Archive for category Publisher: Search Press

Beginner’s Guide to Painting With Oil Pastels || Tim Fisher

Oil pastels have a hard time of it in the art world. Often regarded as mere child’s toys, they were invented in Japan some 100 years ago (Tim includes a fascinating history) as a means of combining wax crayons with the better quality pigments demanded by the serious artist.

As a medium, they have much to recommend them, being easy to carry and requiring little in the way of ancillary equipment. They don’t drop colour, have no drying time and the images they create are thoroughly robust. If nothing else, therefore, they’re worthy of consideration as a lightweight sketching medium. However, as Tim amply and ably demonstrates here, they’re capable of considerable subtlety and the results he produces could easily be taken for soft pastel or even watercolour.

This is, as the title suggests, aimed at the beginner and includes a very straightforward introduction and a series of detailed demonstrations that make the medium’s capabilities clear. For the more experienced artist, this might be a little more than is required, but it may still prove helpful if you are trying something that is unfamiliar.

If I were to tell you that this is easily the best book on oil pastels I’ve seen, you’d rightly point out that it’s probably the only one. This isn’t quite true – I’m pretty sure I remember another – but Tim hasn’t taken the easy route and has put a lot of trouble into producing a book it will be hard to better.

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The Watercolour Enigma || Stephen Coates

The science of watercolour is intriguing but, if the very idea makes your eyes glaze over, prepare to be intrigued. This bills itself as “a complete course revealing the secrets and science of watercolour” and, while I wouldn’t quite classify it as nose-to-tail eating, it oozes practicality on every page.

Stephen quite rightly understands that a watercolourist’s only interest in the physical properties of their medium relates to what it can do for them and how they can exploit and control its behaviour. To this end, he explains the properties of water, how and why washes blend and the ways in which different pigments mix. The whole process is constructed as a series of exercises and demonstrations that show you what’s happening rather than simply telling you, although there are also panels that explain the technicalities in simple terms.

If you want to get the most out of your medium, this is a fascinating and absorbing look under the hood.

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Ready to Paint in 30 Minutes – Landscapes|| Dave Woollass/Trees & Woodlands || Geoff Kersey

For a general appreciation, please look at the series tag above. I like the new iteration of the old Ready to Paint series a lot and these latest volumes diminish that not a jot.

Dave Woollass is a new author and one I hope we’ll see more of. He has a pleasantly loose style that’s readily achievable and explains his working methods well. He’s also comfortable with the variety of subject matter that the series demands and this would be a book worth seeking out even if the series in general isn’t your regular cup of tea.

Geoff Kersey is a familiar figure who’s well-practised in art instruction. Working with this will be familiar territory to many and a comfortable amble through the byways of watercolour. While there’s nothing excessively taxing (here or in the series in general), you won’t feel constrained or short-changed, your creative skills rather being gently stretched; a work-up rather than a work-out, perhaps.

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Drawing Using Grids – Portraits, Babies & Children || Giovanni Civardi

This new series from the prolific and always worthwhile Giovanni Civardi does what it says on the tin.

The use of grids vastly simplifies any composition that requires perspective or proportion and artists have been using them for centuries; it’s what the camera obscura was for. Giovanni’s method doesn’t require any equipment and he demonstrates how to draw up an 11 x 8 rectangular grid that contains your subject: in this case, just the head and neck. There are initial notes on anatomy, features and proportions, the bulk of each volume then being occupied by a series of worked examples that progress from the initial outline on the grid to Giovanni’s usual sensitive result.

With so many books to his credit, finding new approaches is getting tricky and there’s inevitably a degree of repetition to the coverage. However, Giovanni is an artist of great skill and always worth a read. In this case, the simplicity he has introduced is, I think, a welcome novelty.

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Drawing Human Anatomy || Giovanni Civardi

I always have to check the copyright dates very carefully with Giovanni’s books, as new editions are starting to come out. This one goes back to 1990, but the pages have a fresh feel to them that makes me pretty sure it’s a complete re-working. The older books were often of a smaller format as well so, all things being equal, I’m going to treat this as new. Even if you have a well-thumbed 28 year old copy, you might still want to have a look at this.

Giovanni deals with skeletal and muscular structures and looks at various components – heads, hands, arms, feet – in detail. He also shows how the body performs at rest, in action and under stress. It’s probably worth noting that most of the gendered figures are male and I’d say that the muscle illustrations probably are as well.

A lot of books on anatomy are either aimed at, or are at least suitable for, the medical student. This is aimed firmly at the artist and is all the better for that.

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Drawing for the Absolute Beginner || Carole Massey

This is quite the best introduction to drawing I’ve seen. Carole has a simple, unfussy style and she’s also very good at simplification – reducing subjects to their essence, avoiding unnecessary detail, working loosely and explaining simple shapes and their relationships.

Although it has the same series title as its watercolour and acrylics cousins, it isn’t associated with the SAA. Although the cover doesn’t mention tracings, they are there and are helpful when laying out some of the more complex subjects.

There’s plenty to get your teeth into, from basic techniques to outlines, hatching, shading and the use of colour. Subjects range from landscapes, trees and water to figures and animals (both static and moving) and buildings.

Like the rest of the series, this is well thought-through and will take you from first steps and on to some really quite advanced work.

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Drawing Birds || Andrew Forkner

Where Andrew’s previous book dealt with acrylics and included colour, this concentrates on drawing and monochrome.

Birds are never an easy subject and simply observing them can be a challenge. Although Andrew does not cover the use of photographs in detail, he does hint at their possibilities and also has some useful notes on sketching in the field. The assumption is, I think, that you’ll find your own reference material, of which there is plenty available.

The book begins with some handy notes on structure and plumage along with features such as eyes, beaks and bills. This section is worthy of considerable attention as it introduces basic techniques and helps you work towards the complete studies that come later.

These demonstrations cover a good variety of species from garden birds to waterfowl, birds of prey and game birds. Andrew shows you how to map out the outline and structure and then fill in the shading so that your finished result has both shape and solidity.

Although birds are not a subject for the complete beginner, neither is this a masterclass that need deter those who are new to the subject and it should satisfy them as well as those who want to take the art considerably further.

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