Archive for category Publisher: Crowood Press

Landscape in Ink and Coloured Pencil || Helen Hanson

I think we need a new term for the style introduced by this really rather charming book, and I’m calling it Soft Realism.

As with pen & wash, the use of ink creates sharply defined outlines that provide immediate impact, with a softer core that accentuates colour and adds a more impressionistic feel. The difference between watercolour and pencil, however is that the latter works with finer lines, more shading and includes detail itself. The result is that landscapes can recede subtly by the use not just of cooler colour, but by a softer focus and a reduction in detail.

What is surprising is that this is, as far as I can remember, the first book devoted to this method of working, which has much to recommend it. Yes, there have been books on ink drawing and, yes, there have been books on pencil work and, yes, again, all of them have covered mixed media, but it’s never been the star of the show as it is here. In a whole book, there’s nowhere to hide, and you’d better have plenty to say and a very clear idea of what you’re about.

Helen covers not just the broad sweep of landscape, but details such as flowers, trees, rocks and water, and explains both her approach and working methods thoroughly but concisely. As is the way with Crowood, there are more words than some publishers, but these are well-chosen and a pleasure to read, complementing the exercises and demonstrations nicely.

If you hadn’t thought about this way of working, Helen should convert you quickly and have you fully proficient by the time you’re through.

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Line & Wash Painting || Liz Chaderton

Crowood have carved out a rather neat niche in collaboration with Liz. Her books are quite small format and relatively short, but absolutely packed with information and illustrations.

Line & wash is a subject that’s been crying out for a book for absolutely ages and this one will not disappoint. Liz covers a huge variety of subjects, styles, materials and techniques with a thoroughness which doesn’t seem possible in the limited space she allows. What makes the book particularly interesting is how she isn’t afraid to sublimate the line element, which usually dominates, instead sometimes relegating it almost to just highlights in what is otherwise largely a watercolour wash.

You’ll find landscapes, buildings, portraits and animals and styles that range from the traditional to results that are more akin to printmaking and sometimes even veer towards abstraction.

Traditionally, the line element defines the outline, with the wash being an infill. Here, Liz does not allow herself to be bound by these constraints, either technically or creatively and this is a powerhouse of a book hiding in a small space.

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Painting Abstract Landscapes || Gareth Edwards & Kate Reeves-Edwards

Over many years of selling and writing about art books, I have been asked whether it would be possible to grade books according to whether they are intended for the beginner, intermediate or advanced student. The true answer is: no. This is largely because all books contain something that will be of value to all those groups but also, it should be said, because one person’s beginner is another’s expert. I’ve spoken to people who’ve been painting for all of a few months and have nothing left to learn, but also to a professional portraitist who was buying what seemed to me a very elementary book. The explanation in that case (I had to ask) was, “If I get one idea from it, it’ll be worthwhile”.

All of which is a lengthy preamble to saying that this is very much a book for the advanced student. Yes, there are exercises and demonstrations here, but the bulk of the book is devoted to a discussion of approaches, analyses and working methods – the practice, in short, of abstract painting. It is, of course, all the better for that and anyone who has felt frustrated at the elementary approach of the books that have appeared so far will breathe a huge sigh of relief. Abstraction is as much a state of mind as a technical exercise and one that needs to be understood as much as taught. For something so deeply visual in terms of speaking to its audience, it’s also something that needs to be talked about in order to crystallise and understand the intellectual processes that go into it.

As well as those worked examples (let’s call them that), there are plenty of other illustrations and the aforesaid discussions of interpretation and working methods. The authors are father and daughter, the one a professional abstract landscapist, the other an experienced art writer. As well as the personal connection you also get the best of two worlds – top-quality writing as well as painting. This really is a stupendous book.

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Natural History Illustration in Pen and Ink || Sarah Morrish

Several books have appeared recently that take their subjects and readers entirely seriously. They avoid the trap of trying to be all things to all readers and simply assume that, if you don’t have the basic skills they demand, you can get them elsewhere. This is another such and offers a very thorough survey of a broad range of natural subjects depicted in a single medium.

With over 200 pages at her disposal, Sarah Morrish is able to expand and expound in considerable, though never exhausting detail. Her materials include traditional dip pens as well as Rotring Isographs, brush pens and felt and fibre tips. She also uses coloured as well as black inks, making the illustrations here far from sombre. Of particular interest is her use of hatching and line-placing to create very effective half-tones.

