Archive for category Publisher: Search Press

Painting Dog Portraits in Acrylics || Dave White

This extensive study will tell you everything you could conceivably want to know about painting dogs. It is not, it should be said, a guide for the beginner and Dave makes no attempt to explain the very basics. However, if you have some facility with painting in general and animals in particular, you’re unlikely to want any more than you get here.

There’s plenty of technical information about hair, fur, eyes, ears, noses and structure as well as the all-important methods of combining all those details into a result that looks like your subject. Dave is a professional dog painter and his audience – the owners themselves – is a demanding one. They don’t want a dog, they want their dog and Dave explains what to look for in order to capture the character of the subject as well as how to transfer that to canvas.

Although there is a section on working from photographs, which can provide a useful aide-mémoire, Dave explains the importance of spending time with the animal you’re about to paint in order to get to know it properly. He also deals with the important but often overlooked matter of the owner, of how the two relate and also what the person who is ultimately paying for the work is looking for.

This is a thorough and thoughtful guide that delivers on every count.

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Jean Haines’ Atmospheric Flowers in Watercolour

Jean Haines’ work is approaching a form of abstraction. Extreme looseness and the extensive use of washes has led to images that are more about shapes and colour than they are about form. In the wrong hands, this leads all too easily to confusion, and not just in the mind of the viewer – the artist themselves can lose sight of their vision and thus the ability to communicate.

This has not happened with Jean and the paintings here are always recognisable even if they are about as far from botanical illustration as it is possible to get. At the same time, the essence of not just flower, but species is retained and you get the sense of a plant growing in the wild, dancing in the breeze and seen with the lack of distinction brought on by distance. When Jean is painting figures, it’s natural to say that she captures character and soul. While that’s not such an obvious factor with flowers, it’s hard not to make the comparison. This is what flowers are about more than what they are.

But this is also a practical book and we must therefore ask the questions: can you re-create this and would you want to emulate the highly individual style of another artist? The answer to the first is simple: Jean is very good at explaining her working methods, so the lessons and demonstrations are admirably clear. Technically, it can certainly be done. As to the more creative question, well, if you follow the book, you’ll end up with a copy, but you’ll also learn how to see, think and interpret, so you can develop your own approaches. I think that’s an entirely reasonable aim and falls well within the scope of what the book is about.

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Five-Minute Watercolour || Samantha Nielsen

This is not – praise be – a book about painting for those who are too busy to paint. I’ve ranted about that elsewhere: art is something that takes time and deserves to have time taken.

No, this is far better. It’s about working quickly and grabbing the idea before it fades and then not over-working it so that the soul of the subject and the painting are lost. It’s not a particularly new idea and you could call it sketching, except that it’s more than that because it’s more than a notebook. This is about seeing, interpreting and distilling.

There’s a wealth of ideas, subjects and techniques here and plenty to pick up and run with. The illustrations are attractive (essential given what’s being presented) and, although Samantha analyses them, they’re not demonstrations and you’re not intended to copy them. You should instead go out and find your own ideas, but what’s here will give you plenty of inspiration and jumping-off points.

There are plenty of books like this and they usually end up with a qualification – yes, but … it only goes so far. Not so here. It’s a rather joyful book and provides a wealth of encouragement.

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Abstract Acrylics || Waltraud Nawratil

If you want to experiment with abstraction, but are unsure where to start, this handy guide offers a series of simple lessons that will get you pointed in the right direction.

The images included have at least one foot firmly entrenched in representation and the technique is mainly one of working with colours, shapes and spaces while keeping the main subject broadly recognisable. Each of the 27 projects occupies only a single spread, so there are no multiple and detailed steps to follow – these are ideas rather than full-on demonstrations and this is a book more about seeing and interpreting than it is about technical details. For all that, Waltraud looks at a good variety of ways of working, including transferred images, spray painting, knife-work and mixed media.

In some cases, the work is medium-specific but, as a lot of it is also about observation and inspiration, there’s plenty here that should appeal even if you don’t work in acrylics.

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10 Step Drawing: Flowers || Mary Woodin, Animals || Heather Kilgour

This new series presents what we might call a quick route to drawing. Each of 75 projects includes nine outline stages, plus a final one where the colour is added. What is most useful is the simple shapes with which each begins. If you’re new to drawing, getting this right can be the hardest part and represents the foundations on which the finished result will stand or fall. Anyone with experience will probably find the rather regimented steps that follow exasperating, but do please move along there – this isn’t for you. Beginners should find the process much more reassuring and the routines easy to follow and get to grips with. The fact that the colouring-in is one stage with little more instruction that “colour it in” isn’t ideal, but these are books about drawing, not painting, and you’d need at least another 10 steps to cover this fully. Stop quibbling. The method and results are really quite attractive.

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In Bloom || Rachel Reinert

This simple guide contains outlines that will enable you to practise flower painting quickly and easily. The subtitle refers to “florals”, an American term I have always understood to refer to more elaborate flower arrangements, rather than single blooms or stems. Here, however, it is the latter that are to the fore, which is good if you are a beginner in the field.

The subtitle also refers to drawing and what you’re presented with is a series of increasingly detailed printed outlines with the instructions in short captions. As an exercise in copying, it’s fine, but I’m not sure how much you’d actually learn by working through its varied contents – there’s no question that the covering is comprehensive.

Of more use are the last dozen pages, which deal with colour and do manage to pack a good amount of information in. I’m not sure, though, that this would justify the price of the book, or that there’s information you couldn’t get – albeit in a less concise form – elsewhere.

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The Field Guide to Drawing & Sketching Animals || Tim Pond

This is, I think, the best book on drawing animals I’ve seen. The sheer breadth of the coverage and the amount of detail that Tim goes into is breathtaking. More than that, though, it remains at all times completely accessible and you’re never left feeling bewildered by the amount of information on every page.

The ability to do this comes from confidence and, as you can see from the results, Tim is completely at home with his subject and his materials. For what is avowedly a book about drawing, there’s a lot of colour, much of it in the form of washes. As I write, I have to keep reminding myself that this is a drawing, not a painting, book although there is a convincing argument for treating it as the latter. One of the things I particularly like is that Tim doesn’t bother with backgrounds, except for the occasional prop of a bit of vegetation. Too many artists opt either for a complete jungle or a nondescript cyclorama that makes the subject look like an exhibit in a menagerie. Tim’s creatures exist for themselves and in their own right. They leap off the page and they’re all the better for that.

Drawing (or painting) animals is a complex subject. There’s structure, form and behaviour as well as that elephant in the corner, anatomy. Tim has a neat way of dealing with that: shading. I’ve seen this done before and, frankly, it often just adds to the confusion. Tim uses a lot more colours than is usual and it just works. Even I can understand it and, more to the point, I believe I can. Another of his tricks is what he calls Wizards and Gizmos, little shortcuts to getting shapes and proportions right that allow you to build solid foundations for your subject that will pay dividends later. These are more than clever tricks for their own sake and are very handy ways of dealing with some of the more technical aspects of the subject.

There’s masses to get your teeth into here, from techniques to almost every living thing you can think of, from crustaceans to ungulates. This is a book that will keep you engaged – even engrossed – for a very long time and which delivers everything it promises as well as a lot more.

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