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A Meeting Reminder, a Book Review, and a Watercolor Teacher Recommendation

September 17, 2012

See the post for full details.

Meeting Reminder:

Tonight from 7 to 9 p.m. is the September meeting of the MCBA Visual Journal Collective. The topic will be "Favorite Journaling and Art-How-To Books." 

Be sure to bring your three favorite books and a paragraph description about each stating why you like it. It would be great if you also bring along a piece of artwork in your journal that was inspired by the work in one of your example books. But whether or not you've put the instructions to the test still bring your journals to share at the end of the meeting.

In keeping with tonight's theme of book reviews I have a "I can't recommend this book" review. I'll be bringing the book along tonight so you can take a look at it, because the paintings are lovely, but here's the deal…

Book Review:

Light and Movement in Watercolour, by Jake Winkle and Robin Capon, Batsford, ISBN 978-184994-027-6

I bought this book because I saw the cover on Amazon and loved the image of the fighting or dancing rabbits (I don't know much about rabbits).

Jake Winkle creates delightful images full of vibrant colors and calligraphic passages and energy—that's not in dispute. Unfortunately he is not a good writer and the person with whom he wrote his book didn't do him any favors.

The text is repetitive, returning to topics already dismissed so many times that it becomes confusing and disjointed. After awhile I put the book down in disgust and called a friend to discuss it. She suggested that perhaps the book was an oral interview that had been changed into a written text and that's the most generous explanation that comes to mind.

Over the course of the book one is only sure of one thing: Winkle doesn't believe a focal point is necessary. (He states this repeatedly and sadly some of his paintings suffer for this belief.) In other areas of discussion we are left to wonder if he understands the difference between drawing freehand and drawing from life; if he understands that Arches is actually not a soft paper but one of the most heavily sized papers on the market made soft by his unspecified soaking method. 

Details matter and too much of the book skirts around essential details.

He does make an interesting distinction between wet-into-wet and wet-up-to-wet. The first is adding more wet paint into a wet wash. It will have its own particular results depending on the water ratio, but most likely will result in dilution of color. (Again he's not specific enough about that.) The second is painting a wet wash right up to the edge of another wet wash, where they are allowed to bleed a little together for interesting and less diluted effects (though again water will play a factor here as the laws of physics will always favor the passage of water pushing those pigments out of the way or sucking color this way and that).

It's obvious that he can paint but his communication of his approach and technique will leave beginning artists frustrated and confused while experienced artists will be irritated to the point of hair pulling at his inability to communicate.

Instead of reading this book I would recommend that you seek out the film he made of this book—Light and Movement in Watercolour, from Town House Films (www.townhousefilms.co.uk). 

I haven't seen the film, but since it is obvious this guy can paint I think you'll be better off watching him do just that than trying to discipher what it is he's trying to explain in writing.

By the time I finished the book I had 10 pages of notes on confused descriptions, incorrect information, and poorly explained information—but because he can paint I'll save you my laundry list of problems: just seek out the film. If he turns out to be annoying when talking, turn off the sound—as I said, he can obviously paint.

And what did I learn from reading this book: Don't buy a book because you love the cover image (unless of course all you want is the cover image—I've done that before). 

I believe that watching an accomplished painter paint is more valuable than reading an accomplished painter's confused text. Not every painter is a writer. 

Watercolor Teacher Recommendation:

If you are frustrated about where to turn for excellent watercolor instruction—seek out a class with Andy Evansen. In August Andy gave a fantastic demo at Wet Paint in St. Paul.

While I haven't taken a class from Andy I've seen Andy do painting demonstrations at the Minnesota Watercolor Society (he is a past president) and the Northstar Watercolor Society. (I know many members of both societies who have taken his workshops and rave about the experience.)

Each demonstration I've seen has been easy to follow, inspiring, and packed with information. Andy also has an easy-going demeanor and a great sense of humor. 

You can see Andy talking about his career over a background of his work, in this 6-minute documentary by two UW-Stout students—"Andy Evansen: A Documentary."

You can find a listing of his workshops on his website at this link. (If you do decide to seek him out as an instructor sign up early, I see his December workshop is already filled.)

Spending your time and money on an experience that isn't going to leave you confused is always the better deal.

Need A Book To Read Right Now and Can't Attend Tonight's Meeting?

At some point I'll try to put together a list of books that people recommend at tonight's meeting. It may take me a while, but I'll let you know when it's ready. If you need to have some books to read right away you can see our compiled list of recommendations from 2011 here—Summer Reading List: The MCBA Visual Journal Collective Recommends Books.

  1. Reply

    Roz, can you recommend a watercolor instruction book? I only paint in my sketchbook and some books call for many many steps and materials to a finish painting.

    I would love tocreate simple watercolor sketches that have light and depth.

    thanks !

    Genine

  2. Reply

    Genine, after tonight’s meeting I might have lots of stuff to post (when I can get to compiling the list—I’m swamped this week).

    It’s difficult to recommend one watercolor book because I don’t know the style you might be going for. But I like all the following for their explanation of how watercolor works:

    Jeanne Dobie (spelling of her name might be off) “Making Watercolor Sing”

    Charles Reid—either his Flowers or Figure in watercolor books if you like loose splashy stuff

    David Dewey, “The Watercolor Book” which has great detail about the “stuff” of watercolor, set up, and techniques.

    Cathy Johnson has written a bunch of books about watercolor used as a sketching medium for nature journaling and visual journaling. I would check out the titles she’s written on Amazon. Her Sierra Club painting guides may be in line with what you want to do. She is a master at making her washes suggest light and depth. (And I think she teaches online classes in watercolor, go check her out!)

    I would also recommend that you seek out the website of your favorite artists who paint in watercolor and see if they have a DVD about their approach. Burton Silverman (who is one of my art heroes) has a wonderful video of him painting a portrait in watercolor. Charles Reid has a video that comes with or is a companion to his “watercolor secrets” book. It’s quite interesting (though I think his books are so well done you get the idea without needing to see the video—but it’s great fun).

    Have fun with the journey. Keep painting.

  3. Reply

    Capt. Elaine, I had to plow through the whole book because I kept hoping that something would change (I’m an optimist), that he might hit his stride, etc. And if I hadn’t gone through the entire book I wouldn’t have been able to write the review.

    Studying pictures is a great way to learn when you have some knowledge of how things “go down.” Especially if you have the originals in front of you. And I’m very fond of watching videos of artists painting, too, as I mention in my reply to Genine. I think there should be a cable station just of artist demos!

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