Drawing and Art Library: Part Three: Watercolour Books and Artist’s Journals

Two weeks ago, I started with a discussion of general sketching and painting books in my art library, while last week, I featured some of my favourite art books for children. Because I am enamoured with Watercolour Painting, I own a number of books about the subject and this post will be covering them, as well as a few books about creating Artist’s Journals, another favourite subject area!

Watercolour Books

An Introduction to Watercolour by Ray Smith 1993

A good beginner’s guide, this Art School publication was produced in association with the Royal Academy of Arts and published by Dorking Kindersley, the series thus often being referred to as the DK Art School Series. It provides an ‘all-visual art course’, based on painting projects and exercises and using fully annotated, photographically sequenced instructions for a range of different techniques.BlogArtBooks3018-01-05 18.02.10

It starts with a Brief History of Watercolour and includes Gallery Pages of works throughout the book by watercolour masters and contemporary artists, which serve to inspire the reader with examples and possibilities. They include: a Gallery of Colour; Brushstrokes; Paper; Washes; and Techniques.

Projects include:  Choosing Paints, Brushes and Papers; Mixing Colours; Colour Harmony; Light and Colour; Using Gouache; Sketching and Composition, Stretching and Toning; Laying a Wash; Tone and Colour; Brushmarks and Marks by Other Tools; Building Up Layers; Sponging Out; and Scratching Out and Resist Techniques. There is a Glossary of watercolour terms in the back, as well as Qualifying Notes on colours, pigments and toxicity, and brushes and papers.

I really enjoyed this introductory book on the subject and learnt so much about watercolours, including how the paints are made; the different types of brushes and their correct care;  the different types of paper and their qualities (absorbency/ surface and weight/acidity and manufacture); as well as the different types of washes.

There are two other watercolour titles in the Art School Series, neither of which I own: Watercolour Colour; and Watercolour Landscape; as well as books about other forms of painting, including  the titles:  DK Art School : An Introduction to Art Techniques; An Introduction to Oil Painting; An Introduction to Acrylics; An Introduction to Drawing; An Introduction to Mixed Media; An Introduction to Pastels; An Introduction to Perspective; Drawing Figures;  and Oil Painting Portraits, all written by Ray Smith. See: https://www.librarything.com/author/smithray-1.

The Complete Watercolour Artist: Materials, Techniques, Colour Theory, Composition, Style and Subject  Edited by Sally Harper 1997

An excellent comprehensive guide, similar in its size and coverage to The Complete Book of Drawing and How To Paint and Draw: A Complete Course on Practical and Creative Techniques, both featured in my first post on drawing and art books. See: https://candeloblooms.com/2018/02/20/drawing-and-art-library-part-one-sketching-and-painting-books/.BlogArtBooks3018-01-05 18.02.27

Like the previous book, it starts with a History of Watercolour Painting, then progresses to a discussion of Materials: Paints and Colours; Tubes and Paintboxes; Gouache; Brushes; Papers (including step by step instructions for stretching paper); Drawing Boards and Easels; Palettes and Recessed Wells; Other Sundries (eg sponges; blotting paper; cotton wool, tooth brushes, scalpel, and masking tape and fluid) and Indoor Lighting.

The section on Techniques is very detailed and comprehensive, each technique description being supplemented with artworks and useful artists’ tips. They are grouped in their order of application when creating a painting, moving from washes and foundation techniques through brush techniques and colour effects and finally,  to making changes and corrections. Here is a brief summary of each group:

Laying Washes and Foundations: Flat Washes; Wash on Dry/ Damp Paper; Gradated and Variegated Washes; Textures; Granulation; Backruns; Wet-In-Wet; Hard and Soft Edges; Building Up Watercolour Overpainting and Underpainting; Glazing; Using Gouache; Drawing; and Squaring Up.

Brush Techniques, Colour Effects and Alternative Techniques, and Media: Brush Drawing; Brush Marks; Dry Brush; Scumbling (another wonderful word, referring to the technique of scrubbing very dry paint unevenly over another layer of dry colour, so that the first one shows through, thereby creating texture, broken colour effects and a glowing richness to colours, especially in opaque media); Stippling; Spattering; Body Colour and Toned Ground; Blending; Broken Colour; Highlighting; Masking; Lifting Out (removing paint from paper); Surface and Imitative Textures; Sponge Painting and Blotting; Line and Wash; Scraping Back; Wash-Off; Wax Resist; Using Gum Arabic; and Mixed Media.

