Archive for category Series: Learn Quickly

Learn Watercolour Landscapes Quickly || Hazel Soan

This excellent little series continues to impress. Inevitably, small potted guides can only tell you a limited amount, but all the authors who have so far been involved have managed to distil a wealth of knowledge and information into the space and word count available. These are not so much books to study in depth, but rather bullet points to use as inspiration and to jump off from. Even the most experienced artist should find the uncomplicated approach refreshing for the creative spirit.

Hazel Soan is, it hardly needs to be said, one of the most experienced and instructive authors there is. Unsurprisingly, therefore, this is quite simply one of the best guides to landscape painting you’ll find. No, it’s not a complete course and yes, you might want one of those as well. However, just when you’re feeling dispirited and bogged down, this will cheer you up immensely. Hazel has made a few films; her sheer enthusiasm shines throughout those and you can even feel it off the page. She loves what she does and wants you to love it too – and you will.

Shall I tell you what’s here? In detail, no. Trust me – it’s everything you want to know wrapped up in a few short paragraphs that’ll enhance your understanding in a way it’s perhaps never experienced before. Wonderful.

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Learn Flower Painting Quickly || Trevor Waugh

This excellent series continues apace, bringing with it a welcome return by Trevor Waugh, whose loose, evocative style is admirably suited to a book where fine-detail work is not the main criterion.

Loose washes and broad brushwork create flowers that are about shape, colour and impression rather than botanical illustration. If this is what you want to do, you’ll feel right at home. Similarly, if for you flowers are more of an adjunct to a larger painting, you’ll be glad of the lack of intricate work with small brushes and of botanical information that’s irrelevant to you.

As is the series style, instruction is by example, with the text being mainly confined to guiding you through what you’re seeing. Exercises and demonstrations are short, but there’s plenty of information on shape, colour and composition, as well as foliage and backgrounds.

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Learn Colour in Painting Quickly || Hazel Soan

This excellently-conceived series has proved that it is possible not only to learn quickly, but that the unadorned approach is often the way to go. I’m always at least a little sceptical of such claims simply because something that can be a lifetime’s study can’t be mastered in a few minutes. However, I have to concede that getting to grips with the basics is something where speed can be a considerable help. Getting bogged down at the start is not only unhelpful, but positively discouraging to efforts to proceed.

Colour is, of course, the artist’s stock-in-trade, at once the vocabulary and grammar of the language of painting. Those for whom it’s second nature wonder at the number of books about it but, for all that, there are perfectly capable painters who struggle, at least at the outset. However, once you grasp the idea that the basic concept is really quite simple and that a lot of the difficulties are self-imposed, everything becomes much clearer.

Hazel is a master of colour in all its forms and, following the series format, shows plenty of examples linked with just enough words to make sure you know and understand what you’re looking at. She explains colour theory in practice (which means as little explanation and theory as possible) as well as demonstrating ways of creating light, shade, form, tone and hue.

I’m tempted to say that this is the complete guide, but of course it isn’t, and doesn’t pretend to be. It is, however, the complete introduction and you might find that what it teaches you is enough for you to be able to learn the rest for yourself, and that’s a heck of an achievement.

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Learn Acrylics Quickly || Soraya French

This series from Batsford is shaping up nicely. The key to its success is to use authors who are at home with larger books, rather than to assume that, because the format is simple, the approach can be too. In fact, it’s quite the opposite and simplicity requires greater communication skill than does complexity.

Soraya French has a pleasant, approachable and colourful style that suits the medium well. The series method is to concentrate on illustrations, explain them with straightforward captions and link them with concise paragraphs that carry the narrative and the reader forward and retain their interest.

There’s plenty here, from different types of acrylic to colours and colour mixing, working methods and a good range of subjects. If you want to get started, this will live up to its title and get you producing worthwhile results with a minimum of fuss. The more experienced student might also find it a handy source of recapping and revision.

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Learn to Paint People Quickly || Hazel Soan

This series from Batsford is shaping up nicely and any book on painting people, especially as furniture for a larger work, is welcome.

Not everyone by any means wants to paint people as a subject in themselves, but an unpopulated painting always has a neglected look to it. In common with the style of the series, this is very much illustration-led and the text is concise to the point of terseness and mainly confined to explanatory captions. It should also be said that this is very welcome – if you don’t want an exhaustive in-depth study, being shown what’s going on rather than lectured at length is the proverbial breath of fresh air.

