Archive for category Publisher: Batsford

Learn to Paint People Quickly || Hazel Soan

This series from Batsford is shaping up nicely and any book on painting people, especially as furniture for a larger work, is welcome.

Not everyone by any means wants to paint people as a subject in themselves, but an unpopulated painting always has a neglected look to it. In common with the style of the series, this is very much illustration-led and the text is concise to the point of terseness and mainly confined to explanatory captions. It should also be said that this is very welcome – if you don’t want an exhaustive in-depth study, being shown what’s going on rather than lectured at length is the proverbial breath of fresh air.

This is not to say that Hazel doesn’t manage to make the coverage comprehensive. There’s information on shape, proportion, pose, lighting and clothing and the chapters are arranged so that you can locate one particular topic easily. If you want to venture into portraiture, Hazel offers good basic advice, although you will probably want to graduate to more dedicated books as well. Groups, action and settings all get a look-in as well, making this one of the best starting-points you’ll find.

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Rosie Sanders’ Flowers

Subtitled “a celebration of botanical art”, this beautifully produced and re-produced large-format book does its subject more than justice.

Something of a departure for Batsford, this contains no instructional material, but would sit well with any student or lover of botanical painting. The generous dimensions allow the work to be reproduced at more or less full size and the origination ensures that there are no failures of resolution, as can easily happen if the printing process is not closely monitored.

Rosie’s work has been exhibited at Kew and she has also received no fewer than five gold medals from the Royal Horticultural Society and won the RA miniature award. She has also been compared to Georgia O’Keefe. What this tells us, I think, is that this is work of the highest scientific as well as artistic quality. I said that there is no instructional content, and there is also no commentary other than the botanic information provided by Dr Andreas Honegger.

This is a sumptuous production that would grace any collection of art books.

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Colour and Line in Watercolour || Glen Scouller

The term “mixed media” often produces a mixed bag, but this is nicely concentrated as Glen Scouller works primarily in pen, ink and watercolour wash. He also works directly from life and this is the unstated second theme of the book – one, indeed, for which you might consider buying it, regardless of the medium.

The colour and line of the title are entirely appropriate, but there is a third aspect to Glen’s work: light, which both informs and pervades his work, bringing with it bright colours and vivid results that a fluidity of line fills with life and movement.

As is so often the case with books by artists who are not primarily teachers, this is in the “how I work” style, though the step-by-step demonstrations that are included are easy to follow and there is a notable lack of bravura and jargon. His advice on working methods, both outdoors and in the studio, is particularly sound and there are also useful tips on the use of sketchbooks.

This is perhaps a book more about the creative process of painting than about the technical aspects – and especially not their minutiae. Maybe the use of mixed media, rather than a concentration on any particularly “pure” form, helps.

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Learn Drawing Quickly || Sharon Finmark

Like its Oils counterpart, this isn’t really so much about drawing for those who have far better things to do, than about getting things down quickly and without fuss. If you use drawing as a means of taking notes and recording a scene that may disintegrate quickly, this is an invaluable skill. It’s also handy if you’re out with a companion who doesn’t want to stand around for hours while you get every detail just right.

Sharon has a loose, pleasant style that lends itself admirably to this approach and she covers an excellent variety of subjects as well as drawing styles. Buildings, people, street scenes, flowers and landscapes are shown in pen, pencil, charcoal, wash and pastel. The small pages are not a hindrance as the illustrations are given plenty of space and the text is kept to the form of concise notes.

There’s much to like here and a pleasantly fresh look and feel to both the content and the production that should appeal to readers of any level of skill.

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Colour Your Own Dutch Masters

I don’t normally review colouring-in books, and only rarely books without words. However, there are a few exceptions and I’m prepared to make one in this case. My initial reaction was “why would you want to?”, but it looks like a lot of fun and I’m (almost) prepared to have a go myself.

These are neatly extracted outlines of works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Frans Hals, Van Dyck, Jan Steen, Rubens and more, 22 in all. It should keep you happy for a long time and you can be as precise or disruptive as you like. In terms of bangs per buck, I’d say it’s among the best value you could get for a tenner.

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Learn Oils Quickly || Hazel Soan

Oils. Quickly. Really? You’ll forgive my cynicism because you probably share it, but also my curiosity because this is Hazel Soan and she doesn’t make wild claims. You may also conclude that any book by her has a head start and is going to contain more wise words than most others. And you’d be right.

Let’s deal with the “quick” bit. This is not a lengthy tome. Its 112 pages are quite small, so you could really call it 56. There also aren’t very many words, so it’s hardly enough even to scratch the surface, is it? Well, yes it is. The simple fact is that this is a distillation of a very considerable amount of wisdom. Let’s pick a topic at random, in this case reflections:

“Reflections are a great subject because they offer repetition of a shape or colour, which makes for interesting composition. In water, the repetition is above and below the waterline. The condition of water is shown in a painting by the character and nature of the brushstrokes. Some examples are shown here.”

Yes, there’s a lot more you can say, but the essence of it’s here, beautifully distilled. And don’t forget the “Examples shown”. This is a book that teaches from its illustrations and the text is merely the lead-in that tells you what you should be looking for, not what you’re looking at. All-in-all, it’s a polished and accomplished performance – just what you’d expect from Hazel – that offers so much sound advice that it’s worth a look even if you have no interest in oil painting. You even get a penny change from a tenner, which makes it the most amazing value.

The Society for All Artists have produced a DVD that goes with it and that’s worth seeking out too.

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Botanical Painting With Gouache || Simon Williams

This is at once a paean to the merits of gouache as well as a well-structured guide to its use in botanical painting that manages not to get caught between the two prongs of its message.

Often dismissed as “body colour” or “poster paint”, gouache is the poor relation of the water-based media, yet there is no reason for it to be taken any less seriously than acrylic, which does much the same thing. Classroom associations don’t help, something which acrylic’s late arrival on the scene has largely saved it from.

The materials and techniques sections that open the book are commendably brief and mainly confine themselves to the specifics of the subject matter in hand. The main meat is in the step-by-step projects, which are pitched more towards the capable painter than the complete beginner. There are enough stages for you to see what’s going on, but without illustrating every brushstroke, and the captions are much more detailed than is often the case, explaining both the why as well of the what in the picture. A final section looks at in situ working, which is invaluable for serious botanical artists who may wish to avoid the use of photographs. The less-committed may enjoy this, but also not feel the need to memorise it!

There has been a huge number of books on painting flowers, and maybe more on botanical painting that you think is strictly necessary, but this fills a neat and identifiable niche, demonstrating a serious application for an often-overlooked medium.

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