Artists Library - We review 5 superb books

Artists Library

Again we are spoilt for choice with some inspiring new titles for our shelf of Art Instruction books. Join us as we turn the pages for you and offer a synopsis as to what they have to offer

Vibrant Acrylics,
Hashim Akib

Vibrant Acrylics, Hashim Akib - Book cover

I hope you’re going to find this one as exciting as I do. Not only is Hashim Akib a first-time author, but he’s also the 2009 SAA Artist of the Year and has a vigorous and dynamic style that fully exploits the possibilities of the medium. Working in a heavy impasto that exaggerates blocks of colour, Hashim revels in the bright shades available to the acrylic painter.

He also starts all his painting with a coloured ground, building up the image by over-painting, but also leaving hints of the base that throw the whole image forwards to give an almost three-dimensional effect.

None of these techniques are unique in themselves, but the combination of them and, in particular, the control and confidence that he displays, give his work a quality that only the word vibrant really conveys.

Acrylic rose by Hashim Akib

Hashim says in the introduction that, “The best tool for learning to paint is to paint” and this is very much a book that teaches by example.

Double page spread featuring a painting of a tree in acrylic by Hashim Akib

It’s much more about the process of painting than it is about ways to apply paint and one that rewards anyone who’s mastered the basic techniques and is looking for a way to extend their creativity. With subjects as diverse as landscapes, portraits, buildings and animals, there’s plenty to work on and from. I think it’s one of the most original books I’ve seen in a long time, and what makes it even better is that there is a tie-in DVD from Teaching Art enabling you to hear and see Hashim at work.

Painting in acrylic - Woodland light - by Hashim Akib


Buy the book
Buy Vibrant Acrylics Book with Hashim Akib


Ready to Paint Irises in Watercolour,
Julie King

Ready to Paint Irises in Watercolour, Julie King

On the face of it, a book on how to paint a single flower type seems rather like overkill, but this rather excellent series has already made inroads in this direction and the method is beginning to make sense.

Flowers are, after all, tricky things to pin down – they challenge just about every aspect of painting: from colour to shape and shading.

Sticking to one type gives you an advantage from the start as many variations are eliminated. Julie King’s paintings are a delight, doing full justice to a subject whose name itself means “colourful”.

The five demonstrations (with pre-printed tracings) cover most of the colourways of the species and she’ll show you how to capture the subtleties of tone and shading that characterise them.

Buy the book
Buy Paint Irises in Watercolour Book with Julie King


What to Paint Trees, Woodlands & Forests in Watercolour,
Geoff Kersey

What to Paint Trees, Woodlands & Forests in Watercolour, Geoff Kersey

This relatively new series, which is developing nicely, is more about ideas than techniques, but the included outlines give you a starting point if you feel you need a little hand-holding. If I’m honest, these feel to me a bit like a gimmick, but I can see their value, especially if you want to practise with the specific scenes illustrated.

The book is structured around 24 very different scenes, from dappled summer shade through the rich hues of autumn to the bare branches of a chilly winter’s evening.

It’s more about how trees fit into a composition than about painting them as a specific subject, and this is a welcome variation on the theme.

What to Paint Trees, Woodlands & Forests in Watercolour, Geoff Kersey

For each one, as well as the tracing, you also get the final result, along with notes on the colours used and how to complete some of the trickier details.

Geoff Kersey - a bluibell wood in watercolour

Think of this as a jumping-off point for painting trees in the landscape and you won’t go far wrong. The tie in DVD from Teaching Art enables you to be at the end of Geoff's paintbrush as he demonstrates the techniques in his book.

Geoff Kersey paints a woodland stream in watercolour

Buy the book
Buy the What to Paint Trees Woodland and Forests in Watercolour Book


Drawing Masterclass: Portraits Carole Massey

Drawing Masterclass: Portraits Carole Massey

At 96 pages, this is quite a compact guide, but Carole manages to pack in all the essentials and she explains the eyes/nose triangle – the main focus of how we recognise people – particularly well.

There are also three relatively short demonstrations that have been chosen to reflect a good variety of facial types.

These bring all the technical sections of the book together, but are not so much exercises that you feel you have to follow as simply a summary of everything that’s gone before.

I rather like this, because one of the bugbears of books on portraiture is the feeling that you’re being shown how to paint people you’ve never seen.

Drawing Masterclass: Portraits Carole Massey shows how to use proportions when drawing

It’s an insurmountable hurdle, but one which is rather nicely side-stepped here. It’s commonplace to say that books, “have much to teach the beginner and more experienced artist alike”, but I do feel that this one can be approached as both a primer and a masterclass. I know that sounds contradictory, but you’ll have to trust me!

Drawing Masterclass: Portraits Carole Massey shos using proportions

Buy the book
Buy the Drawing Masterclass Portraits Book with Carole Massey


Secrets to Painting Realistic Faces in Watercolor, Carrie Stuart Parks & Rick Parks

Secrets to Painting Realistic Faces in Watercolor, Carrie Stuart Parks & Rick Parks

There’s an originality here, too, but it’s more subtle because in many ways this is a very conventional book on painting portraits. Its success lies in the straightforward way the book progresses.

A lot of books on portraiture approach what is, let’s be honest, a complicated subject by immersing you in a welter of information. They go into a lot of detail on skeletal and muscle structure, facial and figurative proportions and the subtleties of shade and colour.

Each section of this book, however, is a lesson in itself and each one is quite short so that you’re only ever learning one thing at a time – establishing darks, working out the proportions of the face and how it all fits together, capturing skin tone, working with all the features individually and so on – until you’ve built up a library of techniques while scarcely realising it.

Painting hair and faces

The final chapter on “Stepping Out Of Your Comfort Zone” looks at more complex subjects and suggests ways of developing your skills further, something you’ll want to do with your new-found confidence.

Secrets to Painting Realistic Faces in Watercolor, Carrie Stuart Parks & Rick Parks

This really is one of the most gentle progressions I’ve ever seen and, frankly, other authors on other subjects could take note. The inclusion of a DVD, where you can see many of the techniques in action, is a bonus.

Buy the book
Buy Secrets to Painting Realistic Faces in Watercolour Book

Leave a Reply

Sorry, you must be logged in to post a comment.