Modern Watercolor Botanicals || Sarah Simon

Let’s say first of all that this is a very attractively presented book. That’s not to damn it with faint praise, but rather to emphasise just how much first impressions matter. As soon as I look at its gilt spiral binding and edge reinforcements, I just want to like it.

The content is a series of lessons and exercises in painting flowers and flower arrangements. There’s a standardised layout that makes following the instructions easy and each demonstration comes with plenty of step-by-step illustrations. Instructions are offered for three different skill levels: beginner, intermediate or advanced. I’ve always resisted this classification as one person’s beginner is another’s expert – I’ve spoken to professional painters who’ve said “I’m really only a beginner” and people who’ve been working for all of six months and can’t be taught anything new. Still, at least it offers you the opportunity to choose how much detail and hand-holding you want, even if at the cost of perhaps a little over-writing.

The basic outlines which, it should be said, have a strong graphic content, are traceable, so you can work with prepared outlines if you want. There’s also plenty of information about colour and materials. Yes, this has its limitations, but it’s also comprehensive and easy to understand once you get the hang of the format.

I wanted to like it and I do.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Mixed Media Landscapes and Seascapes || Chris Forsey

If you’re into mixed media, or Alison C Board’s excellent introduction has whetted your appetite, you’ll welcome this thorough guide to landscapes.

Chris works in watercolour, oil, ink, acrylic and pastel and he shows you here how to create what can only be called dynamic images by judicious combinations of some or all of them. From the simple application of gouache to highlight breaking waves to a summer lane done in watersoluble and oil pastel, Chris demonstrates ways of capturing atmosphere through careful use of materials. He is particularly sound on the use of texture to create form and pick out highlights.

The book itself has a good mixture of discussion, exercises and demonstrations. Chris will show you what you’re trying to achieve, allow you to practise the effects you want and then move on to a full demonstration that brings everything together nicely.

There’s plenty of variety here and a host of illustrations that make everything clear and easy to follow. My only complaint is that some of the reproduction is a little unsharp, making it difficult to see some of the detail when that’s what you really want.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Mastering The Art of Landscapes || Sarah Hoggett & Abigail Edgar

This was part of a series that was originally published a few years ago, but here has a welcome reissue. The style and presentation remain fresh and the colour reproduction shows little sign of age.

The book is a portmanteau and showcases watercolour, oils and drawing media. That may mean you get material you don’t think is relevant to you, although you may also feel that the different approaches that are demonstrated present ideas outside those you would normally expect. Some people can look at a cloud demonstration and see beyond the medium it was painted in, others need very specific information relating to colour mixing and mark-making. Neither group is wrong, you just need to take what you can from what’s presented.

What you do get is a thoroughly eclectic mix of topics, subject and mediums. There are skies, sunsets, rocks, trees, flowers, seascapes, waves and even rainbows. Each of the 30 demonstrations is fully explained and illustrated and the generous page format makes it very easy to follow.

The list of contributing artists is also impressive and includes David Curtis, Trudy Friend, Wendy Jelbert, Ronald Jesty, Ray Balkwill and quite a few more.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

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.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

John Singer Sargent – his life and works in 500 images || Susie Hodge

This is one of the latest titles in a really rather excellent series. Susie Hodge is a perceptive anthologiser and her generous selection of images covers not just the gamut of her subjects’ careers, but also the whole breadth of their work.

Books such as this stand or fall largely on the quality of the reproduction. At a modest £17, one should not be over-critical and good enough is, frankly, good enough. It is therefore a pleasure to report that this is a whole lot better than merely adequate. To get this amount of material could easily cost three or four times as much and, unless you wanted a definitive monograph, you’re vanishingly unlikely to be disappointed. Frankly, I’ve seen books like that which are a whole lot worse, so you can confidently fill your boots with this one.

The text is necessarily concise, but the basic information is all there. Again, we are in the territory of an introductory survey for the general reader and you get, I think, a lot more than you might expect. It’s all very clear and there are some genuine insights – it’s a very great deal more than “this is a painting and this is what it’s of”.

There’s much to like here, much to get your teeth into and it’s an all-round thorough job.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Degas at the Opéra || Henri Loyrette

Edgar Degas was famously at home with the ballet and his paintings of dancers are among his most famous and loved works. He was, however, also fascinated by the Opéra de Paris and this book is devoted to this sometimes overlooked aspect of his work, to the extent that this is the first book to be devoted to the subject.

