Monday, 10 September 2012

Book review - Watercolor Secrets

9" x 11" . 144 pages. Rachel Rubin Wolf. North Light Books 2009 US $29.99

The cover painting is a self portrait by Fealing Lin, when on a workshop at Yosemite National park. North Light books, along with Watson Guptill, are the premier publishers of high quality art books in the USA.

I recently obtained this book from the library, one of the reasons being it featured, amongst the fifteen artists, Fealing Lin. It is a hardback book but with the pages being held by ringbinders.The purpose of the book is described as `An inside look at the tecniques of award winning Splash artists'. The Splash books began in 1991 with Splash 1 and the current version is Splash 13.   They are something of an institution in the USA.   In Rachel Rubin Wolfs words they are considered `a compendium of the best in contemporary watercolor'. I think I am right in saying the artists are American or have lived in America for many years. This is a tall claim and perhaps the word `American' should have been inserted before contemporary. Note added 25/09/12 - I gather my statement is incorrect in that some non-American artists have been featured in the Splash books but they are very much in a minority. I have glanced at a couple of the Splash books over the years but have never been persuaded to purchase them, the main reason being that the style of many of the featured artists was not to my taste, coupled with a fairly high price. The latest Splash 13 remains fairly expensive compared with many other art books. Nowadays the prices of imported books are generally more acceptable and don't have the premium that once applied. No doubt this leaves me open to criticism but I know what I like. 

The purpose of this book is to describe how some of the Splash artists `created their exceptional watercolors', again this is subjective. There are so many wonderful artists, who paint in watercolour throughout the World, who don't have International recognition, so to claim `this group' or `that group' are the Worlds best is questionable. This is the same disagreement I have with the elitist approach of the French produced magazine `The Art of Watercolour'.

 I must admit I hadn't heard of the majority of the artists in this book, not surprising as I don't claim any sort of encyclopedic knowledge, but as I am a fairly typical amateur or hobby painter then many thousands of others (hundreds of thousands?) would be in the same boat. The ones I have heard of include Robin Berry whose recent book `The Compendium of Watercolour Tecniques' I recently purchased. 

I mentioned Fealing Lin who I discovered a year or more ago. I love her work and like all the others there is much information both on her personally and how she achieves her wonderful paintings. This is repeated with the fourteen other artists, and I thought the best thing to do would be to list them all as some may be amongst readers favourites. I don't dispute they are good but it is all a question of likes and dislikes and the `very best' is a tall statement..

The artists are: Fealing Lin, Paul McCormack, Soon Y Warren, Donald Patterson, Mark de Mos, Margaret M Martin, Judi Betts, Pat San Soucie, Robin Berry, Donna Jill Witty, Cindy Brabec-King, Judy Morris, James Toogood, Guy Magallanes, Catherine O'Neill.

Would I buy this book? The answer is no because there is insufficient content to interest me. However this a a personal view and I'm sure there will be many who will disagree as the Splash books have been best sellers in the USA. It is available in the UK from Amazon at £12.99p and Amazon partners beginning at £8.57p.

15 comments:

Judy said...

Peter, thank you for your book review! That painting on the cover though is delicious!

Peter Ward said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter Ward said...

Thanks Judy. I love Fealing LIns work. I wish she would make a DVD or write a book just so we could see how she does it. The cover painting is great. The section on her in this book is excellent, about 8 pages, so I've photocopied some of it!

Mick Carney said...

Wholeheartedly agree with you about Fealing Lin, but you're going to have to stop placing these temptations in my way. It's not going to be long before your knowledge of watercolourists worldwide is encyclopaedic. Always interesting.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks Mick but `encyclopaedic'? I don't think so. There are hundreds and hundreds out there.

Oscar Solis said...

These books that have a collection of various artists are always interesting. However, I've always wondered about the criteria for choosing who the best is. My idea of best isn't the same as anyone else's.

Anyhow, these books are fun to look at, but lately I've been looking at the works of illustrators who use watercolor, specifically picture books. I find more inspiration and enjoyment there than in the works of most watercolorists. Perhaps it's because they are freer with the technique, using white when needed or combining pen with color washes. But mostly, it's the sense of joy in the work, which, while still illustrative, sometimes crosses into the realm of Art.

Peter Ward said...

Exactly Oscar. The criteria seems to vary. IF these opinions were qualified `in our opinion etc etc' but they generally aren't so your opinion and my opinion are just as important. Hundreds of books are published on painting, plus the same number of DVDs. How many are actually really worthwhile? Obviously many are but equally there are many that have questionable value.

Anonymous said...

I believe the cover says "award winning Splash artists" and the Amazon review reads "some of the best". It sounds more like the publisher compiled artists they had already featured in the Splash publication you mention, and that may be what they are the "best of" and not the entire world. I enjoy your blog, always interesting!

Peter Ward said...

I don't normally accept comments from `Anonymous'as I like to see a name attached. If you post again can you please comply? True artists listed are `Splash Artists' but `the best of contemporary watercolor'? That's subjective and opinion not fact.

John Softly said...

Peter,
Somehow Bob Wade snucked into "Splash 3" the only non American I've seen in "Splash" although I gave up after number 4.
They are useful for finding artists one likes for further study. William Condit was one such featured artist I liked and purchased his book "Transparent Watercolor - My Second Career" which was self published in 1989.
He studied under Charles Reid, Frank Webb and Claude Croney amongst others and athough his style is unique he was like a sponge when working in workshops.
His week with CR is particularly intersting and his portraits very "Riedy". One of my favorites!
Cheers
John

Peter Ward said...

Hi John. I'd already read that some non-American artists had appeared in Splash but very few it seems. A balanced view of the best would include many more. I've never previously heard of William Condit but I'll certainly explore more about him.

Renee Galligher said...

Peter,
I came across your review of this Splash book in my search to find a how to on portraits by Fealing Lin so that I can study her style and learn from it. Is this book worth purchasing for what I need? Does her lesson in this book provide me with enough information to have my own private workshop? Thanks!

Peter Ward said...

Thanks Renee. I doubt if it would give you what you are looking for. If you `google' LIn fealing you may find more in formation. There was a very good article about her with many illustrations in `Watercolor Artist' a while back. I also featured her in a post so see INDEX (July 2014)if you haven't already done so.

Renee Galligher said...

Thank you, Peter. I hadn't see your comment before I ordered, but it's still informative. I'll see your prior posts.

Peter Ward said...

Thank you Renee. Glad you found it informative.