Archive for category Subject: Techniques

Lettering With Love || Sue Hiepler & Yasmin Reddig

This is an attractive book that’s really hard to classify. It’s not exactly art instruction, yet not quite calligraphy either. That is, of course, broadly the point and the idea is to suggest images that contain both watercolour and lettering. The subtitle, “the simple art of handwriting with watercolour embellishment” says as much.

To be absolutely honest, I think you could flick through it, say “Oh yes” and then get on with your own ideas. However, if you want projects, images and letterforms, it’s all here and, in spite of my reservations, I can’t help liking it – and that’s really quite high praise.

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Dynamic Watercolours || Jane Betteridge

This is an interesting approach to watercolour that concentrates as much on technical opportunities as it does on pure creativity. That’s not to imply that Jane is devoid of ideas – she’s brimming with them – but this is an exploration of what can be done with what’s often regarded as quite a demure medium when you push and stretch it to its limits.

Whether you like the results will depend a lot on how you feel about “pure” watercolour, about which plenty has been written. Even if this isn’t your cup of tea you will, I think, be impressed by what Jane manages to achieve and the boldness with which she’s prepared to go out on something of a limb, both technically and creatively. When you find innovative ways of working, it’s also worth looking for the same in your method of expression and this is a very happy marriage of those two strands.

So, if you’re still with me, I think we’ve established that you have a sense of adventure and are up for a challenge. Will you get that? Emphatically, yes, you will. Jane works with surfaces, textured grounds, crackle and modelling pastes and applied materials. She attacks her images with wire brushes and stamps as well as deploying inks and granulations, salt, impasto and pearlescent colours. Does that sound like a theme park ride? Prepare to hang on.

Search Press have become adept at making the illustrations an integral part of their books, rather than, more formal counterpoints to the text. The result can be an assault on the senses and an overall impression of busyness that can sometimes be difficult to take in at a glance. Delve further though and it all becomes clear as themes and subjects coalesce out of the wider view. Add to this Jane’s very clear sense of where she’s going and how she wants to get there and you land up with a coherent composition that is at once exciting and convincing.

If this isn’t a book that immediately excites you, you might find it somewhat hard to like. However, stay with it and I think you’ll be at least partly convinced by the end.

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Start to Paint with Pastels || Jenny Keal

This, one of the best introductions to pastels around, has been reissued. You can read the original review here.

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Pocket Book for Watercolour Artists || Terry Harrison/Geoff Kersey/Charles Evans

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.

For more complete reviews, follow the link above.

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Oils: techniques and tutorials for the complete beginner || Norman Long

It’s not really surprising that the vast majority of books published concentrate on watercolour, it being by far the most popular medium, even if the opaque alternatives are often easier for the beginner.

This short introduction is all the more welcome, therefore, and especially because it is so good and so accessible. If you want to give oils a try, this is the ideal place to start. The introduction to materials and basic methods is concise but leaves nothing out. You won’t be bogged down with detail, but neither will you feel short-changed. A series of worked demonstrations then introduces subjects that include still lifes, boats, buildings, skies and figures. There’s also a handy glossary that sums up terms such as perspective, alla prima, plein air and underpainting.

At 96 pages, this inevitably skims the surface a bit, but it should get you set nicely on the path and ready for some of the more advanced books if you want to progress.

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Learn Acrylics Quickly || Soraya French

This series from Batsford is shaping up nicely. The key to its success is to use authors who are at home with larger books, rather than to assume that, because the format is simple, the approach can be too. In fact, it’s quite the opposite and simplicity requires greater communication skill than does complexity.

Soraya French has a pleasant, approachable and colourful style that suits the medium well. The series method is to concentrate on illustrations, explain them with straightforward captions and link them with concise paragraphs that carry the narrative and the reader forward and retain their interest.

There’s plenty here, from different types of acrylic to colours and colour mixing, working methods and a good range of subjects. If you want to get started, this will live up to its title and get you producing worthwhile results with a minimum of fuss. The more experienced student might also find it a handy source of recapping and revision.

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Drawing for the Absolute and Utter Beginner || Claire Watson Garcia

You couldn’t wish for a more user-friendly title than this, but does it live up to its claim? Well, the strapline “15th anniversary (revised) edition” suggests a consistent seller and that’s something you can’t easily achieve simply by fooling enough of the people enough of the time. I’m also always encouraged when a book’s blurb tells me that it’s based on the author’s teaching experience, because that generally means it’ll react to real-life issues and problems raised by real-life students. To survive, a teacher has to be good not merely at what they do, but at conveying it.

So, all-in-all, let’s say that this starts off more than a little encouragingly. So, how does it differ from any of the other basic drawing books? Well, if I’m honest, not a lot. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In a field that’s been well covered, a basic modus operandi has usually been established and. although there are sometimes attempts to overturn this, all they usually manage to prove is that tried and tested methods are best. So, again, full marks for pragmatism.

There’s plenty of basic information here: materials, methods, mark-making, pencil work, washes, portraiture and still life. Yes, you read that right: the subject matter is pretty much limited to objects and people. That’s fine, as both of those offer plenty of challenges in perspective, shape and tone but, if you wanted flowers or landscapes, you’d be looking in vain. The other problem I have, and this is rather a large one, is that the results look … well … frankly amateurish. The method of explaining isn’t bad, but some of the portraits look more like the before (the book) than after it.

You might, of course, think that this makes the whole thing more accessible. That the author doesn’t have such an impossibly elegant style that you’d be incapable of emulating it, and I wouldn’t argue with that. I’m a great fan of the achievable style, but I still want it to be something I can aspire to, not something I might be doing already.

Sorry, in spite of everything I said at the beginning, I just don’t think this cuts the mustard.

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