It is, it should be said, an exhaustive tome. If there was anything you want to know about the artist’s involvement with the institution, you’ll find it here. It doesn’t seem likely that the author has left any gaps for subsequent volumes to fill. That’s not by any means a bad thing, but it does make this very much a book for the specialist. The depth and authority of the research is impressive, as is the production. Some 100 major works in a wide variety of media are reproduced, along with preparatory sketches and drawings of the building’s furniture and fixtures. It amounts to something of an artistic documentary.

There’s really not a lot more that can be said. If you’re a Degas completist, or a fan of the Paris Opéra, you’ll want this and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. The more general reader might baulk at the £45 price tag, but I don’t think the specialist would. Frankly, for a book of this extent and quality, it’s not even a huge amount.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Charcoal || Richard Rochester

GMC’s occasional series of simple introductions to individual media lands on one that’s rarely covered on its own. Even as part of a more general survey of drawing media, charcoal often only gets a passing mention.

Why this is, is hard to say. True, it can be messy. True also, it can look a mess in unskilled hands. Pure black that can’t be easily diluted into a tone is tricky to master. It requires a lot of leavening with a light touch and generous use of the background support or additional materials. Keeping to the spirit of the single medium approach, Richard uses “white charcoal” which, while technically not that substance, nevertheless behaves like it.

The book is based around a series of demonstrations that cover a good range of subjects from still lifes to wildlife, figures, landscapes and seascapes. Each one requires a different technical approach and this is where you’ll learn the more detailed skills. As well as traditional sticks, Richard also works with compressed charcoal and charcoal pencils.

Even if you don’t think, at the end of it, that you’d want to work in charcoal on its own, you’ll nevertheless be impressed and surprised by its versatility and be ready – eager even – to incorporate it in your drawing armoury.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Artist’s Guide to Human Anatomy || Giovanni Civardi

I’m not absolutely sure whether this is a new book or one of the older titles that has been reissued. To a very large extent, that’s not relevant, as these reissues appear to have all new origination and are often in a larger format. Quite simply, if you have an old and well-thumbed copy, you’ll probably want this anyway.

Giovanni has, of course, produced books on just about every aspect of figure drawing, but this one fills in the gap for those who need more about the actual structure of the human body. Inevitably, there’s a medical aspect to some of this, and many artists may feel that it gives them more information than they need. At the same time, this is written in Giovanni’s characteristic straightforward style and is definitely for the lay reader rather than the specialist.

There is no doubt that it’s thorough. There’s plenty of information about bone and muscle structure as well as how everything fits together and sustains the outward pose. Beyond the technicality there’s a wealth of aesthetic material that’s of fundamental use to the artist.

If you want to know what underpins the figures you’re drawing, how and why they appear the way they do, there’s no better guide, from an artistic point of view, than this.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Artist Studios New York || Marco Anelli

If you like peeking into artists’ studios, this is a treat. Marco Anelli is a photographer who specialises in projects and this one is exactly what you’d expect from the title. The quality both of the photographs, which include the artists themselves as well as their spaces, and the reproduction are superb and this is an absolute delight to look at. I’m not that bothered by studios myself – I prefer the artist’s work – and yet I’m saying that. The generous format of the book helps a lot.

Not all the names will necessarily be familiar, but Marina Abramović and William S Burroughs stand out. If I was going to be picky (when am I not?), I could have done with some text. However, Marco would probably counter that he’s a photographer and that, if the images don’t stand for themselves, it may be me who’s missing something. The overall quality here would suggest that he’d be the one who’s right.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Artemesia Gentileschi || Jonathan Jones

The #MeToo movement has brought the story of Artemisia Gentileschi into sharp focus and this short biography is timely. Jonathan Jones takes the rather original route of telling the story via a series of the artist’s paintings of women – Susanna, Judith, Cleopatra, Lucretia and Mary, concluding with his own portrait of Artemesia’s own narrative. It makes for lively reading and manages to meld the art with the woman in a genuinely intimate way.

My copy is an advance proof, but the quality of the illustrations, which are collected in the centre rather than being distributed throughout the book, is good. It seems probable that the quality in the published version will be excellent.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

  • Archives

  • Categories