Archive for category Publisher: Watson Guptill

Drawing for the Absolute and Utter Beginner || Claire Watson Garcia

You couldn’t wish for a more user-friendly title than this, but does it live up to its claim? Well, the strapline “15th anniversary (revised) edition” suggests a consistent seller and that’s something you can’t easily achieve simply by fooling enough of the people enough of the time. I’m also always encouraged when a book’s blurb tells me that it’s based on the author’s teaching experience, because that generally means it’ll react to real-life issues and problems raised by real-life students. To survive, a teacher has to be good not merely at what they do, but at conveying it.

So, all-in-all, let’s say that this starts off more than a little encouragingly. So, how does it differ from any of the other basic drawing books? Well, if I’m honest, not a lot. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In a field that’s been well covered, a basic modus operandi has usually been established and. although there are sometimes attempts to overturn this, all they usually manage to prove is that tried and tested methods are best. So, again, full marks for pragmatism.

There’s plenty of basic information here: materials, methods, mark-making, pencil work, washes, portraiture and still life. Yes, you read that right: the subject matter is pretty much limited to objects and people. That’s fine, as both of those offer plenty of challenges in perspective, shape and tone but, if you wanted flowers or landscapes, you’d be looking in vain. The other problem I have, and this is rather a large one, is that the results look … well … frankly amateurish. The method of explaining isn’t bad, but some of the portraits look more like the before (the book) than after it.

You might, of course, think that this makes the whole thing more accessible. That the author doesn’t have such an impossibly elegant style that you’d be incapable of emulating it, and I wouldn’t argue with that. I’m a great fan of the achievable style, but I still want it to be something I can aspire to, not something I might be doing already.

Sorry, in spite of everything I said at the beginning, I just don’t think this cuts the mustard.

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Draw Your Day || Samantha Dion Baker

This is by no means the first book on keeping a sketch journal, but it is among the most attractive. The idea is simple enough: you simply draw elements of your day, journey or interests as a record, a notebook or a source of ideas for other work.

What marks this out is the sheer variety of material and the fact that the author gives every appearance of practising what she preaches. Her examples don’t have look as though they have been drawn to fill the brief and are entirely credible as actual slices of life. There’s plenty of talk about materials and techniques and the book would work well as an introduction to sketching. If you’re looking for inspiration, journaling has much to recommend it: you simply work with what you see rather than having to spend time searching for subjects and getting bogged down in what might or might not be the right one.

Samantha’s style is loose and free and she incorporates all matter of objects as well as text. Some pages are simple representations, other more complex compositions that tell a longer story.

It’s intriguing, inspiring and rather a lot of fun.

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Everyday Watercolor || Jenna Rainey

This is another of those “learn watercolour in 30 days” books. I don’t mean that to sound dismissive, but it’s important to distinguish it from guides that encourage you to look at the mundane and to paint as often as possible so that you have to find subjects wherever you are. It isn’t one of those.

The initial impression is favourable. This is important because any book in this category has to make you feel welcome, encouraged, and that you want to get stuck in. We’re here for a month, not just a one night stand. The lessons are straightforward, short and simple. You may be painting every day, but not all day and, by tea time, you won’t have forgotten what you learnt at breakfast. You’ve got time to practise, absorb and make sure you’re fully up to speed before the alarm clock tomorrow. You won’t even have to take leave of absence from your job; there’s plenty you can do while dinner’s cooking.

All that’s absolutely fine, but where I do have a reservation is that the execution isn’t all that good. Many of the examples seem flat and lacking any real sense of atmosphere, and there are too many cacti. It does mean that you’re not going to be faced with something you feel you can never hope to emulate, but there’s also a sense that you have a teacher who maybe only completed the book themselves last week. You might think that the method outweighs that, though.

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Dare to Sketch || Felix Scheinberger

Felix Scheinberger has appeared here before, talking about urban sketching. This book, to be honest, is little different. The title suggests a wider view, but the previous book covered the inhabitants as well as the city and the catch-all concept is broadly similar here.

The drawing style is quick, rough and cartoon-like. The people are caricatures rather than likenesses, although they also stand for types that can be seen on every street. This is not, it should be said, a record, but rather an impression – perhaps a soundscape – of the rush, bustle and noise of city life. Felix does not stray far from the centre and there are no landscapes here. Yes, there are animals, but they’re mostly street-dwellers too.

The title and subtitle (a guide to drawing on the go) tell you the philosophy behind the book – use your sketchbook as a kind of life-log (remember them?) and draw everything you see. Don’t make a record, put down how it felt to you. This is a valid approach and encourages observation and fast working. How you use it beyond that, though, is very much up to you; for Felix it seems to be more or less an end in itself.

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Perspective In Action || David Chelsea

Books on perspective come in at fairly regular intervals. They vary from the practical ones that try to leave all the technical stuff out (it doesn’t work) to the entirely technical manuals that blind you with science and diagrams (it doesn’t work). Somewhere in between lie the successful ones that explain the theory while at the same time showing how it works in practice. This falls broadly into that final category.

David Chelsea is a graphic novelist and this book is unique in adopting that approach. Whether it works for you, and whether you will love this or want to throw it hard through the nearest (closed) window will depend entirely on whether you like the frame-by-frame approach the genre prescribes. You will also either love or hate the rather cartoon style of the illustrations. What I think is indisputable, however, is that delivering pill-sized doses does break things up. You can read each frame on its own and only move on when you’re sure you’re fully up to speed. The range of media is impressive, too, from pen & ink to woodwork, collage and digital.

It’s an interesting, maybe intriguing, and valid approach. Whether it’s valuable is entirely up to you. We haven’t met, so I can’t say.

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Foundations of Drawing || Al Gury

This thorough and substantial guide to drawing is based on historical principles and uses examples from old and more recent masters as well as contemporary workers, including the author himself.

It is, as is common with Watson Guptill, not a simple how-to manual, but rather a discussion of the methods, techniques and creative uses of its subject that immerses the reader in a seminar rather than a class. Al has some thirty years’ experience of teaching and he puts this to good use, with clear explanations and a text that will keep the reader absorbed at all times.

Despite the approach, this is not a dry manual on what has passed, but includes plenty of practical work that examines topics from shading to perspective, Realism to Expressionism and a comprehensive range of subjects. The overall intention is to help you to develop your own portfolio and ways of working.

If you simply want to learn the mechanics of drawing, this will probably overwhelm you. However, if you’re interested in the whole creative process, it should amply satisfy.

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Colored Pencil Painting Portraits || Alyona Nickelsen

Thorough and comprehensive, this is more than just a practical guide. Aloyna includes historical examples that set modern approaches in context and show how portrait painting has developed over the centuries. As well as exercises and demonstrations, there are example poses, explanations of skin tones, facial features and structure, and extended consideration of the medium itself.

The subtitle refers to “a revolutionary method for rendering depth and imitating life”, which is a harmless enough strapline to aid sales. The blurb glosses this as “new layering tools and techniques”, although I do seem to have heard similar claims elsewhere. I’m not debunking the claim or the superb quality of the book, but I suspect that the author hasn’t in fact discovered something completely new, but rather adapted the glazing-like approach that coloured pencil artists have been using for some time. For all that, the results are impressive and the explanation of how to achieve them well executed, so you’d have nothing to complain about.

Watson Guptill books are characterised by their assiduous approach and detailed explanations and this is no exception. It’s one to read as well as work along with and an excellent masterclass in its subject.

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