very capable painter who already works on the edge of abstraction and the illustrations here are very little different to her more conventional work, as seen in books such as Atmospheric Flowers in Watercolour. For her state-of-mind work, she uses imagination to control what appears on paper, but that doesn’t mean unintelligible blobs, but rather images that capture the essence of their subjects – flowers, fish, buildings and animals.

It would be perfectly possible to use this as an aid to mindfulness, but it’s also a very worthwhile guide to a rather different approach to painting. If you already love Jean’s work, this is another pearl of wisdom to treasure. If you’re new to it, it’s no bad place to start.

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David Bellamy’s Seas and Shorelines in Watercolour

This is David’s best book in a long time and his Arctic trip seems to have rekindled his love of all things rugged. It tells the story of the littoral – the point where land and sea meet. Astonishingly, although there have been books on painting the sea and on coastal scenes, this moment of transition has largely passed the instructional book market by. It’s possible that this is because margins are always hard to define – they’re small and tend to vanish when you look at them.

So, is this a book about nothing at all? Well, no, of course it isn’t. What David has done is to combine the two conventional approaches – sea and land – and show you how they inextricably interact. So, you get waves both crashing and lapping on cliffs and beaches, harbour villages clinging to rocky slopes that teeter down to the water’s edge, as well as boats, buildings, birds and people.

There’s also a nicely complete narrative to the book’s construction. You don’t just get a series of unconnected exercises and demonstrations, but rather the story of how the coastline connects land to water and the margin to itself, creating a string of scenes and opportunities. It’s as thrilling as it is informative and the results are stunning.

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