Monday, 25 January 2010

The Best Books about Landscape Art - A Review

As part of my new project - The Art of the Landscape - I'm going to be reviewing books about landscape art.
You are very welcome to collaborate with this project and also contribute book reviews about landscape art books.

Subject to the quality and relevance of any book reviews submitted - via a comment to one of the blogs - the book review post and blog will receive a link from one or more websites - as detailed below:
Please note that spam will not be published.

One of the most popular art instruction books for landscape artists
Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting
by: John F. Carlson

Book Review - Two main themes

This Book Review of Books about Landscape Art has two main themes:
  1. art instruction books - which are targeted at people who want to learn more about how to create landscape art
  2. art history books - which focus more on the development of landscape art and famous landscape artists (past and present)
Review and rate - things to highlight and do in your book review

This is intended to be a collaborative project - and you are invited to review your favourite landscape art books.

You can read about lots of different approaches to reviewing books in my suggested guide to reviewing books which you can find here - How to write a book review

This is my suggested framework for a very basic system to use when reviewing. Do leave me a comment if you think it can be improved
If possible, it would be helpful if every review covers the following:

Review the book
  1. Basics: State basic facts about the book: title, author, publisher; the intended target audience for the book.
  2. Content: Express your opinion about the content and give reasons for your views.
  3. Communication: Say how well the author gets the main messages across. Bottom line - Is it a good read? Did you absorb what s/he had to say?
  4. Presentation: Does it look good / does it feel good / does the binding do a good job?
  5. Value for Money: Is it good value for money?
  6. Overall quality: Would you recommend it? If not, why not? If yes, who would most benefit from reading the book?
Rate your book!
Finally, after making it clear who you think the book is aimed at, try and decide whether it rates:
5 stars - go out and buy this book right now if you have the money. In your opinion, an essential book for anybody seriously interested in drawing and/or learning more about landscape art
4 stars - a seriously good book about landscape art; definitely one you want to own at some point - maybe one for the Christmas present list if you're broke
3 stars - good effort but nothing which really distinguishes it from other books. It's just this author's take on the basics. The sort of book which is good while you are reading it but doesn't stick in your memory.
2 stars - undistinguished in your view. For example: content may be a rerun of previously published books and/or remixed with a new front cover; presentation may not be particularly noteworthy.
1 stars - buying this book would damage your wallet but is unlikely to enhance either your knowledge, skills or enjoyment. It may also hurt your eyes! (Unfortunately there are a few of these out there - although I'm assuming we've probably weeded through a few of these without buying!)
At the end of all this we'll have a poll and try and work out which are the very best of the best books about landscape art!

Please leave a comment and share your views if:
  • you've done a book review. (Please highlight your blog post and the relevant URL below.)
  • You want to also highlight a relevant book review done by somebody else. (Please highlight your blog post and the relevant URL below.)
  • If you've got a view about which is the best book about landscape art
The Best Books about Landscape Art
The Best  Books about Landscape Art
Do you want to learn about landscape art? Do you want to find out which which are the best books about painting landscapes? Do you want to know more about famous landscape artists? This site covers books - and book reviews - for people wanting to learn more about landscape art.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

New botanical art books for 2010

I'm very happy that I'm being sent some new botanical art books to review. It seems as if botanical art is maybe holding its own in the current economic climate after all judging by the number of new publications

The new publications are set out below

New Book

Publication Date

Botany for the Artist: An Inspirational Guide to Drawing Plants

Due to publish in February 2010 - 256 pages (hardback) published by Dorling Kindersley.
Author Dr Sarah Simblet teaches at the University of Oxford, has drawings in national and private collections, including the Royal Academy of Art, London and Ashmolean, Oxford and is the author of two excellent drawing books.

February 2010

Botanical Sketchbook

Due to publish in April 2010. This book has been developed from the sketchbook kept by Diploma student Mary Ann Scott. She was awarded a Distinction with her Diploma. My review copy has already arrived and a quick scan suggests it's simply splendid and an absolute must for Diploma students.

April 2010

Botanical Portraits with Colored Pencils

Due to publish in April 2010. The first ever botanical art book written specifically for coloured pencil artists. Author Ann Swan is a member of the Society of Botanical Artists and is the holder of four Gold Medals awarded by the Royal Horticultural Society

April 2010

Botanical Drawing in Color: A Basic Guide to Mastering Realistic Form and Naturalistic Color

Due to be published in July 2010 by Watson Guptill. Wendy Hollender is a member of the American Society of Botanical Artists, the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators,and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Florilegium Society.

