Saturday, 5 May 2012

The Ultimate Drawing and Painting Technique Bible by Trudy Friend

I am happily working my way through this book by Trudy Friend.  I am not sure why this has the word 'ultimate' in the title.  I am sure there are more than the eight techniques covered here.  Eight techniques doesn't sound a lot but you can acheive some very interesting effects using them in a varieity of media.  It was interesting to see the same techniques being used in graphite, coloured pencil, pastel and watercolour with very clear intruction and examples.  Some things I thought as being 'too simple' actually gave very pleasing results when worked through in my sketch book.  The book has, for some reason I can't put my finger on, a look that seems to be targeting the beginner and maybe that is the biggest audience but don't let that put you off.  There is alway something to learn.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

You Can Paint People in Watercolour by Sharon Finmark

I usually steer clear of trying to draw or paint people mainly due to not being able to get a satisfactory likeness, so I was attracted to the title and the subtitle "A step-by-step guide for ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS".  Sounded like a good place to start.  The artist's style I would describe as producing paintings that are 'fresh and loose' rather than full of fine detail.  Some may not like the drawing and wash appearance but I found it helpful to get practice with colour and tone to suggest three dimensional shapes.  The aim of the book is captured in the introduction "this book will enable you to add convincing figures to your painting".  Having worked through many of the suggestions and examples I believe I can say that it worked for me.  A section of the book I found particularly helpful was one looking at skin tone which I always struggle with in watercolours.  After a couple of poor attempts I started to get the idea of building up in layers and placing tones to highlight facial features.  In the end I don't think I was any better at capturing a likeness but that was never the promise of the book just my wishful thinking, but I was better at making marks on the paper in watercolour which looked like people.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

How to Paint Miniatures by Robert Hughes and Elizabeth Johnson

I have seen miniatures many times in galleries but hadn't really thought about trying one for myself until I came across this little book.  There is a interesting short history of the miniature but that is only a few pages in length.  The most interesting section for me was on materials and techniques and is certainly worth a read.  I had never thought of an plastic replacement for ivory as a base.  The book subtitle is 'Step-by-step projects in watercolour, gouache and oils.' and this was perhaps a rather disappointing aspect of the book.  Not that the content was poor, just that many of the projects and subject matter, composition, etc. could have been in any art instruction book and not exclusively on miniatures.  What I took away from reading was that it seems that the 'secret' of painting miniatures is to use a very fine brush and a magnifying glass!  An interesting little book but it hasn't inspired me.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Watercolour Challenge Practical Painting Course

This is a great instruction book for both beginners to working with watercolour and for those bored with a particular style or subject.  There is some wonderful material in this book.  Something I particularly like is the fact that it draws on the work of several artists to learn from.  The advantage over books by a named artist is that you invariably get taught how to paint how they work, which is probably the attraction in the first place.  It was published a while ago but I think it is still possible to find a copy – try Amazon.  It is a fairly large book, 288 pages in a large page format.  There are 10 chapters, going through: Paint Basics, Colour Theory, Brushstrokes, Using Sketches, Drawing Media, Drawing Techniques, Planning Pictures, Composition Skills, Special Effects, and Equipment.  Technique and step by step demonstrations are liberal throughout.  There is a surprising amount of material on drawing for a book which is billed as a painting course, however, I think this is a huge plus.  If you don’t have a good grasp of drawing skills then you are limiting yourself to the styles and subjects you can successfully tackle as a painter.  In fact, I learned more about drawing and composition from this book than from some others that were dedicated to those topics.  A few of the artist featured are: Charles Bartlett, Richard Allen, Kate Gwynn, Tony Porter, Anthony Matthews, Ian Sidaway and Glen Scouller; covering a great range of styles, approaches and subjects.  In summary, the book covers a wide range from basic to advanced topics, has work from a wide range of artists, but this is all brought together and done extremely well.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Complete Guide to Watercolour Painting by David Bellamy

I like this book. It might be a bit of an exaggeration to call it a complete guide but it is pretty comprehensive in subject matter. The beginning of the book starts off with a brief overview of materials and basic technique. Although this is covered by just about every other art instruction book, Bellamy does a good job here especially for the beginner giving sound advice on the paper and brushes that should be bought first. Perhaps not much of a surprises to the more experienced watercolourist that he suggests starting with 425gram Not paper, and for brushes; a large squirrel mop, a number 4 and a number 7 or 8 round, a number 1 rigger and a 13mm flat, however, great information for the beginner who will be prevented from having drawers full of unused brushes (like me). The basic techniques are clearly explained and well illustrated with photographs. Two sections that I particularly liked were 'Understanding tone', and 'Using colour' where there was no attempt to confuse with colour theory, just clear, informative and again well illustrated demonstration of the material being discussed. I did feel that the section on 'Composition' was the weakest in the book and although there was nothing wrong here it could do with more explanatory text and more variety. To be fair, composition is covered later in the book embedded in other sections. After that we come to a series of topics; still life, flowers and plants, landscape, buildings, painting people and coastal scenery. This reflects the philosophy of the book of getting beginners to try subjects or disciplines that they would not normally attempt or be immediately attracted to. There are examples of each subject area together with a step-by-step guides leading to a finished watercolour. The guides include details of the paper used, the colours, brushes and any additional materials for example paper tissue or a tooth brush (to create a spattered effect). The finished watercolour paintings reproduced in the book may not be to everyone’s taste but they are, I think, an inspiration to those like me who paint for leisure and pleasure. It is not a huge book at 128 pages, but it is obvious from the quality of the instruction and the demonstration paintings why David Bellamy has such a large and dedicated following. I would certainly recommend that this book form part of any watercolour painter's library to be used and referred to later.