Archive for category Publisher: Search Press

The Kew Book of Painting Orchids in Watercolour || Vivienne Cawson

This book signals the beginning of a relationship between Kew Gardens and Search Press that can surely only lead to some pretty wonderful productions. Previous attempts with other publishers have tended to concentrate on botanical accuracy and an insistence on getting every detail absolutely right. For botanical illustration manuals, this is perfectly fine – essential even – but the new regime seems to come with a lighter touch, allowing a degree of interpretation more appropriate to the general art market. Put simply, this is a book for people who want to paint orchids, not study them, and that’s a good thing.

So, why orchids, which seems like a rather specialised subject for a first foray? Well, they’re one of the most varied species, offering a wide variety of different shapes and colours and not all of them are the exotic specimens of Victorian plant-collecting adventure stories (yes, I do remember one called The Boy Orchid Hunters by J G Rowe).

In simple terms, if you want to start flower painting, orchids are an excellent place to begin because of the opportunities they offer. Rather than being tied to a limited range of shapes and colours, you’ll be confronted by variety from the outset, developing ways of looking and working that’ll stand you in good stead later.

So, think of this as a flower painting primer. While it is not, perhaps a book for the complete beginner, as long as you have the basic watercolour skills, you should find it relatively easy to follow. The basic technical sections at the beginning are all flower-related, but still cover shapes, colours and mark-making. This means you’ll be working with petal and leaf shapes from the start, rather than abstract shapes, so it feels real immediately. Most of the work is with single specimens and props are limited to pots and vases – this is a book about orchids, after all, not flower arrangements – and this keeps the approach both simple and on track. Examples and exercises lead up to three full projects that demonstrate the range of possibilities available.

Don’t think of this as a book about a single plant type that’s only for the specialist. Look at it as one of the best flower painting manuals around.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

The Addictive Sketcher || Adebanji Alade

Sketching is the artist’s secret weapon. Often less intrusive than a camera, it also allows a degree of interpretation and note-taking that isn’t available to the photographer. Sometimes a quick image can be an end in itself, at others it’s the basis for a more considered work completed in the studio. The trick is to learn to see and to look, to be completely at home with your materials and to know exactly which details are important. All that comes with practice, so practise you must.

Adebanji Alade is, as the title suggests, a compulsive sketcher. In the introduction, he tells us how he learnt sketching from a battered copy of Alwyn Crawshaw’s Learn to Sketch, a slim volume that, while an excellent introduction, was hardly a full course in drawing. To learn this way requires not a little inherent skill, but Adebanji is too modest to say that. What he does tell us, though, is that, having discovered sketching, he fell in love with it. He also tells us that he loves God. This isn’t an essential part of the narrative, and he doesn’t pursue it, but what is important about it is that it tells us about him. He loves sketching and he loves God, so should we be surprised that he clearly loves his audience too? This isn’t a book that preaches, but rather one that explains. What leaps from every page is the sense of joy Adebanji feels when he out with paper and pencils. It’s infectious and I defy anyone not to want to get out there with him (probably in person, too).

This wouldn’t be an instructional book without instruction and that’s here in plenty, but it all comes from example. There are people, buildings, interiors and open spaces as well as seasons, light and weather. A huge variety of techniques are covered, but always in context and always leading to a worthwhile result – never a series of marks made for their own sake. There’s also handy advice on the etiquette of sketching – ask permission if necessary, thank people who comment on your work, be polite and, above all, stop if asked. If this is a book filled with love, it’s also one lacking in any kind of disrespect.

Adebanji immerses himself in sketching and this is a book that’s itself immersive. It’s also a joy, both tho read and to look at. “Once you catch the vision, you will never remain the same; you will spread the gospel of addictive sketching wherever you go, for the rest of your creative journey.” Couldn’t have put it better myself.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Oil/Pastel Painting Step-by-Step

Search Press have re-reissued these compilations of their Leisure Arts series of short books, originating form 1999-2004. Age is not necessarily a barrier to usefulness and these were always sound guides that offered simple advice clearly presented.

The problem with older books, though, can be that the quality of reproduction doesn’t compare well with what can be achieved today. However, there are no problems here – whether a particularly good job was done in the first place, or there has been some re-originating, I can’t say, but there are no complaints on that score. The results are therefore stonkingly good value at under a tenner each.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Beginner’s Guide to Screen Printing || Erin Lacy

Screen printing is a deceptively simple technique that takes a lifetime to master and is capable of great subtlety. Although the amount of basic equipment required is relatively small, simply sourcing and getting the hang of it can deter many beginners.

This is a straightforward guide that doesn’t attempt to get over-complicated and works with only those materials that are absolutely essential. At first sight, the lack of a list of suppliers looks like a major omission. However, perhaps a little too buried on the copyright page is the invitation to visit the publisher’s website for this information. As long as the list there is kept up to date, it avoids the frustration of finding that an outlet mentioned on the printed page has closed up or moved on. Good idea.

After the technical introduction – which benefits hugely from being written for the non-specialist, but without skating over essential information – the book is based around a series of 12 projects, for which templates are provided. This is absolutely the way to go with a subject such as this, where techniques are best learnt by practice and imitation. Once you’ve got the hang of how things work, and what’s supposed to happen when, you’re in a much better place to branch out on your own. In spite of being a short book, at 112 pages, there’s plenty of information to get you started without feeling overwhelmed or intimidated.

This is a well thought-out book that, despite being illustration-led as well as welcoming and attractive to look at, contains all the essential information. Both author and publisher are at home with their material and it shows.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

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.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

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.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

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.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

  • Archives

  • Categories