July 2010

You can see more botanical art books in The Best Botanical Art Books

Monday, 18 January 2010

The Art of Botanical Painting - out of print!!!

The Art of Botanical Painting and The Botanical Palette: Colour for the Botanical Painter are something of a landmark in terms of publications produced by art societies.
This post is by way of an advisory. I've learned that The Art of Botanical Painting went out of print in June 2009 and it's now very difficult to get hold of copies.

I'd therefore advise anybody who is thinking of doing the SBA's Diploma Course to get hold of copies of both books as soon as possible otherwise you'll be left with the option of trying to buy a used copy for c.$80 - and that's a value which can only climb higher and higher over time.

I've yet to get confirmation from Harper Collins, the publishers of both books, as to whether or not a reprint is planned. However the page of their website devoted to botanical painting
  • does NOT currently list The Art of Botanical Painting as a book in their list,
  • nor does it indicate a planned reprint. In fact there is complete silence on the topic of this book and it looks as if they never ever produced it!
I completely understand that the book publishing undustry is experiencing a very difficult time at present - especially since the advent of e-books - however I am absolutely amazed that a book like this can be dropped by apublisher. It's not as if it's very old or out of date or that people are not going to want to study to become botanical painters in the future!

It's also especially sad as this is one of the better books about botanical painting. So far as future students of the ever-popular Diploma Course are concerned I can only assume that they are going to have a very frustrating time while they try and locate a copy.

I understand that the Society of Botanical Artists has started to buy back books if and when they can locate them so they can continue to supply the book as a core text while they get through this hiatus.

If you know of any bookshop which has copies please let me know via this post and I will pass the message on.

You can read my review of The Art of Botanical Painting here - Book Review: The Art of Botanical Painting. Tomorrow I'll publish my 2007 review of the Botanical Palette on this blog. It would be very unfortunate if this book suffered the same fate as this is an absolutely unique book,

I do hope something gets sorted out about a reprint. At a time when far too many art instruction books are published which are essentially recycled material which has been dumbed down it would be very frustrating to see a good book going out of print!

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Unison Pastels - Resources for Artists

I have a new resource for pastels artists!

The results of the opinion poll to find your favourite brand of pastel - which ran on Pastels - Resources for Artists from 2006 until this week - clearly showed Unison as being the most popular brand of pastels.

In honour of this achievement I've now created a new information site Unison Pastels - Resources for Artists. In this you can see
  • images of the full range of available pastel sets - some of you who are familiar with Unison may well be surprised by the range of sets which are now available
  • find out a lot more about them
  • obtain details of how to get hold of them via Amazon or regular suppliers of art materials in the UK and USA
...just click a link below and go straight to that topicto find out more

An invitation to review Unison Soft Pastels

I want to expand this new resource to include consumer reviews of Unison Soft Pastels by pastel artists.

If you've ever reviewed Unison Soft Pastels could please let me know and I'll add your review to this blog and to resource site. At present, I've included this review Pastel: Unison Review by Casey Klahn

If you've never written a review, aspects to consider for soft pastels include:
  • range of colours (tonality, saturation and brilliance/subtlety)
  • pigment load (and release)
  • how robust / how easy to break
  • how easy to blend
  • mark-making qualities and consistency on supports
  • 'feel' when making marks on different supports (and which support you find works best)
  • supports you've used and results
  • lightfastness - and tests you've done or changes you've observed when pastels are exposed to light
  • quality of packaging (sets only)
  • value for money (taking size and usability into account)
Comparisons with other pastels you are familiar with can also be helpful.
I'm particularly interested to receive reviews from anybody who has tried the special sets and those which only seem to be available in or from the USA.

Do let me know what you think either on this blog or the site itself.


Wednesday, 13 January 2010

The NEW 2010 Soft Pastels Opinion Poll

As announced yesterday, I now have a BRAND NEW opinion poll about artists' grade soft pastels for 2010 on Pastels - Resources for Artists

In order to evaluate how preferences are changing over time, I'm introducing an ANNUAL survey to see how artists are currently rating the available brands of soft pastels.

The old survey - which has now been archived - excluded new pastels which have emerged in the last three years. The new survey includes more options - with the different types of pastel made by each manufacturer now identified by name.

You can find the NEW survey here 2010 Poll: What is your favourite make of soft pastels?

The purpose of the polls is to identify which are the most popular soft pastels in 2010 - hence all past votes which applied to choices available in the past no longer apply. It also enables:
  • new brands to be reflected in the poll
  • people who have experimented with more brands and new brands since voting to change their preference if they want to
What this means is that all of you who voted on the first poll can now VOTE AGAIN! This time I want to know which brand - out of the ones which you use right now - is your favourite brand.

