Archive for category Subject: Landscape

Ready to Paint in 30 Minutes – Landscapes|| Dave Woollass/Trees & Woodlands || Geoff Kersey

For a general appreciation, please look at the series tag above. I like the new iteration of the old Ready to Paint series a lot and these latest volumes diminish that not a jot.

Dave Woollass is a new author and one I hope we’ll see more of. He has a pleasantly loose style that’s readily achievable and explains his working methods well. He’s also comfortable with the variety of subject matter that the series demands and this would be a book worth seeking out even if the series in general isn’t your regular cup of tea.

Geoff Kersey is a familiar figure who’s well-practised in art instruction. Working with this will be familiar territory to many and a comfortable amble through the byways of watercolour. While there’s nothing excessively taxing (here or in the series in general), you won’t feel constrained or short-changed, your creative skills rather being gently stretched; a work-up rather than a work-out, perhaps.

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Painting Landscapes || Kevin Scully

This is slightly spooky. No sooner have I written about one book on landscape painting from Crowood than another one turns up. This one is much more aimed at practical aspects and sticks to the opaque media: oils, acrylics and alkyd.

As is the style with this publisher’s approach, the text is much more discursive and, along with the sort of instructions you expect in a demonstration, there is a lot more explanation of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. If you are really more interested in the general than the specific, this will appeal: you learn how to paint anything, rather than just what the author happens to put in front of you. As the old adage has it: give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach him how to fish and you feed him for life.

Why aren’t all books like this, you might ask? Well, not everyone wants what we might call the deeper philosophies or to get bogged down in what they see as detail. At the start, clear, simple instructions are best. It’s only as you progress that you begin to want, or even need, the details of what’s happening under the hood. These are books for the more experienced artist and the style, authors and level of work reflect that.

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Drawing and Painting the Landscape || Philip Tyler

Although it is subtitled “a course of 50 lessons” and is intensely practical throughout, this is also a philosophical approach to both the landscape and the practice of its representation.

The use of a variety of media, from oils and acrylics to pencil, ink, oil bar and pastel betokens a book that isn’t heavily centred on technicality, even though those 50 demonstrations remain at its heart. Think of it, if you will, as an artist working and musing about creativity while they paint.

That variety of media may put some readers off. I’ve had “I only paint in …” said to me many times by buyers who literally weigh the book up and count the number of pages they wouldn’t allow to sully their delicate hands. While it’s true that most amateurs will concentrate on one or two mediums for largely practical reasons (time, cost, ability), the idea of working with what the subject suggests is an attractive one and leads to a discussion of interpretation that can be illuminating even if the details of the work are less than relevant.

There is much to get stuck into here, from the many illustrations to the well-written text that maintains your interest throughout. The icing on the cake, though, is the inclusion of the work of several other artists, which expands immeasurably the theme of understanding and interpretation.

Overall, this is a book which is a great deal more than just the sum of its parts and a worthwhile, perhaps even essential, read if you enjoy landscapes.

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Found In The Fields || Carry Akroyd

The Northamptonshire peasant poet John Clare said of his poems that he didn’t write them so much as “find them in the fields”. Similarly based herself, artist and printmaker Carry Akroyd works intimately with nature and landscape, including elements as she finds them rather than as they could be idealised. Back when there were more American airbases in the area, jets and vapour trails would often appear in her work, “because it was there”. The amazing thing was that this mechanisation did not jar with a bucolic scene, but became as much a part of it as anything else. In this book, you’ll often find queues of heavy traffic along the major roads that cut through the region.

The core of this collection of some 210 prints and paintings is Carry’s series of 16 lithographs based on Clare’s work and incorporating some of his words. There is, however, much more, including landscapes from further afield in East Anglia as well as Wales and Scotland.

Carry’s images are rarely straightforwardly pictorial and include elements of abstraction that place wildlife and insects in their habitat, but out of proportion. Edges are often jagged and roads wind through patchwork fields that do indeed look almost stitched together. The result is a sense of location and habitat much more than of place, but the atmosphere is perfect. Of the Fens, she says it’s “a land that lends itself to abstraction”, with its flatness and huge skies. This she often portrays from a high viewport than cannot be obtained from land, but requires the wings of the birds that ride the wind overhead.

As well as working with Clare’s poems, Carry is also influenced by them, and it’s impossible to ignore parallels between a man who found words in the fields and an artist whose work comes out of, rather than looking into them.

I have known Carry Akroyd’s work for thirty-odd years and it’s a genuine privilege to be able to review this magnificent book, the quality of whose reproduction is the work of a publisher who takes real care.

