This time last year we went to Huskisson for a few days. It is right on the ocean, but instead of a long straight beach, it has an interesting coastline. We sat on the beach painting the sea. I paint the water in Sydney Harbour a lot, but the open sea is a different story. It has direction. When I got home I trawled the net, looking for a book about painting water. Not as easy as you would think. A number of the books were about painting American lakes and rivers. Colours all wrong for us. Even more of the books had painting that was ‘too pretty’. Finally, while reading through reviews of quite another book, I found one that said, “Don’t buy this book. Buy “The Complete Watercolorist’s Essential Notebook”. It is the best for painting water. And if you buy the 10th anniversary edition, you get two books in one.”
Of course I had seen it around. It’s not a new book. But in view of this recommendation I ordered it from the library. Sold! Yes, it is two books. Without any indication on the cover, which as you see says, “The Complete Watercolorist’s Essential Notebook”, half way through there is a new title page and it becomes ” The Watercolorists’s Essential Notebook – Landscapes”.
It is perfect for me. I have done ‘creative watercolour’ for some time, about 15 years ago, (I will show you soon) and never really been taught the basics. This book has it all. It’s perfect for someone who wants to learn the fundamentals, and also perfect for the sketchbook. If I’m out sketching, if it’s not buildings, then it’s landscape. And it’s all in here. So many watercolour books rely on the artist’s idiosyncratic style to sell them. Beautiful watercolours, yes, but not particularly translatable to another artist’s style. This one is different. It is like an encyclopedia of watercolour.
Back to my original hunt for painting water…just the thing I wanted. Wave direction and surface patterns. Pages and pages about painting water. Just to dip in elsewhere…trees, branching options. The quality of sunlight, making billowy clouds. You want to paint it? You can look it up in this book. For example, in the first part of the book there is a chart of watercolour paints, colour by colour, brand by brand. Lots of small exercises. Painting with brushes, palette knives, sticks, sponges. There is a chapter about the factors to consider when you put together a composition. Anything you might want to look up about watercolour painting is here. And it is done with humour. It’s a thick book and a bargain at the price.
We were talking about perspective. If there is one book about perspective you have to have it is is this one. In fact if you don’t want any art books at all, I still say you need two. The Creative License: Giving Yourself Permission to Be the Artist You Truly Are, and this one, The Art of Perspective: The Ultimate Guide for Artists in Every Medium
After my art training at the Sydney Gallery School, I’m up to speed with perspective. I might not get it right every time, but I sure do know when it’s wrong. Last year I was asked to extend my sketchbook course to some extra weeks, so one of the subjects I thought I should have notes on, was perspective. (I give notes for all my classes). Oh, so one-point,2-point, 3-perspective, ellipses…..yes, what else? So I got a bunch of books from the library to see how writers structured writing about perspective, and I found this GEM. This book is suitable for any media. Perspective is across everything.
In another life I’m an acrylic painting teacher. What I found in this book was example after example of the things I explain constantly to my students. Things not to be found in other books. The book is broken up into three sections
- Natural Perspective
- Linear Perspective
- Linear Perspective (special problems)
The Linear Perspecive (1,2,3 etc) was what I expected to find in a perspective book but this book has so much more. Buy THIS book, not any other. I had an earlier book by the same author but this one is far superior. It is the Natural Perspective section that makes it really stand out….for any landscape painter or urban sketcher.
Just looking at my copy right now, I have a yellow sticky in the page about ‘distant hills’, something I am constantly explaining to my students. Another is in the page about advancing and receding colours. It is a wonderful teaching aid for any medium. With this book, I can not only explain, but show an example. It has all manner of useful information, such as ‘What affects a cast shadow’. You see what I mean? You need this book.
When I got back from my trip to Europe, my adult nephew from Brisbane came down to visit. I showed him my travel sketchbook. after a while he said, ‘I would like to do that. But I failed drawing when I was six’. And then he said, ‘But then again, I do technical drawings for my work.’ I said, well, in that case you can do it. Anyone can do it. I showed him Danny Gregory’s book The Creative License: Giving Yourself Permission to Be the Artist You Truly Are. I also gave him some paper and a pen. He sketched several times a day for the next few days, and when he wasn’t doing that, he was reading Danny’s book. He got on to amazon.com and ordered it too.
