Archive for category Publisher: Batsford

John Blockley – a retrospective || Ann Blockley

John Blockley was one of the founders of modern watercolour and his muscular style reflects not just the form of the landscape but its texture.

Relatively little of his work has been seen in print: The Challenge of Watercolour, published in 1979, had the customary few colour plates and 1987’s Watercolour Interpretations was more inclusive, although the quality of reproduction, even by then, was not up to modern standards. John also ran courses and contributed regularly to The Artist magazine. His reputation during his lifetime was considerable but he has, inevitably, faded from view somewhat since his death in 2002.

This beguiling retrospective is therefore important on several fronts. Firstly, it brings John’s work to a new audience. It also plays a part in showing the development of watercolour painting since the 1970s and, in particular, puts the work of John’s daughter Ann in context. Best, though, the superb reproduction makes his work available in all its glory to a wider audience for the first time. Originals are relatively hard to find and a book is as close as many of us will get.

This is really quite a revelation. The richness of John’s use of colour and the vigorous nature of his brushwork at last become apparent. Ann has also included sketches that show her father’s sensitive and perceptive use of line and how he could create form from just a few marks.

I really hope this book does well and gets the attention it deserves. It’s tempting to say that it’s a brave publication sixteen years after the artist’s death, given that his reputation was to such a large extent gleaned from teaching and writing. It certainly should be read by anyone who cares about the practice of watercolour because it shows just what the medium can achieve and why it is by no means a poor relation to the often more seriously-regarded oils.

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John Piper || Darren Pih

This nicely-produced and eminently-affordable introduction to John Piper’s work was produced to accompany an exhibition at Tate Liverpool. It stands, nevertheless, on its own and contains a representative selection of pieces that range throughout Piper’s career and includes useful guides to his various periods and artistic directions. If you were looking for a primer rather than a more comprehensive but expensive survey, this would fit the bill very well.

The book is arranged chronologically and moves from the early, quintessentially British landscapes to Piper’s interest in abstraction. It also takes account of his work across a variety of media, including printmaking, ceramics, collage and stained glass and includes his work as a Second World War artist.

With a text that covers writings and interviews, the book provides an insight into not just the works, but also the creative processes behind them and, within its self-imposed limitations, is remarkably complete.

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Ann Blockley’s Watercolour Workshop

This is one of Ann’s most practical books to date and one where she shares many of her working methods. It is not a painting manual in the wider sense, but rather an introduction to her unique style and a jumping-off point for your own creative endeavours. Although Ann has included step-by-step demonstrations, the intention is never that you should copy slavishly with emulation as an end in itself, but rather that, by understanding the technical process, you will learn about the thought process that go into the finished result.

To this end, there is considerable discussion of approaches and interpretation, with simple subjects portrayed in different ways, with no single one being “right”, but merely suitable for the impression you are trying to create. As you work through the projects that are at the heart of the book, you’ll be encouraged to explore further avenues by adding other mediums, varying the palette or even the use of collage – something at which Ann is particularly adept and which can produce amazing results.

At all times, although Ann explains the technical background to what she is doing, the emphasis is on the art, the result and how it relates to the subject. This does not have to be – indeed rarely is – purely representational and a final chapter on Towards Abstraction will expand your horizons even further.

This is every inch a classic Ann Blockley book and will appeal instantly to her many fans. Broadening the scope, however, should add to their number.

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Masterclass in Colour || Meriel Thurstan & Rosie Martin

Here’s something completely different from Meriel & Rosie. After their really quite advanced books on painting flowers and natural subjects, this is altogether simpler. Simpler, in fact, than the title implies – I’m really not sure how the word “masterclass” got in there and I’m concerned it might frighten a few people off. Colour has a reputation for being difficult, you see. In many ways, the subtitle defines it better: “a colouring workbook of techniques and inspiration”.

The premise is simple enough. There are outlines that you can colour in – you could do it right there on the printed page if you want – with instructions that’ll show you how to build up tints and shading quickly and reliably. The authors suggest that you can use coloured pencils, watercolour pencils, watercolour paint or felt tips, which gives you a good choice of materials. As a primer on how colours work in an image, this is really easy to follow – to the extent that I really do think you could master it from this book alone (which doesn’t quite make a masterclass, he quibbled!)

The subjects are, as you’d probably expect, flowers and plants, and the page size is generous so that you get images that you can see and work with. It’s rather clever, too, in catching on to the popularity of adult colouring books, but teaching at the same time. Yes, it’s instructional, but fun too.

Meriel & Rosie have a reputation for hitting the nail on the head, and this won’t dent it at all.

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Contemporary Landscapes in Mixed Media || Soraya French

Mixed media gets a mixed press and can have mixed results. Like everything else, it’s important not to use it for its own sake, but rather for the effects it offers and creative opportunities it makes available.

Soraya French’s work involves a fair degree of abstraction, which both enhances and is enhanced by her use of colour. This is a fine balance that produces results that are recognisable while going a good way beyond simple representation.

Soraya uses acrylics, watercolours, inks and gel media to create vivid images that capture mood, atmosphere and lighting. In this hugely informative book, she explains her working methods and even includes a few projects and demonstrations that give you a chance to practise for yourself. As well as traditional media, you’ll find out about texture mediums, gels and pastes and, most importantly, how to combine all these into worthwhile results. Soraya also explains how she finds inspiration and chooses formats and composition for maximum impact. She also looks at technical matters such as underpainting, lost and found edges and negative shapes that affect how the viewer sees the result.

This is a comprehensive guide to both mixed media and semi-abstract landscape painting that is full of inspiration and practical advice.

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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.

http://amzn.to/2iIAGQ2

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