Archive for category Publisher: Search Press

Pure Watercolour Painting || Peter Cronin

As you might expect, Peter is a member of the Pure Watercolour Society and this is a hymn to the medium.. Forewords by David Curtis and David Bellamy should leave you in no doubt about how good it is.

My first question on opening the book was: what is “pure” watercolour and how does it differ from any other kind? Peter helpfully enlightens us: “One may suspect that there is perhaps more to good painting than a huge toolkit, and it may be possible to take simple tools and use them well. This concept and approach to painting are at the heart of pure watercolour”. Put kindly, I take that to mean that simplicity is always best and that you should work with your imagination and media rather than your tools; they’re not what makes a painting, you do.

In the wrong hands, this could come across as a fundamentalist rant, but Peter lets his brushes do the talking and the work here is simply extraordinary. If he wasn’t such a good explainer and demonstrator, you could easily be put off by his virtuosity. As it is, follow his advice carefully and you’ll stand a very good chance of finishing this book a much better painter then when you started.

Watercolour is, as I think we all know, a very special medium. It’s one that does sometimes seem to have a mind of its own and is nowhere near as controllable as the opaque ones. The skill is to work with that and to learn ways of encouraging it to do what you want rather than trying to wrestle it into submission and merely working against it. Handle a wash sensitively, know when colours are going to bleed and blend and large sections will almost complete themselves.

Peter explains much about the properties of watercolour and the techniques you’ll need. He also demonstrates extensively and these paintings will show you how to produce some really quite advanced work.

It’s a bit of a tour de force.

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Learn to Paint Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings || Mark Daniel Nelson

I am now completely confused. When I saw this, I didn’t like it. It doesn’t compare well with its companion volume on watercolour and seems to lack the fizz that has. However, I now realise that it is, in fact, a reissue of Little Ways to Learn Acrylics, which I liked a lot.

The moral of this, I think, is always to check that books aren’t quiet reissues (this one isn’t completely silent and is acknowledged in small print on the title page). What is interesting, though, is how perception can change when comparison is made to something else. In this case, Learn to Paint in Watercolour with 50 Small Paintings has a huge amount of originality and this now looks like a pale comparison and a feeble attempt to jump on a series bandwagon. And yet it’s the same book that I liked two years ago.

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Complete Guide to Watercolour || David Webb

This really rather attractive book is arranged more or less in an encyclopaedia format, but without quite falling into the tabulated effect that implies. It’s a difficult thing to define, but the result is both a rattle bag and the basis of a nicely-structured course at the same time.

Subtitling itself “all the essential skills and techniques you need” is a pointer to this: it’s not so much a manual as a connected series of lessons that you can work with in almost any order. And there lies its attraction: each section is easily separated out and you can read up about what you need or what interests you at the moment. It would be possible to work through from cover to cover and, indeed, you’ll probably want to at some point. For the rest, it’s something to keep by you and dip into serendipitously. It has many treasures to reveal and these are best discovered by chance.

There are hints, tips, lessons, exercises and demonstrations and the book finishes rather pleasingly with a section titled “Approaches to Watercolour”, introducing a range of other contributors who present their own ways of working.

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Beginner’s Guide to Botanical Painting || Michael Lakin

This is another of Search Press’s mashups, combining material from 2010’s Ready to Paint Botanical Flowers in Watercolour and 2012’s A-Z of Botanical Flowers in Watercolour, bringing together the best from both.

If it’s possible to teach beginners something that takes a lifetime to master, this comes at least somewhere near to achieving its aim. There are 13 pre-printed tracings (familiar from the Ready to Paint series) with their detailed demonstrations. Alongside and really rather well integrated with this elementary process is the more detailed information from the larger book. This includes an explanation of Michael’s six-stage process for flower painting that does a lot to remove the confusing mystique that surrounds the subject. There are also exercises for further development once you’ve mastered the basics.

As an introduction to realistic flower painting, this is really rather good.

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5-Minute Sketching: Landscapes || Virginia Hein

I’m not normally a fan of the quick-work approach. If something’s worth drawing or painting, it’s worth taking time over. However, I’m happy to make an exception in the case of sketching. Here, speed is frequently of the essence and less is definitely more. Stop and fiddle and the scene will be lost, or have changed substantially while you’re still dithering over whether to use Payne’s or Davy’s Grey. Photographically, it’s the equivalent of having your camera out of the bag and on a full auto setting.

There’s much to like in this new series, which originates with RotoVision, purveyors of all kinds of good ideas. This book is full of ideas and exercises, each one executed in just 3 pages. Sections move from technical to creative via observation and planning. Practise now and develop ways of working that’ll stand you in good stead out in the field or on the street corner. Subjects include, as you might have guessed, landscapes but also urban scenes, skies and trees as well as the considerations of working at different times of day.

The approach is visual, vibrant and really rather exciting.

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5-minute Sketching: Animals & Pets || Gary Geraths

Animals are prime candidates for quick working. Rarely still and often found in less than ideal places, the ability to grab a quick sketch while they’re visible, or at least reasonably still, is a useful skill.

This new series carries great promise and the ideas and techniques here do it full justice. There’s plenty of information and variety, with something for everyone. If I have a reservation, it’s that the execution perhaps leaves a little to be desired, but there’s nothing wrong with the ideas and you’ll find plenty to keep you occupied.

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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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