Archive for category Subject: Animals

We Think the World of You || David Remfry

I’d better explain that the subtitle to this tells you what it’s about: People and Dogs Drawn Together. And, yes, that wins my personal prize for the most bizarre idea of the year. Maybe even decade. No, millennium. In fact, what in all that’s crazy did a body as august as the RA think they were doing putting their name to this?

I thought we’d better get all that out of the way right at the start, let off steam, because this is a fantastic idea that’s beautifully executed and reproduced. The title and subtitle, of course, are ambiguous. Who thinks the most of who? Both, of course, because the relationship between an owner and their dog is a very special one – I can see that and I’m not even a dog person, by the way. Even if I didn’t, David’s sensitive portraits would convince me.

So, how do you go about presenting a book of drawings of people and dogs? Well, the answer is that you devote a chapter to each session. You get to know the people – some are in the public eye and some aren’t – and then you start sketching to get the basic character. Finally, you put them together and that’s where the alchemy takes place. You know that old adage about people getting to look like their dogs? Well, it’s true, especially when an artist as sensitive as David (try telling me he’s not a dog person) gets under their skin, as a good portraitist should, and exposes their character and inner being. And what’s so brilliant is that he can do this for both humans and animals; it’s a rare artist who’s good at both.

I love this. It’s charming, it has a warm heart and it will make you smile, both from affection and amusement. Of course the RA should be the publisher. Who else has the gravitas?

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Drawing & Painting Cats || Vic Bearcroft

I had my doubts about Vic’s previous book. I felt that, excellent as his wildlife paintings were, some of his backgrounds were a bit flat. I couldn’t decide if this was deliberate – to push the main subject forward or not, but I felt a lack of impact. There are no such worries here. All the works in this volume are complete and the subjects are either set properly in context or isolated against a plain wash that’s entirely suitable for a portrait.

There’s no doubt that Vic loves cats – it’s apparent on every page, both in the way he depicts them and a hundred small details I’ll leave you to find for yourself. His dedication indicates that he’s lived with them and it shows. There are plenty of domestic moggies here, both young and old, alert and at rest and Vic captures perfectly both their physical and mental attitudes. My favourite is of a black Tom sitting on a roof in moonlight. Its posture and expression say both “I’m lord of all I survey” and “What am I doing here?”. And that’s pure cat.

This understanding extends to the larger cats, too, and Vic has some excellent demonstrations of a prowling black leopard and of lions and tigers. He works in watercolour, acrylic, pastel, pencil and ink, so there’s something for everyone. As long as you like cats, of course.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

A Kurt Jackson Bestiary || Kurt Jackson

I seem to have reviewed a lot of Kurt Jackson books lately and it’s always a pleasure. This is not only because I like Kurt’s work, but because they’ve all been beautifully produced and so varied that quantity has not brought repetition. Kurt is an artist who likes to try new subjects and what we might call his voyage of discovery is always as fascinating as the final result. There haven’t been any obvious failures yet, but I can’t help thinking I’d even be enthusing if there were one!

The term “bestiary” implies not a collection of animal portraits but rather the fabulous creatures of mediaeval legend. While you won’t find such things as the Cockatrice here, you will notice that the subjects themselves are artistic interpretations rather than faithful portraits. The cock on the front cover is a good example, capturing as it does the many colours of the feathers and a sense of life and movement rather than a static and unrealistic pose. Looking inside, you’ll find the grey washes that depict the murmurations of Starlings over Marazion and the enigmatic Song Thrush Song, Porthbean, where the subject is invisible and merely contributes to the experience of the scene; the title teases the viewer with the anticipation of what only the artist can hear.

Other subjects are more lifelike: shellfish, butterflies, birds, but they all exist within their surrounds and you quite often have to look for them. Wildlife in the field does its best to camouflage rather than reveal itself.

As a piece of production, this book is a delight to handle. Weighty without being heavy, large enough to hold as well as see and printed on good quality paper, it’s an artefact rather than a product and a joy in its own right.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

DVD Watercolor In The Wild || James Gurney

I really can’t praise this enough. Let me enumerate:

For a start, James has what, as far as I know, is a unique viewpoint. Using an ingenious rig, he provides an artist’s-eye viewpoint as he works. Rather than getting oblique angles where the light isn’t quite right, or over-the-shoulder shots that don’t reveal quite enough detail, what you see is what he sees, and it’s as if you’re completing the demonstration yourself. The sense of immediacy is stunning and so is the clarity.

Then there’s the material and equipment section. I know, yada yada, these are my paints, here are some brushes and I have these pencils. But James has reduced things down to a watercolour kit that can be carried in a belt bag and go literally anywhere – even a theatre, he claims. He’s clearly a bit of an inventor because, as well as the camera rig, he’s also made up a magnetic water jar that attaches to his paintbox. Now you never have to wonder where exactly to put it. For longer trips where a car is available, there’s a larger backpack that includes a camera tripod that doubles as an easel, and a folding stool.

