Archive for category Series: Top Tips
Search Press have reissued their handy Top Tips guides in paperback format, making them available for a new audience.
Containing concise hints and tips – often with a single illustration and a short caption, but also some longer demonstrations, they offer quick and immediate advice that can be like having your favourite artist as a private tutor with you as you work.
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There was a sort of inevitability about this. Given the popularity of Terry Harrison and of the Top Tips series, there can’t be a publisher on earth who could resist stapling two pre-existing titles together.
It does make sense though, as acrylic and watercolour sit together better than any other two media and have a considerable degree of cross-over. If you haven’t already got the two donor books for this agglomeration, then it represents good value and gives you a lot of material to work with. The format remains the same and you still get the spiral binding that means the book will naturally lie flat in use.
Each of the two sections contains 100 tips, so there’s been a degree of editing, but you still get topics including the use of photographs, oil vs. watercolour techniques in acrylics, wet-on-wet vs. wet-on-dry, and subjects from skies and landscapes to water, boats, mountains and flowers.
I’ve always maintained that you should buy each of the volumes in this series as they come out. If you haven’t followed that advice, and you want somewhere to start, do it with this.
This series stands or falls, perhaps more than any other, on the quality of its contributors. They don’t have to be great artists and they don’t necessarily have to be the cream of the authors, but what they must have is the ability to present worthwhile ideas simply and in bite-size chunks.
Keith Fenwick has been around on the demonstration circuit for a fair number of years and that’s a good a starting point as any for a book like this because, above all, you need to be able to put the idea across quickly and simply and then move on. If it was warfare, it’d be a fine quality in a sniper.
I actually think this is one of the best books in the series so far, because Keith has all the qualities it requires and he also homes in on things the beginner (and not-so-beginner), actually wants to know, such as how to rescue an ailing painting, how to get the effect of movement in water and how to handle both aerial and linear perspective (even if you’re not sure of the difference between them). There’s lots more, of course, and subjects include skies, clouds, trees, boats and more.
I usually say these books are something to dip into, but I think this one is worth more detailed study because there’s so much in it. Do I think Keith is the best artist who’s ever stalked the planet? No, to be honest, but he’s a heck of a teacher.
Ever since he sprang onto the scene a few years ago, Charles Evans has been in demand as a teacher, demonstrator and author. Although maybe not one of the greatest artists alive, he’s one of those technical painters who can (and do) explain their techniques and who has a wealth of little tricks that make some of watercolour’s more difficult aspects a little easier to get on with.
I always feel I’m being unfair when I suggest that an artist isn’t among the greats, not just because, frankly, I am, but because I’m open to the charge that I couldn’t do any better. I’ll come back to that in a minute. What I mean is that, if you were a collector of contemporary watercolours, you might not find yourself bidding competitively against other collectors as you could for someone like (say) John Yardley. If I could paint like Charles, I’d be perfectly happy to display the results on my wall, though.
And that brings me back to the “could you do better?” issue. The simple answer to that is: no, and that’s where this book and this type of author come in. It’s hard to learn techniques from someone whose style you idolise and aspire to only in dreams. However, there are quite a few painters like Charles Evans who have a sound technical ability that they are willing and, most importantly, are able to communicate. If you or I could absorb just a little of what they have, we’d be infinitely better at what we do. We buy the books, we get what we wanted and we’ve learnt something.
So, take this as a recommendation and gain a wealth of handy tips on skies, trees, animals, people, perspective, depth, distance and a whole lot more. Every volume in this series has been a mine of information and this one doesn’t disappoint.
With a lifetime of teaching, some 25 books and several TV series and videos behind him, Alwyn is pretty much the granddaddy of art instruction. It’s no accident that his books have all been bestsellers or that he was one of Daler Rowney’s most popular demonstrators. Alwyn can not only walk the walk, he can tell you how he does it, too.
All of which preamble says that this is a book you’re going to want. It’s slightly less technical than some of the other volumes in the series and there’s always a sense that you’re seeing ideas in practice rather than just in theory. There are more demonstration pages here, too.
The subject matter is pretty much confined to landscapes because Alwyn never tries to work outside what he knows best. He still finds room for tips on skies, trees, water, people, boats and everything else you’d expect from him.
I’ve waxed enthusiastic elsewhere about this series and I’m not about to change that. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that this is probably the best one so far. Wendy’s main strength is the small detail and the intimate corner and this is well suited to a book of, well, small ideas.
In this book, she deals with acrylic both in impasto, imitating oils and thinned out as a wash, imitating watercolour or gouache. Because of this split personality that the medium has, what she says is also relevant to what we might call the parent mediums. In other words, if you paint in any brush-based medium, you’re going to find plenty that’s useful here. You’ll also probably find that this is less of a guide to painting like the author and more one that just tells you how to deal with things like trees, water, boats, skies, texture – well, you name it, it’s probably here. Wendy’s approach is almost entirely subject-based, but she does also find space for things like scumbling, drybrush and texture and there’s the usual index to help you find your way around.
Definitely one to recommend.
Geoff Kersey has an attractive and easy to follow style that has earned him a lot of fans who also appreciate his clear advice and instruction. As such, he’s a worthy addition to this rather well thought-out series that Search Press are carefully nurturing.
This latest volume includes over 100 tips that cover the technical: masking fluid, colour, shadows as well as the practical: skies, hills, trees, water, buildings, coastal scenes and snow. As ever, the coverage is quite wide, but when each section can be as small as a single picture and a short descriptive paragraph, space is not at a premium.
Not that anything’s skimped. One of the joys of these books is that they stop, snipe and move on. There’s no waffle, step-by-step demonstrations are only included when they’re really necessary and everything’s kept very much to the point. These are books to dip into as much as to read from cover to cover, though there’s an index if you need to find something specific.
Personally, I’d recommend you just buy each one as it comes out. If two authors cover the same topic, so what? Just decide which outcome you like best. And don’t wait for the all-you-can-eat bind-up either. The whole point of these is that they’re small, light and easy to pick up (and unputdownable as well).
Terry Harrison is among the best there is at explaining the technical process of painting and he’s also a very generous teacher, unafraid to share his many personal secrets.
This series from Search Press is developing nicely and they’ve done well to be selective about who they get to contribute to it, because it’s an easy format to do, but a hard one to get right. You get a good range of topics here, including painting from photographs, the use of additives, skies, foregrounds, trees, mountains, water and coastal scenes. There are plenty of illustrations with the text confined to simple captions that give you just the essential information so that you know what you’re looking at.
Ray Campbell Smith is an experienced and respected teacher as well as being one of the best watercolour technicians there is.
This is a slowly-developing series from Search Press that they’re so far resisting the temptation to stuff with every Tom, Dick and Harry who’ll put brush and pen to paper. It’s been a while since the first volume appeared and this second one is certainly worth the wait – when Ray offers you 85 pearls of wisdom, you’d certainly better sit up and take notice! And he doesn’t disappoint. Reading the contents list, you could be forgiven for thinking that the usual suspects (composition, use of colour, perspective. skies, foregrounds, etc, etc) are all here, and so they are, but seen from the unique perspective of a man who paints the best water and the best skies in the business, bar none.
Ray can do more in a simple sketch than many artists can in a multi-page demonstration and this pocket-size guide is far larger in scope than its format. Ray will show you how to use colour and shading to give objects shape and to suggest perspective as well as to balance composition. The truth is that there’s a veritable masterclass in here positively elbowing its way out.
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