Archive for category Medium: Watercolour

Botanical Artistry || Julia Trickey

This really rather beautiful collection of images from an award-winning botanical artist isn’t just about flowers, but looks at dying and damaged leaves as well as fruit and fading blooms. All these are an important part of botanical illustration as few specimens are perfect in real life. In the right hands, they can, as we see here, be things of considerable beauty.

This isn’t an instructional book, but Julia includes handy observations on what she was looking for and why many of the particular subjects were chosen. If you’re a student of botanical art, these insights will be both fascinating and a valuable way of learning how to develop you own skills in the company of an accomplished professional.

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In Bloom || Rachel Reinert

This simple guide contains outlines that will enable you to practise flower painting quickly and easily. The subtitle refers to “florals”, an American term I have always understood to refer to more elaborate flower arrangements, rather than single blooms or stems. Here, however, it is the latter that are to the fore, which is good if you are a beginner in the field.

The subtitle also refers to drawing and what you’re presented with is a series of increasingly detailed printed outlines with the instructions in short captions. As an exercise in copying, it’s fine, but I’m not sure how much you’d actually learn by working through its varied contents – there’s no question that the covering is comprehensive.

Of more use are the last dozen pages, which deal with colour and do manage to pack a good amount of information in. I’m not sure, though, that this would justify the price of the book, or that there’s information you couldn’t get – albeit in a less concise form – elsewhere.

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Matthew Palmer’s Step-by-Step Guide to Watercolour Painting

There is always room for a good solid introduction to any subject, and this is one of the best on watercolour.

Just picking it up gives an immediate and encouragingly meaty feel. It’s substantial at 144 pages and, with the added outlines in the middle, really quite heavy. Physical feel, of course, means nothing if the content is lightweight and it’s good to know that there’s plenty here to get your teeth into. We open with a good discussion of materials that will aid the tyro though the maze of what’s available before moving on to a look at inspiration. This is the basic “what am I going to paint and where am I going to find it”, but the language used is serious and assumes that the reader is too. It’s nice to see at this level and this early in the book. Again, it inspires and engenders confidence.

After a look at basic techniques and how to use colour, the first exercise appears as early as page 38. Art is a visual medium and there’s nothing worse than having to wade through acres of talk before you get to work. You want to paint, you bought all those materials so come on, let’s get down to it – and we do. Nothing too taxing: it’s a very basic scene of some hills with a simple foreground and a graduated sky. Follow the six stages, each with its own series of steps and you’d be hard put to it to get it wrong. Look, your first painting, on day one. Way to go!

The rest of the book introduces more subjects, techniques and complexity. It’s beautifully structured, thoroughly explained and very easy to follow. And, in case you get stuck, there are the aforesaid tracings that help you get the basic sketch right. Build on solid foundations and the structure will stand.

I really don’t think you could better this.

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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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