Archive for category Publisher: Search Press

The Joy of Modern Calligraphy || Joyce Lee

This is nothing if not elaborately presented. A hard case with an elastic closure opens to reveal a beautifully produced paperback book and an envelope of practice sheets that contain outlines for basic letterforms. The same script is used throughout and is not, I think, one of the classic ones, but is still a pleasant sloping variant of Copperplate.

Calligraphy being about appearance, at least today, this elaborateness has a place, but you may also feel that there is a slight tendency for form to overtake substance. This is not, it should be said, a book about calligraphy as a complete subject. Rather, it is a guide, perhaps better, a list of suggestions for projects such as the inevitable – and obvious – invitations. What you may find useful are the extended guides to forming letters and the practice sheets for these. These exercises occupy a large portion of the book and are among the most thorough I have seen. If this is what you want (and I suspect a lot of people will), then they would justify the price of the book by themselves.

However, if you were looking for a guide to other calligraphic hands, or more extended projects, this is perhaps not the book for you. It’s very well done, beautifully presented and well laid out, but does have its limitations.

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Drawing Perspective || Tim Fisher

Tim Fisher’s excellent guide to perspective, once part of the Drawing Masterclass series, has been reissued. You can read the original review here.

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Drawing Nature: a complete guide || Giovanni Civardi

The bind-up reissue of Giovanni Civardi’s excellent guides continues. Here, you get seven volumes on the subject of nature, covering scenery, light & shade, basic techniques, flowers, fruit & vegetables, pets, perspective and wild animals. Is all of that nature? Well, stretching a point, it does give you a thorough amount of reading around the subject. It’s perhaps a quibble, but you also get the Drawing Techniques volume in the Figure Drawing bind-up and you can’t help suspecting it may make an appearance in future collections too.

If you’re a fan of Giovanni, you’ll probably have all the original volumes anyway, so purchasers of these reduced-format collections will perhaps only buy one, so a bit of thoughtful curation maybe doesn’t go amiss. However it goes, you get seven books for a little under two quid each, which is thumpingly good value even if there is a little duplication.

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Colour Demystified || Julie Collins

Julie has previously been the author of fairly conventional colour mixing guides, but this is something else altogether.

There’s a hint of what’s to come in the list of acknowledgements, which includes several artists and art writers, the Tate Gallery and many art brands which will be familiar to the reader. Julie has not just done her research, but done it in depth.

It’s no exaggeration to say that, if this were alchemy, it would be the philosopher’s stone, the catalyst that turns the base metal of simple pigments into the gold of a successful painting. It’s not magic or witchcraft and has nothing to do with the creative side of painting (you’re on your own there). What it is, though, is a completely reliable guide to how your materials behave on paper (we’re working with watercolours here).

Watercolour has many properties and they’re all based in chemistry. Guides to this have appeared before, most notably Ralph Meyer’s Artist’s Handbook of Materials and Techniques, an exhaustive and exhausting tome that has its roots firmly in research chemistry. For the faint-hearted it is not.

This is shorter, illustrated and altogether more manageable. Or, let’s just say, manageable. Colours can be transparent or opaque. Some are staining, some will granulate. Some are perfect for glazing, others decidedly not. You need to know all these things, you need to know which pigments play nicely together and which should never be invited to each other’s birthday parties. It’s all in the chemistry, but you’re not a chemist, you’re an artist. You want the magic (OK, it is magic really) to happen on the palette, not in the library.

This is what Julie gives you – a practical artist’s guide to how colours work for the artist. It’s full of colour swatches, examples and demonstrations and you can see what’s happening at every stage, even try it out for yourself. It’s a book you’ll want to keep handy for reference, although there’s also a very good chance that you find you’ve remembered most of it. It’s convincing, comprehensive and joyously concise. Above all, it’s a key that opens just about every door.

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Abstract Painting || Petra Thölken

There was a time when books on abstract painting were rarer than hens’ teeth and a very hard sell indeed. One infamous one rather gloriously had the signature on the rear cover illustration in the top left-hand corner, confirming the old joke about frames needing to be labelled “top” and “bottom”.

Things have changed. If the regular appearance of books is anything to go by (and it should be), everyone wants a piece of the action. It’s not unreasonable, because abstraction, at its best, is about distilling the essence of your subject, then reconstructing it in a way that tells the viewer more than they could get from looking at it themselves. We’ve become so used to loose and impressionistic ways of working which are the first step on this particular road that we’re not just prepared, but willing, to take those further steps.

With plenty of choice, the reader can have their pick of approaches. Given that abstraction is as much a state of mind as anything else, how-to is not the obvious way to come at it and, indeed, step by step demonstrations are rarely offered.

This is a project-based book that does, in fact, offer demonstrations. Do you want to copy someone else’s ideas? Well, if you’re new to all this, it’s as good a starting point as any other. The fact is, abstraction is such a personal thing that it’s entirely up to you to choose the way in that works best for you personally.

To sum up: I can’t review this, other than to say it’s nicely produced. If you like it, buy it.

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The Art of Angela Gaughan

There’s a variety of material in this utterly enthralling book, but by far the majority of it is of wildlife, and that’s what you’d buy it for. I’ve always been surprised by the success in the practical art market of books which deal with such sharp focus and fine detail. I don’t mean to denigrate the skills of amateur artists, but this kind of thing is almost certainly beyond the capabilities of more than a few. The truth is, I suspect, that it’s aspirational and you’d certainly be pleased if you could come up with something even half as good.