Making Changes: Corrections and Colour Changes.

The section on Colour and Composition examines a number of principles, common to all forms of painting, which should be learned and understood before breaking them in the pursuit of creativity. They include:

Composition: Size and Shape; Dynamics of the Rectangle; Dividing the Rectangle; Thumbnail Sketches; Similarity and Contrast; Making and Using a Viewfinder; Edges of Paintings; Viewpoints; Composing a Figure Painting/ Townscape or Landscape/ and Still-Life; Balance and Counterbalance; Centre of Interest; Directing the Eye; Tonal Values; Illusion of Depth; Making Value Sketches; Value Scales; Keying Your Values; High-Key/ Middle-Key and Low-Key Paintings; Aerial Perspective; Creating Mood in Landscapes/ Interiors/ Portraits; and Using Limited Tones and Shadows Creatively.

Colours: Choosing Colours (Blues/ Yellows and Browns/ Reds/ Greens/ Black and Greys/ Whites); Paint Qualities (Transparency; Permanence; Mixing Qualities); Colour Relationships; Flower Colours; Mixing Colours; Mixing without Muddying; and White Space.

Again, the text is supported by examples of artist’s works and projects and exercises.

The chapter on Style examines the work of other watercolourists throughout history. In the past, many artists developed their skills by copying the styles of the masters, right up until the Impressionist era, however today, modern artists  tend to make visual references in their work to other paintings, including the use of similar compositional elements or reinterpreting a particular theme. A study of the works of past masters and painting styles aids an understanding of and development of your own stylistic preferences. Art Movements, including practising artists, photographs of art works, key features and projects, include:

Impressionism: Monet, Pissaro, Degas, Renoir, Sisley, Morisot, Cassatt and Bonnard: Working directly outdoors; Relationship of Light and Colour; and Responding to Movement, using light and colour, rather than painting subjects. Projects: Capturing Immediate Impressions and Series Paintings.

Expressionism: Ensor, Munch, Nolde, Kirchner, Bacon, Schiele, Marc and Van Gogh : Composition, Distortion and Stylization; Colours as Expressions; Key Tones; Expressive Mark Making; Projects: Expressing Character and a Sense of Place.

Abstractioning from Nature and Pure Abstraction: De Stael, De Kooning, Sutherland, Davis, Avery, Sparks, Wols, O’Keefe ,Kandinsky, Mondrian, Malevich, Tothko, Pollock, Louis and Stella: Sources of Absract Imagery; Compositional Elements; Abstractional Styles; Projects: Collage from a Landscape/ Still-Life; a Painted Abstraction and Colour Drawing of the Same Collage; and Geometric and Gestural Abstraction.

The final chapter covers Subject Matter, using a similar format (artists/ photographs of artwork/ key features, artists’ hints and projects) and different techniques and approaches to portray:

Still-Life: Vermeer, Van Gogh, Cézanne, Chardin, Rembrandt, the Dutch Still-Life Painters of the 17th Century: ‘Found Groups’; Themes (Culinary/ Literary/ Pictorial Biography); Backgrounds; Setting up a Still-Life; Plants and Flowers: Composition; Indoor Arrangements; Single Specimens; and Natural Habitat. Projects: Approaches to Still-Life: Objects with personal appeal/ everyday objects/ and objects in the landscape; and Flower Arrangements (Cyclamen/ Persimmon and Plums/ and Narcissi in Sunlight).

Landscape:  English Watercolour tradition: Gainsborough, Girtin, Constable and Turner and the Norwich School: Cotman and Crome: Practical Hints for Painting Outdoors; Trees and Foliage; Fields and Hills; Rocks and Mountains; Clouds and Skies; Light and Shade; Painting Shadows; Weather: Mist and Fog/ Snow Scenes; Water: Light on Water/Moving and Still Water/Reflections; Buildings: Linear and Simple/ Complex Perspective; Inside Looking Out; and  Framing a View. Projects: Distant Hills/  Old Harry and His Wife/ Hot Sun / Moon River/ Trees and Water; and Lifting Out.

Animals: Wade, Jesty, Boys, Dawson and Willis: Sketching from Life; Birds; Domestic and Farm Animals; Wild Animals; Movement; and Textures. Projects: Horse’s Head/Squirrel/ Mackerel.

