Friday, May 7, 2010

The Complete Watercolor Course

Thumbs mostly down.

The Complete Watercolor Course: A comprehensive, easy-to-follow guide to watercolor. By John Raynes, North Light Books 2004.

The title of this work is misleading. I was looking for a thorough catalog of watercolor painting techniques, materials, tools, and examples. But Raynes does not present a complete or comprehensive survey of watercolor techniques. Instead, Raynes focuses on his preferred method of layering washes from lightest to darkest pigments using transparent paints.

Raynes' definition of watercolor would exclude the frescoes of Giotto and many other artists through the ages, including the Lasceaux cave paintings.

The first section of the book focuses on the materials: paints, palates, surfaces, brushes, drawing tools, and other accessories. Raynes includes a brief page on opaque watercolor paints and his reasons for thinking that they are not genuine watercolors.

The following sections lay out the basics of the layered wash, focusing on tonal values and color mixing theory, composition, line and wash; with a look at masks and resists, and four pages on the use of opaque pigments as mixed media.

The rest of the book is divided into short discussions on particular subject matter: still lifes, flowers, animals, skies, landscapes, seascapes, buildings, people, and using photographs.

There are two pages on just a few techniques that are not consistent with the Raynes' preferred layered wash technique with a four page work through example on using them.

The last section focuses on methods for fixing mistakes.

Raynes provides exercises for almost all of the topics he presents. I wasn't satisfied with the examples. And perhaps my dissatisfaction is a matter of personal preference. My preference has less to do with the method and technique Raynes was presenting and more to do with his own personal style in painting. While the author holds Turner as an example he fails to mention Durer, Bol, Abbey, Berryman or many other significant artists in his brief history of watercolor.

So the book fails me on two counts: it is not complete and comprehensive-neither technically or historically, nor do I find the exercises painted by the author attractive. I want to have help on more technique that can help me paint both realism and in the style of the French Impressionists. That's just my personal preference. But Raynes' style reminds me less of Cezanne and more of coarse architectural design watercolor.

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