Archive for category Publisher: Crowood Press

Painting Urban and Cityscapes || Hashim Akib

Time was, you couldn’t shift books on townscapes for love nor money. Now, we seem to be drowning in them. I’m not sure what has caused the shift; there’s been no great move to cities, no evidence that we’ve suddenly fallen in love with them, no explosion of interest in art (that I’ve detected) among the urban population. The fact is, though, that drawing and sketching in towns has gained popularity quite suddenly and there have been some fascinating books as a result.

This volume is slightly different, in that it concentrates on painting, a slower and more considered process than a few minutes spent with a sketchbook and some pencils. It does, however, retain the same vibrancy that the sketching books labour to maintain. Hashim Akib’s style absolutely lends itself to the subject and his work is permeated by a sense of movement and colour that suits street scenes.

Hashim considers all the aspects of city working, from techniques to composition, perspective and weather. The presentation of the book is as a discussion rather than a series of demonstrations and it’s definitely something to read at leisure rather than work through. There are plenty of illustrations and explanations that will give you ideas as well as clarify the points being made. The medium is largely acrylic, used in impasto, and it is these blocks of colour that mainly give the results the life they exude.

The book sparkles with the confidence of an author who’s on comfortable home ground, making it one of the most worthwhile of these guides around.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Painting and Drawing the Head || Daniel Shadbolt

There’s no doubting the seriousness of this comprehensive study of portrait painting. As well as plenty of illustrations, there is a copious text that discusses just about every aspect of the subject in considerable detail – some four pages, for instance, are devoted to the process of priming canvases. This is, it should be said, a book about painting in oils and, although there is much general information that applies to any medium, it’s best studied with this in mind.

The book is constructed around the sequence of the painting process. We begin with the assembly and preparation of materials and, if you feel this goes into more detail than you perhaps need at this stage, do remember that few other books cover it quite so thoroughly and analytically, so you may not find this much information anywhere else. Lessons then move to the all-important observation and basic principles and on to composition, perspective, light and tone.

The second section is the main one and where Daniel considers the process of painting the head in detail. Style-wise, it is perhaps a shame that he tends to soften and obscure features, and this may explain the book’s title and its concentration on “the head” rather than “the portrait”. Daniel’s work also tends to be quite dark and of limited tonal range and this can make some of the illustrations hard to decipher in reproduction. You may feel, though, that the quality of the work, and the detailed discussion that surrounds it, more than make up for this and that you can add more detailed features yourself if you wish. There are, after all, other books that demonstrate this. In its own terms, though, this is something of a masterpiece.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Linocut for artists & designers || Nick Morley

The literature of printmaking tends to be quite small and, perhaps inevitably, specialised. Often, a degree of heavy or expensive equipment is necessary, or toxic chemicals involved, taking it beyond the realm of the casual practitioner.

While this is by no means a beginner’s guide, it does include some fairly simple methods that do not require great outlay and the explanations are sufficiently clear that the amateur need not feel overawed.

That said, this is a book mainly aimed at those who want to take linocut printmaking seriously and there is plenty of information that includes presentation, selling and exhibiting as well as equipment and working methods. It’s extensively illustrated and particularly useful are the features on a number of practitioners worldwide, showcasing an excellent variety of work and styles.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Botanical Drawing using Graphite and Coloured Pencils || Sue Vize

Along with watercolour, pencils are a favoured medium for the botanical artist because of their ability to capture fine detail as well as blend to provide subtle colour variation.

As you would expect from Crowood Press, this is a very thorough and comprehensive guide that goes into considerable depth. As well as detailed analyses of its subject matter, it also includes step-by-step exercises that allow you to get hands-on with plenty of supervision. Each of these lists all the materials used, which are for the most part Faber Castell and Derwent. Unlike watercolours, where a limited, or relatively limited, palette is commonplace, you may need over 20 different shades for one subject. It’s worth equipping yourself, though, as you do need to be sure that you’re replicating the example exactly. Botanical illustration is not an area where interpretation is desirable.

Subject include flowers, leaves, stems, seeds and fruit and even fungi. This is a book for the serious student, who it will occupy and enlighten for a considerable period.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Fine Art Screenprinting || Maggie Jennings

Having a teacher of screenprinting on hand, I asked her to cast an eye over this one. Although she didn’t want to contribute the review herself, what follows is based on her professional view.

The first comment was that this is authoritative and comprehensive, giving lists of both equipment for a good variety of types of image and also explaining how to work with it. These explanations are in a step-by-step format that is easy for the non-specialist to follow. The inclusion of health and safety information is particularly welcome as some materials and techniques are hazardous and safe storage and the use of protective clothing is essential. The illustrations are well-chosen and clear.

As well as basic techniques, there is also an exploration of some more experimental ones and, again, the processes are clearly explained.

