Archive for category Publisher: Search Press

David Bellamy’s Arabian Light

If you thought the Middle East was just sand and showy ziggurats, think again. David Bellamy has always been a travel writer at heart and this book explores the spirit of a region the West often dismisses. His skill lies in finding the hidden corners that define the character of a place rather than its public faces and spaces. He also explores the life of the region through its people as they go about their daily lives; again, these are things done for practical purposes rather than public show. Thus, we get a quiet corner of Cairo at night (David doesn’t completely eschew the larger settlements), the eerie light of midday heat among the rocks of a wadi (a dry valley), where scale is provided by middle-ground figures. At the same time, David also visits Petra and Abu Simbel, somehow managing either to avoid the crowds, or at least edit them out. These results typify his ability to capture atmosphere – in words as well as pictures – with an assuredness that betokens both familiarity and understanding.

David is no wide-eyed first-time tourist and the book tells the stories of several journeys, giving each section an effective narrative arc, for he is also a master storyteller whose words and pictures are part of a whole, rather than one being an adjunct to another. Travel books are often separated between a writer and a photographer whose visions are – even if subtly – different. As a result, you look at the pictures as one piece of the jigsaw and the words as another, the illustrations being a counterpoint to what you are told. When the author is an artist, the images are not necessarily a blindly faithful record, but rather an assemblage that captures both the essence of the scene and the impression it made on the painter. That eerie light would be almost impossible to capture with a camera, but responds perfectly to the subtle hues and granulation of watercolour.

The overall impression of this beautiful book is of the narrative arc I referred to before. It’s the story not just of a journey, but of a place and its people and David has done it supreme justice.

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Abstracts and Mixed Media || Helen Kaminsky

With the popularity of abstract painting showing no sign of abating (there was a time when books on it were a drag on the market), there has for some time been space for a book that comes between the simple project-based approach and the more academic, analytical tomes.

And here we have a thoroughly practical book aimed at the serious artist who has mastered the basics and is ready to move on to more advanced techniques and interpretations. Rather than pitching straight into the dual aspects of the book’s title, Helen first deals with abstraction – colour, composition, design and interpretation, with each section having an accompanying demonstration that manages to be straightforward without being annoyingly elementary. This augurs well for the book’s balance between simplicity and taking its subject and its readers seriously.

The matter of media is now introduced, with textures, pastes, gels, watercolour, inks and acrylics all coming into the picture – or do I mean mix? This is where things start to get exciting and where the book absolutely justifies its inclusion in the Innovative Artist series. Work here takes the form of examples and shorter exercises because Helen’s aim is to get and help you to develop your own vision and voice. Where project-based books will have you completing the author’s idea of a painting, the intention here is to give you ideas to work off and to spark the imagination.

Helen deals with a broad and complex subject, but the book never feels intimidating or inaccessible, but rather draws you in, eager to find out more. An added bonus is that the binding is sewn rather than glued, which is unusual outside hardbacks. As a result, the book falls open easily in the hands and the pages are easy to view and read.

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The Easy Guide to Painting Skies in Watercolour || Stephen Coates

Books on skies are not too hard to find and this important element (arguably the most important) of any landscape has been well-covered. The danger, of course, is of producing a masterclass that only serves to muddy the waters with over-complication.

Regular readers will know how wary I am about “easy” guides. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it and it wouldn’t take a lifetime of study. Intelligently approached, however, they can be reassuring and progress in simple, straightforward steps that don’t tax the beginner or those struggling a bit to keep up.

On those counts, this is absolutely admirable. Stephen starts with an analysis and explanations of materials and equipment, moving quickly to basic techniques, of which the first is a large blended wash. The initial exercise uses one colour, then we move to two. It’s simple and progressive and we’re ready to start looking at white clouds. Nothing to frighten the horses, results that will satisfy and I think we’re ready to agree that, yes, it was pretty easy.

Moving on, you’ll find heavy clouds, sunsets, storms, shafts of sunlight and mists as well as a look at perspective and focal points. Throughout, you’re really only painting skies, with rudimentary foregrounds that add only balance, without becoming an exercise in themselves – actually, if you want lessons in simplicity, you have them right there, an unexpected Brucie bonus.

Easy? Well, maybe. Not too taxing? Absolutely.

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Take Three Colours (compendium)

The idea of this series is a brilliant way of simplifying the painting process, either for the beginner or as a palate-cleanser for someone with more experience who’s become a bit jaded.

With just three brushes and three colours, a team of Search Press’s most successful authors demonstrate projects that show just how much you can do with an absolute minimum of equipment. With little to mess around with, the emphasis is on creativity and making the most of what you have. There’s no chance to over-complicate or get bogged down with an unwieldy palette or too many mixes.

This bind-up is fantastically good value and covers landscapes, seascapes and flowers, with more concentrated subjects such as lakes, rivers, hills and mountains thrown in. Larger books such as this can be difficult to handle, but this falls and stays open nicely and is a pleasure to use.

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Sketching For The Absolute Beginner || Peter Cronin

Peter Cronin tells us that he found drawing in “special” classes at school, having been diagnosed as “slow”, but in reality dyslexic. For him, it was a release from the tyranny of the worded page and an introduction to a world that was all his. All of which is a roundabout way of saying that this book is, as much as anything else, a paean to the joy and freedom that Peter finds in working with drawing materials.

Yes, it’s a book of instruction and, yes, it covers all the basic principles, but Peter also manages to convey throughout the joy he feels when working, and he’ll share it with you the reader. So, yes again, it’s a course, but it’s also a journey of discovery.

Peter’s drawings are subtle and sensitive and he works mostly with pencil but also pen & wash. With plenty of examples and short exercises, he introduces line, composition, perspective, form and hatching as well as ways to control the weight of the mark to create values, tone and shading.

