Archive for category Publisher: Search Press

Pastels for the Absolute Beginner || Rebecca de Mendonça

The idea of an Absolute Beginner series is a good one. Anyone taking up painting, or starting with a new medium needs a sound guide that is well-grounded in the basics and assumes no previous knowledge. Previous volumes have taken that very much to heart and included some very basic work that doesn’t tax the creative or technical endeavours too heavily.

This is a bit different and, although there’s a sound introduction to materials and techniques, I can’t help feeling it fits better with Search Press’s surveys of the Cinderella media (gouache and oil pastels, for instance). This is by no means a criticism and indeed, if you were looking for a complete guide to pastel – while it’s maybe not a completely Cinderella medium, it’s certainly a lot less published than some – this could well be it.

The book is certainly thorough. Subjects include landscapes, waterscapes, people and animals, with skies, trees and waves thrown in along the way. Rebecca is primarily a portrait and equestrian artist and this shows – these are easily her strongest subjects. However, she is thoroughly at home with her medium and handles everything well. Her demonstrations and explanations are concise, but easy to follow. They will, I think, be of value to anyone – at whatever level – working with pastel.

If you’re a complete beginner, I perhaps wouldn’t make this your very first book. The comprehensive nature of its coverage might put you off. I’d probably start with the compilation Pastel Painting Step-by-Step that Search Press are handily republishing in February 2020. However, once you’ve mastered the basics, you may well find that this one will take you as far as you want to go. If you’re already a practitioner with some experience, it could be the only book you’ll ever need.

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Painting Mood & Atmosphere in Watercolour || Barry Herniman

This is an enlarged reissue of a book which first appeared in 2004. I don’t have a copy of the original to hand, so how much new material there is, and what it is, I am unable to say. I don’t however, remember it being quite this vibrant in terms of colour, so I suspect that, as well as everything else, there may have been a degree of re-origination. The only tiny fly in the ointment is that some of the illustrations aren’t quite as sharp as modern standards allow, so you may have to forgive that, if you notice it – it’s not a major problem, but one inevitably gets used to being able to analyse things like brushwork in quite minute detail.

Subject-wise, the book is mainly land and waterscapes plus a few buildings, which is about right for the topic in question. There are plenty of skies, from looming and overcast to vivid sunsets (though I do wonder whether the vividness I referred to earlier has been achieved by dialling up the red and yellow in the printing process – the book has a very orange feel to it).

Whatever these reservations, this is an excellent look at getting a sense of place into your work and Barry’s water, in particular, has that elusive sense of solidity that suggests volume and movement.

There are five full projects as well as explanations and analyses – the style of the book pre-dates the breakout hints and tips that pepper modern volumes and the text is longer than we’re perhaps used to now. If you shout “hurrah”, make a beeline for your bookshop. If you’re not sure, you may be surprised by how well a more in-depth look works and how a more relaxed pace can induce understanding.

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Paint Pad Poster Book – Flowers

Search Press have supersized their Paint Pad series. Not so much a triple-stack cheeseburger with a quart of fizzy sugar as the full 48 ounce free-if-you-can-finish-it T-bone. These are BIG.

Interestingly, there is no author credit and I think I recognise the images from other books. A lot of thought has clearly gone into the format, though. An A3 book is not easy to manage so, instead of the portfolio styling of the parent series, these are pads where you’re clearly intended to pull out not just the sheets of watercolour paper with their pre-printed outlines, but the instruction pages as well. Tape the paper down onto a drawing board, pin the instructions on the wall and it all starts to make sense. This isn’t mentioned in the How To Use This Book introduction, but it’s the obvious solution.

The content has also been pared down severely in the light of this not being something to sit down and read. There’s no list of materials or introduction to techniques, although there is a “what you’ll need” list for each section. The whole thing is about the image and completing it. Once you’ve painted the five exercises, the rest of the book is basically disposable. That sounds likes sacrilege for something costing a whisker under sixteen pounds, but your return is the five full-size paintings you can frame and hang on the wall.

The quality is stunning. Each painting is shown in its complete state and, at this size, any shortcomings in the reproduction are going to be immediately obvious and a massive frustration. Full use has been made of the large page size to lay the instructions out clearly and illustrate them in detail. Everything is really clear and, if you’re adopting my suggestion of pinning them on a wall, easy to see.