Portrait and Figure Work: Kunz, Lew, Cassels: Proportions of the Figure and Head; Head from an Angle; Flesh Tones; Shadows and Highlights; Hair and Fabrics (folds, pattern, texture, shadows,  drapery and reflected light); Capturing a Likeness; and Moving Figures; Projects: Young Skin/Hair/ Ribbed Sweater.

It is hard to imagine a more comprehensive book on the subject and I would highly recommend this book!

Now for a few specific books on using watercolours to paint one of my favourite subjects:  My Garden and its Flowers !!!

The Watercolourist’s Garden by Jill Bays 1993/ 1997

As you all know, I love my garden and this lovely book gives me the tools and techniques to portray its beautiful contents!BlogArtBooks2518-01-05 18.02.00

It begins with Basic Art Theory, common to the other art books, with notes on Materials, Colour (including a basic palette) and Complementary Colours; Drawing, Composition, Perspective and Handling Paint (watercolour techniques in a nutshell); Using Photographs and Reference and Sketch-Books; Working Outside on Location and Lighting; and Style and Inspiration.

The following chapters are divided by season and include suggestions for painting seasonal flowers and plants, as well as enlarging on specific techniques and providing step-by-step demonstrations to follow. Here are the subject headings:

Spring: Tonal Values; Wet into Wet; Painting Leaves & Vegetables; Tulips, Bearded Iris & Anemones.

Summer: Experimentation; Still-Life; Flowers in the Landscape; Wild Gardens; Summer Vegetables and Fruits; Wild Flowers, Poppies, Roses and Other Summer Flowers.

Autumn: Garden Painting; Interiors; Mood; Using Containers; Seeds and Berries, Fungi, Autumn Fruit & Vegetables; Autumn Leaves and Berries; Dahlias.

Winter: Still-Life and Landscapes; Dried Flowers; Winter Bulbs; Winter Vegetables, Early Primroses; Cyclamen and Reflections.At the end of the book are notes on Problems with Watercolour ; Exhibiting Your Work; and a Glossary of Terms.

This book was published in Britain, so the seasons are very defined, while we here in Australia have a much milder climate, though we still have seasons in the south, so we have lots of opportunities to use this book!

Learn to Paint Flowers in Watercolour by Marjorie Blamey 1984

BlogArtBooks3018-01-05 18.02.18

Even though this book covers similar subject matter, with an element of seasonality as well, I have still included it as different approaches suit different people with different learning styles and it is always useful to have advice from a variety of sources. While I personally prefer Jill’s looser style and the more informal romantic feel of her book, Marjorie’s guide probably has a more simple, straightforward presentation. She describes her background and watercolour journey, as well as her reasons for painting flowers, before getting down to the nitty-gritty with chapters on :

Materials and Equipment: Watercolour Tubes and Paintbox; Gouache; Pencils; Brushes; Papers; Mixed Media.

Drawing Techniques: Leaves; Flower Anatomy; Flowers in Perspective; Sketching Outdoors.

Colour: Greens; Flower Colour; Problem Pinks; Poppies and Cornfield Flowers; Surfaces, Shadows and Highlights; Shapes, Spots and Stripes; White Flowers; Tinted Papers; and Summer Flowers.

Painting Through the Seasons: Flowers of Spring, Summer, Autumn Tints and Winter Shades.

Further chapters include: The Broader View: Flowers in the Landscape; Keeping It Simple; and Photography and the Flower Painter.

The Watercolour Flower Painter’s Pocket Palette Volume Two : Practical Visual Advice on How to Create Flower Portraits Using Watercolours by Adelene Fletcher 2000

A lovely little pocket guide and another favourite! While I do not own the first volume, The Watercolour Flower Painter’s Pocket Palette, this companion book still provides an instant and comprehensive guide to painting over 70 different types of flowers, fruit and foliage.BlogArtBooks3018-01-07 11.39.02It starts with a guide to using the book; a useful colour chart and paint permanence ratings (see photo from Pages 4-5 above), progressing to various techniques including: Washes; Amending Colours; Creating Soft Edges; Avoiding Colour Runs; Two-Tone Brushwork; Negative Shapes; Sgraffito; and Impressing.

Flowers are categorised into their different shapes : Bells and Trumpets; Lipped and Bearded; Cup and Bowl; Rays and Pompoms; Simple Stars; Multi-Headed; and Spikes, and then grouped by colour: Yellow; Orange and Red; Pink; Purple and Blue; and White, Cream and Green, each section containing step-by-step demonstrations and concluded by an example artwork. A variety of berries and leaves are covered in the final pages.