There’s a huge amount to get to grips with here and this is a book that you can easy work through or just dip into for advice and inspiration.

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Painting With System 3 || Charles Evans

Daler Rowney’s System 3 is an integrated set of acrylic mediums that includes heavy and soft body paints, inks and fluid colours. The overall palette remains the same across the range and all the parts are designed to work harmoniously together.

Although this is in large part a promotional piece for System 3, sticking with a single range has allowed Charles to produce a complete guide to working with acrylics that covers just about every aspect. He is able to contrast and mix styles and ways of working that would be much more difficult if different brands and types were involved.

The nature of the book means it makes complete sense to start at the absolute beginning, by introducing paints, equipment and supports and then moving on to basic methods of application and demonstrations of subjects that include landscapes, water, animals and buildings.

If you’re starting to paint, this makes an excellent introductory guide and you’ll be working with a range of materials that will be reliable and should produce no nasty surprises. You’ll also be in the hands of an experienced and generous teacher who is not afraid to explain those sometimes elementary details you really need.

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Creative Drawing Techniques || David Brammeld

Subtitled From first mark to full expression, this is a comprehensive, but not exhausting, study of drawing using everything from pencils and pen & ink to watercolour washes, graphite, charcoal, acrylic inks and mixed media.

You could forgive yourself for asking how all this could be not creative – the title does sort of hint at that possibility. The truth is, it’s one of those rather vague words that publishers use when they’re not quite sure how to categorise the work of an author they’ve felt attracted to and want to do a book with. There’s an immediate attractiveness to David’s work that eloquently explains this without the need for any words. There’s huge variety here and he is one of those artists whose work somehow transcends their medium. In a way, this isn’t a book about drawing at all, but about creating and where the fact that tools are used is merely incidental.

That’s all very well, but you the reader are sat there with a pad on your knees, pens and pencils in hand and a bottle of ink perched precariously on a stool or tree stump beside you. You want to know how to proceed and you won’t be disappointed by how David guides you. That subtitle makes it clear that this is about the whole process of drawing and that there’s advice on mark-making before you get to the process of transcending your media. The more elementary aspects don’t dominate, however, and there’s plenty of variety and exercises to get stuck into. Subject matter includes trees, buildings, still lifes and a few portraits. David tends to go for the closer, more intimate view than the wider perspective, which is why I haven’t mentioned landscapes, even though some of his work does fall broadly into this category.

All-in-all, this is an enjoyable, instructive and thought-provoking book.

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Bridget Riley: Working Drawings

Bridget Riley is perhaps the only British Op Artist the general public would recognise, maybe even name. Best known for her often eye-popping geometric works, she has had a long and varied career that has gone through several stages including figurative, Impressionist and Pointillist.

Rather amazingly, this is the first book to collect and illustrate her preparatory work and, therefore, to offer an insight into the way her pieces develop. It includes sketches, outlines and preparatory pieces – as she puts it herself: “Studies are my chief method of exploration and way into my paintings”. Most of the illustrations are uncommented, but the book includes texts from various points in her career that explain Riley’s background and development as well as interviews from 2005, 2011 and a new one, specially commissioned for the book.

There is plenty of material here and the overall sense is of a job well done – that this is a complete survey rather than a first footing. Some of the reproduction does seem a little coarse, although that may be down to what material was available. The colour also seems sometimes a little flat and Thames and Hudson are normally good at getting as effective a result as possible on matt paper. £45 is not a trivial sum, but it is excellent value considering what is included and one should perhaps not quibble.

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Atmospheric Animals in Watercolour || Jean Haines

I’m an enormous fan of Jean’s work and, if her sales are anything to go by, you probably are too. I’ve always been impressed by the way her subjects seem to emerge organically from the paper as if propelled by their own life force.

The subtitle of this new volume is Painting with spirit & vitality and it seems to me that this sums that ethos up perfectly. These are not animal portraits in the conventional sense, but rather the life and soul of those creatures. Jean has written books about mind and spirituality expressed through painting and that theme continues here. If you’re worried that it’s all a bit New Age, don’t be. This is firmly a book about painting animals that just happens to sidestep simple representation. A short section on Animal Meanings explains this clearly and a lot of the book is about getting to know your subject just as if it were human. If you have pets, you do that anyway, don’t you?

Technically, there’s a lot about colour and washes – Jean works about as loosely as you can – and that includes how to retain shape and form so that your results are anything but pure abstract. Some of these are startling: a cat whose face is the only delineated part, an elephant done in shades of green, fish that move in their pond because superseded form creates sinuousness.

What’s really remarkable is that you have to look twice to notice all this because the book absolutely lives up to that subtitle. These are real animals. Not just paintings of animals – it’s a heck of a trick to pull off.

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The Joy of Modern Calligraphy || Joyce Lee

This is nothing if not elaborately presented. A hard case with an elastic closure opens to reveal a beautifully produced paperback book and an envelope of practice sheets that contain outlines for basic letterforms. The same script is used throughout and is not, I think, one of the classic ones, but is still a pleasant sloping variant of Copperplate.

Calligraphy being about appearance, at least today, this elaborateness has a place, but you may also feel that there is a slight tendency for form to overtake substance. This is not, it should be said, a book about calligraphy as a complete subject. Rather, it is a guide, perhaps better, a list of suggestions for projects such as the inevitable – and obvious – invitations. What you may find useful are the extended guides to forming letters and the practice sheets for these. These exercises occupy a large portion of the book and are among the most thorough I have seen. If this is what you want (and I suspect a lot of people will), then they would justify the price of the book by themselves.

However, if you were looking for a guide to other calligraphic hands, or more extended projects, this is perhaps not the book for you. It’s very well done, beautifully presented and well laid out, but does have its limitations.

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