This is quite a departure and a lot more than just a vary-it-a-bit exercise to generate extra sales. There’s an elegant simplicity to it that’ll make serious art easily accessible to even the raw beginner.

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Drawing Animals | Lucy Swinburne

This is an enlarged edition of a book that first appeared in the Masterclass series in 2013. Sensibly, this time, the publisher has resisted the temptation to re-brand it as being for the beginner.

The Masterclass series was a good idea intended to appeal to more advanced artists who perhaps didn’t feel the need for instruction in basic techniques or a breakdown of the materials they’d need. However, it’s a risky approach as the non-specialist can easily feel excluded and that the whole thing is maybe too difficult.

Although there is plenty of advanced work here, this is nevertheless a thoroughly approachable book and should certainly appeal to anyone with reasonable drawing skills who is wanting to turn their attention to the animal world. Domestic, wild and zoo animals are included and there’s plenty of information on structural features such as eyes, ears and noses as well as complete projects that put the techniques you’ve developed into practice. There’s also a handy section on working from photographs and transferring that image to paper using a grid to get the proportions right.

I liked the original and, although I’m unable to compare the two editions, this has the feel of a complete guide.

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Botanical Illustration From Life || Işik Güner

Isn’t all proper botanical illustration done from life?, asks a pedant. It’s a valid question, though, but one which is also unfair given the wide range of books available on the subject and relative shortage of titles.

The first thing that should be said is that this is not a manual for the budding botanical illustrator. The style of work that appears here is not the sort that would grace a species identification guide. The manner, however, is much more than the more relaxed plant portrait and includes sufficient detail for even the most demanding general painter of natural subjects.

What it does offer is probably the most thorough guide to top-end botanical painting you could wish for. At 208 pages, it’s a substantial tome and the space is not wasted. There are no establishing shots and few intrusive hands or photos of the artist at work. Rather, there are the exercises and demonstrations you’d expect, but also extensive analyses of flower, leaf and stem structure, all illustrated with some really rather exquisite paintings that make this more scientific aspect not merely interesting but a joy to work with. It’s about art and so it should be artistic.

Just about every aspect of botanical subjects is covered – I mentioned flowers, leaves and stems, but roots, fruit and seeds are here too. These, though, are only the subject matter and the technical aspects of portraying them are dealt with extensively as well. Once again, the extent is put to good use and, despite the comprehensive nature of the coverage, there’s never any sense of rush, or of things being crammed in. The pages are relaxed and very user-friendly

I quibbled over the title. If I was going to choose, I might call it The Complete Guide to Botanical Painting, but that’s probably been bagged already.

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Watercolour With Love || Lena Yokotha-Barth

This is a strange book, which I suspect you’ll either love or hate. The subtitle describes it as “50 modern motifs to paint in 5 easy steps” and it does have the feeling of icons or emojis. There’s no great technical subtlety and the colour tends to work in blocks producing, it has to be said, often attractive and different images.

The various projects, which include a watermelon, ice cream cone, toucan and orange, are the end result in themselves. This is not a book about watercolour technique, but really one of design. If you want simple images to decorate your home that you can say you’ve created yourself, this is a slam-dunk.

I’m trying not to damn it with faint praise, but I think the market I normally write for isn’t the one this is addressing. Within the confines of what it is, my reservation is that there are no instructions beyond the very basic and, if you want to know how to create shading using a wash, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Given that its average buyer probably isn’t at all experienced in the medium, I think that could be quite a drawback.

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Watercolour Painting Step-by-Step || Jackie Barrass, Richard Bolton, Ray Campbell Smith, Frank Halliday, William Newton, Wendy Tait, Bryan A Thatcher

This is a reissue of an earlier compilation, which I was convinced I had reviewed before, but don’t seem to have. It originated as a bind-up of Search press’s Leisure Arts series and makes available lessons from what was a very serviceable series from quite a long time ago.

Although I had reservations about the reproduction in its acrylic counterpart, and some of it here isn’t quite up to modern standards, it’s not too bad and not quite the stumbling block I found it in the other volume. At a shade under £10, it’s enormously good value and I think you could overlook any shortcomings simply in favour of the wealth and variety of material you get for your money.

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