Archive for category Publisher: Search Press

Drawing Using Grids – Animals & People || Giovanni Civardi

The idea behind this series is simple and easy to comprehend – it does what it says on the tin. Each subject is overlaid by a co-ordinated grid, so that all the main points of shape and composition can easily be transferred the finished image. It’s a long-established and well-tested technique that simply works.

What makes these volumes particularly useful, as well as the quality of the illustrations, is the amount of background material – structure, anatomy and features – that prefaces each set of drawings. In the animals volume, these are not just general but applied to each type – so, dogs, horses, cats. When it comes to people, these are structure, movement and posture. The main sections here divide into character, babies and children, and figures in action.

It should be added that these are compilations of individual volumes, though only two (Portraits With Character and Portraits of Babies and Children) have previously appeared in English. The bulk, therefore, can be regarded as new material.

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Drawing Landscapes || Margaret Eggleton

Search Press have reissued this, which first appeared in the Drawing Masterclass series. You can read the original review here.

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Watercolour Flower Portraits || Billy Showell

This worthwhile guide, which was originally published in 2006, has been reissued as a paperback. You can read the original review here.

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The Beginner’s Guide to Drawing Portraits || Carole Massey

If publishers ask (and they do periodically), my advice with older books is to leave them as they were. The idea of re-editing something into a new product never really works. It’s a bit like trying to turn a shirt into a pair of trousers. Even if you have enough material, the pieces will never be quite the right shape and the old seams will never lie quite flat. There’ll be compromises, gaps and false joins that’ll always be unsatisfactory. That applies to the trousers as well.

This started life in the Drawing Masterclass series, but has been completely restructured and what you now have is effectively a new book. The last time Search Press did this, I raised a quizzical eyebrow because all they’d really done was change the title. This is a complete re-working and a great deal of credit must go to Carole Massey who has done the heavy lifting here. She has not only added new material, but re-written and simplified to an amazing extent. Concentrating on the head and shoulders simplifies things immeasurably – you can forget about hands, feet, clothes and posture, for instance. It also allows her to concentrate on the form, features and expressions of the face, which is mainly what the book is about.

This is not so much a course as an examination of the way portraits are built up. Although the way through it is progressive – you’re always building on and reinforcing what you learnt before, there aren’t the same number of examples, exercises and demonstrations. They’re there, and you’ll find them, but in a less structured way. It’s very subtle how the material you need is to hand just when you want it, rather than when you’ve come to expect it.

There’s an excellent variety of gender, ethnicity, shape, form and age here. Carole is particularly good with babies and children and you could justify the relatively modest cover price for that alone.

This is probably one of the best introductions to portrait drawing around and the fact that it uses recycled material is probably only of interest to reviewers like me. You won’t see the joins.

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Painting Portraits in Oils || Robert Wareing

Painting portraits in oils is generally regarded as one of the highest art forms, something refined, complex and generally best left to the specialist. That’s hardly surprising as oils do require a fair amount of equipment. Finding suitable sitters, as well as the little matter of getting a worthwhile likeness, are considerable obstacles for the amateur.

So how do you set about getting started? Until now, that’s been the conundrum. There have been few books and those that exist have been, well, rather so-so.

This is different. Rob is a portrait artist with considerable experience, but he also has a YouTube channel where he posts demonstrations, and this experience shows. This is a book aimed at the needs of the learner rather than at the subject of portraiture itself. It’s a subtle but important difference. Open the pages at random and you’ll find yourself in the middle of a complete project. Look further and you’ll struggle to find the smaller lessons and exercises you’d be expecting. This is, in part at least, an extension of his online method. However, the idea of not having to wade through pages of eyes, ears, mouths and hands has an appeal, as long as it works. Portraiture is a language and has a grammar – there are technicalities you need to know as part of the foundations and to short-circuit those can be dangerous.

Rob, however, is a patient and thorough explainer and all these foundations are here, but he manages to make them interesting. All those details come up both in the projects and also discussions of various approaches – mixing colours, preparing canvases, getting to know your subject. There are examples on every page that precisely illustrate each point that’s being made.

The whole process is intensely practical and Rob manages to make what is genuinely a complex subject seem, if not easy (that would be sleight of hand), at least manageable. Knowing the limits of what you can teach is perhaps Rob’s greatest skill and this is a truly remarkable piece of work.

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Expressive Abstracts in Acrylic || Anita Hörskens

It seems now to be traditional that books on abstract painting are project based and this useful guide is no exception. The main reason, I suspect, is that it’s very hard to teach the creative aspect of the topic. The basic principle is that you extract or abstract the essence of your subject and portray it in a way that tells the viewer how you felt about it and what it was like to be there in the moment. How far you take this is entirely up to you – there may be quite a few recognisable shapes and forms, or perhaps none at all. You may be wishing to express a mood rather than a sense of place, for instance.

All this is rather esoteric, but it’s something to consider before embarking on the process. What you can teach, of course, is techniques and that’s what this guide aims to do in the fifty-five featured projects. You’ll have the opportunity to experiment with colour, contrast, glazing, composition, negative shapes and paint pouring as well as exploring materials and surfaces. There’s a lot to get to grips with and the simple exercises that are presented give you plenty of examples to work with as well as ways to add your own personal touch – the instructions are concise and allow for plenty of interpretation, which is, after all, the name of the game in this field.

