Archive for category Publisher: Search Press

Vibrant Oils || Haidee-Jo Summers

This is really rather wonderful. The initial impression, picking it up, is that it’s more than usually substantial and, at 176 pages, it most certainly is. A quick flick through reveals a wealth of illustrations and an enormous variety of subjects. Haidee-Jo’s style is loose, relaxed and colourful and this doesn’t, on the surface, feel like an oil painting book, insofar as those are often rather lofty and worthy. The truth is that it’s not really a medium book at all, but rather a guide to the whole creative process that just happens to use oils as its vehicle. I’d even go so far as to suggest that you could find plenty to get from it even if you never had any intention of working in the medium at all.

Investigate further and the next thing you might notice is that, for all its size, there are only 4 step-by-step projects. This is entirely in keeping with the approach, which is to teach you about the subject, rather than simply to train you to emulate it. In the old analogy, it teaches you to fish and feeds you for life, rather than giving you a fish and feeding you for a day. Subject matter is catholic and includes landscapes, seascapes, still lifes, figures and flowers.

Along the way, Haidee-Jo considers composition, colours, light, cropping, the use of layers, tone and more. Some sections are quite short paragraphs, some are sidebars and others simple hints. Everything is accompanied by an example painting and the explanations are commendably clear.

The publisher is trying to sell this as suitable for all levels of ability. I have my doubts. If you were a complete beginner, I think you might find its comprehensiveness overwhelming. However, if you have some experience, or are new to oils, as opposed to painting, it has a great deal to tell you and won’t disappoint.

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Take Three Colours: Watercolour Seascapes || Geoff Kersey

This is the second outing for a promising new series that breaks popular subjects down into manageable form. The idea of using just three colours (red, blue and yellow) is that there’s a minimum of fussing about with mixing. What’s impressive, though, is the range of tints and hues that Geoff manages to achieve and there’s no hint of the extremely limited palette.

These books are, as you might have guessed, aimed at the beginner and the instruction and hand-holding are comprehensive; you’re never left feeling that something has been missed out, that there was another stage in there somewhere. Handy jargon busters deal with any technical terms that may be unfamiliar.

The pictures you’ll work on are not complex images, but that’s not what you’d want. The tone and detail are nicely judged.

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Take Three Colours: Watercolour Flowers || Julie King

Flower painting being the tricky subject that it is, anything that simplifies the painting process has to be a good thing, just as long as it doesn’t over-simplify and trivialise. It’s therefore something of a relief to be able to say that Julie manages her task with considerable success.

You will, I’m sure, be amazed by the variety of tints and hues she manages to achieve with just three base colours (the same ones throughout). Yes, if you look closely, the results lack some of the subtlety that could be achieved with more, but you wouldn’t feel dissatisfied with the results, for all that. I also have a feeling that the reproduction may not be as sharp as it could be, and that what you see on paper might be better that it is on the pages of the book. I also wouldn’t have chosen that sunflower as the cover illustration as it really doesn’t convey the variety of what you can achieve. Please don’t let it put you off.

In keeping with the series style, there are plenty of generously-sized stage illustrations, short captions telling you what’s going on and sidebars that include a variety of tips and jargon busters.

With 9 projects and clear instruction, this is the ideal place to start on a rewarding subject. You might also find it useful if you’ve already had a go, but are struggling.

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Ready to Paint in 30 Minutes – street scenes, flowers

There was much to like about the old Ready to Paint series. The pre-drawn outlines and extended demonstrations made light work of a wide variety of subjects.

This new departure is more than just a re-vamp or extension of the original idea. In place of the complete paintings, there are thirty-odd smaller exercises that concentrate on a particular element of the subject, or a technique in the medium. Being A6, they can be completed in the field if you want, and using a pocketable watercolour pad (the series is all watercolour so far). The finale is 3 full-size (A4) paintings that bring everything together – the full orchestral run-though, as it were.