Although there are demonstrations here, they aren’t really the focus of the book, which is much more of a masterclass aimed at those who already have quite a lot more than the basic skills. If you can already paint animals, you’ll be glad at the lack of rehearsal of the basics you already know. As far as materials are concerned, Angela works mostly in acrylics.

The results are stunning. Angela absolutely understands form, colouring, posture and behaviour and here it’s not only her creatures that are believable, but their settings and their place in them. It’s true that she works a lot from photographs, but those don’t always give quite the right composition or feature the perfect specimen. The art is to provide what nature intended, rather in the way of the identification guide, which shows a typical rather than exact example.

The majority of the subjects are large wildlife – apes, elephants, big cats – but there are some domestic ones as well as some figurative work that demonstrates similar skills. There’s not enough of this to make it a reason for purchase, but it adds variety and a further dimension.

And now we must turn to the production, which is the jewel in the book’s crown. This is a slightly oversize volume and excellent use has been made of the space, both to showcase finished paintings and to feature details and stages at a good size. The quality of the reproduction is stunning. Angela’s work concentrates on fine detail and every hair and brushstroke are clearly visible. Going through, I started to wonder whether some of the images weren’t quite up to snuff and were perhaps not quite as sharp as they might be. Further inspection showed that this is absolutely not the case and that what I was actually seeing was the texture of the painting surface. Yes, it’s that good.

Only a hundred years ago, colour reproduction was so coarse that you could see the individual dots of ink with the naked eye. Photo litho improved that and then mechanical tolerances in the printing presses themselves allowed much finer register and smaller dots, which you now need a powerful magnifier to see.

For all that, there’s much that can go wrong and choice of paper is a major stumbling block. Search Press’s production department has been at the top of its game for some time, but this surpasses anything I’ve seen, even from more august publishing houses dealing with fine art. That they have achieved this with a cover price of just under £20 is barely credible and you have to suspect witchcraft may be involved! If you’re involved with book production, you should have a copy of this, just to remind yourself of what’s possible. You have nowhere to hide and there are no excuses for anything less.

So, to sum up: an amazing book in every respect.

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Ready to Paint in 30 Minutes – Animals in Watercolour || Matthew Palmer

Here’s an ideal subject for this nicely-maturing series. Matthew presents simple exercises that cover just about every type of animal and coat from hide to hair, fur and feathers (birds are included). Some of the backgrounds are plain, allowing you to concentrate on the subject, others include wider settings that provide context. Nothing is over-complicated, however, and the idea of working quickly on a single idea is never compromised.

Each of the 29 exercises is accompanied by an outline tracing that allows you to get the basic shapes down quickly and you’ll be working at A6 size, so you won’t need to make elaborate preparations or clear a working space. 30 minutes is probably best seen as a target rather than a limit – if you want to spend a bit more time, that’s fine, just don’t get too tied up with details and land up over-working.

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Dynamic Seascapes || Judith Yates

Social media gets a bad press. However, it was also responsible for the genesis of this book. The publishers of Leisure Painter and The Artist magazines put one of Judith’s pictures on Twitter. I thought it looked interesting and decided to investigate further. It quickly became apparent that she is one of the best seascape artists I’d seen for a long time, so I suggested that Search Press might like to talk to her. And here, a couple of years later, we are.

Water is one of the hardest subjects to paint. It’s hardly ever static, has no real substance and no colour of its own, yet it presents in many different moods, almost all of them related to movement and surroundings. So, how do you represent that in a single image? Well, that’s what the book is all about. The subtitle is “how to paint seas and skies with drama and energy” and it has that in spades.

Working in watercolour, acrylic, ink and mixed media, Judith will show you how to capture all the forms and moods of the sea, from a calm evening estuary to storm-blown waves breaking on a rocky shore. Although water is the primary subject, Judith does not forget the shorelines, landscapes and of course skies that make up a complete seascape. She’ll show you how light both affects the appearance of water and is affected by it through refraction and reflection. She’ll also demonstrate ways of capturing the solid appearance of a breaking wave and how to create the sense of power and movement that are essential to giving your image a feeling of being anything but static and two-dimensional.

There are plenty of examples, exercises and demonstrations as well as explanations of the way water behaves in just about every situation. The book is every bit as exciting as its subject.

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Drawing Using Grids – Animals & People || Giovanni Civardi

The idea behind this series is simple and easy to comprehend – it does what it says on the tin. Each subject is overlaid by a co-ordinated grid, so that all the main points of shape and composition can easily be transferred the finished image. It’s a long-established and well-tested technique that simply works.

What makes these volumes particularly useful, as well as the quality of the illustrations, is the amount of background material – structure, anatomy and features – that prefaces each set of drawings. In the animals volume, these are not just general but applied to each type – so, dogs, horses, cats. When it comes to people, these are structure, movement and posture. The main sections here divide into character, babies and children, and figures in action.

It should be added that these are compilations of individual volumes, though only two (Portraits With Character and Portraits of Babies and Children) have previously appeared in English. The bulk, therefore, can be regarded as new material.

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Drawing Landscapes || Margaret Eggleton

Search Press have reissued this, which first appeared in the Drawing Masterclass series. You can read the original review here.

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