There are other guides that offer a similar approach, but this one is about as comprehensive as it gets.

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Drawing Dramatic Landscapes || Robert Dutton

It is to be hoped that this new series from Search Press will be expanded in the not too distant future. The idea of featuring work by artists who explore and expand the horizons of their medium is an attractive one and there are enough around that it shouldn’t be necessary to stretch the criteria just for the sake of it.

Robert Dutton works mostly in graphite media – pencils, sticks, powder and liquid – but also charcoal, acrylics, inks and pastels. These latter for the most part provide accents and colour, but what he can do with straightforward monochrome will take your breath away. That’s what makes this such an exciting book.

Search Press are, of course, mainly publishers of instructional books rather than monographs, so there has to be a strong how-to element as well as the valuable featured work. They are well-practised, both in content and layout as well as selection of authors. It should come as no surprise therefore that this works as inspiration and creative encouragement just as well as straightforward technical lessons and demonstrations. The approach and style, however, make it less of a course and more of an exploratory tour in the company of an informed and competent guide. Robert has a teaching background and it shows – he is excellent at explaining what he has done, but why it was achieved that way.

Not everything in the book will be to everyone’s taste – you may prefer the sometimes dark graphite drawing, I may feel happier with coloured pencils and inked highlights. For all that, Robert’s explanations have a superb clarity and are always interesting – whatever your preferences, there’s nothing here you’d want to skip.

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Addictive – an artist’s sketchbook || Adebanji Alade

I’ve remarked before that looking at an artist’s sketchbook is an intensely personal thing and can be as intrusive as rummaging through their underwear drawer. However, every so often we’re presented with one – sometimes, I suspect, highly edited – and the invitation should feel like a privilege.

This has plenty of hallmarks of authenticity, not least in the page numbering. However, every good exhibition should be curated and we’re entitled to suspect that those fluffs and mis-steps that add nothing to the conversation have been removed. Try-outs, variations of approach and discontinued starts, they’re something else altogether and we don’t mind a few of those.

Spiral bound and presented with no more text than forewords by Pete Brown and Ken Howard (those being the kind of circles Adebanji moves in these days) and an introduction by the artist himself, this, as a whole, is a piece of art in itself.

You can read it as simply as an exhibition – being a sketcher, you’re not really going to ask for more from Adebanji than sketches. However, the sheer heft and volume become something else. It’s hard to put a finger on what that is, but I think I’m going to settle for “variety”, maybe also “humanity”. Adebanji is at home in crowds and these pages are nothing if not heavily populated. There’s a wealth here of faces, poses, expressions and situations. You don’t need to know who the people are or always what they’re doing. They’re studies and deserve – demand – to be studied themselves.

If you’re coming at this to learn, then marvel at precisely that cornucopia of material, at all those ways to represent human beings at work, rest or play, at the sheer inventiveness of the observation that captures them. You could also use this like one of those manuals of poses that were all the rage a few decades ago. Those were reference books, but this adds a pleasant and valuable edge of creativity.

Yes, to be here is a privilege, so take advantage and be exhilarated.

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Take 3 Colours – Watercolour Snow Scenes || Grahame Booth

Search Press have become adept at producing series that include books that stand on their own merits rather than simply fitting into pre-defined slots. Much of that is down to having as simple an idea as possible. As a result authors don’t need to go into contortions to get the correct shape and are free to express themselves as they normally do. This makes the whole idea easy to explain to those same authors so that everyone has a clear idea of what’s required. That, of course, is the key to any successful book, but it’s surprising (and rather alarming) how often it gets missed. If everyone’s pulling in different directions, the dog’s sure not to miss out on its dinner.

All of which is a preamble to saying that I like this a lot. Snow is as tricky a subject as water: it’s one of those things that isn’t really there. Water relies on reflection, but snow can be even more difficult. No, it’s not just matter of a large tube of titanium white or areas of paper left intentionally blank. Snow doesn’t reflect exactly, and it has an identifiable form in a way that water doesn’t, but it takes its appearance from the light and shade that fall on it. Cue plenty of opportunities for over-complication and far too many colours in the mix.

And, as if by magic – 3 colours and 3 brushes. Less is more, simplification is always going to be your friend. As the nights draw in and who knows what precipitation the weather will bring, here’s a guide that will tell you all you need to know. No, not everything – that would be a tall order in just 9 projects – but enough for you to understand what’s happening on your palette, brushes and paper and you didn’t really need more than that, did you?

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Ready to Paint in 30 Minutes – Landscapes in Acrylics || Barry Herniman

There’s something for everyone in this welcome addition to an excellent series. Barry covers trees, rocks, buildings, water, skies and even seas. Demonstrations use the watercolour technique, so you’ll be working on paper without impasto. I’ve yet to see traceable outlines that work on canvas, though I can’t see why it would be impossible.

This isn’t just a good book within the series, though, it’s a very thorough grounding in landscape elements and techniques in its own right and something to consider even if you don’t want pre-drawn outlines.

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