The approach is nicely progressive and these first two volumes cover subjects (street scenes and flowers) that benefit from the breakdown approach. Two more are in the pipeline for next year . There’s a pleasantly solid feel to the books and plenty of technical sections, hints, tips and generous instruction in the step-by-steps.

The original series went a long way and this deserves to as well.

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Painting Watercolour Snow Scenes the Easy Way || Terry Harrison

Sadly, this is going to be my last review of a new Terry Harrison book. His death has left a huge hole in the world of art instruction and many readers are going to be asking where they will go now. Terry was one of the best explainers and his relaxed style of both painting and demonstrating made the results look, while easy, not too easy. You think, “With a bit of effort, I could do that too” and the real secret is that you can. Terry always gave a polished performance, but there was never any sleight of hand, no secrets he kept to himself. Follow the instructions, maybe even use his own range of brushes (they really do what they promise) and the results will follow. He may be gone, but there’s a substantial legacy of books and articles that we can refer to for many years to come.

This new book was the one he always wanted to write. Given a free choice of topic, it was the one he chose and I’ve been told he saw the proofs and was delighted by the result.

Snow is one of the hardest things to paint, harder even than water, which is all about reflections. Snow looks white, but isn’t. It’s blue, it’s grey and it’s every colour in between. It obscures familiar shapes but creates new ones and has a structure and perspective all of its own. All the techniques are here, along with exercises and demonstrations that cover tracks, trees, mountains, water, buildings and much else. There are even some well-wrapped figures and one snowman! Snow is an impermanent thing, but Terry gives it the substance you’d expect.

It’s both ironic and typical of him that Terry chose to subtitle this “the easy way”. As we all know, there is no quick or easy way to paint and it’s a private joke between us and the author that there might be. This, though, is Terry saying “trust me” and very gently showing you the way without leading. If it was mountaineering, he’d be holding the rope, but still letting you do the climb. He may be gone, but all the belays are still there.

A version of this review appeared in The Artist magazine for August 2017.

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How to Paint Flowers & Plants in Watercolour || Janet Whittle

This is a revised and expanded reissue of a book that appeared in the Tips & Techniques series as far back as 2003. Taking it out of the series straitjacket has been worthwhile and it looks completely fresh, even if some of the reproduction is perhaps showing its age by being just a little bit coarse by modern standards. That’s one of those minor quibbles that I tend to come up with and it certainly shouldn’t put you off.

Janet’s flowers are generally images in their own right rather than illustrations of particular subjects. She makes use of both positive and negative shapes, colour contrasts, shadows and recession to create amazing effects. It’s also nice to see cobwebs, butterflies and raindrops used to enhance some of the paintings.

This is a book about creativity as much as (perhaps even more than) straightforward flower painting. It’s not really something for the beginner, even though there’s plenty of instruction, projects and demonstrations. If you enjoy painting flowers, but want to get beyond simple representation, it’s ideal.

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Drawing The Male Nude/Drawing The Female Nude || Giovanni Civardi

These two, which are totally complementary, very nearly caught me out. I was initially surprised that Giovanni had come to them so late in the canon, but was impressed by the freshness and simplicity of the style, which is totally different to some of his early works, some of which have an almost antique quality to them.

They are, in fact, among his earliest productions and were originally published, possibly in a different format, in 1995. There is no clue to this in either the printing history or the advance material. This isn’t Search Press’s fault – when I asked, they had to go back to the Italian publisher to find out.

So, let’s look at what we have. The first thing to say is that this printing is a complete re-working, with a new design and layout. They look exactly like all the rest of Giovanni’s books that Search Press have been publishing in English for some years. And, as I hinted at the beginning, they’re very, very good. The economy of line, attention to detail and variety of poses are second to none and it’s easy to see how I was fooled (I only found out by accident when I was checking ISBNs).

So, on that basis, if you want just about the best primers on figure drawing around, buy these. In fact, you might even want to if you have the originals. – I suspect the format may be larger and the reproduction probably better too.

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