Archive for category Publisher: Search Press

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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Matthew Palmer’s Step-by-Step Guide to Watercolour Painting

There is always room for a good solid introduction to any subject, and this is one of the best on watercolour.

Just picking it up gives an immediate and encouragingly meaty feel. It’s substantial at 144 pages and, with the added outlines in the middle, really quite heavy. Physical feel, of course, means nothing if the content is lightweight and it’s good to know that there’s plenty here to get your teeth into. We open with a good discussion of materials that will aid the tyro though the maze of what’s available before moving on to a look at inspiration. This is the basic “what am I going to paint and where am I going to find it”, but the language used is serious and assumes that the reader is too. It’s nice to see at this level and this early in the book. Again, it inspires and engenders confidence.

After a look at basic techniques and how to use colour, the first exercise appears as early as page 38. Art is a visual medium and there’s nothing worse than having to wade through acres of talk before you get to work. You want to paint, you bought all those materials so come on, let’s get down to it – and we do. Nothing too taxing: it’s a very basic scene of some hills with a simple foreground and a graduated sky. Follow the six stages, each with its own series of steps and you’d be hard put to it to get it wrong. Look, your first painting, on day one. Way to go!

The rest of the book introduces more subjects, techniques and complexity. It’s beautifully structured, thoroughly explained and very easy to follow. And, in case you get stuck, there are the aforesaid tracings that help you get the basic sketch right. Build on solid foundations and the structure will stand.

I really don’t think you could better this.

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The Paint Pad Artist (Watercolour Landscapes || Grahame Booth/Watercolour Flowers || Julie King)

This new series builds on the theme of the hugely successful Ready to Paint books and provides outlines pre-printed on watercolour paper. I’ve looked for a watermark, but can’t find one, so it’s very much a take-it-as-it-is option. This shouldn’t matter, however, as these are very much aimed at the beginner and, as long as the material doesn’t have any particularly difficult characteristics, just having it there ready to use should be fine. You still have to provide your own paint and brushes, of course, but there’s a handy list of What You Need in the concise but informative introductory section to each book. Given the level of skill this is aimed at, getting the right balance between thoroughness and not being so detailed as to be off-putting is a difficult thing to judge. The decision here has been to start on practical work as soon as possible and develop skills there.

The core of each book is a series of six projects with detailed step-by-step-illustrations. There’s plenty of hand-holding and a very real sense of having a guide and tutor at your shoulder throughout. A nice touch is the suggestion of making copies of the outlines so that you can practice and repeat the exercises without the pressure of having to get it right first time or waste the material provided. This is advice any newcomer would be advised to follow as (spoiler alert), art isn’t something you can pick up in a few minutes.

There’s much to like here, quite apart from the approach and presentation. The books are spiral bound inside a substantial hard cover and the attention to detail includes an elasticated band that holds the whole thing together in the manner of a portfolio. It’s very professionally done and makes the student feel both taken, and that they’re taking it all, seriously.

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