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Watercolor Painting: A Comprehensive Approach to Mastering the Medium Hardcover – December 11, 2012

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Watercolor Painting: A Comprehensive Approach to Mastering the Medium + The Complete Watercolorist's Essential Notebook: A treasury of watercolor secrets discovered through decades of painting and experimentation + Paint Watercolors that Dance with Light
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Watson-Guptill (December 11, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0823006735
  • ISBN-13: 978-0823006731
  • Product Dimensions: 11.2 x 9.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #68,883 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Tom Hoffmann is a practicing artist and teacher who has been dedicated to the watercolor medium for more than thirty years. He received his BFA from Amherst College and an MA in Art Education from the University of London. His paintings have been exhibited at the Seattle Art Museum, the Frye Museum, Tacoma Art Museum, the Copley Society of Boston, and the Park Avenue Armory in New York City.  He currently teaches three levels of watercolor classes at the Gage Academy of Art in Seattle, Washington.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

"Having observed the progress of many watercolor students over the years, I can make a few informed generalizations about the limits we put on our own range. Most common of all is the tendency to stop short of the deep, rich, darks the image may require, This is why it is especially important to ask late in the painting process: Are the darks dark enough?
Of course, certain technnical concerns can affect how dark the paint can be, but these can usually be solved with a piece of practice paper and a spirit of inquiry. The trickiest issues seem to have more to do with psychology than technique. For example, all watercolor paint dries lighter than it appears when it is wet. This is always true. You knew it the first week you started painting, right? There comes a point after which it is just plain silly to use this as a reason for not getting dark enough darks. You've got practice paper. Do the work, and make sure. You are the one who is in charge of your paintings."

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 64 customer reviews
It is clearly written with good examples.
J. Bryan
Watercolor Painting: A Comprehensive Approach to Mastering the Medium is a book by Tom Hoffmann all about his specific style and technique in doing watercolors.
Lisa Shea
It is also a book that you will come back to time and time again, as something new can usually be gleaned from each reading.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 58 people found the following review helpful By M Sharkey on January 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I, too, have had the good fortune to study with Tom Hoffmann. Although I primarily work in oils and pastels, Tom's approach to painting, summarized in this excellent book, has proven very useful for me in terms of the types of questions one must ask before applying any paint to the surface. The processes outlined in the book have helped me to stay fresh in my paintings. The title of this book could easy have been "Confident Strokes" - for that is the essence of Tom's teaching. Something that I and many others that I know strive for in our work.

Hoffmann's wry humor and personal tone, never preachy, make this book very approachable. He writes from his own learning and in no way implies that he is better than anyone else - only that he has a lot of experience in both painting and teaching. For example, he includes examples of his own unsuccessful watercolors (one is even titled "Flop") in order to point out how he can succumb to the same problems as anyone else. He guides the reader along in a journey of learning, never assuming that it is easy and always assuming that the one holding the brush is ultimately making the decisions about their painting. This is no "how to" book with all the answers. It is more like a book of questions: what are the important decisions that painters might make to help them through the painting process?

The emphasis is that one should know the answers to some of these questions BEFORE the brush touches the paper. Hoffmann walks the reader through the process of making preliminary sketches and repeated testing. These exercises allow the artist to work through the issues in a meaningful way.
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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Kristen Scott on December 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Tom Hoffmann has written a book that guides the interested watercolorist through a series of important topics or aspects of watercolor that form the core of mastering the medium. It's provocative, thoughtful and inspirational in turn. The book is filled with beautiful paintings by the author and other wonderful watercolor artists that illustrate each topic clearly. The author's narrative voice is informal enough that it's like sitting down with him over a cup of coffee, but rigorous in how he frames the questions artists must ask of themselves in order to get better. This is a book to read again and again as each time will reveal another layer in how to look at your art with clear eyes and determine where to go next. It is not so much a how-to book as a "what, when and why" guide for the intermediate and advanced painter. Do yourself a favor and take time to savor it! It's worth your time.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By R. Paulick on January 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you are an artist stepping into the flow of watercolor painting for the first time, or are already in mid-stream, "Watercolor Painting" by Tom Hoffmann is your best survival guide. It should have been written 15 years ago when my brush first touched those colorful waters. What Mr. Hoffmann writes about; the big picture, the fundamentals of painting, the handling of the water and pigments, understanding yourself, and more, are all written so that they can be understood. Another important point, Mr. Hoffmann does not write about painting like Mr. Hoffmann like so many other artist's books. He just tells you what he has learned on his own by making mistakes (and he shows you some), by studying other artists works (and he shows you some again along with footnotes concerning the point being made), or from discussions about painting issues with his artist friends. These were, for me, keys to improving my painting.

I commend Watson-Guptill Publishing for taking on this publication, and I thank Mr. Hoffmann for sharing his knowledge. My gut feeling is this book will become a classic. So it should be on your bookshelf, used until it is worn out, and purchased again.

Ron Paulick
Past President Montana Watercolor Society
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Carole Pivarnik on March 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book somewhat reluctantly because while the description and other reviews sounded good, the preview of the feature paintings didn't thrill me that much. To be honest, I'm not all that keen on the author's artistic style. And being an artist, I am nothing if not particular when it comes to visual things.

However, I went ahead and bought it. And don't you know--once I dug in, I was compelled to read it cover to cover. Hoffman distills the craft of making good watercolor paintings to its fine essence, with concepts that are easy to wrap your brain around and easy to imagine applying in your own work. Every page offers some important little insight or key pointer that is presented in a way that I've not seen in other books--often delivered with some gently acerbic humor which I enjoyed. As I progressed through the book, Hoffman's paintings grew on me a bit because they were so illustrative of the concepts he covers. Of course, there is work by artists other than Hoffman, and I appreciated that because it helps to see works in different styles which all demonstrate a particular concept effectively but in different ways. It is a thinking book though...if you are looking for simple formulas for how to paint a good picture, you won't find them here. This book asks questions, explores possible answers, and expects you to consider its questions yourself to find your own answers. It doesn't lead you by the hand but it does provide an excellent framework for an approach to producing well planned and well thought out watercolors. The language and examples are simple, supported by narrative that cuts right to the chase with a minimum of fuss.

I think this is a must-have book for every serious watercolorist who wants to improve their work through careful consideration of what they are doing with each brushstroke. It has earned a place as a top ten favorite in my extensive library of watercolor instruction books and has already informed my painting process.
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