Archive for category Series: 50 Small Paintings

Learn to Paint Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings || Mark Daniel Nelson

I am now completely confused. When I saw this, I didn’t like it. It doesn’t compare well with its companion volume on watercolour and seems to lack the fizz that has. However, I now realise that it is, in fact, a reissue of Little Ways to Learn Acrylics, which I liked a lot.

The moral of this, I think, is always to check that books aren’t quiet reissues (this one isn’t completely silent and is acknowledged in small print on the title page). What is interesting, though, is how perception can change when comparison is made to something else. In this case, Learn to Paint in Watercolour with 50 Small Paintings has a huge amount of originality and this now looks like a pale comparison and a feeble attempt to jump on a series bandwagon. And yet it’s the same book that I liked two years ago.

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Learn to Paint in Watercolour with 50 Small Paintings || Wil Freeborn

This is one of the most original, entertaining and instructive books I’ve seen in a long time. The starting point, Wil tells us, was the idea of doing a daily drawing as part of his commute. This extended to wider travels in search of new places, subjects and ideas.

The result is a book that records not the grand scenes, but the mundane. This is a tricky thing to get right because that very familiarity can lead to a lack of interest. It only works if you’re determined to find new angles on the things you see every day. Will makes it work and a drawing of breakfast, for example, becomes an exercise in distorted perspective, like a photograph taken with a wide-angle lens. Suddenly, the full English becomes a technical challenge as well as a worthy subject.

Wil manages to sustain interest throughout the book and explores a wide variety of techniques and subjects. The whole is handily divided into Still Lifes, Landscapes, Cityscapes, Animals and People. None of the demonstrations is long and, when the emphasis is on the quick sketch, that’s right. There are, however, sufficient notes on materials, the colour palette and the stages of completion for you to pick up what’s going on. I’d suggest using the paintings here as a jumping-off point for your own ideas, rather than as exercises to copy but, if something intrigues you and you want to delve deeper, you could certainly use any of them as a lesson.

I’d originally assumed that this was an inspired one-off, but the publisher’s forthcoming list shows that there’s an acrylic volume to come, so it’s beginning to look like a series. Can they make it work? Can I trust Wil’s assertions in the introduction – has the rest built on his idea or is he being disingenuous? It’s still a good idea and only time will tell if it’s sustainable.

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