I’m mentioning all this because I sat, utterly absorbed, through the whole section without ever touching the fast forward button. Never done that before. The added fact is that James is one of the most engaging presenters you ever came across. His approach isn’t didactic or prescriptive. There’s no “you have to do it this way” or “my way’s best”. He simply describes what he’s doing – it’s always in the present tense and always what you’re looking at – and allows you to make up your own mind whether you like it or not. He’s warm and inclusive. Apart from watching this film, I’ve exchanged half a dozen emails with him and he’s my new best friend.

OK, so James can make a film, put some kit together and talk the talk, but can he paint? Oh yes, and his approach is very interesting. For a start, he allows himself about an hour for a painting. Each demonstration here – there are six, covering buildings, animals, people and landscapes – is edited down to about fifteen minutes and covers all the important bits without leaving you thinking, “hang on, what did he do just then?”. He begins, conventionally enough, with a pencil drawing, but then spends the next thirty to forty minutes putting in tones, values and shading. With a quarter of an hour or less to go, he gets to the detail. That’s not enough, surely? No, not for fine detail, but the point is he’s working on very solid foundations: the subject has structure and substance and he doesn’t paint the detail at all, just suggests what the viewer should be seeing so that they create the finer stuff for themselves. It’s very subtle and, although not unique in itself, certainly unusual in combination with so much preparatory work.

The exception to the one hour approach is a painting of a sleeping foal. Young animals are rarely still and only for short periods and this one is no exception. A large chunk of this section is taken up with watching the creature running round, interacting with its mother and eating. Finally, it needs a nap and we get to work. The point of this demonstration is to show how you can capture the essence of a subject if you’ve already understood it before you lift a brush. I like the fact that, once again, James doesn’t tell you this, but shows you.

This is an exceptional piece of work and amazingly good value. I’ll leave you with one quote. Paraphrasing Goethe, James says, “The dangers of watercolour are infinite and safety is one of the dangers.” Hell of an aphorism that, and the more you think about it, the more it means.

Available as a digital download from:
https://gumroad.com/l/watercolor – $15, credit card payment
https://sellfy.com/p/Pvxb/ – $14.99, PayPal only
There is also a shrink-wrapped DVD, but it’s NTSC format and possibly also Region 1. I could get it to play, but without sound.

Leave a comment

Painting Nature in Watercolour || Cathy Johnson

I’ll be honest, I’m not sure whether this is a completely new book or a re-working of material from some of the author’s previous works. However, it has a fresh look and feel to it, so I’m going to review it on the basis that it’s all new.

It’s a rather wonderful portmanteau of just about everything the natural world can throw at us, from vegetation to animals and even people by way of skies and clouds and land- and waterscapes. As well as subject matter, it also takes in techniques, both in pure watercolour and in mixed media with watercolour pencils.

Cathy’s style is loose and relaxed and very much to the painterly taste. Although this is an American book and you therefore get species which are specific to another continent, the differences are not intrusive and many (in fact, most) of the paintings are sufficiently generic that they have no specific place.

I could say that the modelling, particularly of some of the creatures, isn’t always completely perfect, but it always does its job and simply turning the pages of this really rather enjoyable book is going to make you feel good and want to get down to work.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

DVD Going Wild In Watercolour || Jake Winkle

The range of colours in a Jake Winkle painting always astonish. In this film, his wildlife subjects are generally monochrome, their brown colouring designed to make them blend into, rather than stand out from, their background. Jake’s method of working is designed to make you look again, and yet there’s nothing forced or unnatural about it. By blending juxtaposed warm and cool colours, he creates shape and adds vitality that give a flat painting a three-dimensional appearance.

Jake is an excellent and generous demonstrator and he explains not only what he doing, but why. “Warm against cool gives luminosity”, “If you put too much detail in, you end up painting by numbers” and “If I think about it too much, I’m going to get repetitive shapes”. He works quickly, often aiming to have the first brushstrokes still wet as the last ones go down. Much of it is done by instinct, the build-up of colour defining the shape of the painting as much as it does the subject. It’s also interesting to see just what a limited range of equipment Jake uses: a total of four brushes and a very small paintbox that he says contains only primary and secondary – no tertiary colours. It all helps with the simplicity he’s aiming for, as few decisions have to be made and everything is readily to hand.

The practice looks simple because, of course, Jake is a master of what he does. In reality, it takes a lot of confidence and practice, but you do feel at the end of this that you could make at least a decent stab.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

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.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

  • Archives

  • Categories