Overall, this is a clearly-presented guide that would appeal to both the beginner and the more experienced practitioner. The conclusion was that “I’d recommend it”.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Drawing and Painting on the iPad || Diana Seidl

The first question you’re likely to ask after a first flick through this is “where’s the iPad?” It’s a pertinent one, as this is the least technology-based book about on-screen painting I’ve seen and it’s all the better for that. Right at the beginning Diana Seidl quotes David Hockney, “The iPad is a very serious medium. It’s just a new one and affects the way you do things.” This is pretty much the book’s manifesto and it would make a good one for digital art generally. Hockney is nothing if not perceptive.

This is not something for the tech fan, nor for the beginner. Rather, it’s a serious look at tablet-based art as a medium in its own right and, as far as I’m aware, the first of its type. Just as books about traditional media don’t get hung up on the physical properties of brushes and paint, but rather their potential and use, so this treats the digital medium as simply another way of creating artwork. I did manage to spot a pop-up menu in the section on working with layers – one of the main differences between physical and virtual media – but it’s a rarity. Instructions on what to do in this context are only there when they need to be.

In terms of content, the book is both comprehensive and well-structured. There’s a short introduction to the hardware – just 5 pages that tell you all you need to know because it’s little more than you’ll already know if you’re familiar with touchscreens, which you should be. This is followed by 18 pages in two chapters on ArtRage, the app you’ll be using. I’ve noticed that recent books on iPad painting tend to concentrate on a single app. This is no bad thing as previous books on computer-based art tended to try to be inclusive and deal with half a dozen or more software packages, making for no little confusion and endless repetition. True, if something better comes along, the whole thing will go out of date faster than a fresh cream cake, but that’s technology for you and, anyway, who leaves cream cakes lying about? When I did, the cat ate it. Cover the said half dozen programs and they’ll still all date at the same time. Tablets are developing all the time, but the speed of progression seems to have slowed and the platform in general to have stabilised. Brighter screens and faster processors will help, but they’re not the game changers they were.

But back to the art. The next chapters are, as they really should be, subject-based, covering still lifes, landscape, flowers, portraits and abstraction. That’s a lot for a book as serious as this, but we aren’t quite at the stage where each one gets a book on its own; in spite of what I implied before, the medium does still tend to be the message here. The final chapters deal with working with layers – and I like that it’s been left till the end when you’ve had a bit more experience – and from photographs. There’s also an overview of some of the other apps available, should you wish to shift allegiances. I do like the fact that Diana majors on her favourite, though. Software choices are a personal thing, but you’re likely to be coming to this at least relatively unprepared and unprejudiced, so a targeted approach is no bad thing.

I’m amazed by how much is packed into 144 pages here. It’s comprehensive, very much art-based and has the nice mix that Crowood provides of text, illustrations, demonstrations and projects. All of these are integrated rather than being broken out like a series of magazine articles, which you’ll either love for its consistency or find frustrating for its less broken-down structure. This publisher’s books tend to be ones to read before rather than while working, so I don’t think it’s a major problem.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Painting Still Life in Gouache || Kevin Scully

I always get a slight sense of time-warp when I pick up a book from Crowood. That’s no bad thing and I’m sure a lot of people are in fact going to like their approach, which is a lot more wordy than many books these days. The tendency in most practical books is to be illustration-led, with extended captions making the links and relying on the pictures to carry the message. Increasing the text has the downside of sometimes submerging the images and, in some cases, making them too small in order to accommodate the verbiage. That’s if it’s done badly. Although the sense, when you flick through a Crowood book is indeed of a lot of text you will, if you slow down, also notice that the illustrations are well-reproduced and given quite as much space as they need. Some are indeed quarter-page, but they’re usually the footnotes that are at least as small in other books. The main event is still full page and enhanced by the glossy paper the publisher usually uses.

There are up and downsides to this approach, of course. The first obstacle is that you need an artist who can write and that’s not a given. People who think visually aren’t always good when plonked in front of a typewriter and the natural writer may not be the best artist. It’s a book editor’s nightmare! On the other hand, strike a balance, as we have here, and you have the chance for some reasoned discussion and explanation of the hows and whys, the choice of destination and the possible routes to it. It does mean that, if you’re looking for clear and simple teaching, you may not so easily find it but, if you want a more mature consideration, these are books you’ll welcome and blaze a trail to.

Having said all that, there’s not a great deal more to add in this particular case. Kevin Scully discusses (I think we’ve agreed we can use that word) two subjects that don’t get a lot of coverage – still life as a subject and gouache as a medium. He does so thoughtfully and in considerable detail so that, if this is a combination you want, you’ll probably find this is the only book you’ll need.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

  • Archives

  • Categories