Archive for category Publisher: Watson Guptill

The Two-Pencil Method || Mark Crilley

The title tells you what this book is likely to be about, and the subtitle confirms the bold claim: “the revolutionary approach to drawing it all”. No holding back, then.

The claim should be easy to verify – open the book at any point and … are the results any good? A bit more flicking through confirms that, oh my goodness, they are. Not only can Mark draw, but confining himself to one graphite and one black coloured pencil isn’t going to hold him back. A short discussion of materials leads on to basic mark-making and you’ll want to read this because this level of simplicity absolutely depends on getting the foundations right.

From here, there’s a look at working with simple objects and different types of subject, handily introducing things such as hard and soft edges, shapes, tones and textures. As well as being a revolutionary approach, it also turns out that this is a very nicely graduated course in basic drawing. You like it even more, don’t you?

The final section (roughly half the book) is a series of short demonstrations that are really more like tutorials. These cover just about every subject you’re likely to encounter, by way of landscapes to portraits via animals, water and still lifes.

If you like drawing, this is a stonkingly good survey of working methods tucked inside the aforesaid “revolutionary approach” (that’s really just an excuse for simplifying and clearing out a few cobwebs).

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Essential Techniques of Landscape Drawing || Suzanne Brooker

This masterclass in landscape drawing contains a wealth of information, both practical and theoretical. A lot of Watson Guptill books are ones to read rather than work with, but there are quite a lot of exercises and demonstrations here, covering elements such as clouds and skies, hills, trees and water. Suzanne also discusses marks and lines, composition, texture and shading.

In spite of the amount and density of the information presented, the generous page size means that the layout never feels crammed and you’re unlikely ever to feel overwhelmed. This is helped in part by the sensible chapter structure that is both progressive and topical. It’s a comprehensive guide that should prove thoroughly rewarding.

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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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