Landscape Painting Now – from pop abstraction to new romanticism

Having relatively little in the way of critical or appreciative analysis, this is mainly a showcase of contemporary work. It is none the worse for that and, lacking an academic tone, is free to concentrate and, more importantly, allow the reader to concentrate on the art itself.

To establish some sort of order, there are general chapter headings – Realism & Beyond, Post-Pop Landscapes, New Romanticism, Constructed Realities, Abstracted Topographies and Complicated Vistas. These are, it should be said, largely curatorial constructs, but they provide a nice framework within which to order a wide variety of material. Within each section, works are arranged by artist and with a short introduction to each – handy especially for those who are less familiar.

The whole thing is substantial, both in extent and format, and conveys a sense of completeness that won’t leave you questioning whether more, or different, works should have been included. The market isn’t immediately obvious, although I suspect that anyone interested in contemporary art would be able to find a convincing reason for wanting it, and parting which what seems a relatively modest forty quid.

If nothing else, it proves that landscape painting is alive and well in the Twenty-First century.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Hockney/Van Gogh – the joy of nature

Everybody wants a Hockney, don’t they? This book accompanies an exhibition at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and is, it should be said, an excellent alternative for those who can’t make it to the show itself. The number and quality of the illustrations, mostly Hockneys, is substantial and the reproduction well up to the standard you would expect from such an august institution. There is also a useful introductory essay that sets the two artists’ visions in context.

Given all the above, and especially the predomination of work by Hockney, the question has to be asked: would you want it? There are plenty of excellent Hockney collections about, so does the addition of a few Van Goghs (he also being hardly thin on the publication ground) and a rationalisation of putting together two artists who, arguably, share little beyond a fascination with nature, bring anything to the party?

I’m not honestly sure I’d want to part with just shy of twenty-five quid unless it was as a souvenir of a visit, which rather flies in the face of what I said earlier about in being a good substitute for such. For all that, it’s well presented and nicely done and, you might think, worth it for that alone.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Happy Abstracts || Etta Vee/Jessi Raulet

This, to be honest, isn’t something I’d normally review. However, I asked for a copy and it’s my policy to review anything I’ve asked for. The title sounded intriguing and, now that it’s here, the idea does too.

I’m going to be as complimentary as I can because I think the book fulfils the brief it sets itself tolerably well. “Fearless painting for true beginners”, it proclaims, and there’s a chapter headed “Host a paint party”. My immediate reaction is that this is mainly aimed at the sort of person who likes the idea of drinking too much pinot grigio a lot more than they like the intellectual exercise of a book club.

That, though, is grossly unfair because, as I implied, this is aimed at a market that just isn’t the one I normally write for. My bad, but it would be wrong to criticise it for that. I’m honestly not sure of the authorship either, but I think Etta Vee may be an art system of which I’m ignorant. Think Bob Ross, but for millennials.

So, no, I can’t recommend it if you come here for my more advanced pearls of wisdom. However, it has a certain attraction and it’s just possible it would press enough of your creative buttons for you to think it was worthwhile. Jim Morrison reminded us that people are strange and, in a strange way, I’m coming round to rather liking it.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Drawing Animals | Lucy Swinburne

This is an enlarged edition of a book that first appeared in the Masterclass series in 2013. Sensibly, this time, the publisher has resisted the temptation to re-brand it as being for the beginner.

The Masterclass series was a good idea intended to appeal to more advanced artists who perhaps didn’t feel the need for instruction in basic techniques or a breakdown of the materials they’d need. However, it’s a risky approach as the non-specialist can easily feel excluded and that the whole thing is maybe too difficult.

Although there is plenty of advanced work here, this is nevertheless a thoroughly approachable book and should certainly appeal to anyone with reasonable drawing skills who is wanting to turn their attention to the animal world. Domestic, wild and zoo animals are included and there’s plenty of information on structural features such as eyes, ears and noses as well as complete projects that put the techniques you’ve developed into practice. There’s also a handy section on working from photographs and transferring that image to paper using a grid to get the proportions right.

I liked the original and, although I’m unable to compare the two editions, this has the feel of a complete guide.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Colour-Pencil Drawing || Kendra Ferreira

In a field that’s not widely covered, any book is welcome, and a good one doubly so. It’s therefore something of a relief to be able to report that this ticks all the boxes.

This media-related series from GMC is intended to be fairly elementary, but the variety of subjects covered here and the quality of the results – well-reproduced so that the individual marks are easy to distinguish – should satisfy more than just the raw beginner.

The nature of the book, both in terms of scope and extent, precludes any examination of anything other than fairly basic pencil types, but both dry and water-soluble ones get a look-in, which allows for a decent variety of styles to be considered. Subjects range from landscapes and skies to still lifes, people and animals. There are plenty of exercises and demonstrations as well as a pleasantly inclusive look at materials and techniques.

Although this is not intended to be an absolutely comprehensive look at the medium that would satisfy the most demanding specialist, it nevertheless goes a lot further than being merely a quick introductory guide and is a welcome addition to a fairly small body of literature.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Botanical Illustration From Life || Işik Güner

Isn’t all proper botanical illustration done from life?, asks a pedant. It’s a valid question, though, but one which is also unfair given the wide range of books available on the subject and relative shortage of titles.

The first thing that should be said is that this is not a manual for the budding botanical illustrator. The style of work that appears here is not the sort that would grace a species identification guide. The manner, however, is much more than the more relaxed plant portrait and includes sufficient detail for even the most demanding general painter of natural subjects.

What it does offer is probably the most thorough guide to top-end botanical painting you could wish for. At 208 pages, it’s a substantial tome and the space is not wasted. There are no establishing shots and few intrusive hands or photos of the artist at work. Rather, there are the exercises and demonstrations you’d expect, but also extensive analyses of flower, leaf and stem structure, all illustrated with some really rather exquisite paintings that make this more scientific aspect not merely interesting but a joy to work with. It’s about art and so it should be artistic.

Just about every aspect of botanical subjects is covered – I mentioned flowers, leaves and stems, but roots, fruit and seeds are here too. These, though, are only the subject matter and the technical aspects of portraying them are dealt with extensively as well. Once again, the extent is put to good use and, despite the comprehensive nature of the coverage, there’s never any sense of rush, or of things being crammed in. The pages are relaxed and very user-friendly

I quibbled over the title. If I was going to choose, I might call it The Complete Guide to Botanical Painting, but that’s probably been bagged already.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

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.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

  • Archives

  • Categories