Sunday, 15 July 2012

Plein air, Watercolour books and other bargains

Last week we were on holiday in Devon, which is in the South West of England. We already live in an area that is classified as the South West but Devon is further south, only Cornwall further away. I took a full painting kit even though the weather forecast was poor (or very poor). In fact the general area we were staying in near Newton Abbot had several red warnings from the Met office and some places quite close suffered devastating floods. Where is this heading? Essentially in a roundabout way I am saying that conditions, rain most days, although mostly intermittent,  precluded any substantial plein air activity, but I did get one short session in at Kingsbridge, which is further down near the coast.

This is the scene I was facing. I have more photographs.

 Unfinished sketch 16" x 12" Centenaire 140lb not

The previous day we had been to Trago Mills, a very well known major discount operation and something of an institution - they sell everything - close by. They have three such, the other two in Cornwall where the original one is on the site of what had been a large mill. Trago has an art section where a limited range of products are on offer including Daler Rowney Artists watercolours. The full range (79 colours) was for sale and I purchased two tubes of Cobalt Blue Deep for only £5.59p each! The RPP is £15,25p and even Jacksons are £8.80p, while most other artist quality Cobalt Blues are around £12.00p. Series A were £3.99p while B/C are £5.59p. See what Handprint say about Rowney Cobalt Blue Deep. Except for the fact I'm overloaded with paint at present I would have bought more.

And that isn't all! Trago sell books (what don't they sell) and amongst some art books I found a copy of  the  `The New Encyclopedia of Watercolour Tecniques' by Diana Craig and Hazel Harrison (Search Press 2011), originally published as `The Encyclopedia of Watercolour Tecniques' in 2004. I have recently been evaluating this book (both from the library) together with `The Compedium of Watercolour Techniques' by Robin Berry, again Search Press, for a feature on the blog and it struck me these are useful books and not just for beginners. I won't go into detail because I'll be covering, and comparing them, in more detail in the next two weeks. Trago had several copies most of which were £9.49p (RPP £12.99p). However quite by chance I picked up a brand new copy that was priced at  £5.99p and that was what I paid! I've left the best until last.

Paperback 128 pages AC Black , London 1985 (reprinted 1987) Size 81/4 x 103/4

These days it is very difficult to find a real book bargain. You do get some fair prices on Abebooks  but in general used booksellers have the market tied up and  finding a bargain is rare. In fact the reverse is true. Quality books tend to rocket in price once out of print and those by many well-known artists may be priced at several times the original cover price. UK sellers can be expensive and when on holiday to the USA and Canada I have found that used books are generally far more reasonable and availability very good..

With the mushrooming of charity shops in the UK in recent years many sell some used books. Stocks vary  but there is always a chance you might find something good. A couple of years ago in Keynsham two miles from my home, I found several which obviously had come from the same person, including a copy of `Watercolor' by John Pike. The late John Pike, he of the JP palette, is  famous in the USA and his books much sought after. I didn't buy it at less than £10 and have regretted this ever since, though as a matter of principle I don't tie myself in knots over what might have been. When I was in Kingsbridge a wander up the high street spied a charity shop with some books. The book above was the result. I have two John Blockley books, an A5 paperback published in association with Daler Rowney and the hardback `Country Landscapes in Watercolour' (1982). At this moment I also have `The Challenge of Watercolour' (1979), another hardback, on loan from the library. These latter two seem to be his best known and I confess I didn't know the book above which was published in 1985 so in many respects it supercedes the others. It has the advantage of being in colour whereas the earlier books are mainly monochrome. Just out of curiosity when  home I looked it up on Abebooks and found several copies for sale from different booksellers. The cheapest was £22.98p including carriage, and the others ranged from £31.35p to £51.35p!!! I paid £2.99p for a mint copy with just a pencil inscription on the inside cover.

The weather might not have been great last week and the plein air painting plans a washout but there were other compensations!


Rui said...

Hi Peter,

Happy to hear that you had no problems with the strange weather we getting nowadays.

Daler Rowney cobalt blue tubes were definitely a bargain.

Also great to hear that you are also a fan of John Blockley. Back in 1995 +/- I did a watercolour course designed by the late John Blockley and I also have a couple of his books.



Sharon Whitley said...

Don't you just love a bargain - will be giving some of those charity shops a visit I think just in case !!

artist said...

Your trip photos look great to me. And I'm glad that you chose to make lemonade out of lemons - great buys on your paint and books.

The books by Pike and Blockley were some of my favorites. I use to check them out of the library frequently. Just recently I found a Pike book at a second hand store for $4.49 - an incredible price - then when I went to pay for it the clerk said this is also half-off this price ($2.50). I'm still looking for the Blockley book. I know that it will find me.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks Rui.I shall probably do a feature on John Blockley as I have some material. I was also astonished when I saw his last work which is totally different from the original landscape stuff.

Peter Ward said...

Certainly worth a look at any charity shops who sell books Sharon. I expect they'll catch on eventually though.

Peter Ward said...

Hello Artist.I loved the second hand book stores in the US and Canada. I've been in Powells in Portland - an enormous emporium - as well as several others. Good prices and plenty of choice. I was after different subjects most of the time though WW2 and American Indian history.

Carmen said...

I went to the Camden Markets for the first time this week. There was a gorgeous book about illustrated journalling in one of the second hand book stores there that I really loved the look of but put it back because it was around a tenner and I did the old sucky teeth thing at the price. Been regretting it ever since - can I remember the title or the author? No. Aargh.

Looking forward to hearing what you think of the Encyclopaedia of Watercolour Techniques - had that one on my wishlist a while!

Anns Art said...

Glad you had a nice holiday despite the terrible weather. Glad you sought out Trago, we go there quite often and I always head for the Arts Dept. and always end up buying something (that I probably don't need) but feel I have to get as the prices are so good there.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for commenting Carmen. I've come to the conclusion that if you see something you really want - and the price is not prohibitive - then buy it! Otherwise regrets ever afterwards.

Peter Ward said...

Hi Ann. We went to Trago in Cornwall (the original one) two years ago and I bought quite a few tubes of Daler Rowney watercolours. Very cheap. The one near Newton Abbot had the complete range. I did look around all the other stuff - quite a lot to ponder but mainly other media.

Laura Moore said...

Peter thanks for showing us how you do 'plein air'. That's something I'm venturing into slowly, due to weather issues and also me getting used to painting outside as it's a totally different experience, so it really helps to see how others tackle it. Enjoy your weekend.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks Laura and the same to you. If you rummage around in my old posts you'll find much more on plein air painting. The original post, which covers materials etc, is one of the most read.