Archive for category Publisher: Crowood Press

Painting Rivers || Rob Dudley

The subtitle of this fascinating and enjoyable book is “from source to sea” and it encapsulates Rob Dudley’s original approach to painting water. There have been a lot of books about that subject, but this is the first I can recall that eschews lakes and the sea in favour of the variety that can be found in what flows between them.

Water is a living thing. It has form and substance, but its shape is defined by what contains it and its outward manifestation – colour and appearance – and by the light that falls and the forces that are exerted on it. It’s a truism that you can never step into the same river twice and, on the same basis, you can never paint it twice either. Indeed, as a painting is effectively a moment frozen in time, you can’t really paint a river at all – but let’s keep well away from metaphysics!

This is as thorough and comprehensive a book as you could wish. Rob explains approaches and techniques in his chosen medium of watercolour as well as how to capture light, movement and reflection. He considers not just the river itself, but its surroundings and the people, objects and creatures that occupy it.

There are plenty of demonstrations and projects to get to work on, as well as discussions of the life of the river as it progresses downstream. This is an original idea that’s well thought-out and executed.

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Painting Landscapes || Kevin Scully

This is slightly spooky. No sooner have I written about one book on landscape painting from Crowood than another one turns up. This one is much more aimed at practical aspects and sticks to the opaque media: oils, acrylics and alkyd.

As is the style with this publisher’s approach, the text is much more discursive and, along with the sort of instructions you expect in a demonstration, there is a lot more explanation of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. If you are really more interested in the general than the specific, this will appeal: you learn how to paint anything, rather than just what the author happens to put in front of you. As the old adage has it: give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach him how to fish and you feed him for life.

Why aren’t all books like this, you might ask? Well, not everyone wants what we might call the deeper philosophies or to get bogged down in what they see as detail. At the start, clear, simple instructions are best. It’s only as you progress that you begin to want, or even need, the details of what’s happening under the hood. These are books for the more experienced artist and the style, authors and level of work reflect that.

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Painting Flowers – a creative approach || Siȃn Dudley

This is not a book about painting flowers. I think it’s best to clear that up at the outset. What I mean is that it isn’t about how to paint botanical illustrations or flower portraits. If the details aren’t exactly correct, every stamen in place or the species immediately available for identification purposes, that’s fine. This is what the creative approach of the subtitle is.

What we do have is a book about creating stunning images using flowers as the main subject, but as a jumping-off point. What the non-specialist sees is shapes, colours and hues. Names and identities are unimportant and what matters is the infinite variety of possibility that flowers present. They can be indoors or out, alone or in arrangements, solitary clumps or jostling for space in a meadow. Light, shade and weather will change the way they appear. In this world, nothing is ever the same twice, no ideal specimen has to be found to create the perfect illustration; it’s all about creativity and paint.

If you’re fascinated by flowers but put off painting them because of the sometimes overly scientific approach and the fact that true enthusiasts know the exact names of everything, this is for you. It revels in its subject and makes the most of the properties of light, colour, watercolour and art.

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Drawing and Painting the Landscape || Philip Tyler

Although it is subtitled “a course of 50 lessons” and is intensely practical throughout, this is also a philosophical approach to both the landscape and the practice of its representation.

The use of a variety of media, from oils and acrylics to pencil, ink, oil bar and pastel betokens a book that isn’t heavily centred on technicality, even though those 50 demonstrations remain at its heart. Think of it, if you will, as an artist working and musing about creativity while they paint.

That variety of media may put some readers off. I’ve had “I only paint in …” said to me many times by buyers who literally weigh the book up and count the number of pages they wouldn’t allow to sully their delicate hands. While it’s true that most amateurs will concentrate on one or two mediums for largely practical reasons (time, cost, ability), the idea of working with what the subject suggests is an attractive one and leads to a discussion of interpretation that can be illuminating even if the details of the work are less than relevant.

There is much to get stuck into here, from the many illustrations to the well-written text that maintains your interest throughout. The icing on the cake, though, is the inclusion of the work of several other artists, which expands immeasurably the theme of understanding and interpretation.

Overall, this is a book which is a great deal more than just the sum of its parts and a worthwhile, perhaps even essential, read if you enjoy landscapes.

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Painting Clouds and Skies in Oils || Mo Teeuw

This is easily the best book on its subject, probably ever. If you were to combine the spirits of John Constable and JMW Turner, perhaps with a dash of Edward Seago thrown in, I’m not sure you could better it.

The extent of the coverage is breath-taking. It’s a given that skies are infinitely variable. East Anglian based Mo Teeuw has, however, managed to cover just about every type you can imagine, from clear to clouded, cirrus to cumulus, in clear and overcast weather and in all seasons. And she manages this without repeating herself once or leaving the reader overwhelmed. If you care about skies and, as a landscape painter you must, this book is an essential guide. Even if you think you know the subject inside out, there will be something new for you here.

Although this looks a slim volume, it has a surprising weight when you pick it up and this is down to the 160 pages. Although the paper is quite thin it’s of excellent quality and the images are all superbly reproduced – to have not one dud among this many is an achievement worth celebrating.

The book has examples and demonstrations as well as practical information and extensive discussions of how and why skies appear the way they do. This is about more than just applying paint, it’s an in-depth study of its subject. I think you could even get quite a lot out of it if you aren’t a painter but just a lover of landscape. You should certainly also look at it even if you’re not an oil painter. As well as Mo’s own work, the book features a number of guest artists who add a welcome additional perspective.

I said that this is easily the best book on its subject. Skies in oils is, of course, a small field, but I really don’t see how this will be bettered in a very long time, if ever. It’s a true classic.

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Painting Portraits of Children || Simon Davis

Children are a popular subject for anyone who wants to paint people. Although photographs are ubiquitous, getting the right pose or expression is tricky and school portraits are rarely satisfactory. Although far from instant, a painting can capture character and expression in a way that photography fails to.

Simon Davis is Vice President of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and, the blurb adds, uses the square brush technique. This, and the frontispiece photo, are a clue to the fact that the medium here is oil. This matters, as techniques in other media (other than, perhaps acrylics), will be different. It’s doubly important as the main meat of the book is a series of demonstrations where the methods of application are to the fore. Workers in other media may find useful tips about working with their subject and the various considerations of pose, skin tone, expressions and so on, however. The examination of the historical development of child portraiture is also of interest.

This is quite a slim volume that majors on the practical demonstrations. Simon includes useful tips on the use of initial sketches, but does not work from photographs, which would have been a useful addition, for the amateur especially. The illustrations are also held back by a slightly muted reproduction which makes it a little difficult to see some of the details.

For all that, this is a useful manual that doesn’t over-elaborate or confuse with unnecessary detail. If you work in oil, it’s the perfect introduction and would take you well beyond the first steps. If you want other media, the appeal must be limited, but it’s still worth a look.

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Painting in Watercolour || David Howell

This general and wide-ranging discussion of watercolour makes for an enjoyable read. Although it contains a number of demonstrations, these are more of the analytical than prescriptive type, taking consideration of what was done rather than providing instruction on how to replicate them.

David’s style is pleasantly loose and makes frequent use of granulation. He also includes preliminary pencil sketches that show how the composition was settled.

While there is plenty of information, this is a book to sit down with rather than use while you’re working. The examination of approaches and consideration of colour, tone and perspective contain more detail than a simple instruction manual and are related both to the medium in general and the subject in particular.

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