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The Art of Watercolor Hardcover – June 1, 1995
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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From Library Journal
The authors of these two books approach watercolor with radically different philosophies. Smith believes firmly in painting in direct contact with nature: he believes that painters should either complete their work on-site or, at the least, return to the studio with sufficient sketches and color notes. His loose, atmospheric brushwork, limited palette, and carefully described methods are sure to please anyone interested in the traditional British landscape style of painting. This is a good companion to Jack Reid's excellent Watercolor Basics: Let's Get Started (LJ 12/98). Seslar, a contributing editor to the Artist's Magazine, has produced the first comprehensive watercolor book for beginners on working from photographs. The advantage to his method is that it trains the eye to visualize the transition of live objects to luminous paint on paper. He surveys different methods of photography and the uses of grids and pantographsAand, finally, provides 12 nicely varied demonstrations. Highly recommended, perhaps in conjunction with reference works like Bart Rulon's Artist's Photo Reference: Birds (LJ 3/15/99).
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Ray Campbell Smith is a painter of landscapes using fresh simple strokes. The advice he gives for how to paint watercolors reflect his personal preference combined with good practical advice. The book has a serious tone; it's not casual and touchy-feely as some other books on the market are. I personally like both types so am happy to get different advice from different artist authors.
After saying that you learn a lot through experience and regular practice he shares more. Beginners need to know "the proper approach is to analyze the problems posed and think out ways of overcoming them". (pg. 10) The most important stage of all successful watercolor painting is the mental translation of the observed image into watercolor terms and this is where skill and experience come into play." (pg. 10)
After general encouragement in the Introduction the chapters progress as it seems all beginner books do. He covers the topics of the paper and stretching, the brushes, using high quality paints, color theory, doing washes, and everything else that all the basic beginner books cover. The chapters on composition and perspective are basic information you may know from elsewhere but the author still peppers in tips and tidbits that make reading the chapters worthwhile.
Regarding materials I liked his classification of them into two categories: expensive necessities and expensive frills. He gives a lot of practical advice for us to consider when choosing colors and scenes, such as not using too many colors which can confuse a painting and ruin it. He believes that using the same or a few colors lets them "hang together". He feels that landscape painters should be subtle and understated to give a good visual effect.
The author shares his favorite paper, brushes, and paints. The issue with the recommendations of the brush sizes is they are correct for the canvas use he uses, so beginners need to keep that in mind. He advises to try different paper but to stay with your favorite so you can get to know it well. The same goes for the brushes. I completely agree with this advice.
I appreciated the encouragement and warnings to beginners such as to avoid picking a too complicated subject or picking a too-wide landscape, two common beginner mistakes. We are advised to look for good composition scenes rather than cliché things we think will sell. We are told to take time to get a feel for the subject, and to develop our personal style. Don't pick the obvious angle.
"When an artist has studied his subject profoundly and made an effort to look beneath the surface, his painting will have far greater depth. It will reveal something of what he felt and this can invest the most ordinary subject with magic." (pg 67) That is the type of excellent wise advice that is peppered through this book in between the more basic beginner's tips that you may have heard elsewhere, which makes reading this book worthwhile.
There is a lot of practical advice and I took copious notes. I learned a lot by reading this book and can't recommend it highly enough so long as you appreciate the style of painting that Ray Campbell Smith does.
I rate this book 5 stars = I Love It.