Archive for category Publisher: Search Press

Urban Sketching Step by Step || Klaus Meier-Pauken

I can’t help thinking that the popularity of urban sketching is going to wane at some point. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with it – far from it – but simply that, having been extensively served with books covering every imaginable aspect (and some which, frankly, stretch the point), the world is eventually going to move on.

Many books on the subject mimic their subject by being busy, brash and complex. A vibrant city will be cacophonous and confusing. Capturing that requires a special way of working that uses quickly-drawn lines and bright colours. Results are impressionistic and suggest movement and crowds, even in what at least purport to be quiet corners. It can be quite an assault on the senses and many authors feel the need to reflect that.

So, what have we here? Well, a rather different take on the subject. Klaus, whose Quick & Lively Urban Sketching appeared a few years ago, has pared the instruction down. The format here is larger than is usual in this field and there’s more white space on the pages, which are generally less frenetic. The pace is much less “do this and this and this and this” and more a series of conventional exercises and short demonstrations that work at a slower pace and allow you to catch your breath. The subtitle is “Techniques for creating quick and lively urban scenes” and that word ‘techniques’ is important. Yes, the quick and lively – the soul of urban sketching – is here, but this is about how you do it and is something to practise with before you venture out into the field, sketchbook on your knee and pencil poised.

No one seems to have thought to do this before and it could breathe new life into the topic.

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Paint Yourself Positive || Jean Haines

This is the successor to 2016’s Paint Yourself Calm and is ostensibly about mindfulness and working with your imagination rather than a visible subject.

Does that sound unbearably new-agey? You bet it does and in less skilled hands it could be a mess, both in terms of concept, presentation and results. However, Jean is a very capable painter who already works on the edge of abstraction and the illustrations here are very little different to her more conventional work, as seen in books such as Atmospheric Flowers in Watercolour. For her state-of-mind work, she uses imagination to control what appears on paper, but that doesn’t mean unintelligible blobs, but rather images that capture the essence of their subjects – flowers, fish, buildings and animals.

It would be perfectly possible to use this as an aid to mindfulness, but it’s also a very worthwhile guide to a rather different approach to painting. If you already love Jean’s work, this is another pearl of wisdom to treasure. If you’re new to it, it’s no bad place to start.

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David Bellamy’s Seas and Shorelines in Watercolour

This is David’s best book in a long time and his Arctic trip seems to have rekindled his love of all things rugged. It tells the story of the littoral – the point where land and sea meet. Astonishingly, although there have been books on painting the sea and on coastal scenes, this moment of transition has largely passed the instructional book market by. It’s possible that this is because margins are always hard to define – they’re small and tend to vanish when you look at them.

So, is this a book about nothing at all? Well, no, of course it isn’t. What David has done is to combine the two conventional approaches – sea and land – and show you how they inextricably interact. So, you get waves both crashing and lapping on cliffs and beaches, harbour villages clinging to rocky slopes that teeter down to the water’s edge, as well as boats, buildings, birds and people.

There’s also a nicely complete narrative to the book’s construction. You don’t just get a series of unconnected exercises and demonstrations, but rather the story of how the coastline connects land to water and the margin to itself, creating a string of scenes and opportunities. It’s as thrilling as it is informative and the results are stunning.

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The Watercolour Flower Painter’s A-Z || Adelene Fletcher

This was originally published sufficiently long ago that I haven’t reviewed it here before. It was always a good book and has stood the test of time well. The idea of a series of demonstrations, each occupying a single spread and running from Agapanthus to Zantedeschia, means that a wide variety of types, species, shapes and colours are included. Even though the demonstrations are necessarily concise, the instructions are thorough and will certainly be enough for anyone with a reasonable amount of experience (I’m leaving you to define “reasonable” for yourself as everyone wants something different).

Re-publication has brought this under the umbrella of Search Press’s relationship with Kew, and this is no bad thing. Kew are a world authority and don’t issue their imprimatur lightly, so there’s considerable added authority here. The crispness of the illustrations also suggests re-origination, so there’s really rather a lot to like here.