Then I gave him a sketchbook – a bought one – but he expressed the wish to make one like mine. A few weekends later he came down again ‘to go sketching’. The weather forecast wasn’t good, so I went up to the art shop and bought enough Canaletto paper to make two books. Just as well.
So Friday night we talked sketching and painting and he ordered The Art of Perspective: The Ultimate Guide for Artists in Every Medium. I have a review half-written to post on this blog. This book is perspective but so much more. He also ordered The Complete Watercolorist’s Essential Notebook: A treasury of watercolor secrets discovered through decades of painting and experimentation. This is two books in one and has everything you need to know about watercolour, particularly for landscape.
Saturday it poured with rain. I made the blue book above. I really loved this format while I was travelling, and I think I will stick to it for a while. My nephew chose some of my paste paper in burnt sienna and green for his covers, and an old map for the end papers. He had never done this before, but he took to coptic binding like a duck to water. Stitching faster than me, and a beautiful professional result. He has every right to be proud of it.
Then later he looked at some more of my books and ordered Danny Gregory’s An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers, and also The Art of Urban Sketching: Drawing On Location Around The World. I think you could say he is hooked.
I’d planned to sketch this necklace anyway. While I was setting up, I heard them say on the radio that it was Star Wars Day. It’s a sort of star on the necklace – well, I’ve never considered it a flower – so I thought it was even more appropriate. I received it a few years ago from my friend Viv in England and I do love it. Every time I wear it someone comments on how nice it is.
I am still trying to do this ‘materiality’ thing. This was a new approach, that I think has worked really well and I will use again. I quickly roughed the necklace in with a yellow ochre watercolour pencil. The sun was moving fast (I was multi-tasking with household chores) so I moved it along to follow the sun & roughed in the shadows. Then I got a post office pen (a dip pen) and sepia ink & drew the necklace. Finally I took my brush to the watercolour pencil and then added a little more dark to the beads. I must say that I like the line that the dip pen gives. It’s much more hesitant and wavery – and more scratchy too, but somehow it seems more me. I have the full range of Matisse Inks so I plan to try them all with this process..
The other night while I was lying on the floor doing exercises, I pulled this book out of the bottom shelf of the book case to revisit it. It is The Artist’s Drawing Book by Moira Huntly. It’s an old book and you can get a second hand copy very cheaply. Reading it again during the last couple of days, I realised that it is like a bible to materiality. Moira Huntly shares her processes with drawings in a huge range of different materials. There’s inspiration in there to keep me going way past Every Day in May – perhaps past the end of the year. I’d say – buy it!
Every Day in May is coming up fast. Join us – get the info from the sidebar on the right.
My current sketchbook is very close to full. As I did last year I’m going to use a smaller sketchbook in May. My current one with the blue paste paper cover is a case-bound book made with Como paper. The size of the book relates to the division of the large sheets of paper when I made it. Como paper is very heavy cartridge paper – like the paper you use in your printer but much much heavier, 210 gsm.
My new book had the pages torn to match the size of the covers of this old book. It is Canaletto paper, 300gsm, smooth. It is a watercolour paper and very robust. It was coptic bound, then the spine closed in with leather. I think it gives it a suitably retro look. I’m looking forward to starting this little book, though the small size will drive me mad. I keep wanting to draw bigger than the page no matter which book I have.
This year in May I am going to allow white space to work for me.Elizabeth Perry‘s blog, Woolgathering inspires me. I always fill the page. So this time I am going to go minimalist, while also trying to keep the materiality thing going. I also plan to set a ten-minute timer on my phone. So we will see what I have in my sketchbook by May 31.
Join Every Day in May.
We met at the Tara Tea Rooms only recently when our friend Cynthia from the USA was here. This week we were back again, as it was a slightly damp morning & we had a lot of catching up to do. Fortunately at Tara Tea Rooms there is always something to draw – the wonderful collection of tea cosies.
I took with me the beautiful watercolour sketchbook about Bali, An Artist’s Journey to Bali: The Island of Art, Magic and Mystery that Cynthia gave me for a gift, so that the others could see it. Bali is my second home. Cynthia and her husband had visited it for the first time and followed many of my recommendations. You can read about her visit on her blog.