Archive for category Publisher: Watson Guptill

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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The Acrylic Painter || James van Patten

A lot of books on acrylic painting tend to concentrate on its appeal to the beginner. It’s easy to see why – something opaque and quick-drying is relatively easy to handle. At the same time, it is often dismissed as suitable for fine art for the same reasons, as well as its poster paint associations. Great Art demands oils, although professional painters have long realised that something which doesn’t take six months to dry can (at least in theory) be painted one day and sold the next.

When acrylics first appeared, the range of colours was somewhat limited and drying times were ultra-quick, leading to a whole new range of problems. All that, however, has been addressed: artist’s quality paints are available in a full range of colours and there are plenty of retarder mediums that allow full control over drying. It has, in a word, come of age.

This comprehensive survey provides a through overview of techniques and practice with acrylics. It doesn’t attempt to be an in-depth study of everything – that would result in multiple heavy volumes, but James does cover an excellent range of topics, both practical and aesthetic. If you paint in acrylics and want something that takes the medium, and you, seriously, this is it.

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The Drawing Lesson || Mark Crilley

“A graphic novel that teaches you how to draw”. That got your attention, didn’t it? Well, it got mine, which is why you’re reading this review.

I’m not going to tell you the plot … oh heck, yes I am. Spoiler alert: he gets quite good at it by the end. Disheartened by an encounter with an unsympathetic bookseller in a park – well, if I only had a bench-full of books to sell, I’d be hard-nosed too – The Boy, as we’ll call him, meets A Girl. This being fantasy-land, she doesn’t tell him not to stare at her, call the cops or cover up the drawing she’s doing. Well, of course she’s drawing, that’s the point. No, she’s sympathetic and, having assured him she’s not a teacher, proceeds to help The Boy to draw. In fact, they have a load of adventures together because, hey, that’s what people do in books.

Right, I’ve had a lot of fun with this because, you know what, it is a lot of fun. The narrative is pretty straightforward; there are no unexpected plot twists. The drawing is simple, too, which keeps the message easy to follow. This isn’t a graphic novel in the sense of one that rewards detailed study, though Gene Ha, who’s worked with Alan Moore, seems to like it. He says “I can’t wait to get this for every kid on my gift buying list”, and also “Whatever your age [it’s] an essential primer on how to draw what you see”. That’s a slightly mixed message, but he’s right. I can’t decide what age group it’s intended for either. I’m going to say it’s aimed at people who like it, and I don’t think that’s age-dependent.

This sets out to be different and it succeeds. Most importantly, it doesn’t just succeed in being different.

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