The poll can also provide feedback to the manufacturers about preferences which will hopefully provide an some incentive to continue with a good selection in the marketplace and products which continue to improve in both quality and lightfastness over time.

If any of the marketing people from the different pastel manufacturers are reading this and note that their new brands in the pipeline are NOT included please contact me with the date your product is due to be in the marketplace AND on your website.


Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Opinion Poll: Which is your favourite make of soft pastels?

This post tells you which make of soft pastel has been voted as favourite by artists visiting Pastels - Resources for Artists

Between 2006 and yesterday, I've had an opinion poll running on my information site Pastels - Resources for Artists which asks the question POLL: Which is your favourite make of soft pastel?

453 people have now voted on this poll. You can see the results of the poll by right-clicking on the image and opening it in a new tab.

So what do they think?

The overall positions have been pretty consistent for some time.

In order of preference, the top five soft pastels are
  • Unison 19.6%
  • Sennelier 15.9%
  • Terry Ludwig 13.5%
  • Schminke 11.7%
  • Talens Rembrandt 8.2%
The wisdom of crowds says that Unison is the favourite make of soft pastel.
In honour of this achievement I've set up a new information site Unison Pastels - Resources for Artists. In this you can see the full range of pastels and also find out a lot more about them and how to get hold of them. If you've ever reviewed Unison Soft Pastels please let me know and I'll add your review to the site.
Sennelier, Schminke and Rembrandt are pretty universally available and I'm sure that has had a positive impact on their rating.

What's possibly more surprising is the very good rating achieved by Terry Ludwig Pastels. They're very good - especially the darks - but like Unison this is very much a niche one product firm. That's quite an achievement for both firms!

After that a lot of smaller niche brands all get very similar levels of support
I'm guessing that the majority of respondents are from the USA as a lot of these soft pastels simply are not available except by export to people living outside the USA.

By way of comparison you can find a very old poll with 562 responses in the Soft Pastels Forum of Wet Canvas. Which Pastel Brand Do You Favor? gives a very different results - which I think only goes to show the value of having a regular update to reflect how the market has changed. People who may have voted one way back in 2001 may think quite differently now!

As with my coloured pencils site I'm intending to introduce an annual poll so we can see how preferences have changed as makes, ranges and the distribution of soft pastels have changed. I'll flag the new poll up on this blog when it's ready.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Product review: Brushes by Gwen Semeel

Product: Various brushes for painting portraits
  • Winsor & Newton Galeria round brush
  • Winsor & Newton Galeria round brush
  • Winsor & Newton round brushes
  • Winsor & Newton flat brush
  • House painting brush
  • Da Vinci Cosmotop Spin Flat Wash Series 5080
  • Da Vinci Cosmotop Spin Flat Wash Series 5080
  • Da Vinci Cosmotop Spin Flat Wash Series 5080
Manufacturer / Distributor: Various brush manufacturers
Product Review by: Gwen Semeel (Blog: Face Making)
Link to Product Review: The brush makes the painting
Target Audience: Painters and portrait artists
Technical Details:
  • review of two brands of brushes by Winsor & Newton and Da Vinci and various sizes and types of brushes within these brandfs
  • includes images of both the brushes and the paintings they produced
Summary: Informative review of the pros and cons of different brushes with acrylic paint - in terms of impact on style and painting practice
  • covers two brand of brushes - Winsor & Newton anmd Da Vinci
  • comments on the the impact of each brush on her paintings in terms of the language of brushmarks and the internal dynamism of the painting
  • highlights the VFM issue with using house painting brushes
Think Again?
  • for people who paint using brushes only
  • focuses more on the impact on painting style rather than on the relative quality, durability and value for money of the brushes highlighted
Suppliers: None listed in review

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Book Review: Landscape Painting by Mitchell Albala

Landscape Painting by Mitchell Albala

Title: Landscape Painting: Essential Concepts and Techniques for Plein Air and Studio Practice
Summary review: This book will become a new classic manual of landscape art.

It takes the core concepts and skills required of those creating any type of representational art and interprets and relates how these apply and work within the context of landscape art. It's an in-depth guide produced by somebody who is an experienced educator. It's written and designed by somebody who is an excellent communicator. It deserves a place on the bookshelf of everybody who takes landscape art seriously - whether they paint plein air or in the studio.

