Archive for category Series: What to Paint

The Watercolour Sourcebook

This bind-up of the What To Paint series provides 60 transferrable outlines with basic instructions on completion. You get Landscapes from Terry Harrison, Flowers from Wendy Tait, Trees, Woodlands and Forests from Geoff Kersey and Hills and Mountains from Peter Woolley.

It’s a repeat of what’s gone before but, if you don’t have the original volumes, you get a lot of material for your £15. My only issue, as with all books with removable pages is that, when you’ve removed the outlines (which you’ll need to), you’re left with half an empty spine. You might think that inevitable sacrifice is worthwhile, though.

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Lakes, Rivers & Streams in acrylic (What to Paint) || Paul Apps

The style and layout of this series should be sufficiently familiar by now. It’s well tried and tested and new authors should have no trouble tailoring their work to fit in. Paul Apps, indeed, does not, offering a good variety of moving and still water subjects and plenty of different surrounding details such as trees, rocks, boats and structures.

The thing that did surprise me was the lack of any colour charts. I’m pretty sure I remember simple palette guides from earlier volumes and they’d certainly have been handy here. It’s there in the text, but you have to tease it out. The expanded details are merely enlarged sections of the final painting that appears on the right hand page of the single spread devoted to each demonstration. I think this is standard across the series but, as they’re no larger – and in some cases smaller – that than the full image, I’m really not sure how much they add to the sum of the whole.

I’m really sorry to come across as slightly lukewarm about this, especially as I actually rather like it. Paul Apps works in the oil style of acrylics and he has an instant appeal that will probably find you taking this to the till. “A painting and how I went about it” with an outline sketch you can trace down is an attractive formula that works for many people and I hope you’ll brush my reservations aside.

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Hills & Mountains in Watercolour (What to Paint) || Peter Woolley

The What to Paint series is the grown-up cousin of Ready to Paint and includes larger drawings that need to be assembled and traced down. For me, the problem is that when you’ve taken those pages out of the book, you’ve removed half of it and weakened the spine. On the other hand, this is something to use, not keep on the shelf, so maybe that doesn’t matter. The series is maturing nicely and remains popular, so clearly plenty of people don’t share my reservations.

Peter Woolley includes an excellent variety of material and none of the 24 paintings could be said to be in any way similar, ranging from misty views to craggy hillsides and from snowy peaks to tranquil farmland scenes. Each painting is accompanied by the finished work, a note of the palette and breakouts of the important details. There are no step-by-step instructions and the main idea is that you work on your own with only a light guiding hand. The outline gets the whole issue of drawing out of the way, leaving you to concentrate on the colour, tone and shading.

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Boats & Harbours in Acrylic (What to Paint) || Charles Evans

I’ve written elsewhere about the basics of this series, so maybe this isn’t the place to repeat everything.

Suffice it to say that Charles Evans is always good value and has an excellent eye (or should that be nose?) for what the budding painter needs. There’s a splendid variety of subjects here from Polperro to a Greek boatyard and small craft to an icebreaker and a galleon in full sail. Seas are rough, choppy and calm and there are plenty of different weather and lighting conditions.

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Trees, Woodlands & Forests (What to Paint) || Geoff Kersey

As a simple guide to painting scenes in which trees are a major feature, this can’t be bettered. That seems like a rather restricted view, but it’s important to understand that this isn’t a guide to painting trees and it isn’t exactly a guide to painting them in the landscape either.

The What to Paint series is based around a series of 24 finished paintings with, on the opposite page, a general description of what they are and why and how they were painted, with detailed illustrations of specific features and a note of the colours used. Then, at the back of the book, you get outline drawings for each one that you can trace down onto your own paper. As these are printed on normal book paper this is a bit of a challenge, especially if you leave the sheets in the book. Remove them and, eventually, you’ll have torn out the whole of the second half, leaving it difficult to manage.

Although I get the general idea and I think it’s a worthy attempt, I can’t help feeling it’s ungainly and I’m really not certain whether this adds anything to the (in my opinion) much better Ready to Paint series. I presume that this is supposed to be the next stage up, but I can’t help wondering if the reader would have been better served with an extra page of technical instruction for each painting and ditch the tracings.

All that said, if you ignore those, I like the book and the work that Geoff has produced is nicely done and well varied.

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Landscapes in Watercolour (What to Paint) || Terry Harrison

This is the first title in a new series from Search Press and you’d have to say that the basic premise is a good one. As Terry explains in his introduction, it’s all too easy to find yourself with a pile of paper, a box of all the colours and every brush you might ever need and to be completely stuck for ideas. As a photographic magazine once responded to someone who listed a suitcase full of equipment and asked what else he needed to take really great pictures, “How about a couple of rolls of film?”

It’s not hard to see how this book grew out of the Ready to Paint series and, if it lives up to its manifesto, it’s certainly the next logical step. There are outlines, but they’re not tracings and we’ll come back to their limitations. What you don’t get are any step-by-step demonstrations and that’s something to celebrate. These are alright in their place, but they can get a bit pedestrian and sometimes you just think, “enough”. Instead, each painting gets just a single spread, with the finished result on the right and some details pulled out on the left, with notes about the subject and explanations of the most important elements. There’s also list of the colours used so that you can practise working with a simplified palette and developing your mixing skills.

I get the sense that the whole thing might have been Terry’s idea because it’s all so well integrated here. That can’t be a bad thing because, if the idea is going to develop and new artists are going to be brought in, it’s good to have a sound basis for it all.

I hinted earlier that there’s a drawback and it’s time to talk about those outlines. The thing is, they’re in sections and they’re printed on the normal paper of the book. This keeps down the cost and, yes, there are instructions on tracing them down using a soft pencil rubbed over the back or, better, tracedown paper, but this is laborious and I can virtually guarantee the whole thing’s going through the (closed) window after two attempts. Make that one attempt.

It’s a good idea and one that’s worth giving a try, but you’re best reckoning the outlines are a bit of an add-on. That makes £10.99 for 64 page book, which is a bit pricey, that’s all.

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Flowers in Watercolour (What to Paint) || Wendy Tait

Given that this is only the second title in this series, full marks to Wendy for subverting it already. Not so much because I always rather admire a rebel but because it means that the format is already being opened up and that can’t be a bad thing if it’s not to become formulaic.

It’s immediately apparent that the outlines which are (so far) a feature of the series are here really only a jumping-off point and that Wendy has introduced a great deal more subtlety than is possible in a fill-in-the-tracings approach. In fact what she provides, through a series of simple and simply explained examples, is one of the most thorough-going primers in flower painting around. There’s a good variety of flower types, some very handy notes on colour mixing for this style of painting and basic captions that tell you how the main elements of the composition were handled. Beyond that, it’s up to you, but Wendy provides so much of the basics that you should be able to fly solo without much difficulty.

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