Archive for category Subject: Techniques

Watercolour With Love || Lena Yokotha-Barth

This is a strange book, which I suspect you’ll either love or hate. The subtitle describes it as “50 modern motifs to paint in 5 easy steps” and it does have the feeling of icons or emojis. There’s no great technical subtlety and the colour tends to work in blocks producing, it has to be said, often attractive and different images.

The various projects, which include a watermelon, ice cream cone, toucan and orange, are the end result in themselves. This is not a book about watercolour technique, but really one of design. If you want simple images to decorate your home that you can say you’ve created yourself, this is a slam-dunk.

I’m trying not to damn it with faint praise, but I think the market I normally write for isn’t the one this is addressing. Within the confines of what it is, my reservation is that there are no instructions beyond the very basic and, if you want to know how to create shading using a wash, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Given that its average buyer probably isn’t at all experienced in the medium, I think that could be quite a drawback.

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Watercolour Painting Step-by-Step || Jackie Barrass, Richard Bolton, Ray Campbell Smith, Frank Halliday, William Newton, Wendy Tait, Bryan A Thatcher

This is a reissue of an earlier compilation, which I was convinced I had reviewed before, but don’t seem to have. It originated as a bind-up of Search press’s Leisure Arts series and makes available lessons from what was a very serviceable series from quite a long time ago.

Although I had reservations about the reproduction in its acrylic counterpart, and some of it here isn’t quite up to modern standards, it’s not too bad and not quite the stumbling block I found it in the other volume. At a shade under £10, it’s enormously good value and I think you could overlook any shortcomings simply in favour of the wealth and variety of material you get for your money.

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Painting Masterclass || Susie Hodge

At first sight, this has the appearance of another of Susie Hodge’s excellent analyses of the painting methods of historical masters. The format and binding are even the same as her Art in Detail series.

This is not entirely surprising, as that’s exactly what it is. However, the book is more specifically geared to the practical reader and uses what we’ll call great works to analyse a wide variety of topics. Call it learning by example, the descriptive rather than the prescriptive method.

The word Masterclass is bandied about rather indiscriminately in the book world and is frequently applied to anything the publisher thinks isn’t obviously introductory or for the beginner. Sometimes, my inner cynic mutters that they just want a title that appeals to the more experienced artist, who perhaps hasn’t been buying enough of their books lately. Well hush my mouth – a bit.

Here, though the word is entirely justified (and you might want to add that, if anyone isn’t going to misuse it, that person would be Susie Hodge). This is most precisely a masterclass. The teachers are masters and the class is absolutely for the experienced worker. There are no instructions – you won’t be following any exercises or demonstrations here. What you will be doing is learning how Georges Seurat used form and colour, how shapes work in Manet’s Déjuner sur l’Herbe (actually, Anglicised titles are used throughout) or light breathes atmosphere into a Fantin-Latour still life.

Susie is, as ever, concise and cogent in her analyses and the book works almost as well as an introduction to art appreciation, meaning you could say you’re getting twice the value which, given the quality and quantity of the illustrations, would make it an absolute steal.

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Drawing: a complete guide || Stephen C P Gardner

This very thorough book really does live up to its title. The range of styles and subjects covered and the progression of the chapters provides a complete course. As a professor and administrator, Stephen Gardner has not only personal teaching experience, but also the opportunity to watch others at work and learn from their methods and (perhaps) mis-steps. It’s also worth saying that the very soft binding means that the book (it’s a substantial paperback) falls open easily and doesn’t have to be manhandled if you have both hands occupied trying to follow the exercises. Small things like that can make a big difference and, if that much thought has gone into the detail, the substance is likely to be good as well.

This isn’t, as you may have gathered, a book to dip into, try a few things and then zone out. The organisation, which is clear and structured, does mean that you can concentrate on one topic – mark-making, line, form, values, shape etc – at a time, but do expect a chapter to occupy most of a day, or maybe even a week, allowing for practice, studio exercises and a bit of revision.

Substantial in every way, this is essential reading for anyone who’s serious about drawing.

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Artist Toolbox: Tools & Materials/Surfaces & Supports

This handy little series offers a lot more than appears at first sight. You would be forgiven for thinking that it was something aimed at the complete beginner and maybe even for the buying-it-for-someone-else market.

Although it is both of these – if you know someone who’s expressed an interest in art, these are a good starting point – there’s also information that will provide a handy resumé for the more experienced worker. The contents are much more than just a list of what’s available with the sort of description that leaves you muttering, “well, I could have worked that out for myself”.

What separates these books from the crowd is the amount of information (packed into a very small space) about what to do with the equipment you’ve just bought. Oils, watercolours, acrylics and ink are there, of course, but also glass, plastic and even stone. Technical information runs to shading, perspective and composition as well as the more expected methods of application. Within that limited space, don’t expect a full-on course, but do be amazed by the amount of depth achieved in only a page or two.

These are genuinely useful books that have been well thought out and are very much more than just the shelf-fillers that this sort of thing so often is.

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Acrylic Painting Step-by-Step || Wendy Jelbert, Carole Massey, David Hyde

A reissue of an earlier compilation. You can read the original review here. There doesn’t appear to be any re-origination and the image quality isn’t really up to modern standards, however.

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The Two-Pencil Method || Mark Crilley

The title tells you what this book is likely to be about, and the subtitle confirms the bold claim: “the revolutionary approach to drawing it all”. No holding back, then.

The claim should be easy to verify – open the book at any point and … are the results any good? A bit more flicking through confirms that, oh my goodness, they are. Not only can Mark draw, but confining himself to one graphite and one black coloured pencil isn’t going to hold him back. A short discussion of materials leads on to basic mark-making and you’ll want to read this because this level of simplicity absolutely depends on getting the foundations right.

From here, there’s a look at working with simple objects and different types of subject, handily introducing things such as hard and soft edges, shapes, tones and textures. As well as being a revolutionary approach, it also turns out that this is a very nicely graduated course in basic drawing. You like it even more, don’t you?

The final section (roughly half the book) is a series of short demonstrations that are really more like tutorials. These cover just about every subject you’re likely to encounter, by way of landscapes to portraits via animals, water and still lifes.

If you like drawing, this is a stonkingly good survey of working methods tucked inside the aforesaid “revolutionary approach” (that’s really just an excuse for simplifying and clearing out a few cobwebs).

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