Sketchits! Faces & Fashion || Christopher Hart

The always entertaining and informative Christopher Hart is back with a simple guide to drawing clothed figures. “More than 7 million books sold”, the cover proclaims and it’s not hard to see why. Christopher manages to simplify everything and to be elementary without talking down to the reader.

“Got Color? Just add lines”, the blurb tells us, adding that it’s “introducing an entirely new approach to drawing”. Well, up to a point, but the idea is ingenious – paint the basic shape, then add facial features, hair, accessories and detail such as folds and shadows. “Jump-start your creativity”.

If you want a simple guide to drawing figures, this would fit the bill nicely. If you don’t, you might find that the absence of complication encourages you to add your own simplification.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Roger Cecil – a secret artist || Peter Wakelin

If you haven’t heard of Roger Cecil, you couldn’t be accused of ignorance. Even if you had, you might never have seen any of his work. He was a legendary figure among curators and you can almost imagine travellers’ tales of the fabulous works that remained inaccessible to most.

Cecil was a recluse. Those who knew him regarded him as one of the greatest abstract artists of his generation, but he was intensely private and exhibited only rarely. When he died in 2015, his body was only found after a police search.

This collection should cement Cecil’s posthumous reputation. Peter Wakelin has amassed a remarkable number of works and facts and presents an account of the man and his life in South Wales that has been painstakingly researched. It becomes immediately apparent that Cecil was indeed a major figure (or would have been if he had been more widely known) and possessor of a very remarkable talent. His understanding of form and colour, and especially of the figure, is truly remarkable and, now that he is gone and his privacy cannot be intruded on, the time has come to shine a light on his output.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Release Your Creativity || Rebecca Schweiger

I’m always wary of books like this and the subtitle immediately raises my hackles: Discover your inner artist with 15 simple painting projects. It’s going to be weird, isn’t it?

Well, no. In fact, there’s a lot to like here, even for a tired old seen-it-all-before cynic like me. For a start, the author is a bona fide artist and teacher, having founded The Art Studio NY. She knows her onions, both in terms of creativity and practice, and she can explain her methods as well.

There is, as you’d rather expect, a fair degree of abstraction, but it’s not of the “splosh it about and call it creative” variety. While there’s a fair degree of experimentation going on – rightly, given the slant of the book – the emphasis is more on control and getting your inner thoughts down, rather than freeing the spirit. Some spirits are best kept confined, in my ’umble opinion.

This isn’t your conventional art instruction book, but it’s not a load of new-age hokum either. If you’re a practising artist, I think you could find a lot to like here, as well as a lot to learn about yourself.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Ready to Paint in 30 Minutes – street scenes, flowers

There was much to like about the old Ready to Paint series. The pre-drawn outlines and extended demonstrations made light work of a wide variety of subjects.

This new departure is more than just a re-vamp or extension of the original idea. In place of the complete paintings, there are thirty-odd smaller exercises that concentrate on a particular element of the subject, or a technique in the medium. Being A6, they can be completed in the field if you want, and using a pocketable watercolour pad (the series is all watercolour so far). The finale is 3 full-size (A4) paintings that bring everything together – the full orchestral run-though, as it were.

The approach is nicely progressive and these first two volumes cover subjects (street scenes and flowers) that benefit from the breakdown approach. Two more are in the pipeline for next year . There’s a pleasantly solid feel to the books and plenty of technical sections, hints, tips and generous instruction in the step-by-steps.

The original series went a long way and this deserves to as well.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Perspective In Action || David Chelsea

Books on perspective come in at fairly regular intervals. They vary from the practical ones that try to leave all the technical stuff out (it doesn’t work) to the entirely technical manuals that blind you with science and diagrams (it doesn’t work). Somewhere in between lie the successful ones that explain the theory while at the same time showing how it works in practice. This falls broadly into that final category.

David Chelsea is a graphic novelist and this book is unique in adopting that approach. Whether it works for you, and whether you will love this or want to throw it hard through the nearest (closed) window will depend entirely on whether you like the frame-by-frame approach the genre prescribes. You will also either love or hate the rather cartoon style of the illustrations. What I think is indisputable, however, is that delivering pill-sized doses does break things up. You can read each frame on its own and only move on when you’re sure you’re fully up to speed. The range of media is impressive, too, from pen & ink to woodwork, collage and digital.

It’s an interesting, maybe intriguing, and valid approach. Whether it’s valuable is entirely up to you. We haven’t met, so I can’t say.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

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.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Painting Portraits of Children || Simon Davis

Children are a popular subject for anyone who wants to paint people. Although photographs are ubiquitous, getting the right pose or expression is tricky and school portraits are rarely satisfactory. Although far from instant, a painting can capture character and expression in a way that photography fails to.

Simon Davis is Vice President of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and, the blurb adds, uses the square brush technique. This, and the frontispiece photo, are a clue to the fact that the medium here is oil. This matters, as techniques in other media (other than, perhaps acrylics), will be different. It’s doubly important as the main meat of the book is a series of demonstrations where the methods of application are to the fore. Workers in other media may find useful tips about working with their subject and the various considerations of pose, skin tone, expressions and so on, however. The examination of the historical development of child portraiture is also of interest.

This is quite a slim volume that majors on the practical demonstrations. Simon includes useful tips on the use of initial sketches, but does not work from photographs, which would have been a useful addition, for the amateur especially. The illustrations are also held back by a slightly muted reproduction which makes it a little difficult to see some of the details.

For all that, this is a useful manual that doesn’t over-elaborate or confuse with unnecessary detail. If you work in oil, it’s the perfect introduction and would take you well beyond the first steps. If you want other media, the appeal must be limited, but it’s still worth a look.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

  • Archives

  • Categories