Archive for category Subject: Techniques

Watercolor Basics || Charles Reid

This, sadly, is going to be Charles’ last book; he died in 2019. If, however, you wanted a lasting legacy, this would be it. Although his style is, arguably, not one for the beginner, there is so much sound information here that you could view the result as something to aspire to, while still learning a great deal on the way. If you’re a more experienced worker, then some simple revision would certainly not go amiss and you might welcome the chance to catch up alongside an acknowledged master of the medium.

Topics are very much as you’d expect – composition, light and shade, values and simplification. There are plenty of exercises and demonstrations to get your teeth into. This is a book you’re going to want to spend a lot of time with and much of it bears returning to more than once, such is the depth of knowledge and information evident.

It’s probably worth saying that quite a lot of the book is devoted to figures so, if this is something you want to work on, you’ll be in your element. If not, then it’s worth some thought before diving into a purchase.

The illustrations reveal Charles at the height of his powers, exploiting colour and working as loosely as possible with simplified images that capture the essence of a subject in amazingly few brushstrokes.

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The Joy of Sketch || Jen Russell-Smith

Books of ideas are not exactly thin on the ground and what they cover is broadly similar. Where they stand or fall, therefore , is mainly on the quality of the illustrations and even that may come down to a matter of personal choice.

This pitches itself at the beginner and suggests a range of subjects from the contents of your pockets to hands and feet, trees and flowers, wildlife and even domestic fittings. This could be summed up as: if you see it, draw it, which is no bad idea if you’re feeling stuck for inspiration. Just get your pens and pencils out and have a go.

There’s a charm about this particular implementation that gets under your skin. The illustrations are simple enough, loose enough and recognisable enough to make you feel pretty sure that yes, actually, you could manage something like that. It doesn’t look too difficult and, with a little help (the text is admirably concise) and a few examples along the way, you almost certainly can.

Add in a pleasant and none-too-taxing technical introduction and some basic exercises that get you practising simple shapes without just drawing circles and ellipses and you have one of the best books in this well-served field.

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I Can (Not) Draw || Peng

At first glance, this looks as though it might be a book aimed at children.   The simple, cartoon-like illustrations and busy layout are very like titles I’ve reviewed that are intended for a younger audience.

Further examination, however, reveals a level of detail and elements of humour that are far more grown-up. Peng is, in fact, an Austrian cartoonist and, while these are not cartoons, there’s a wryness to the images that is instantly engaging. Even if you were really looking for something more serious, it’s impossible not to be drawn in. Exaggerated features and simple lines are an antidote to what is sometimes a tyranny of trying to create a likeness or get proportions right – here it doesn’t matter and the most important thing is to get something – maybe even anything – down on paper.

The title gives a strong clue to the content – it’s all about removing negativity. Anyone can have a go at this and, even if you’re already reasonably accomplished, there’s a lot to be said for letting observation rule your pen.

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Basics of Drawing || Leonardo Pereznieto

There are plenty of reasons to like this thoroughly sound introduction to drawing. The first, and perhaps most important, is the clarity of the lessons. Each one is concise without being terse, and admirably clear, with the accompanying illustrations and step-by-step demonstrations not adding unnecessary complication. The next is the quality of the illustrations themselves – Leonardo’s work, mostly in pencil, is soft and sensitive and does full justice to the medium, as well as complementing the text perfectly.

Chapters move from mark-making and basic shapes to individual topics such as composition,, scene-framing, creating a visual path through the image, and an introduction to drawing people. There is an extended section on perspective, which considers its different aspects (linear, aerial and three-point) separately, making the whole a great deal easier to follow.

As well as being a solid introduction, this is also an excellent primer and a revision aid to a variety of techniques. I did spot a very few infelicities of execution, but by no means enough not to recommend it.

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Alcohol Ink || Desirée Delȃge

Fluid art is, apparently, “the hottest art trend since paint pouring”. You can call me sceptical if you wish but I have to say that, on the basis of the results demonstrated here, I could be a convert.

Most books of this kind play heavily on serendipity and “happy accidents”, which I interpret as a lack of controllability and, just maybe, of ability on the part of the practitioner. Here, however, the emphasis is on control and making a very fluid medium conform to your intentions. Where other books that I’ve seen tend to concentrate on abstracts and patterns, Desirée will show you how to prepare surfaces and manipulate the medium to create recognisable images – mainly flowers and leaves – that have what I can really only describe as an ethereal beauty I haven’t seen achieved with other media of this type.

As you would hope and expect, there’s a good introduction to materials and working methods, particularly soaking and drifting, which is how you allow the ink to pool and then draw it out rather in the matter of a watercolour wash. She’ll also show you how to work with brushes, colour shapers, droppers and swabs to create finer detail, as well as how to control when colours do or don’t blend. As well as paper, Desirée works with wood, ceramics, glass and plastic to decorate a wide variety of objects.

This is a thorough, but also enjoyable and hugely practical introduction to what looks like a really rather rewarding medium.