  • articulate and accessible - it's a good read but it's not difficult to read
  • packs in a lot of information and covers all the key areas
  • provides a range of exercises and demonstrations
  • great practical advice for those new to landscape art - working both plein air and in the studio
  • an excellent graphic example of how to set up an easel in relation to the source of light
  • uses the principles and elements to explain composition of the landscape
  • reviews colour theory and relates it to landscape art
  • unpicks approaches for painting and explains how they work
  • a very useful chapter on working with photographs with a good summary of do's and don'ts
  • includes a chapter on abstracting nature - a topic which often gets ignored
  • helpful section for those who've been painting for a while and who have maybe lost their mojo and/or need new inspiration
  • excellent range of images of art by a wide variety of contemporary artists with different styles of representational landscape art
  • very useful glossary of key terms on landscape painting
  • contains 'on topic' quotes by fampus landscape artists throughout
Think Again?
  • It's emphatically not a dumbed down 'how to' book of the type that takes a scene and tells you how to paint it - with step by step stages
Who should buy this?:
  • landscape art tutors - as a recommended reference for their students
  • experienced landscape artists in need of a pep talk - it'll remind you of all those things you know but which you've maybe forgotten to employ of late!
  • intermediate landscape artists with a brain which doesn't mind exercise (ie those who don't mind a lot more words than pictures!) - iof you take pleasure in a good read
  • artists who want a LOT more than just a step by step guide - while there is a good mix of graphics and practical instruction this goes way beyond a lot of other books
  • ambitious novice artists wanting to study and work hard at their landscape art - this is a manual which you will return to time and time again
Who should not buy this?
  • people wanting basic instruction with lots of essential bits missed out - this book will challenge you
  • people who just want to copy step by step landscapes - because there is a great more than just demonstrations
  • artists who don't like art instruction books with a lot of words - there's a lot to read!
Publishers' Synopsis: Concise, practical, and inspirational, Landscape Painting focuses on the greatest challenges for the landscape artist, such as:
• Simplification and Massing: Learn to reduce nature's complexity by looking beneath the surface of a subject to discover the form's basic masses and shapes.
• Color and Light: Explore color theory as it specifically applies to the landscape, and learn the various strategies painters use to capture the illusion of natural light.
• Selection and Composition: Learn to select wisely from nature's vast panorama. Albala shows you the essential cues to look for and how to find the most promising subject from a world of possibilities.
The lessons in Landscape Painting are based on observation rather than imitation and applicable to both plein air and studio practice—are accompanied by painting examples, demonstrations, photographs, and diagrams. Illustrations draw from the work of more than 40 contemporary artists and such masters of landscape painting as John Constable, Sanford Gifford, and Claude Monet.
Based on Albala's 25 years of experience and the proven methods taught at his successful plein air workshops, this in-depth guide to all aspects of landscape painting is a must-have for anyone getting started in the genre, as well as more experienced practitioners who want to hone their skills or learn new perspectives.

Author / (Publisher) Mitchell Albala / Random House/Watson Guptill
Technical data: Publication Date:
Hardcover (with dust jacket) - 192 pages;
ISBN: 978-0-8230-3220-4 (0-8230-3220-5)
Price as at today's date:

If I was to try and write a book about landscape painting then this would be the one I'd wish I'd written. This book will be published in the UK tomorrow and has been available in the USA since November. Watson Guptill were kind enough to send me a copy to review.

It's very refreshing to find a book which focuses on and combines information about the key artistic concepts, skills and practical information relevant to the landscape artist.

Albala is a great communicator and makes the essential concepts and approaches accessible while avoiding the sort of 'dumbing down' which afflicts too many art instruction books these days. It was obvious to me that the text has been developed and honed and edited and refined until it's the best it can be - in summary it's a good rdead in more ways than one.

Nothing in this book is 'rocket science'. I think I knew virtually all the content - either from books, instruction or experience - but what distinguishes this publication is that he gets it all down in one book! I've known other books which have been excellent at some of the topics covered by this book but very few which have come anywhere near its breadth and depth.

It's also a book which pulls off the neat trick of providing a comprehensive manual for the newcomer to landscape art while providing a refresher for the more experienced artists who will find it provides a useful recap of key concepts as well as tips and techniques.
In my landscape classes, I argue that nature poses its own unique set of challenges that require a unique approach, which I often refer to as the “Essential Concepts of Landscape Painting.” Landscape classes focus a great deal on simplification and translation (“less is more”), composition, color and the inherent abstraction within nature. In my introductory drawing and painting classes, I stress a foundational set of ideas that can be applied beyond the end of class (as in all Gage classes). I also I stress observation rather than imitation and encourage students to find their own style, even as beginners.
Mitchell Albala
I like the fact that the book starts with an overview of where he is going - as per 'tell them where you are going'. It then covers all the bases.

