Monday, February 06, 2012

Basic Nature Painting Techniques in Watercolor Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: Basic Nature Painting Techniques in Watercolor

Edited by: Rachel Rubin Wolf

Publisher: North Light Books, 1998

My Star Rating: 3 stars out of 5 = It’s Okay

This is an odd book and I rate it 3 stars = It’s Okay.

The book is a compilation of material from many different authors. The book is uneven and the writing is so different depending on which author wrote it. Although this can't be helped when there are different authors it is the editor and publishers job to make the book flow and have a clear purpose and be written well to a specific audience. The problem here lies with the editor and the publisher.
It covers some topics in some chapters geared toward a beginner watercolor artist who has not read a single thing about watercolor painting but they are not as good as the information I’d already gleaned from beginner books. Then it has very detailed techniques for specific topics such as how to paint sand or gravel or conifers, things an artist would use for specific tasks. The book has information that intermediate painters already know yet it doesn’t have enough information for beginners.  The best I can say is this book will have something for various levels of painters but I worry that it’s just not that good from cover to cover. If it helps you paint bark, great, but don’t expect to love every page of the book.

It has an odd mixture of realistic painting techniques and then saying to paint your feelings and mood even if it is unrealistic to the nature scene in front of you without really explaining how to change from what you see in front of you in real life to something else with a different mood.

The best part of the book was some general information here and there throughout the book, such as these:

“In general all watercolor artists grow along the same route. First is the understanding of seeing and painting in values, followed by temperature and hue; awareness of changing intensity relationships comes last.” (p. 79)

Local color, perceived color and actual color are terms used to describe colors we see. “The ability to identify actual color is not as simple as it sounds.” Clear your mind of the notion that the sky is blue, see subtle change of value and intensity. (p. 82)

Remember reflection. Every color we see reflects another color. (p. 82)

“The color of ambient light affects the color of everything it touches. If the sky is blue there should be blue on everything else: every plane the blue light falls on.” (p. 83)


The problem with the book is its unevenness -- some chapters by certain authors had so much wisdom to share but then other topics such as composition and painting in plein air were bare bones same old-same old advice that you may even get to read for free in an online article or blog post after a simple internet search.

Based on the unevenness of having multiple authors and a mediocre job editing the writing I have decided to stick with reading books by one author whose style and subject matter I can identify with.

Disclosure: I read a library copy of this book. For my blog's ful disclosure statement see the link near the top of my blog's sidebar.

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