Archive for category Publisher: Collins

Dynamic Acrylics || Soraya French

It’s as hard to pin down exactly what this book is about as it is to gather that from the title. Even a quick flick through, however, will reveal that what you get is a masterclass in what can be done with paint and I’m not sure that it really matters what the medium is. In her introduction, Soraya French refers to acrylics as “a forgiving and versatile medium”, which indeed it is, “that is a great tool to enable both the newcomer and the more experienced artist to process their thoughts and ideas with more confidence.” She also remarks that the medium has found its place, being taken seriously alongside more traditional media.

All of this is true and I don’t intend as a criticism that it’s also a truism. Professional artists have been using acrylics for many years motivated, I think, by the quick-drying properties that allow them to paint it today and sell it tomorrow. This adoption has understandably filtered down to the amateur market and, with the development of retarder mediums, it has become much easier to handle.

The versatility that Soraya French refers to is the fact that acrylics can be used both in a heavy impasto, like oils, or thinned down to act like gouache. The fact that it is also opaque makes overpainting possible and also the correction of mistakes, which is why it is ideal for the beginner.

So far, so much I’ve said already about other books. What marks this out is that it’s one of the first books (although I think John Hammond just beat her to it) to look at acrylics from the creative point of view rather than just being a technical manual and, in this respect, what’s said in the introduction is spot on.

If you want a book that will teach you how to paint in acrylics, this is not it; there are no step by step demonstrations and the paintings illustrated are quite complex. However, if you’re looking for ideas and a study of creativity, along with other books in this series, this is it.

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30 Minute Flowers in Watercolour || Trevor Waugh

This is not, you might have guessed, an in-depth guide to flower painting. Rather, Trevor Waugh uses the limitations of this rather excellent series to good effect, producing instead a book that concentrates on the look and shape of flowers rather than their every detail. As an introduction, it’s effective because it doesn’t get bogged down and the reader will find a lot of useful information that will help to put flowers in a painting rather than making them the main subject in themselves. If you then want to go on to greater, or at least more intricate, things, there are plenty of books which will take you all the way to botanical illustration.

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30 Minute People in Watercolour || Trevor Waugh

In the way that Trevor Waugh’s other book in this series deals more with flowers in the landscape than as subjects in themselves, so this is much more about populating a painting than it is about portraiture. It’s not possible, of course, to do a detailed portrait in the timescale set by the title and Trevor doesn’t attempt to, rather concentrating on people as a series of shapes and colours that bring life to a landscape or townscape. He’s got some good tips on both posture and movement and, although it’s simply written this is really much more than a basic introduction to figure drawing.

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30 Minute Landscapes in Watercolour || Paul Talbot-Greaves

Now that this series is branching into subjects rather than media, its strengths are becoming more apparent. It’s not possible to deal with a subject comprehensively in a book of this size, nor is it possible to create a highly detailed painting in the timescale the titles imply, and that’s the whole point. These are very much overviews that provide easily followed introductions based on results rather than lengthy demonstrations.

Paul Talbot-Greaves has a pleasant, loose style that is well suited to the quick sketch and he manages to pack a lot into a short space including colour, tone, skies, mountains, water and buildings.

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Learn To Paint Acrylics || Alwyn Crawshaw

Alwyn Crawshaw remains one of the most accomplished writers and demonstrators on the circuit today and this early volume in the Learn to Paint series has stood the test of time well, as has the series itself.

Conceived as basic introductions that stick closely to the medium or subject in the title, all the volumes pack a lot into their 64 pages, Alwyn’s perhaps more than many. As an primer in the increasingly popular medium of acrylics, this is hard to beat or fault, covering basic techniques as well as a good choice of subjects.

Collins 1979, reissued 2008

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Learn To Paint Vibrant Watercolours || Hazel Soan

Exactly what constitutes a vibrant watercolour is something we could discuss for the rest of our lives, but what Hazel Soan means by it is “[colours] that sing out from the page”, paintings that don’t suffer from fiddling and overwork and which don’t betray a lack of confidence on the part of the artist.

So far, you might say, so obvious, but Hazel Soan is a popular author whose style is that of simple palettes and brushstrokes and she has an enthusiasm that rubs easily off on the reader; put simply, when she tells you, you just know you can do it.

It’s hard, perhaps impossible, to define what this book is about and, in any case, it probably doesn’t matter. Hazel has many fans and they’re not going to be disappointed by it. Equally, new readers will probably join their number, too.

Collins 2000, reissued 2008

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Learn To Paint Watercolour Landscapes || David Bellamy

Given the popularity of the Learn to Paint series and of David Bellamy as an author, it was inevitable that Collins would put the two together eventually.

Shoehorning David’s broad and enthusiastic approach into 64 pages was always going to be a struggle and there was also a risk that his rather individual approach might overwhelm a series that’s supposed to provide basic introductions rather than more extensive studies. For all that, both author and publisher have made a good fist of it and David, ever the professional, has clearly understood the brief and not tried to go beyond it.

The book has a feeling of being well filled and probably works best as a Bellamy primer, and is no bad thing for that either.

Collins 1999, reissued 2008

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