Monday, 23 July 2012

Two books on watercolour techniques

Recently I saw something about two new books on watercolour techniques, or rather one an updated edition, by Hazel Harrison (with Diana Craig). One of the very first books I purchased was `Watercolour- step-by-step' written by Hazel, first published in 1993 and reprinted several times and she is the author of several other books with a similar theme.  

Search Press 2011 143 pages Approx. 81/2" by 83/4" rpp £12.99p

This is an updated version of `The Encyclopedia of Watercolour Techniques', published in 2004. As readers of the post on my recent trip to Devon will know I already have it, bought at £5.99 from Trago Mills. At that price it is a steal but you will generally have to pay around £9.49, which was the price of all other copies at Trago. Actually the current Amazon price for both books is £9.09p and used copies are listed at £6.21p, again for both, but the used copies are no doubt from Amazon partners who add a carriage (hefty?) charge. I still have another copy on loan from the library and was in process of reviewing it when the chance to buy a cheap one arose. 

The book is broken up into three main chapters, (1) Tools and Materials, (2) Techniques and finally (3) Picture Making. As usual with Hazel  many of the illustrations are of paintings by a variety of different artists. Chapter one covering tools and materials is something which is partially covered in many other books  but here is comprehensive and all options are clearly outlined. To my mind the most useful is that on techniques which details everything in a way that even the newest beginner can understand. It is a very useful primer and even the more experienced could usefully dip into it from time to time. I certainly shall. The final chapter, picture making, is also good starting with palettes then tone, light and shadow, perspective, spatial depth(!) and more. Everything is there. All in all a very good book, especially for beginners and intermediate painters in watercolour.

Search Press 2011 176 pages approx. 71/2" x 91/2" rpp £12.99p

The second book, also borrowed from the library, is another from Search Press called `The Compedium of Watercolour Techniques', by Robin Berry, also published in 2011. Two similar books on watercolour techniques by the same publisher in the same year? This is what intrigued me in the first place, and after discovering a while ago that it is possible to borrow a surprisingly wide variety of art books from the local library consortium, I ordered both titles thinking I would review them, satisfying my curiosity at the same time. Robin Berry is a new name to me and although we are friends on Facebook I know no more about her than she about me. Some details are on the back cover, in such faint small print that it is very difficult to read but I did gather she is a recognized artist with over 35 years experience. This book is slightly larger and with more pages than the Harrison book although carrying the same retail price. It has four chapters (1) Getting Started, (2) Painting (3) Choosing a Subject and (4) Techniques. Including Robin Berry the extensive number of artists featured include Gerard Hendriks and Stephie Butler, both of whom I like very much. I have a feeling it is slightly less well-organized than the other book and goes into greater detail. There is a very good section on selecting pigments and palettes and there is much else of interest. One part that made me smile is the one on `Arranging your equipment'. I presume the book is mainly aimed at amateur artists and I doubt many have such a setup as that depicted. Professionals maybe but most amateurs? To be fair she does say you can paint with minimum equipment in the kitchen, as many do.  Robin Berry has written other books including one with  a similar theme to this published almost at the same time by Readers Digest. The sub title is identical so are they one and the same in a slightly different guise?

Let me be clear though. This is an excellent book, especially at the price. I think it  better suited to the intermediate or more advanced amateur rather than the beginner. For the absolute beginner the Harrison book is the better buy. As said earlier I have this book and shall probably buy the Berry one. It is different in many ways and contains a great deal of interesting and informative material.


Mick Carney said...

As always you are providing a valuable resource for your readers.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks Mick. I try to do so.

Sharon Whitley said...

interesting - I have the Robin Berry book but not the first one. It is always useful to loan them from the library first to decide whether it is worth buying - although I've built up a fine at the library which I haven't paid yet so can't loan any out at the moment!!!

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for commenting Sharon.Library fines do mount up so I'm careful to avoid them! You didn't say what you thought about the Berry book?