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on October 25, 2001
edgar whitney was perhaps the most influential american watercolor instructor of the 20th century, and this book (first published in the 1960's) is the popular and definitive statement of his painting principles. be warned: this is actually a book on visual design, with emphasis on the "six pattern schemes," the "rule of good form," the seven principles and eight elements of design, and so forth; technical advice is limited to wet in wet and texturing methods, and a fine chapter on drawing, the "foundation of all visual art." whitney's paintings -- which strike me as crass and histrionic -- may warn you about the level that "art" can sink to when it's based on simple formulas. but whitney is inspiring as a teacher, not as an artist, and his teaching is animated by a belief in the high purposes of art, the importance of craft, practice and scholarship, and by a disarming attitude of honesty and earnestness in everything he says. personally, i think the watercolor volume by skip lawrence (a whitney student) provides a better design introduction, but whitney's book is a classic -- fun to read, invaluable to refer to, and it may even improve your painting style.
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on September 20, 2003
I wish publishers would stop calling their books "Complete Guides" to a subject. No guide to watercolor-or anything else-can possibly be complete. This raises unrealistic hopes that the reader will soon learn are unfounded. However, I love this book, and recommend it to serious students of painting, despite the unfortunate and rather bogus title.

A better, though more cumbersome title, might have been "Introducing the Fundamentals of Graphic Design as Applied to Watercolor Painting."

While this book does not offer every possible bit of information you will ever need to paint in watercolor, it can teach you how to design your paintings thoughtfully and well. The author understood the fundamentals of design, and explained them clearly and logically. Many of his own paintings are included as instructional examples. I found them very helpful, although the black and white reproductions are not always easy to "read".

Some people like to paint intuitively and emotionally with no conscious consideration of design. If this is your preference, and you have no wish to consider other approaches, this is not the book for you. This is also not the best book for someone looking for in-depth lessons in color theory. There is some discussion of the general working methods and materials of traditional watercolor painting, but that alone would not make me recommend the book. Much of this information can be found in the many introductory watercolor books on the market today. These often have great visual appeal, with lush color reproductions, and lots of sparkling white space. But looks can be deceiving. While this rather plain-looking book will not win a beauty contest, get to know it well and you will find that it has hidden charms.

What makes this book so valuable to me is its emphasis on drawing and composition as the foundation of painting. If you share the author's faith in this foundation, but have not been able to master these subjects through your own efforts, this book can be an excellent (though not complete) guide.
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on February 27, 2007
If you are a serious painter, you need to know two basic things....how to put paint on paper and where to put paint on paper. A lot of books will teach you the former. No book will teach the latter better than Edgar Whitney's. And if you don't master design (where to put the paint) it doesn't matter how well you put it on paper or canvas(technique). Whitney said of the 7 elements and 8 principles of design " For lack of understanding of 15 words you will occasionally produce a good painting but will not be capable of evaluating why". This book is not for looking at the pretty pictures. It's a book to be studied and to learn from. If you do, you'll be glad you did.
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on May 27, 2008
Complete Guide to Watercolor Painting by Edgar A. Whitney is not a coffee table book, not "eye candy;" but the quick readability of the black and white reproductions of Whitney's watercolors shows that he knows what he's talking about when it comes to design and the importance of a good value pattern. This is a book for the serious student of watercolor painting who is willing to take instruction and work at his/her craft, and it is, in fact, an excellent instruction manual for any painter, as the design principles are universal.

After studying dozens of art books over the years and taking university art classes and workshops from nationally known artists, this book is what finally helped me "get it" when it came to putting together an effective watercolor painting. The black and white reproductions do not detract from the soundness of the instruction. It may be helpful to have other books on color theory, various techniques, etc., but these are only peripherals to the sound design basics taught in this book.

If you want a book that is similar to this older model in its instruction on design but with all pictures in color, Tony Couch's more recent Keys to Successful Painting, might suit you well. But note that Tony Couch, along with a long list of other well-known watercolorists, were disciples of Edgar A. Whitney.
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on May 23, 2001
Many great watercolorists of our day are proud to mention that they were students of Edgar A. Whitney. His "Principles of design" and "Elements of design" constantly show up in modern day watercolor technique books.
This book is a must for those of us who love watercolor. The graphics are, of course, dated, but that's a part of the charm of owning a book authored by one of the true masters of the media.
It's a good read, front to back, but you'll also find yourself returning to it again and again in your workshop or studio for reference.
Mr. Whitney has the reputation, not only of being a genius but also being a bit of a rascal in his workshops, pulling no punches in his critiques and also reveling in joking with his students. I was born too late to experience his workshops, but I treasure this volume of his words and wisdom
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on January 7, 2009
How can a book that claims to be a "complete guide" to watercolor painting be produced without color??? It boggles the mind. All the illustrations are in black and white, reproduced as if by a xerox machine, with muddled detail to boot. Unbelievable!
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on August 24, 2001
This book is one of the classics in watercolor that every watercolor painter should read. Whitney inspires and instructs at the same time. His elements and principles of design are fundamentals that should be used in every painting. It's about time this book came back in print.
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on July 8, 2009
Complete Guide to Watercolor Painting
Most illustrations are in black and white, more than 50% indeed. That's not what a watercolor book should be.
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on January 11, 2015
This is an excellent book for watercolor painters. You have to read the book, not just look at the pictures. (I mean, the pictures are fine) There is a high level of value in the instruction. When I first opened the book, I have to admit that I wasn't that taken with his illustrations. But then I started to read it. (Disclaimer - I am a professional artist, have studied and also taught watercolor for many years. So am not a newbie looking for first steps.) This is a very thoughtfully written, understated book, one of the better ones out there for landscape painting instruction, IMO. A lot of authors will adequately cover the basics and then demo how they do a particular subject - Whitney covers a lot more material, gets into the why and wherefore. Buy it. But more importantly, read it. You'll learn a lot from it. A lot of things he's covering aren't being taught so well anymore.
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on May 24, 2007
I was disappointed that 90% of the examples by Whitney were in BLACK and WHITE. It would have been far more helpful had the pictures been in color.
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