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The Art of Gouache || Jeremy Ford

Gouache is often regarded as the poor relation of “proper” watercolour. Being opaque, it is more forgiving and less challenging, although, for that matter, so are oils and acrylics. It’s not a newcomer to the scene, being the cousin of tempera, which has a long and honourable tradition. Where it mainly suffers is from its schoolroom connotation and memories of that awful (and almost always unmanageable) powdered stuff many of us remember, which also used poor pigments that couldn’t, even by the most fevered imagination, be called “artist quality”.

Properly-constituted, though, gouache can be a thing of beauty and has qualities that set it apart from any other medium. Understand its properties and you can produce images with a strongly graphic content that can take their place alongside the best of anything else.

Just as they did with Oil Pastels, Search Press have set out to rescue a Cinderella medium and, in Jeremy Ford, they’ve found an author who’s prepared not merely to look at the medium, but to champion and challenge it. A substantial book with plenty of illustrations, examples, lessons, exercises and demonstrations, this is as thorough and comprehensive a guide as you could wish for. Jeremy not only discusses materials and techniques, but looks at just about every way gouache can be used, from straightforward representation to poster-style and to images that look almost photographic. Subjects include landscapes, flowers, people and animals and there’s plenty of instruction as well as discussion of what you might want to do and how to tackle it.

There’s a fair chance that any reader will find some parts more to their taste than others but, as I said, this is a very thorough guide, so that’s to be expected. If you want to explore the medium as much as possible, I don’t think you’re going to find many (if any) omissions. For me, gouache is at its best when it’s not pretending to be anything else and moves towards graphic art, even if only slightly. There are some illustrations I can’t help thinking would work better with transparent watercolour, but that’s helpful in itself. If you agree, you’ll be glad Jeremy at least gave it a try.

If you want to learn about gouache, this should keep you satisfied for a very long time.

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Take Three Colours: Watercolour Mountains || Matthew Palmer

The latest instalment in this user-friendly series is a worthy addition to the canon. Matthew Palmer is an intelligent and sympathetic tutor who carries his abilities lightly. There’s nothing too ambitious and he is happy to take a back seat and let the student work at their own pace. There’s no grandstanding or showmanship, just solid, honest instructions and demonstrations that produce solid, worthwhile results.

It’s a Yes from me.

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Painting Expressive Landscapes || Carole Robson

If you’re interested in exploring the outer reaches of the possibilities of watercolour, this is the book for you. If, at the same time, you want to keep things creative and are doing this for something more than just technical curiosity, please form an orderly queue. What’s truly remarkable about Carole’s work is that it’s always the creative dog wagging the technical tail and not, as can so easily happen, the other way round.

This is a book that’s full of ideas and a quick flick through reveals a wealth of illustrations that can’t really fail to capture the interest and have you wanting to learn more. It’s also apparent that there’s plenty of information, as is common these days, in extended captions and concise paragraphs. Printing technology (of which more anon) is such now that any book of this type really should be “show me” and not “tell me”. There’s a wealth of information here and, for once, I’m not going to say “such as” because I think you can assume that, if there’s something you want, you’ll find it. If I’m wrong and something is missing, you’ll probably be too busy with what is here to mind too much. This is busy, colourful, packed with information and thoroughly inspiring and I love it.

Now, about printing technology. The basic method hasn’t changed much since Caxton’s day. You have a printing plate that gets covered with ink and then it’s pressed against a sheet of paper. Start to work in colour and there are four plates. Add a half-tone image and there are dots of different colour on each plate and they’re put together in alignment so that you get a colour picture. As mechanical tolerances get finer, the dots can be smaller and closer together and the image gets sharper. All these things tend to progress gently but, every so often, there’s a larger jump and we’re just had one of those. Look at a book published even ten years ago and the quality looks rough compared to what’s possible today. Most publishers and printers adopt these advances fairly quickly, but not all of the publishers and not all of the advances. Search Press, however, have swallowed the whole goody bag and the quality of what’s coming out of their warehouse now is truly remarkable. I’ve been at this a long time and my father was a printer, so I grew up with the technology, and it has me stunned.

So, anyway, buy this book.

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