Other titles in this series include: The Watercolour Painter’s Pocket Palette; The Watercolour Landscape Painter’s Pocket Palette and The Oil and Acrylic Painter’s Pocket Palette, all written by Adelene Fletcher.BlogArtBooks3018-01-05 18.02.44And finally, to another favourite category of Art Books:

Artist’s Journals

I love looking at other people’s art and illustrated travel journals. They are always so interesting, highly personal, creative and inspiring and make you want to follow their example. The following three books show you how to achieve your aim and again, all three, while covering similar subject material, all have different approaches and presentations, so one of them should appeal!

Create Your Own Artist’s Journal by Erin O’Toole 2002

BlogArtBooks3018-01-05 18.02.53I love this hardback book with its thick matt paper pages, its chatty personal text and its logical simple approach. I also like the fact that visual journals can be produced anywhere and can include sketches and paintings of familiar home surroundings and objects, not necessarily images of exotic travels, though I do love those as well!!!  I love her use of quaint illustrations, rather than photographs, to depict her suggestions.

There is a brief history of Erin’s journey, as well as a useful metric conversion chart in the front, followed by chapters on:

Starting a Journal: First Marks; Creating a Routine; Observation Skills; Page Design and Construction.

Materials: Store-Bought and Home-Made Books; Painting and Drawing Media and Equipment; and General Kit: Shoulder Bag; Art Tackle Box; Field Guides and Maps; Camera and Binoculars; Viewfinder; Fixative; Water Bottle; and a Folding Chair. There are also instructions for Making a Book with One Sheet of Paper.

In the Garden: Flowers; Insects and Cocoons, and Birds and Creatures; as well as notes on Dark and Light; Light Angle; Colour; and Garden Plans.

About the Neighbourhood: Architecture; Public Parks; Market and the Zoo; People; Pets and Family and notes on Drawing While Waiting and Sketching in Public.

On the Road: Braving the Elements; Taking the Slow Road; Maps; Historic Places; Farm Animals; Weather; Landscapes in Watercolour; On the Water; and Drawing from Photos.

Drawing Wildlife: Subject Matter and Venues (Wildlife Sanctuaries and Natural History Museums); Line Drawing; Using Binoculars; Unexpected Animals; Wild Flowers; Natural Habitats; and Observation Skills.

Refining and Sharing Your Journals: Hand Writing ; Making Changes and Corrections; Research; Taking Notes; Story-telling; Sharing with Family (Colour Photocopies; Scanning on Computer; Use on Postcards, Cards and Letters; Websites and Blogs); and Submitting Drawings to community organizations, and natural history  groups and historical societies.

In the back is a useful list of Suggested Reading for Art Journals, as well as Books on drawing, watercolour, writing, and bookbinding. I love Erin’s informal, romantic and blowsy style.

Artist’s Journal Workshop: Creating Your Life in Words and Pictures by Cathy Johnson 2011

Another book with a more modern feel and a bold, common sense approach, which encourages experimentation.BlogArtBooks3018-01-05 18.03.01  It has five chapters:

Getting Started:

Exploring What You Want (Reasons and Desires; Subject Matter; and When and How);

Drawing a Journal Map and Overcoming First-Page Jitters (something of which  I am commonly guilty!); Journal Name; Sharing; Errors; and Jump Right In;

Physical Journals and Other Materials and Supplies, including Different Media.

Test Drive:

Experiment with Different Media and Test Drive Graphite Pencil/ Coloured Pencil/ Pen/ Watercolour/ Gouache/Watercolour Pencils/ Collage;

Page Design and Composition: Positioning Text; Text for Balance; Eye Path; Borders and Grids; and Double Page Spreads.

Exploring Journals:

Different Types of Journal (with hints for producing each type): The Daily Journal; Travel Journal (Physical and Virtual); Memory Journal; Reportage Journal and Nature Journal.

Journals can also be used to document Dreams and Imagination; Dealing with Challenges; Spiritual Journey; Life’s Journey (Integrated Journal), as well as to plan and practice techniques.

Journaling Lifestyle:

Attitudes and Habits: Allowing Time; Developing a Habit; Important Moments and Honoring Milestones; Work Anywhere and Work Fast; Gesture Sketches and Grids; Composite Pages; Weather; Classes and Sketch Crawls; and Using a Journal as a Learning Tool.