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5-Minute Sketching: Landscapes || Virginia Hein

I’m not normally a fan of the quick-work approach. If something’s worth drawing or painting, it’s worth taking time over. However, I’m happy to make an exception in the case of sketching. Here, speed is frequently of the essence and less is definitely more. Stop and fiddle and the scene will be lost, or have changed substantially while you’re still dithering over whether to use Payne’s or Davy’s Grey. Photographically, it’s the equivalent of having your camera out of the bag and on a full auto setting.

There’s much to like in this new series, which originates with RotoVision, purveyors of all kinds of good ideas. This book is full of ideas and exercises, each one executed in just 3 pages. Sections move from technical to creative via observation and planning. Practise now and develop ways of working that’ll stand you in good stead out in the field or on the street corner. Subjects include, as you might have guessed, landscapes but also urban scenes, skies and trees as well as the considerations of working at different times of day.

The approach is visual, vibrant and really rather exciting.

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Painting Watercolour Snow Scenes the Easy Way || Terry Harrison

Sadly, this is going to be my last review of a new Terry Harrison book. His death has left a huge hole in the world of art instruction and many readers are going to be asking where they will go now. Terry was one of the best explainers and his relaxed style of both painting and demonstrating made the results look, while easy, not too easy. You think, “With a bit of effort, I could do that too” and the real secret is that you can. Terry always gave a polished performance, but there was never any sleight of hand, no secrets he kept to himself. Follow the instructions, maybe even use his own range of brushes (they really do what they promise) and the results will follow. He may be gone, but there’s a substantial legacy of books and articles that we can refer to for many years to come.

This new book was the one he always wanted to write. Given a free choice of topic, it was the one he chose and I’ve been told he saw the proofs and was delighted by the result.

Snow is one of the hardest things to paint, harder even than water, which is all about reflections. Snow looks white, but isn’t. It’s blue, it’s grey and it’s every colour in between. It obscures familiar shapes but creates new ones and has a structure and perspective all of its own. All the techniques are here, along with exercises and demonstrations that cover tracks, trees, mountains, water, buildings and much else. There are even some well-wrapped figures and one snowman! Snow is an impermanent thing, but Terry gives it the substance you’d expect.

It’s both ironic and typical of him that Terry chose to subtitle this “the easy way”. As we all know, there is no quick or easy way to paint and it’s a private joke between us and the author that there might be. This, though, is Terry saying “trust me” and very gently showing you the way without leading. If it was mountaineering, he’d be holding the rope, but still letting you do the climb. He may be gone, but all the belays are still there.

A version of this review appeared in The Artist magazine for August 2017.

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David Bellamy’s Arctic Light

I first encountered David Bellamy almost by accident. The husband of a friend of my wife’s was a freelance designer and happened to remark that I ought to see the book he was working on, which was The Wild Places of Britain. It was amazing. I followed it up with the publisher, struck a deal and sold an awful lot of copies. I said of it then that David visits hidden and out-of-the-way places and brings back their atmosphere, people and stories.

Since then, there have been many more books, mostly instructional, and the work he does for exhibition has only occasionally been seen in print.

The Arctic is one of the world’s last great wildernesses and getting to it imposes a huge number of difficulties. Simply existing there is also a challenge and carries very real dangers. Imagine, then, trying to paint in freezing winds, snow and ice when your body and materials are as unwilling to co-operate as they can be. David has a reputation for painting on the edge and has been shown hanging off ropes on desolate crags before. This, however, is a whole different ballgame.

If this was just a tale of endurance, it would have little to recommend it. Sure, learning that gin is a great antifreeze (for your painting water) is all part of the fun that David manages to make this seem, but if the art wasn’t up to scratch, the book would be meaningless.

It’s therefore a pleasure to report that David is at the peak of his powers. The conditions that make the Arctic a challenge to visit also make photography difficult and painting captures the landscapes better than the camera ever can. Few of us will ever make it this far north, and that’s as it should be. Wildernesses like this can only be preserved by their remoteness and lack of visitors. The Antarctic is already being endangered by tourism.

The value of the book, therefore, is the tale it tells, in both words and pictures, of a beautiful region that is filled with mystery, unfamiliar creatures, and inhabitants who live on the edge and have strange legends. This is both a traveller’s tale and a love story and David is perhaps the only person alive who can tell it so effectively. His paintings, all exquisitely reproduced, are breath-taking and the words he weaves round them create the nearest impression of actually being there that most of us will, or should, ever achieve.

This is a major contribution to science as well as to art and a magnificent production of which all involved should be proud.

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