Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Book Review - Transparent Watercolor by William Condit.

I have something like 90 art books, primarily on watercolour. My friend John Softly has even more and suggested to me that amongst them this book by the late William Condit, who I'd never previously heard of, was worth considering. Enquiries at Amazon brought the information it was available at a very cheap price, just over £6, so I wasn't making a large commitment buying it.  

Hardback 11 1/2" x 8 3/4" 124 Pages Sand Dollar Publishing

This book is not a `how to' watercolour book, although he does go on about `transparent watercolour' quite a lot and also discusses his materials, which he calls `his ammunition'. Condit relates how 32 publishers turned the book down before he eventually decided to self publish. It is essentially about him and his journey as an artist. He sold his own company in 1979, described as a `design and exhibit' firm, and launched on a career as a `transparent' watercolour artist. Note the transparent bit as he was totally against opaque pigments and thought they shouldn't be allowed into a `true' watercolour artists palette. He also talks about the history of pigments and here he thanks Winsor & Newton for their assistance.

The most interesting part of the book - a significant part - details his experiences learning under several well-known artists, including amongst others, Tony Couch, Frank Webb, Claude Croney, Tony Van Hasselt and Charles Reid. All top artists. I was particularly interested in the Charles Reid part for obvious reasons. Following this he turned professional and was soon hosting his own workshops. He later opened a gallery, the Sand Dollar Gallery, now run by his daughter who is an abstract artist, and as noted self-published his book. The book is well illustrated with his and other artists paintings, primarily his workshop tutors. Rather chameleon-like he instantly seemed to take on the style of the artists he studied with and you can see remaining elements of them in his own paintings. Condit  was a competent artist without being very exciting. His style is recognizably North American and as noted you can see traces of his tutors. Nothing against that, we are all influenced by others. Is it worth buying? Hard to say. Undoubtedly there is quite a lot to interest one in this book.At the price it isn't much of a decision and certainly it is different. Probably of most interest to American artists. Thanks to John for bringing him to my attention.


Oscar Solis said...

Thanks for the heads up on the book. I may get it at the prices on Amazon (for a used copy). I could only find two examples of his work on a google search and one was the book's cover. However, I did come across his daughter's art and thought it was great fun.

One thing bugs me though: "Note the transparent bit as he was totally against opaque pigments and thought they shouldn't be allowed into a `true' watercolour artists palette."

I'm sure Homer and Sargent might not only disagree with him but also have the artistic muscle to back it up. :)

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for commenting Oscar. It seems you agree with me that this `transparent watercolour' phobia is nonsense.

Oscar Solis said...

Peter, I not only agree with you, I live it. I'm starting my own blog with my own paintings later this week and I'll post some comments on it as well as watercolor in general, as I experience it, of course.

John Softly said...

Although transparency is the key word throughout the book Condit's palette suggests he was not as true to the concept as he suggests.
Cad Orange
Cad Yellow
Naples Yellow
Sap Green
Winsor reen
Indian Red
Burnt Sienna
Vandyke Brown
Burnt Umber
Yellow Orche
Bright Red
Aliz Crimson
Rose Madder
Cobalt Violet
Cer Blue
Prussian Blue
Ultramarine Blue
Winsor Blue
Paynes Grey
Compared to transparentists like Dobie his palette contained a fair contigent of opaques and semi opaques.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks Oscar. When you start your blog let me know the address.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for commenting John. I agree. The transparency argument is nonsense although I believe there are some societies that push this `transparent' theme. Several of the paints listed are considered opaque or semi-opaque but as we all know all watercolour paints are at least semi-transparent if sufficiently diluted.
Indian Red is like house paint, probably one of the most opaque of the lot. It just confirms you shouldn't swallow all that is written as gospel.

Yvonne Harry said...

Thanks for the post Peter. Very interesting.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for commenting Yvonne.

john said...

Anonymous john said...

Hi Peter
I accidentally stumbled on your blog few months ago. I like it its very informative and also you like Charles Reds work same as me. I have been painting for 12 years now in watercolor and have my own blog. I would appreciate if you could see it and leave some comment or send me an E mail.
the blog address is http://johnsart12.blogspot.com.au/
cheers john

Peter Ward said...

HI John and thanks for commenting. I'll certainly check out your blog.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Somerset Wedding Gal said...

This does sound great, particularly the musings on the inspirations of other artists!

Peter Ward said...

It does have it's moments.