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101 Ways To Draw || David Webb

This encyclopaedia-style guide to drawing techniques absolutely stands on the quality of its illustrations. These are sensitive and David’s working methods adapt themselves nicely to the medium and technique in question at the time.

Just about every drawing medium is here, from graphite pencils and sticks to ballpoint, felt-tips, watercolour pencils and soft pastels. Subjects include flowers, landscapes, still lifes, animals, buildings and people. Techniques cover toning, layering, hatching and blending as well as simple mark-making. Obviously, not every combination of subject, medium and technique can be included, but the matching is logical and the results always enlightening.

As well as functioning as a source of reference, this is also a book to dive into and explore for ideas and inspiration. It’s a lot of fun.

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DVD My Obsession – the life and work of Robert A Wade || Robert Wade

Making films in these improbable times is a challenge and understandably APV have not produced anything in their usual format. This tribute to Australian artist Bob Wade was originally planned to coincide with his 90th birthday, but the interviews were curtailed by strict lockdowns in Melbourne, where he lives.

Celebrations are often really only of interest to the subject themselves, and maybe those who take part and hope for a little reflected glory. This, however, is sensitively done and made with a broader audience in mind. At its core is an extended interview with Bob, who reminisces about a life devoted in one way or another to art. His greatest love is watercolour and his eyes sparkle like a luminescent painting as he talks about “the surprise and wonderment and magic that suddenly appear before your eyes”. Of what he calls visioneering, he adds, “[It’s] seeing with your brain, feeling with your eyes and understanding with your heart”. Can you come up with a better definition of both the physical and mental process of creating a piece of art? Thought not.

Interspersing this are tributes from many of Bob’s Australian contemporaries, who manage to say a great deal more than “he’s a wonderful artist”. “Underlying everything is sound, honest watercolour technique”, says Herman Pekel. The aside, “Bob is a storyteller”, is perhaps the greatest truism in the whole film.

To make sure the film isn’t just talking heads and still images, extracts from some of Bob’s classic demonstrations are included. These do not, it should be said, add new unseen material, but they do add a gloss to the words and remind us of Bob’s working methods.

As I implied, films like this can be dry as dust and self-congratulatory. This is neither and is gripping from start to finish. Much of that is down to Bob’s character. His joy in his medium is always evident and it’s enthralling to hear him talking about it more generally than he would in a specific demonstration. The tributes are heartfelt and it’s clear that he is a man genuinely loved by his fellow artists, as well as students throughout the world.

Available from APV Films

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Painting & Drawing – techniques and tutorial for the complete beginner

When you’ve produced a series of excellent media-based guides, it makes sense (and will always be irresistible to marketing departments) to put them together in a doorstep volume.

Such is this. I’ve always doubted whether “real” artists buy this sort of thing, as they usually have a favourite medium or two and regard others as interlopers. Friends, however, or those considering having a go, are prime targets.

At twenty quid, this is at the top end of the price range for this kind of book, but the material is recent and, it should be said, first-rate. The ten pound variety is usually recycled from books published long ago and frequently anonymous.

Well, OK, the chapters here are anonymous too, except for acknowledgements at the back, but that’s perhaps inevitable if you’re going to present a coherent whole rather than a blindingly obvious bind-up. The approach works, not least because this isn’t a book to read from cover to cover, so changes of style, presentation and working won’t be immediately obvious. Yes, I am labouring this point, but a compilation is a compilation and should at least be consistent within itself, and this is.

If you want to know about the individual sections, click the publisher link below and look for media-specific titles. The gang’s all there.

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How To Draw All The Things For Kids || Alli Koch

I don’t normally review books that have no words because there’s very little you can say about them. Yes, they have stage-by-stage illustrations, usually, but without written instructions, the working process is entirely down to the user and completely subjective. Rather than review the book, I’d really need to be writing about you, the gentle reader. And I don’t think either of us want that.

This, though, is such a brilliant idea that it merits a mention. Yes, it’s all the foregoing, but books aimed at children need to catch their imagination immediately. Instruction is work and work is school and, well, down with skool, as Nigel Molesworth reminded us.

The pages here are friendly – the outlines are large and the images rounded in a way that makes them inviting (don’t argue with me, this is subjective, I told you that). They also include, as well as animals, insects and figures, a cupcake, a camera and even a unicorn (yes, of course they exist if you have a vivid enough imagination).

I have an ongoing project to send anything like this down to my grandchildren and, at some point, I may be able to report on how they get on with them.

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Get Started With Gouache || Emma Block

This is, let’s be clear, a very basic book. If you’ve never picked up a brush before, it will absolutely help you get some simple images down on paper, introducing you to basic techniques of application and working with colour. For someone looking for something as elementary as this, gouache is a good choice of medium. It requires little equipment and, being opaque, is very forgiving. You can move on to watercolour, oils or acrylic if you decide painting is for you and as your skills and confidence develop.

There’s really not a lot more to say. The instructions are simple, the projects short, the subjects excellently varied and the colour palettes not over-taxing. The results are bright and attractive and come quickly. If you’re looking for somewhere to start, you could do one heck of a lot worse than this.

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