This is not to say that Hazel doesn’t manage to make the coverage comprehensive. There’s information on shape, proportion, pose, lighting and clothing and the chapters are arranged so that you can locate one particular topic easily. If you want to venture into portraiture, Hazel offers good basic advice, although you will probably want to graduate to more dedicated books as well. Groups, action and settings all get a look-in as well, making this one of the best starting-points you’ll find.

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Learn Drawing Quickly || Sharon Finmark

Like its Oils counterpart, this isn’t really so much about drawing for those who have far better things to do, than about getting things down quickly and without fuss. If you use drawing as a means of taking notes and recording a scene that may disintegrate quickly, this is an invaluable skill. It’s also handy if you’re out with a companion who doesn’t want to stand around for hours while you get every detail just right.

Sharon has a loose, pleasant style that lends itself admirably to this approach and she covers an excellent variety of subjects as well as drawing styles. Buildings, people, street scenes, flowers and landscapes are shown in pen, pencil, charcoal, wash and pastel. The small pages are not a hindrance as the illustrations are given plenty of space and the text is kept to the form of concise notes.

There’s much to like here and a pleasantly fresh look and feel to both the content and the production that should appeal to readers of any level of skill.

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Learn Oils Quickly || Hazel Soan

Oils. Quickly. Really? You’ll forgive my cynicism because you probably share it, but also my curiosity because this is Hazel Soan and she doesn’t make wild claims. You may also conclude that any book by her has a head start and is going to contain more wise words than most others. And you’d be right.

Let’s deal with the “quick” bit. This is not a lengthy tome. Its 112 pages are quite small, so you could really call it 56. There also aren’t very many words, so it’s hardly enough even to scratch the surface, is it? Well, yes it is. The simple fact is that this is a distillation of a very considerable amount of wisdom. Let’s pick a topic at random, in this case reflections:

“Reflections are a great subject because they offer repetition of a shape or colour, which makes for interesting composition. In water, the repetition is above and below the waterline. The condition of water is shown in a painting by the character and nature of the brushstrokes. Some examples are shown here.”

Yes, there’s a lot more you can say, but the essence of it’s here, beautifully distilled. And don’t forget the “Examples shown”. This is a book that teaches from its illustrations and the text is merely the lead-in that tells you what you should be looking for, not what you’re looking at. All-in-all, it’s a polished and accomplished performance – just what you’d expect from Hazel – that offers so much sound advice that it’s worth a look even if you have no interest in oil painting. You even get a penny change from a tenner, which makes it the most amazing value.

The Society for All Artists have produced a DVD that goes with it and that’s worth seeking out too.

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Learn Watercolour Quickly || Hazel Soan

Well, this is a bold claim! All those people who claim that drawing can’t be taught and that art is something it takes a lifetime to study are going to be scoffing at the very idea. If I had an arty beard, I’d be stroking it right now. (Yes, I do, but it’s not arty).

However, this is a new book by Hazel Soan and you’re either going to pick it up because the title intrigues you or because, well, it’s a new book by Hazel Soan. In her introduction, she claims you can read it from cover to cover in 30 minutes. I’m sure you can – there’s not much text and, if you ignore the illustrations, you could get to the end just as the oven timer rings. But you won’t. You’ll start looking at the images and you’ll start thinking about your own techniques and I pretty much guarantee that, when you do finally come out the other end, you’ll have rethought your entire approach to painting.

This isn’t, it should be noted, a book about painting quickly. Yes, the pictures you’ll see are unfussy and don’t include a lot of over-working or unnecessary detail and, no, they won’t have taken long, but that’s because Hazel is bringing a lifetime of experience to her work. That’s why you’re reading the book, because her work isn’t so much about what you include as what you leave out; she can do figures walking down a street in fewer brushstrokes than seems decent!

If you’re new to painting and haven’t a clue where to start, you’ve found the Go square. This is refreshingly simple and you won’t even need to invest your £200 in equipment. The first section in the chapter on The stuff you need is refreshingly headed Less is more. Everything is simple and progressive – and there are even QR codes you can scan to see short videos online. I said once before that more publishers should do this, and here they are.

If you’re an experienced painter but also a fan of Hazel, is this a book you should buy or ignore? Trust me: buy it. It has far more to tell you than you’d believe possible and it’ll have you re-evaluating your own approaches and working methods from the ground up. Even if you change nothing, you’ll know why you do what you do and be more confident when you do it.

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