Friday, August 3, 2018

The Joy of Watercolor


Emma Block, in her new book The Joy of Watercolor:  40 Happy Lessons for Painting the World Around You, has approached watercolor with fun and simplicity.  "My approach to watercolor painting is to break all the rules and work in a way that makes you happy."  She writes of the  surrender and spontaneity necessary to experience the joy of watercolor, my favorite painting medium.

The unique thing about the style of Emma's work as presented in this book is probably found in Emma's background and choice of career.  She is a successful illustrator and also teaches watercolor classes in London, England, where she lives.  Her style as an illustrator matches perfectly with journal keeping, and I give top marks to anything that is approached simply.  She calls this "modern watercolors".

Although the approach is simple there is strong and practical instruction in the opening, introductory chapter.  She describes the choice between pans and tubes as personal, and I find myself using both for exactly the same reasons she writes about.   She reminds us that liquid watercolors are dye-based, providing beautiful vivid results, but that they aren't as lightfast as traditional watercolors.  Brushes are well described but in the projects she simply suggests a small, medium or large brush rather than a very specific size.  Paper and the (tedious, in my opinion) subject of stretching paper is covered, along with her simple recommendation.  She writes about color theory in a way that got me  inspired to start mixing paints.  The basic techniques of using watercolor washes and layering are covered in just a few pages. 

This introduction takes just 35 pages, so that we move quickly to painting the world around us!  Subsequent chapters cover flowers, fruit, plants, objects, food, people, animals and "on location" painting.  Each chapter has several projects and are labelled beginner, intermediate and advanced.  The supplies needed for each project are listed, including color swatches for those of us who can't remember exactly what Viridian green looks like.  That way, we can use what we have rather than buying specified colors.  The instructions are detailed and clear.  

There are lots of more advanced techniques included in the project instructions.  This is a big book (239 pages) filled with inspiration.  It opens nice and flat, and at 7 1/2" square (closed), it is a nice size.  I was able to leave it open beside me while I painted without using up too much of my small desk space.

Whether you are a beginner or need to inject some inspiration into your sketching practice, this is a great book.  Thanks to Emma and Running Press for sending it to me!

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