Archive for category Publisher: Batsford

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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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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Light and Shade in Watercolour || Hazel Soan

Hazel Soan’s work is all about light and shade and this is the book she was always destined to write. If it seems like a long time coming, think of her previous output as the rehearsal that makes sure this is absolutely right. And absolutely right it is, a genuine tour de force that takes in light and dark, the white of the paper, contrasting and complementary colours and the use of simple shapes that say far more about a subject than any amount of fine detail. Look at any of the images here in depth and it becomes apparent just how much Hazel leaves out, relying instead on the viewer’s eye to fill the blanks and create the emotional response that defines a successful painting.

The book covers animals, figures, flowers, landscapes, buildings and townscapes, all in a variety of lighting effects that Hazel will show you how to capture. There are no step-by-step demonstrations, but neither is this a dry read; most of the text is confined to short paragraphs. Like the images themselves, these are stripped back to the bare essentials while, at the same time conveying all the information you need. Where necessary, extended captions explain what you’re looking at and for and there’s an extraordinary sense of working alongside a consummate artist, rather than simply being set homework to present later.

Hazel is a rightly popular author and demonstrator and this is easily her best book yet.

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Patrick Heron || Andrew Wilson & Sarah Matson

This guide to the life and work of Patrick Heron – regarded by many as one of the Twentieth Century’s greatest artists – has been published to coincide with what the blurb describes as a major retrospective at Tate St Ives and the Turner Contemporary, Margate. Having seen the exhibition, I’d say it’s more of an easily-manageable introduction to the artist’s work but that it is, in many ways, all the better for it.

Patrick Heron can be a bit of a challenge for the newcomer. Look for objects and themes and you won’t necessarily find them. I was immensely aided by the show’s notes, which helpfully tell us that, for Heron, the image was the image and that shapes and edges are not just more important than representation, but the work’s raison d’être itself. Knowing that provides an instant way in and it becomes possible to appreciate Heron’s use of format and colour as well as his method of application, often involving small brushes on large canvasses. Splashing paint around, this is not.

I’ve had this book sitting on the shelf for rather longer than I intended, but I’m glad of that because it means I can now say that it’s a fantastic introduction to Patrick Heron’s work as well as his place in relation to the French and American painting that strongly influenced him.

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Maps of London and Beyond || Adam Dant

This rather wonderful synthesis of cartography, art and social comment is both beautiful and intriguing. Its large format allows the reader to savour fully the attention to detail and the stories that Adam Dant has to tell. We begin, for instance, with a series of maps showing four stages of the development of Shoreditch, that now achingly trendy hipster enclave, but which has had what might be termed a chequered history. The captions explain what has been lost and what has appeared, the style of each map reflecting that of the period it covers, from the rural area of Tudor times to its modern incarnation.

This is not, though, conventional map-making and London Enraged – a map of the riots from AD60 to the present comes as an explosion surrounding a central colossus. The Centrally Planned London Underground is, entirely fittingly, circular, but without captions or station names and with the symbols looking even more like the electrical circuit diagram that inspired Harry Beck’s original. London Digested, a simplified layout, comes as an anatomical dissection.

Although this is a book probably best appreciated by those with some connection to London, the inventiveness and jeu d’esprit of the artworks reflects Adam’s imagination. It’s a book to pick up again and again for the joy of discovering new angles and details.

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Learn Colour in Painting Quickly || Hazel Soan

This excellently-conceived series has proved that it is possible not only to learn quickly, but that the unadorned approach is often the way to go. I’m always at least a little sceptical of such claims simply because something that can be a lifetime’s study can’t be mastered in a few minutes. However, I have to concede that getting to grips with the basics is something where speed can be a considerable help. Getting bogged down at the start is not only unhelpful, but positively discouraging to efforts to proceed.

Colour is, of course, the artist’s stock-in-trade, at once the vocabulary and grammar of the language of painting. Those for whom it’s second nature wonder at the number of books about it but, for all that, there are perfectly capable painters who struggle, at least at the outset. However, once you grasp the idea that the basic concept is really quite simple and that a lot of the difficulties are self-imposed, everything becomes much clearer.

Hazel is a master of colour in all its forms and, following the series format, shows plenty of examples linked with just enough words to make sure you know and understand what you’re looking at. She explains colour theory in practice (which means as little explanation and theory as possible) as well as demonstrating ways of creating light, shade, form, tone and hue.

I’m tempted to say that this is the complete guide, but of course it isn’t, and doesn’t pretend to be. It is, however, the complete introduction and you might find that what it teaches you is enough for you to be able to learn the rest for yourself, and that’s a heck of an achievement.

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Learn Acrylics Quickly || Soraya French

This series from Batsford is shaping up nicely. The key to its success is to use authors who are at home with larger books, rather than to assume that, because the format is simple, the approach can be too. In fact, it’s quite the opposite and simplicity requires greater communication skill than does complexity.

Soraya French has a pleasant, approachable and colourful style that suits the medium well. The series method is to concentrate on illustrations, explain them with straightforward captions and link them with concise paragraphs that carry the narrative and the reader forward and retain their interest.

There’s plenty here, from different types of acrylic to colours and colour mixing, working methods and a good range of subjects. If you want to get started, this will live up to its title and get you producing worthwhile results with a minimum of fuss. The more experienced student might also find it a handy source of recapping and revision.

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