Archive for category Subject: Techniques

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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Drawing Trees & Flowers || Margaret Eggleton and Denis-John Naylor

This is a bind up of two volumes that have previously appeared. You can read Trees here and Flowers here.

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Acrylic Paint Pouring || Tanja Jung

I’ll admit that paint pouring, which is allegedly “the latest technique to take the art world by storm” leaves me cold. This time next year, will we be looking back and wondering what it was all about? I think we will.

However, if you want to be taken by storm and are thinking of dipping your toe in the water, you won’t find a better introduction than this. Quite rightly, no previous knowledge is assumed and there are clear explanations of materials, working methods and – crucially – what happens and why. To achieve control, you really do need to understand your materials and preparation counts for a lot, saving countless messy and potentially costly mistakes.

The core of the book is a series of sixteen straightforward projects, each disposed of in four pages. These get you practising techniques as well as discovering creativity; the lack of complication and over-thinking mean you’re never going to feel lost. There’s no point in simply learning to follow paint-by-numbers instructions – you’re always going to be wanting to branch out on your own, which you’ll be ready to when you’ve finished here.

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DVD Tonal Watercolours || Amanda Hyatt

“Tone does all the work, colour gets all the glory”, Amanda rather helpfully sums up at the start of this varied film. It is, she goes on to explain, about light rather than colour, using highlights, shade and contrast to give shape to a two dimensional representation of a three dimensional scene.

It is both helpful and unhelpful that the weather is somewhat stormy. Helpful in the sense that there’s plenty of variety and drama, less so in that bright highlights are hard to come by. Then again, it gives Amanda a chance to demonstrate how to create something almost out of nothing and to work with what you have. In the overview discussion at the end of the film, there’s a genuine sense of “I really don’t remember it being like that at all”, as what looked flat at the time springs off the paper in a really rather dramatic way.

There are four demonstrations. The first, a simple Kentish landscape, provides a chance to work with skies and for Amanda to remark “don’t be tempted to go back into it, let it do its own thing”. Here, the wash provides the anchor that holds the rest of the work together, balanced by fore- and middle grounds. The main feature is a patch of light that runs through the centre of the scene and provides a path for the eye as well as a balance for the left and right sides.

Two paintings at Ramsgate harbour are exercises in planning and simplification. “Everything’s difficult, that’s what I like about art”, Amanda says as she works with a complex subject, changing light and blustery wind. Her main theme here is about identifying points of interest and leaving the eye to fill in details that are only suggested – “I haven’t tried to paint all the boats”.

A dramatic sky at Reculver comes with many challenges and, ignoring her previous advice to leave things alone, Amanda re-works this one several times to get the right contrast between dark and light clouds, the foreground and the bright stone of the Roman towers themselves. Again, careful consideration of light and dark produces an exciting result.

The final demonstration, at Whitstable, introduces figures as well as buildings and boats. As befits Amanda’s impressionistic style, these are suggested, but add an extra dimension not present in the previous work. Her approach can be summed up in the remark, “it’s an impression of a building, it doesn’t have to be correct”, the point being that the viewer’s eye will see both what it wants and what the art guides it towards.

This is an intriguing film, both in terms of what’s painted and how to overcome difficult and changing conditions. “You can achieve a lot with a few colours”.

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DVD Acrylic Painting || Chris Rose

My initial notes on this were rather frustrated – “talking head, too much detail, do I need to know this?” By the end, however, I was converted and I’m prepared to say that this is one of the best introductions to acrylic painting you could wish for. At nearly two-and-a-half hours, it’s longer than many films and, yes, it does go into a lot of detail. Do you need a full explanation and demonstration of stretching paper, for instance? Well, if you’re a beginner and you’ve never done it before, yes you do, and this is one of the few films that will show you the whole process in real time. I stopped banging my head on the desk long enough to give this a big tick. One-nil to Chris.

After a fair quantity of patient introduction, it’s time to get down to painting and the main body of the film is a single demonstration of a lakeside scene that includes a distant hillside, water and trees. The hillside allows Chris to show recession, the water brings in reflections and there are two lots of trees – middle and further distance, so detailed and not-detailed. It’s a rather brilliant choice and means that the work can be demonstrated in almost real time rather than having different topics introduced in separate demonstrations that are necessarily curtailed. If you’ve ever sat in front of a film muttering “but that’s the bit I wanted to see”, well, you’ll see it. Two-nil to Chris.

