Archive for category Series: Ready To Paint

Irish Landscapes in Watercolour (Ready to Paint) || Dermot Cavanagh

I suspect the broad usp of this is going to be the popular artist Dermot Cavanagh rather than the subject matter, effective though that is.

There’s a good variety of subjects here, including vernacular and formal buildings, and Dermot is particularly good on the use of colour to create shape, depth and recession. Ireland isn’t known as “the emerald isle” for nothing and he is also particularly sound on what Val Doonican once described as “forty shades of green”. As a general exercise in landscape painting, this is definitely worth a look.

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Wild Animals in Acrylics (Ready to Paint) || Angela Gaughan

The selection of animals here is, of necessity, limited, but maybe also rather surprising. You get a zebra, a leopard, an alpaca, a red panda and a tiger: three of the big beasts and a couple of less common ones. It does, however, provide a good variety of structure and of hair and fur types, which is a plus point in a book of this kind. You’ll also either love or hate the fact that these are often head and shoulders portraits against a plain background – love it because it keeps things simple or hate it because it seems limiting. This isn’t a reflection on the book (it’s much more a case of it is what it is than anything else I’ve ever reviewed), but merely a reflection of where it’s aimed. Despite these being relatively complex subjects, Angela has done well to present them in a way that’s accessible for the relative beginner and she should be congratulated for that.

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Horses in Acrylics (Ready to Paint) || Dave White

Horses have a reputation for being difficult, and not just in the hand or on the plate (sorry, topical reference at the time of writing!).

They’re a particular combination of shapes and proportions that even the most competent artists struggle to get right. Good books are hard to come by – in fact, the last one was actually about unicorns. This, however, is a humdinger. Dave White is an accomplished animal painter and he’s chosen a nice selection of approaches to illustrate here, from a head and shoulders portrait to a mare and foal and a steeplechaser, the latter conveying strength, movement and speed with effortlessness and elegance.

As ever, the Ready to Paint format provides pre-printed tracings that take the hit-and-miss out of getting the drawing right, leaving you to concentrate on the colour and shading that are also central to a convincing result.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

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Orchids in Watercolour (Ready to Paint) || Ann Mortimer

There’s a good variety of material here and it’s very well executed. Ann has taken the Ready to Paint format well beyond the basic fill-in-the-outlines approach and uses tints and shading to give depth and substance to her subjects.

Orchids are, as she says, “exotic, sensual and mysterious” and they offer plenty of challenges and opportunities as a subject. As an exercise in flower painting in general, on top of its specific subject, this is an excellent guide.

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Watercolour Landscapes (Trace & Paint) || Terry Harrison & Geoff Kersey

This is another compilation from the successful and valuable Ready to Paint series and is excellent value, with 15 step-by-step projects from four different books. There’s a good variety of material here, from fields and barns to buildings and seascapes, both in the UK and abroad. I have to remark that some of the subjects seem a little tenuous as landscapes – a bicycle parked against a bougainvillea-covered wall is not, in my humble opinion, a landscape – but I also feel rather picky doing it as there’s a wealth of good and varied material here.

The downside to the format is that there are 18 outlines which are fixed into the centre of the book. Tear them out and you land up with a front and a back half with no middle. I think I’d probably cut the remainder in half, but then each of them has a cover missing. There’s no way round it, but it does mean you’re going to have to make mincemeat of the book if you want to use it. Also, the outlines are printed on thin book paper rather than tracing paper, which means that you have to resort to a bit of ingenuity to get the images onto your own surface. Again, it’s not insurmountable, and it helps to keep the price down, but it’s an issue. The publisher does seem to have used thinner paper than some previous forays into the format, though, which helps.

On balance, these smallish niggles don’t outweigh the value of the book, though.

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Dogs and Puppies in acrylics (Ready to Paint) || Paul Apps

We’ve already established that the Ready to Paint series is really rather excellent and is being handled well by its publisher, so it’s only necessary to decide whether the individual titles do it and themselves justice.

One of the problems with animal painting is that, all too often, the finished results have a stilted look. Animals have a dynamic quality, even at rest and the merest hint of a hard edge can destroy any sense of reality. Paul Apps manages to capture the doggy aspects of his subjects superbly: the softness, the gentle curves and, above all, the hang of the fur – which he does by a considerable amount of suggestion rather than heavy detail work, something which admirably suits a book aimed at the beginner end of the market.

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Cats and Kittens in acrylics (Ready to Paint) || Julie Nash

This addition to this excellent series comes at the same time as Dogs & Puppies and, although the authors are different, the same comments can be applied.

Cats are one of the hardest creatures to get right and are a complex series of curves and colours that it’s all too easy to get wrong.

Julie Nash manages to capture not just the anatomy of her subjects, but also their character and the sense that, even in repose they are ready to move instantly.

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Irises in Watercolour (Ready to Paint) || Julie King

When it comes to flower painting, there’s an advantage to concentrating, initially at least, on a single species and it reduces the choice of shapes and colours that the subject otherwise presents. However, I fear that this book may be going to fall between those who don’t want to paint irises and those who don’t want to be restricted by a single species, which is a shame.

On the whole, this is nicely done and there’s a great deal you can learn in terms of shading and detail work, as irises are complex flowers that repay a great deal of study. I do slightly worry, though, that the finished paintings look just a little flat, suggesting a lack of modelling which is one of the things you’d want to be learning.

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Renoir (Ready to Paint) || Noel Gregory

The Ready to Paint the Masters series has so far left me cold, but I can see a definite merit in this one as Noel Gregory has chosen to interpret the originals rather than copy them slavishly. In the process, he manages to tell you much more about the way Renoir worked and it’s an exercise worth following as the Impressionists laid the foundation for so much of the modern approach to painting. It’s to them that we owe looseness and interpretation and the abandonment of the studied formality that had built up prior to their arrival.

For this book, Noel uses acrylics rather than oils, but in impasto, so the net effect is similar and this is not an exercise in working in another medium, but simply the convenience of what’s available now. The interpretation comes rather from allowing for all the history that has come between then and now, and not trying to paint like an Old Master. If it was a radio, it would have a retro case and modern DAB innards; a bit of a mule, but none the worse for that.

As I sometimes do, I’m going to sit on the fence on this one. I’m not going to tell you to rush out and buy it, but I do think it’s worth a look as you might be pleasantly surprised.

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Country Landscapes in Watercolour (Ready to Paint) || Terry Harrison

Gosh. I don’t know what to say about this, except that it’s only Terry’s fourth Ready to Paint – the man’s so prolific and his painting and writing style so lend themselves to the series that you’d swear there were more.

Anyway, if you like Terry’s style and you want the additional hand-holding of the pre-printed tracings and extended step-by-step demonstrations, this is the book for you. You get five absolutely classic Terry views, with fields, barns, streams and woodlands and the book is a perfect introduction to landscape painting.

I can’t say any more because, once again, Terry has absolutely got it nailed and you really won’t be disappointed.

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