Archive for category Publisher: Search Press

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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Watercolour Flower Portraits || Billy Showell

This worthwhile guide, which was originally published in 2006, has been reissued as a paperback. You can read the original review here.

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The Beginner’s Guide to Drawing Portraits || Carole Massey

If publishers ask (and they do periodically), my advice with older books is to leave them as they were. The idea of re-editing something into a new product never really works. It’s a bit like trying to turn a shirt into a pair of trousers. Even if you have enough material, the pieces will never be quite the right shape and the old seams will never lie quite flat. There’ll be compromises, gaps and false joins that’ll always be unsatisfactory. That applies to the trousers as well.

This started life in the Drawing Masterclass series, but has been completely restructured and what you now have is effectively a new book. The last time Search Press did this, I raised a quizzical eyebrow because all they’d really done was change the title. This is a complete re-working and a great deal of credit must go to Carole Massey who has done the heavy lifting here. She has not only added new material, but re-written and simplified to an amazing extent. Concentrating on the head and shoulders simplifies things immeasurably – you can forget about hands, feet, clothes and posture, for instance. It also allows her to concentrate on the form, features and expressions of the face, which is mainly what the book is about.

This is not so much a course as an examination of the way portraits are built up. Although the way through it is progressive – you’re always building on and reinforcing what you learnt before, there aren’t the same number of examples, exercises and demonstrations. They’re there, and you’ll find them, but in a less structured way. It’s very subtle how the material you need is to hand just when you want it, rather than when you’ve come to expect it.

There’s an excellent variety of gender, ethnicity, shape, form and age here. Carole is particularly good with babies and children and you could justify the relatively modest cover price for that alone.

This is probably one of the best introductions to portrait drawing around and the fact that it uses recycled material is probably only of interest to reviewers like me. You won’t see the joins.

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Painting Portraits in Oils || Robert Wareing

Painting portraits in oils is generally regarded as one of the highest art forms, something refined, complex and generally best left to the specialist. That’s hardly surprising as oils do require a fair amount of equipment. Finding suitable sitters, as well as the little matter of getting a worthwhile likeness, are considerable obstacles for the amateur.

So how do you set about getting started? Until now, that’s been the conundrum. There have been few books and those that exist have been, well, rather so-so.

This is different. Rob is a portrait artist with considerable experience, but he also has a YouTube channel where he posts demonstrations, and this experience shows. This is a book aimed at the needs of the learner rather than at the subject of portraiture itself. It’s a subtle but important difference. Open the pages at random and you’ll find yourself in the middle of a complete project. Look further and you’ll struggle to find the smaller lessons and exercises you’d be expecting. This is, in part at least, an extension of his online method. However, the idea of not having to wade through pages of eyes, ears, mouths and hands has an appeal, as long as it works. Portraiture is a language and has a grammar – there are technicalities you need to know as part of the foundations and to short-circuit those can be dangerous.

Rob, however, is a patient and thorough explainer and all these foundations are here, but he manages to make them interesting. All those details come up both in the projects and also discussions of various approaches – mixing colours, preparing canvases, getting to know your subject. There are examples on every page that precisely illustrate each point that’s being made.

The whole process is intensely practical and Rob manages to make what is genuinely a complex subject seem, if not easy (that would be sleight of hand), at least manageable. Knowing the limits of what you can teach is perhaps Rob’s greatest skill and this is a truly remarkable piece of work.

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Expressive Abstracts in Acrylic || Anita Hörskens

It seems now to be traditional that books on abstract painting are project based and this useful guide is no exception. The main reason, I suspect, is that it’s very hard to teach the creative aspect of the topic. The basic principle is that you extract or abstract the essence of your subject and portray it in a way that tells the viewer how you felt about it and what it was like to be there in the moment. How far you take this is entirely up to you – there may be quite a few recognisable shapes and forms, or perhaps none at all. You may be wishing to express a mood rather than a sense of place, for instance.

All this is rather esoteric, but it’s something to consider before embarking on the process. What you can teach, of course, is techniques and that’s what this guide aims to do in the fifty-five featured projects. You’ll have the opportunity to experiment with colour, contrast, glazing, composition, negative shapes and paint pouring as well as exploring materials and surfaces. There’s a lot to get to grips with and the simple exercises that are presented give you plenty of examples to work with as well as ways to add your own personal touch – the instructions are concise and allow for plenty of interpretation, which is, after all, the name of the game in this field.

There are other guides that offer a similar approach, but this one is about as comprehensive as it gets.

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Drawing Dramatic Landscapes || Robert Dutton

It is to be hoped that this new series from Search Press will be expanded in the not too distant future. The idea of featuring work by artists who explore and expand the horizons of their medium is an attractive one and there are enough around that it shouldn’t be necessary to stretch the criteria just for the sake of it.

Robert Dutton works mostly in graphite media – pencils, sticks, powder and liquid – but also charcoal, acrylics, inks and pastels. These latter for the most part provide accents and colour, but what he can do with straightforward monochrome will take your breath away. That’s what makes this such an exciting book.

Search Press are, of course, mainly publishers of instructional books rather than monographs, so there has to be a strong how-to element as well as the valuable featured work. They are well-practised, both in content and layout as well as selection of authors. It should come as no surprise therefore that this works as inspiration and creative encouragement just as well as straightforward technical lessons and demonstrations. The approach and style, however, make it less of a course and more of an exploratory tour in the company of an informed and competent guide. Robert has a teaching background and it shows – he is excellent at explaining what he has done, but why it was achieved that way.

Not everything in the book will be to everyone’s taste – you may prefer the sometimes dark graphite drawing, I may feel happier with coloured pencils and inked highlights. For all that, Robert’s explanations have a superb clarity and are always interesting – whatever your preferences, there’s nothing here you’d want to skip.

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