Archive for category Publisher: Search Press

Paint Pad Poster Book – City Scenes

The first thing that’ll strike you on opening this is the sheer amount of detail in the source images. These are not simply blow-ups of the ones that appeared in the original books (I noted features of the series when I wrote about the first volume), they’ve been completely re-originated so that colours, marks and even granulation are immediately visible. It’s striking, as it should be.

The five scenes here cover bridges, statues, vegetation and street furniture as well as water, buildings and other structures. The instructions are simple and you should be able to produce results you can be proud to display for only a little over £3 a time.

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Acrylic Paint Pouring || Tanja Jung

I’ll admit that paint pouring, which is allegedly “the latest technique to take the art world by storm” leaves me cold. This time next year, will we be looking back and wondering what it was all about? I think we will.

However, if you want to be taken by storm and are thinking of dipping your toe in the water, you won’t find a better introduction than this. Quite rightly, no previous knowledge is assumed and there are clear explanations of materials, working methods and – crucially – what happens and why. To achieve control, you really do need to understand your materials and preparation counts for a lot, saving countless messy and potentially costly mistakes.

The core of the book is a series of sixteen straightforward projects, each disposed of in four pages. These get you practising techniques as well as discovering creativity; the lack of complication and over-thinking mean you’re never going to feel lost. There’s no point in simply learning to follow paint-by-numbers instructions – you’re always going to be wanting to branch out on your own, which you’ll be ready to when you’ve finished here.

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The Kew Book of Painting Roses in Watercolour || Trevor Waugh

This is the second volume in this new series and it offers a perennially popular subject. I said of its predecessor on orchids that, while not perhaps the most obvious subject, those flowers nevertheless offered a wide variety of shape, form and colour. Well, the same is true of roses, but coupled with the fact that examples are available in just about every garden. Am I implying that this should have been the one that introduced the series? You know what, maybe I am.

Now that we have two volumes under our belt, it’s possible to take a broader look and it’s pleasing to say that, despite the Kew connection, these books are not heading in a botanical direction. That, while impressive, would be a shame because very few people want (or, perhaps, are able) to work in such precise detail. This, therefore, is primarily a Trevor Waugh book. If you’re familiar with his work, you’ll know that it’s primarily about colour and the feel, the character of the flower and not the minute details of its petals and stamens. I can’t claim to have audited every page, but I do not believe that the word “calyx” appears anywhere, and hurrah for that.

So, what you get are results that look and, above all, feel like roses. They have depth, both in terms of form and colour, they shimmer and, just maybe, if you catch them quickly, dance in the breeze. Simply, they’re a joy.

This is, of course, primarily a book about painting, not about roses. The usual preliminaries deal with colour and brushwork, with some deceptively simple exercises you really shouldn’t skip. These teach you far more than just elementary skills, even if that’s what they look like. For the reset, there are three full step-by-step projects that cover not only the whole flower, but also leaves, stems and the play of light. There’s nothing specific about perspective, but it’s in there – Trevor is very good at disguising the technical stuff and you’ll have got through it before you even realise it’s happening.

Is this perfect? Maybe. Is it too good to be true? Certainly not.

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Ready to Paint in 30 Minutes – Mountain Scenes in Watercolour || Lesley Linley

Having lived for several years on Skye, Lesley is well-placed to understand the many moods and atmospheric variation of mountain landscapes and this latest addition to an excellent series covers everything from aerial perspective and tonal recession to textures in rock and reflections in water.

Each of the 32 projects concentrates on a single topic, so there are no complex scenes to get bogged down in. The whole idea is to develop your skills through simple exercises, each with a full-size A6 tracing that’s easy to transport and can be completed quickly. If you’re stuck on a larger work of your own, you could even break off for a quick bit of revision before going on – so much better than spoiling the whole thing at the last minute!

This is a delightful book in a series that’s already been well thought-out and Lesley’s confident approach makes it especially easy to follow.

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Artist’s Guide to Human Anatomy || Giovanni Civardi

I’m not absolutely sure whether this is a new book or one of the older titles that has been reissued. To a very large extent, that’s not relevant, as these reissues appear to have all new origination and are often in a larger format. Quite simply, if you have an old and well-thumbed copy, you’ll probably want this anyway.

Giovanni has, of course, produced books on just about every aspect of figure drawing, but this one fills in the gap for those who need more about the actual structure of the human body. Inevitably, there’s a medical aspect to some of this, and many artists may feel that it gives them more information than they need. At the same time, this is written in Giovanni’s characteristic straightforward style and is definitely for the lay reader rather than the specialist.

There is no doubt that it’s thorough. There’s plenty of information about bone and muscle structure as well as how everything fits together and sustains the outward pose. Beyond the technicality there’s a wealth of aesthetic material that’s of fundamental use to the artist.

If you want to know what underpins the figures you’re drawing, how and why they appear the way they do, there’s no better guide, from an artistic point of view, than this.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Watercolour With Mixed Media || Alison C Board

Mixed media is all too often an excuse for playing with technique to no specific end. Alternatively, it’s a footnote in a book about another medium – “you can always add a bit of gouache to create highlights” or “how about rolling up some cling film and seeing what happens?”

Alison has made something of a career out of working with a huge variety of techniques and media and her armoury is huge. So huge, in fact, that if she wasn’t absolutely on top of it, this would be the messiest book ever, both in terms of results and organisation. She is, however, absolutely confident with her methods and this is a masterpiece.

Its main merit is that it isn’t a technical book at all. Or, rather, it’s absolutely about technique, but only for creative ends. You don’t put paint on paper to cover up the surface, you do it to create an image that satisfies both you and the viewer. You might want to convey the tranquillity of a rolling landscape, or the play of light and colour in a flower or plant, but the point is that it’s all about the end result, not how you got there. A chef creates a dish that delights the diner and, if another chef admires the method of cooking, that’s just a sideshow.

So, buckle up and prepare to be astounded. The projects here include flowers, landscapes, people and animals. Materials include both wet and dry media as well as accessories such as hessian, bubble wrap and even chicken wire to create texture. All these things you’d expect, but look at the results – they don’t scream “clever” at you, they invite you to study the inner character of the subject. Less is more, the invisible is the first thing you see. Oh, and by the way, the figure demonstration is of a dancer: the sense of movement Alison (a trained ballet teacher) gets into a static pose will just take your breath away.

If you haven’t already gathered that I’m calling this the best book ever on mixed media, well, I am.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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