The section on materials is basic but not generic - it's very specific to the landscape artist in the studio and working plein air and is actually useful! For example, when discussing colours he provides a recommended palette but then gives over a double page spread to review how to mixing green and which other colours can be helpful!

Chapters devoted to composition and colour cover all the key essentials - including all the ones which often get left out in other books. He's an advocate of colour temperature which some artists may quibble with but that didn't bother me. Overall it's pitched at a level which renders the complex simple and yet provides a useful and quick review for all those who already 'know' the basics.

Working with photographs highlights what NOT to do and also the how digital images can be manipulated to extract more information from an image which has distorted values. It also highlights how digital manipulation can be effective in identifying key shapes and masses and the basic values. I loved the demonstration of how paintings need not look exactly like their reference photos!

The section on abstraction will interest those - including me - who feel that there is more scope to abstract their work but are not quite sure how to go about it.

The final section is the one which will perhaps appeal most to those who have been painting for some time without quite getting to the place where they want to be. It talks of style, how that can be achieved, how you can maintain your momentum and inspiration and how you can develop your won critical faculties and continue to learn.

Finally, his book is generous in its use of works by various landscape artists and in providing a further reading list. In the latter he highlights a number of authors and books which are ones I highly recommend to people - so he's got to have good judgement! :)

I think this book will repay re-reading over time as people progress from novices to experienced painters - and begin to realise that the author has provided something for a range of different backgrounds and experiences. I suspect that it will particularly appeal to the experienced but self-taught artist who has not benefited from formal art education but wants to learn all they can.

Note: MITCHELL ALBALA teaches landscape painting at the Gage Academy of Art in Seattle. A respected and dedicated teaching artist for more than 20 years, he is best known for his atmospheric and semiabstract landscapes of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. He has lectured on impressionism at the Seattle Art Museum, has written about landscape painting for American Artist magazine, and hosts an educational website at He has exhibited nationally and is represented by the Lisa Harris Gallery in Seattle
The Best Books about Landscape Art
The Best  Books about Landscape Art
Do you want to learn about landscape art? Do you want to find out which which are the best books about painting landscapes? Do you want to know more about famous landscape artists? This site covers books - and book reviews - for people wanting to learn more about landscape art.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Two new coloured pencil opinion polls for 2010

As promised earlier this year, today I have set up two BRAND NEW opinion polls about artists' grade coloured pencils and watercolour pencils on Coloured Pencils - Resources for Artists.
The main reason for starting a new poll is because there have been a lot of advances since the original poll was started:
  • CPSA has now published more data about the resusts of its lightfast testing of different brands of pencils
  • there are now more lightfast pencils, more people are aware of the lightfastness issues and people's preferences may well have shifted
  • new brands have been created eg Caran d'Ache Luminance pencils
  • people will have experimented with more brands and new brands and may well have changed their preferences!
Making A Mark Reviews (16 November 2009) Opinion Poll: Which is your favourite make of artist grade coloured pencil?
POLL: Which is your favourite make of artist grade coloured pencil?
Results chart as at 31st December 2009
(792 votes)

So - as of today there are now two NEW polls. Click the links below to view the options and vote:
The purpose of the polls is to identify which are the most popular coloured pencils in 2010 - hence all past votes which applied to choices available in the past no longer apply

Which means that all of you who already voted on the first poll can VOTE AGAIN! This time I want to know which brand - out of the ones which you use right now - is your favourite brand.

Note also that this is the first time I've set up a poll specifically for watercolor pencils.

As previously indicated, hopefully by providing feedback to the manufacturers about preferences there will be some incentive to continue with a good selection in the marketplace and products which continue to improve in both quality and lightfastness over time.

If any of the marketing people from the different pencil manufacturers are reading this and note that their new brands in the pipeline are NOT included please contact me with the date your product is due to be in the marketplace AND on your website.

Note: The first poll about artists' coloured pencils is being "retired" although its results will be maintained as an image (see above) on this blog and on Coloured Pencils - Resources for Artists

Coloured Pencils - Resources for Artists
Find out about coloured pencils. This leading resource has information for everybody from experienced artists to beginners wanting to learn all they can. Topics include
  • tips and techniques for working with coloured pencils,
  • information about coloured pencil brands and associated products (CHECK OUT the poll - find out which make of artist grade coloured pencils is the favourite.)
  • coloured pencil societies,
  • coloured pencil artists and
  • forums where you can discuss coloured pencil matters with artists working in coloured pencils
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