Sunday, February 8, 2015

To those writing beginning art books and to those seeking beginning watercolor or drawing books

Hi Friends,

I have a confession.... I am creating art (in the form of Silk Painting), but haven't had much in the way of any formal training.  I've been informed that I am considered to be a "primitive artist" (although that term apparently isn't used much anymore because it implies poorer quality art)!  My last official class in art was well-over 30+ years ago (and I'm not sure what I took for middle-school art qualifies as a true art class!).

I was brought up to believe that art wasn't overly important and DEFINITELY NOT a proper goal for education and employment, and instead was STRONGLY encouraged to pursue science-based education.  I spent the majority of my adult life dabbling in art (& crafts) and at times I have been pretty successful, but most of the time... the process of creating art has been incredibly frustrating because I could see that SOMETHING was wrong but I couldn't figure out why.

This looks a lot like what I was experimenting with










  I feel like an extreme generalist with a few basic skills (and some very basic supplies - which I am slowly trading in for professional-grade supplies) but am seriously lacking in "real" art training. 

I thought perhaps I just need more practice - and since Silk Painting is permanent and rather unforgiving, I thought I would attempt some of my design ideas in Watercolor Painting.  

Unfortunately, having no training in art,  makes for BIG mistakes in Watercolor Painting. 

SO, I decided that I need to go back to the basics (or perhaps - LEARN the basics would be a better way to put it!).  But, where to start?  ... well, I always start with books (although I have been watching a few videos as well).  I do prefer books because:
  • I can take books with me (even when I go camping!)
  • I can write notes on the books if I want to (although usually I use sticky notes - I was raised to revere books)
  • I can put bookmarks in the book to refer back easily to the sections I want (again these are usually sticky notes)
  • I don't have to share my books like I do my computer (if I'm on my computer, my daughter will immediately want to use it)
  • Frankly, I just love the feel of books.  An e-reader can be a great thing... but a book just feels infinitely more satisfying to hold and read. 

I have to say, that I have been SERIOUSLY DISAPPOINTED in "learn to do art" (especially "learn to watercolor") types of books!!!  Most of them assume you've had basic skills and will say things like "just paint a tree" - but when I did, it was bad enough to make a cat laugh!   At this point, I have pulled more than 50 Watercolor Painting books (aimed at beginners) from the local library... of those, very few are decent!  But even those are sort of hit-and-miss.  You get an answer about one issue in one book, but have to go to a different book instructions on another issue and yet another for another issue.  It is SOOO frustrating!!  Seriously - If you are an artist who is considering writing a book aimed at beginners for ANY medium...... DO IT!  ACTUALLY CREATE A TRUE "BEGINNER" BOOK!!  Speaking as someone who was raised to be non-artistic, but scientific-based... I NEED step-by-steps to get the ideas down and then once the "logic" clicks, I can expand into all sorts of new directions.

Don't just show the color palettes, explain a little color mixing theory,  and then jump into full-blown landscapes or cityscapes!!   Show how each little section of an art piece is built!  For instance, we want to know how to paint deciduous trees in a step-by-step process -... not just a picture of a trunk and then the words "add color to your page" and then show a picture of a painted tree with lots of color.   Please explain how you created the leaves and when you drew the branches and WHY you do each step when you do it.  Yes, there are plenty of artists who have had quite a bit of training who don't need the absolute basics and step-by-step instructions --- but I am guessing there are a LOT of people who need each step to be precisely explained and shown in a picture.

For those of you who want decent, basic books for drawing and for watercolor - here are a few that I have found to be helpful.  I'm not saying they are perfect, but each one has sections that are great for either step-by-step directions, or they are good for overall reference books.  Also, I am NOT putting these in preferred order - this is just a list of books that I find interesting and helpful (and most are available at my local library!).


  1. Drawing with the Right Side of the Brain (Betty Edwards) a great book!
  2. Expressive Drawing (Steven Aimone) A FABULOUS book for learning to draw abstract art - I'm working my way through it now!
  3. Creating Textures in Colored Pencil (Gary Greene)
  4. The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds (John Muir Laws) - a personal favorite..his Youtube videos rock too!!
  5. The Sierra Club Guide to Sketching in Nature (Cathy Johnson)
  6. Drawing and Painting With Colored Pencil (Kristy Ann Kutch)
  7. Drawing and Painting Flowers With Coloured Pencils (Trudy Friend)
  8. Drawing and Painting Flowers - Problems and Solutions (Trudy Friend)
  9. Watercolor Basics (Philip Metzger)
  10. Watercolor Secrets (Robin Berry)
  11. Steps to Success in Watercolor (Brenda Swenson)
  12. Putting People in Your Paintings (Laurel Hart)
  13. Powerful Watercolor Landscapes (Catherine Gill)
  14. Jean Haines - Atmospheric Watercolours (Jean Haines) - this is somewhat advanced, but gorgeous!
  15. James Fletcher-Watson's Watercolour Secrets (James Fletcher-Watson)
  16. A Celebration of Light (Jane Freeman)
  17. The Watercolorist's A-Z of Trees & Foilage (Adelene Fletcher) (like the variety of trees!)
  18. Painting Vibrant Watercolors (Soon Warren)
  19. Creating Luminous Watercolor Landscapes (Sterling Edwards)
  20. Basic Flower Painting Techniques in Watercolor
  21. Watercolor Painting Outside the Lines (Linda Kemp) I like this alternative way of painting!
  22. Painting Wildlife in Watercolor (Peggy Macnamara) this might be a bit advanced, but I absolutely LOVE the way she paints! If you can find one to purchase that is under $50 bucks, let me know!
  23. Creating Textures in Watercolor (Cathy Johnson)
I'm sure there are tons more, but I've found each of these books to have at least a few, really great tips!

Good luck and let me know which books you use - I'm always on the look out for more great books! 

Rebecca

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