Oh, and finally, I like the man. He’s a warm and generous demonstrator who gets under your skin. He’s interesting even when he’s reminding you to clean your brushes before the paint hardens and they become useless. Three-nil and a clean sweep.

http://www.learnartandcrafthobbies.co.uk/portfolio/acrylic/

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Turner’s Apprentice: a watercolour masterclass || Tony Smibert

The basic thesis of this is a sound one. Tony Smibert is a Visiting Art Researcher at Tate Britain as well as a trained art teacher. He is therefore well placed to conduct the nearest thing you’ll get to a masterclass with one of Britain’s greatest painters.

The question, though, is do you want to? What?, you ask. How can he even suggest that’s not a good thing? Well, Turner had such an individual style that emulating it is always going to look like imitation, and probably second best at that. Would it perhaps be better to study the Norwich School or the Twentieth Century tradition from Edward Seago onwards?

Well, the thing about Turner is that he taught us a huge amount about light and colour and was innovative not just in his day but, arguably, in the history of art. He was, you could posit, an impressionist before the Impressionists and one of the first to move art away from a very classical tradition that was getting just a little too rule-bound. It’s not just his paintings that merit further study, but his notebooks too, and there aren’t many artists you can say that about. No, you can’t: Turner’s notebooks contain a wealth of experimentation that led to some of his masterpieces.

So, having established that to sit at his feet is something worthwhile, what’s the experience like? Well, Tony is adept at deconstructing not just Turner’s paintings, but his methods of working. This is not an atelier process, where you stand in front of the great canvases and copy them, but rather of understanding and applying the methods that created them.

The book concludes with a chapter devoted to Tony’s own paintings – not just a gallery, they’re properly analysed. In these, you can clearly see Turner’s influence, but also the fact that the results are entirely original. It’s not at all a bad way of demonstrating what you should be aiming for – a deeper understanding of your own work, not that of someone else.


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Painting and Reinterpreting the Masters || Sara Lee Roberts

This isn’t a bad idea at all. Back in the day, students learnt painting by the Atelier method, working in the studio of a master. They’d start by grinding and then mixing colour, progress to preparing canvases and then to laying grounds. Eventually, they might also paint backgrounds for less prestigious commissions – or maybe even the whole work – giving rise to the term “school of”, where the master’s brush might never have touched the canvas.

This is an artistic form of apprenticeship and it taught not just the practicalities of painting, but also those of running a studio and working with clients. If the student wasn’t particularly imaginative, it could lead to what amounted to Master II – simply emulations of what someone had already done. The best students, however, went on the develop their own style and so art progressed through the centuries.

We don’t have apprenticeships these days and they have been replaced by formal schools, books and online tutorials. However, the idea of understanding what happened historically, then taking it up and running with it is no bad thing and that’s what this book attempts to get you to do.

The danger, as it always was, is that you’ll simply end up copying, but that’s up to you. In any case, you may well find that it’s the best starting point, but do please try not to paint a modern Goya.

There’s plenty to get your teeth into here, both from the analytical and productive point of view, but it’s worth noting that the process of the reconstructions that Sara demonstrates are covered in only three or four stages and a page or so – these are not lengthy projects and much of the work will be done on your own.

This is a worthy volume that fulfils its brief well and repays – indeed requires – considerable study. The only complaint I have with it is that the reproduction is somewhat flat and lacking in detail. This is a shame as it’s a rather important part of the whole process.

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Mastering The Art of Drawing || Ian Sidaway & Sarah Hoggett

Although this isn’t a new book, I haven’t reviewed it before and it remains an excellent introduction to and overview of the medium. Books of this type are often aimed at people who buy books for someone else “because I know you like art”. This, however, is one you might well choose for yourself.

It’s big USP is its thorough coverage of materials as diverse as pen & ink, pastel, charcoal and pencil in all their forms. At the book’s heart are 25 fully demonstrated projects that are thoroughly illustrated and explained – it’s relatively unusual to find an introductory explanation that explains why you’re doing this particular subject and what you’re expecting to learn. In terms of taking the reader seriously, it really doesn’t get any better than this.

You’ll be expecting me to say that subjects range from landscapes and seascapes to still lifes, figures and buildings and I won’t disappoint you. The variety is as it should be and the illustrations admirably clear.

If you want an introductory course in drawing, you can’t do much better. However, if you’re already reasonably competent and just want to immerse yourself in all the possibilities, this is for you as well.

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