Pulling It All Together: Favourite Media/ Style/ Subjects and Journals; Patch as a Design/ Decorative Element; Things That Don’t Work; Rules Don’t Apply; Continue to Explore; Go Online; Follow Your Inclinations; Travel Light; and Daily Practice.

The book finishes with a Section on Resources, complete with websites for further exploration: Contributors; Illustrated Journals and Diaries;  Books on Journaling and Sketching and Drawing; and Instructional CDs and DVDs and Classes.

The Decorated Journal: Creating Beautifully Expressive Journal Pages by Gwen Diehn 2005

A final beautiful hardback guide to creating artist’s journals, the subtitle says it all! It covers many areas and subjects, not covered by the previous books, and has a totally different approach and style.BlogArtBooks3018-01-05 18.03.11The book being divided into four sections:

Materials and How To Use Them: Determined and Neutral Materials; Paper and Blank Books; Binding Styles; Pigments and Paints: Watercolour, Gouache and Acrylic; Brushes; Pen and Ink; Adhesives; Pencils and Crayons; Grounds; and Other Useful Tools: Stencils; Matt Knives and Straight Edges.

How Does Your Journal See the World: Different World Views and their Translation into Journals:

Layered World : Resulting in a Layered Journal, naturally!;

Creative World : Used as a resource of ideas and information for future creative projects;

Wabi-Sabi World: Key tenets are simplicity, humility and modesty; Nature; unconventional beauty; impermanence; and imperfections, hence these journals are simple and rough; made of natural materials, employ warm, earthy, dark colours with low intensity, and use minimal medium;

Naturalist’s World: Functional precise nature observations with maps, diagrams and sketches;

Spiritual World: Journal dimensions form golden rectangles and page elements display golden proportion and rectangles, as well as other proportions and geometric forms from sacred geometry. Journals are covered in sensuous materials and decorated with rich colours and textures, the text is laden with imagery and journals can even include a few drops of essential oils, inviting contemplation, reflection and meditation;

Symbolic World: Dreams and Symbols, Patterns and Motifs; Abstract Colours and Forms; and Collage Elements;

Inner World: Surrealism and Subconscious Imagery; Automatic Writing and Morning Pages; Doodles and Random Marks; Lists of Words; Collections of Ephemera; Patches of Texture; Fragmented Images; Thoughts and Feelings; and Memory Prompts.

Pages in Stages: Ways of Working:

Ways to Get Started: Paper; Poured Colours; Printed Forms; Maps and Diagrams; Copier Transfer; Collage; Stitching; Challenges; Altered Books and Pages; and Patterns Lost and Found.

Middles: Writing; Subtracting Text; Extending Collage; Drawing; Mapping; Painting; Relief Prints , Rubbings and Stamping.

Toppings: Writing; Watercolour Washes; Eliminating Work; Separating Layers; Journaling with Children; Collage as a Link; Collaborations and Group Journaling; and Pauses.

The Reluctant Bookbinder :

How to Make Books: Basics; Three-Minute and Six-Minute Pamplets; 30 minute Multiple Pamphlet Journal; Making a Travel Journal; Two-Hour Journal; Sewing Frames; and

Customizing a Blank Book: Removing Pages; Adding and Changing Elements ( eg Envelopes/Smaller  Piggyback Journals/ Sheets of Watercolour Paper/ Grid Paper/ Coloured Paper/ Tracing Paper/ Specialty Papers); Laminating Pages; Modifying Covers (eg. Encrustation; Collage and Lettering); Altering a Book; and Using an Old Book Cover.

Overall, I would have to say that I’ve saved the best till last, though really all the books are beautiful and have their own individual strengths and advantages. However, I did find that this last book was such an interesting read and I learned so much about a wide variety of subjects: Making ochre pigments; egg tempera, casein paints, and inks from oak galls and charcoal; Historical Inventor’s Journals; The Japanese Aesthetic of Wabi-Sabi; Making a Golden Journal; the Practices of Surrealism; Book Binding Methods and History; and Making the Physical Journal.

Next week, I will be discussing some of my favourite printing books. In the meantime, Happy Journalling and Art Making!

8 thoughts on “Drawing and Art Library: Part Three: Watercolour Books and Artist’s Journals

    1. Thank you! I do too! While I have accepted my own limitations in the area, I am constantly blown away by my daughter’s abilities. She had one watercolour lesson with a friend a little over one year ago and has just gone from strength to strength. Her animal portraits are amazing, especially the eyes, and she is currently tackling landscapes, which she finds more challenging, so my books are being put to good use!

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