With plenty of space to manoeuvre, the choice of subjects is generous, ranging from trees and flowers to mammals, insects and invertebrates. The text studies not just working methods but the creatures and their environments as well; this is about finding your subjects as much as depicting them. Once you’re down to work, examples, case studies and demonstrations will give you plenty to get to grips with.

By concentrating on viewpoints and not being afraid to go into detail where it’s required, this is one of the most comprehensive books around on natural history drawing.

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Drawing With Charcoal || Kate Boucher

There have never been many books about charcoal. It’s almost invariably lumped in with other drawing media, and not unreasonably. The basic techniques, after all, can be applied to pencils, pastels, pen & ink and so on and it makes sense not to repeat these for each one.

For all that, a thorough study will not come amiss and, given that this will probably be a one-off for quite some time, it is to be hoped that Kate Boucher steps up to the mark. It is pleasing to report that she certainly does. This is no mere “make some marks and have done with it” overview and the quality of the artwork will have you wondering why you never realised before that quite such subtlety was possible. Charcoal is a monochrome medium that is difficult to persuade into half-tones or, by its soft nature, to produce fine detail.

Just a quick look at the illustrations here will show you that such things are by no means impossible and your first thought might be that you are actually looking at a book about monoprinting. Although there is discussion at the beginning about materials and mark-making, Kate assumes a reasonable degree of experience – you can, after all, get that from one of the many introductory guides to drawing that are available. Instead, through a series of demonstrations that are fully described and analysed, she explains the use of erasers, tone, layers of texture and the use of other materials – the introduction of pastels in the final chapter is genuinely shocking, albeit in a good way.

This is everything you’d hope it would be and probably more. I said there’s unlikely to be another book for quite some time but, frankly, there’s no need for one. Kate has nailed it.

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Drawing and Painting Dinosaurs || Emily Willoughby

With new discoveries regularly in the news at the moment, this is nothing if not timely. We’ve all seen artists’ impressions of what these prehistoric creatures may have looked like, but I for one hadn’t realised the extent to which paleoart is a recognised discipline (there is, in fact, another book on the same subject coming from another publisher at about the same time).

These are not, therefore, flights of fancy, but rather serious pieces of science based on the surprising amount of detail we have about creatures no human has ever seen. Those working in the field do so in conjunction with specialists and their pieces are based on thoroughgoing research which, of course, develops all the time.

I’m honestly not sure who this book is aimed at. Well, that’s slightly unfair, but there are, as well as some superb and informative illustrations, exercises and demonstrations. These will show you how to paint a variety of species from basic outline shapes to a realistic outline as well as, if you want, scales, colours and feathers. Quite how many amateur artists want to study this field I’m really not sure and I assume that those who are serious will already be working in universities. Children, you will say. Yes, they are fascinated by dinosaurs, always have been, but this is far too advanced (mostly) for them, unless they have considerable artistic ability and are old enough to have maintained their interest into their teens.

For anyone old enough to at least retain curiosity, this is a fascinating study of where we are now in the field. It contains plenty of information about the dinosaurs themselves as well as images that show them in likely habitats and performing likely behaviours. For that alone, it’s worthwhile. The stand-out? For me, it’s a small ink drawing of a Velociraptor. We know that birds are the survivors of what was a mass extinction, and that’s a Magpie if ever I saw one.

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Colour for Botanical Artists and Illustrators || Leigh Ann Gale

This really rather excellent guide to botanical painting comes at its subject from the angle of colour. That much you could glean from the title, but the approach is interesting because Leigh Ann breaks a complex topic down into not just manageable, but also fundamental, parts that allow discussion to broaden into real-life observation and the use of colour theory.

That latter is always a difficult subject to address because it seems so esoteric, yet is also absolutely central to all artistic endeavours. The irony is that its foundations are relatively simple – colours are filters for white light and reduce the amount that is reflected. More is always less. By tackling the matter head on, Leigh Ann simply shows you how correctly-observed colour choices will produce vibrant and, above all, botanically accurate results.

