Archive for category Publisher: Search Press

The Paint Pad Artist: Coastal Landscapes || Charles Evans

I dealt with the mechanics of this new series in the introductory review, so this is a look just at one particular volume.

Charles Evans is an experienced and popular demonstrator who is ideally suited to this introduction to painting coastal scenes. Each of the six demonstrations introduces a new topic or technique, such as drawing out colour to create clouds, capturing reflections, using a rigger to create trees and working with stormy skies and seas.

There’s plenty of variety, but nothing is too taxing and the beginner will feel at home quickly, producing worthwhile results that can only encourage further work.

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Take 3 Colours – Watercolour Lakes & Rivers || Stephen Coates

Take 3 Colours is a brilliantly simple idea that’s been brilliantly presented. All of the authors so far have understood the brief impeccably and Stephen Coates is no exception.

The strapline is “3 colours, 3 brushes, 9 easy projects” and it’s not just a superb way to get started with painting, but also an approach that strips your technique back to essentials if you’re feeling it’s got just too complicated and that you may be over-working.

Don’t expect great works, but do prepare to be surprised at just how much variety you can get and how many subjects you can work with in this way. My only reservation in this particular volume is the overall impression of ochre. With base colours of Light Red, Raw Sienna and Ultramarine, this might perhaps be expected, but other volumes have managed to provide a somehow brighter appearance and the lack of a good green from the mix shows. It’s a shame as the results and explanations are excellent.

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Ready to Paint in 30 Minutes – Boats & Harbours in Watercolour || Charles Evans

The re-imagining of the Ready to Paint series continues apace and continues to impress.

Charles Evans offers a good variety of subject matter and stylistic approaches through 33 step-by-step projects along with useful exercises, hints and tips. The book has a clear progression and feels busy without being confusing and there is an overall sense that you’re getting a lot for your money.

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Pastels for the Absolute Beginner || Rebecca de Mendonça

The idea of an Absolute Beginner series is a good one. Anyone taking up painting, or starting with a new medium needs a sound guide that is well-grounded in the basics and assumes no previous knowledge. Previous volumes have taken that very much to heart and included some very basic work that doesn’t tax the creative or technical endeavours too heavily.

This is a bit different and, although there’s a sound introduction to materials and techniques, I can’t help feeling it fits better with Search Press’s surveys of the Cinderella media (gouache and oil pastels, for instance). This is by no means a criticism and indeed, if you were looking for a complete guide to pastel – while it’s maybe not a completely Cinderella medium, it’s certainly a lot less published than some – this could well be it.

The book is certainly thorough. Subjects include landscapes, waterscapes, people and animals, with skies, trees and waves thrown in along the way. Rebecca is primarily a portrait and equestrian artist and this shows – these are easily her strongest subjects. However, she is thoroughly at home with her medium and handles everything well. Her demonstrations and explanations are concise, but easy to follow. They will, I think, be of value to anyone – at whatever level – working with pastel.

If you’re a complete beginner, I perhaps wouldn’t make this your very first book. The comprehensive nature of its coverage might put you off. I’d probably start with the compilation Pastel Painting Step-by-Step that Search Press are handily republishing in February 2020. However, once you’ve mastered the basics, you may well find that this one will take you as far as you want to go. If you’re already a practitioner with some experience, it could be the only book you’ll ever need.

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Painting Mood & Atmosphere in Watercolour || Barry Herniman

This is an enlarged reissue of a book which first appeared in 2004. I don’t have a copy of the original to hand, so how much new material there is, and what it is, I am unable to say. I don’t however, remember it being quite this vibrant in terms of colour, so I suspect that, as well as everything else, there may have been a degree of re-origination. The only tiny fly in the ointment is that some of the illustrations aren’t quite as sharp as modern standards allow, so you may have to forgive that, if you notice it – it’s not a major problem, but one inevitably gets used to being able to analyse things like brushwork in quite minute detail.

Subject-wise, the book is mainly land and waterscapes plus a few buildings, which is about right for the topic in question. There are plenty of skies, from looming and overcast to vivid sunsets (though I do wonder whether the vividness I referred to earlier has been achieved by dialling up the red and yellow in the printing process – the book has a very orange feel to it).

Whatever these reservations, this is an excellent look at getting a sense of place into your work and Barry’s water, in particular, has that elusive sense of solidity that suggests volume and movement.

There are five full projects as well as explanations and analyses – the style of the book pre-dates the breakout hints and tips that pepper modern volumes and the text is longer than we’re perhaps used to now. If you shout “hurrah”, make a beeline for your bookshop. If you’re not sure, you may be surprised by how well a more in-depth look works and how a more relaxed pace can induce understanding.

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Paint Pad Poster Book – Flowers

Search Press have supersized their Paint Pad series. Not so much a triple-stack cheeseburger with a quart of fizzy sugar as the full 48 ounce free-if-you-can-finish-it T-bone. These are BIG.

Interestingly, there is no author credit and I think I recognise the images from other books. A lot of thought has clearly gone into the format, though. An A3 book is not easy to manage so, instead of the portfolio styling of the parent series, these are pads where you’re clearly intended to pull out not just the sheets of watercolour paper with their pre-printed outlines, but the instruction pages as well. Tape the paper down onto a drawing board, pin the instructions on the wall and it all starts to make sense. This isn’t mentioned in the How To Use This Book introduction, but it’s the obvious solution.

The content has also been pared down severely in the light of this not being something to sit down and read. There’s no list of materials or introduction to techniques, although there is a “what you’ll need” list for each section. The whole thing is about the image and completing it. Once you’ve painted the five exercises, the rest of the book is basically disposable. That sounds likes sacrilege for something costing a whisker under sixteen pounds, but your return is the five full-size paintings you can frame and hang on the wall.

The quality is stunning. Each painting is shown in its complete state and, at this size, any shortcomings in the reproduction are going to be immediately obvious and a massive frustration. Full use has been made of the large page size to lay the instructions out clearly and illustrate them in detail. Everything is really clear and, if you’re adopting my suggestion of pinning them on a wall, easy to see.

This is quite a departure and a lot more than just a vary-it-a-bit exercise to generate extra sales. There’s an elegant simplicity to it that’ll make serious art easily accessible to even the raw beginner.

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Drawing Animals | Lucy Swinburne

This is an enlarged edition of a book that first appeared in the Masterclass series in 2013. Sensibly, this time, the publisher has resisted the temptation to re-brand it as being for the beginner.

The Masterclass series was a good idea intended to appeal to more advanced artists who perhaps didn’t feel the need for instruction in basic techniques or a breakdown of the materials they’d need. However, it’s a risky approach as the non-specialist can easily feel excluded and that the whole thing is maybe too difficult.

Although there is plenty of advanced work here, this is nevertheless a thoroughly approachable book and should certainly appeal to anyone with reasonable drawing skills who is wanting to turn their attention to the animal world. Domestic, wild and zoo animals are included and there’s plenty of information on structural features such as eyes, ears and noses as well as complete projects that put the techniques you’ve developed into practice. There’s also a handy section on working from photographs and transferring that image to paper using a grid to get the proportions right.

I liked the original and, although I’m unable to compare the two editions, this has the feel of a complete guide.

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