All aspects of colour are covered, including flowers, fruit and foliage, with examples and demonstrations provided for each of the main colour groups. Instructions and analyses are thorough throughout and this is a worthwhile as well as original addition to the canon of botanical literature.

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Sketching Perspective || Ilga Leimanis

This not unattractive guide is either a visual feast or an assault on the senses, depending on your point of view. You might even say it’s both, and like it all the more for that.

Books on perspective usually fall into one of two camps: technical drawing manuals, or attempts to teach the subject without any technicality at all. The former can be daunting, especially for the general artist and the latter as frustrating as a language course that pretends that grammar doesn’t exist.

Perspective is part of the grammar of art, as much as colour and colour mixing or the techniques for application of materials. It’s a thing you have to get to grips with, but also something a lot of people are afraid of, but as necessary as declension of nouns or conjugation of verbs.

Ilga is an urban sketcher, so perspective is central to her craft. She also, as is common with the genre, works quickly and loosely, so you won’t find architectural or measured drawings here, and hooray for that. It does mean that you get what I referred to at the beginning – the visual feast or assault on the senses. However, it also means that, where there are lines and diagrams (you know you need them really), they’re organic and mostly freehand, which makes them a lot more friendly and approachable. There’s also quite a lot of text, but it’s largely there to explain the images rather than a lot of theory to read, so hooray for that too.

What mainly sets this apart from other books on perspective is the way Ilga uses the technique in very fluid drawings that capture character as much as appearance. Only you can decide whether this works for you but, if it does, it should be rather successful.

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Painting The Mountain Landscape || Eileen Clark

Books on oil painting are relatively thin on the ground and many of them are a lot more general than this. You are therefore likely to approach it with high expectations and it is a pleasure to be able to report that it should certainly meet, perhaps even exceed them.

Eileen demonstrates a wide variety of work in many lighting and weather conditions. She also looks at details such as trees, waterfalls and wildlife on top of skies, mists and larger expanses of water. It is worth saying that she is based in the Lake District, so has all this on her doorstep to work with.

As is Crowood’s normal approach, there is quite a lot of discussion and analysis, but large and intimidating blocks of text have been avoided and at no point does the book give the appearance of being unmanageable. This may seem like a detail, but I’ve always felt it’s important in a visual medium – you want to see what’s going on, not be told. For all that, an explanation of the hows and whys can be extremely valuable and something you’d certainly expect in a painting film.

The reproduction is superb, even the full-page images, and details, brushwork and canvas textures are easily visible. The way Eileen works, you will want to look closely and this is possible in every image.

This really is the most thorough guide to painting mountains in oils and very well done indeed on all counts.

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Painting Like The Impressionists || Bruce Yardley

Back in the days of the atelier method, students (apprentices) worked in the studio of a master, initially grinding and mixing colours and preparing canvases before being allowed to work on backgrounds and eventually completing works to which the great man perhaps only added a couple of brushstrokes. The point is that you can learn a lot about the craft of painting by studying what has gone before and immersing yourself in the background business.

The Impressionists were a breath of fresh air in the world of art, though it was seen as more of a cold blast at the time and their influence is felt to the present day. Almost any tutor will tell you to work loosely, almost as if there’s no other way.

The great work on the subject, from the practical point of view, is Bernard Dunstan’s Painting Methods of The Impressionists, but that appeared some forty years ago and is mostly illustrated in black and white. We’re due another look. It’s pleasing, therefore, to be able to report that this is excellent and a worthy successor to Dunstan’s oeuvre. Bruce Yardley examines in considerable detail not just the way the Impressionists worked, but how they looked, saw and interpreted, which is after all the heart of their vision. We accept, indeed now expect, that the viewer will do a lot of the work and that the artist is a guide rather than an instructor. To an extent, it’s a reaction to the realism of photography and a way that art can re-invent itself to exist alongside that.

There’s a great deal to get into here, both visually and verbally, and this is a book to read rather than keep open beside the easel, even though there are exercises and demonstrations; you can work on these later.

If you want to have a go at being an Impressionist yourself, Bruce provides plenty of information about original brushes, paints and canvases and explains where they can still be obtained. I’m not sure that looking backward like this is either necessary or desirable, but it might be a fun exercise, for all that.

If you love and want to understand the Impressionists, this is a very thorough guide.

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