Saturday, 21 October 2017

Two 'Ready to paint in 30 minutes' in Watercolour - Book Reviews

Pic 1

Pic 2

Pic 3

Ready to Paint in 30 Minutes – Flowers in Watercolour 
 Author Ann Mortimer 
(Search Press ISBN 978-1-78221-519-6) 

Review is by guest contributor, Sue W from Leicestershire, UK


Having just had a handful of ‘beginners’ watercolour lessons and finding them very challenging I was introduced to this book. Wow! I found it to be very exciting and inspiring. For people new to painting and to watercolour this is the book for you. You don’t even need to be able to draw! 

The book is full of ideas, tips and projects for you to work through. Each chapter leads on to new and interesting techniques to learn such as ‘spattering’, ‘wax resist’ and the use of salt. For those who find drawing difficult as I do tracings are provided of the flowers, leaves and seed heads featured so there is no excuse not to get started! Each ‘tracing’ is carefully cross referenced to the relevant project and page where you will find step-by-step instructions to lead you through the painting techniques needed to complete your chosen project. 

At the beginning of the book there is information about the basic equipment needed. A list of the paint colours used throughout is given but as well as their names there is also a colour chart. I found this a great help as it meant I could mix the colour I needed if I didn’t have the particular paint mentioned. 

As it is now autumn I decided to have a go at the leaf (see Pic 1). This involved painting ‘wet-in- wet’. I particularly enjoyed trying out the effect of ‘spatter spots’. Painting the ‘Anemone with shadows’ picture (pic 2) introduced the idea of using ‘negative space’ to keep areas white, and of using masking fluid to reserve areas of the paper from the paint in order to add a different colour at a later stage. The background to the flowers is achieved using the ‘wet-in-wet’ method whereas to deepen the shadow and add detail required ‘wet-on-dry’. My most successful picture was achieved using wax resist to paint a picture of Honesty seed heads (see Pic 3). I was very happy with the result at just my first attempt! 

If you love flowers and have always wanted to paint them then this book is for you.


Ready to Paint in 30 Minutes – Street Scenes in Watercolour 
Author Graham Booth 
(Search Press ISBN 978-1-782-21415-1)

Review is by guest contributor, Cheryl H from Birmingham, UK  


The artwork in the book is beautiful, and excitingly this step-by-step project book really makes the beginner believe they can achieve - and they can! There are 32 projects, gradually adding new techniques. I think in time, without perhaps realising, the beginner could produce some great pieces of art. I really appreciated the tracings which mean you don't feel pressure to become a great drawer and a great painter at the same time, and you don't have to face the daunting 'blank page' before you start painting. The pencil lines form part of the finished piece of work. The small sizes of paintings also help as a beginner as its easy to paint on your lap or a table, and there's no need to worry about mixing huge quantities of paint or stretching the paper. I have worked through the first 4 projects up to now, which varied in their outcomes but, while the finished pieces are reasonable, its important to remember the book is about learning, not making masterpieces. At the start of the book there is some information about equipment and colours but to be honest, I'd have liked a bit more info here, so I could identify types of brushes for example, and more on how to prepare and use a palette as I struggled preparing my colour mixes. I'd have also liked a page with a palette image of the colours which are used throughout the book, so when the artist states he uses Windsor Red, for example, I could find my closest match. One of the best things about this book is that rather than technique exercises you learn the technique within a piece of work, so you end with finished pieces of work, and you can see why the different techniques are important. I'm looking forward to continuing with the book, and it'd perhaps be interested to then go back to the beginning and compare my second attempts and see my improvements. I'd be very happy to recommend this book to a friend who wanted to learn to paint with watercolour, and learn the techniques ready to take on their own projects eventually. 


Friday, 20 October 2017

Q&A with Phil Walker and his Story of Guitar Heroes Touring Show

Phil Walker Artist and Creator of 'Story of Guitar Heroes' Stage Show

A Q&A with Phil Walker, creator of The Story of Guitar Heroes: a live concert style 'rockumentry' which takes the audience on a tour through the history of the guitar giants who have shaped the landscape of music. 

How did you come to think of 'The Story Of Guitar Heroes'? 
It was one of those events in life where a couple of things just happened to line up perfectly and the idea comes together, and you realise this is where your life has been leading you to. I got in from a gig late one night and was winding down watching a BBC show called Guitar Heroes. It got me thinking how amazing it would be to see all these people in one live concert – which obviously isn’t possible as many are no longer with us. I was thinking wouldn’t it be great to capture the sound and ambiance of these guitar heroes in one live show. Over the years I’ve accumulated a vast guitar collection – aside from it having been my day job, I am also self confessed guitar fanatic and addict. And it just seemed this little nugget of a concept was a great chance (excuse!) to put them all on stage and to play each one in the way they were meant to be seen.

Which Heroes have you chosen to portray in the show? 
I wanted it to be a show with something for everyone, but also to really pay tribute to the journey that the guitar has taken. So I start very early on in the history of the guitar with people like Bill Haley, Eddie Cochran, The Shadows, Jimi Hendrix and we work our way up to more modern players like Brian May and Joe Satriani. But we also look at a range of guitarists, so it’s not just the rock genre, but we include people like Tommy Emmanuel, Albert Lee and perhaps people that are less mainstream but who are equally awesome in their talent and contribution to music. 

How have you been able to create such authentic sounds, aside from years of practice? 
We have amazing technology available to us today, and alongside some original guitars, it’s possible to create very authentic sounds from time gone by. So there are some songs where I use very specialist guitars, and others where I use effects to create original sounds (for example, using delay to capture the sounds of The Shadows) or a particular technique, such as the vibrato arm or harmonics. I even use a six pence as a pick for the Brian May/Queen section, which you will know is what Brian May does. It’s surprising as it makes a real difference to the sound, though it took a while to get used to and even now, I have to really be aware of the change between using that and then going back to a normal pick. 

Who were your guitar idols growing up? 
Without a doubt, Hank Marvin got me started. He piqued my interest and then I found a guy called Albert Lee, and so those two from a young age were a huge influence. Oh and Eddie Cochren of course. 

And who are the guitarists you listen to or look up to now? 
Brad Paisley. Steve Lukather. They are worlds apart in playing, but I’ve always loved different and varied styles. 

Who else is performing with you on stage? 
We are a foursome on stage, so alongside me on guitar and lead vocals, there is another guitarist, a bass player and a drummer. The drummer also does some phenomenal vocals. Then there’s the guitars! They sit on the stage and when we play them, we play to show them off – so they are front and centre, more so than the people. So they are very much part of the visual experience and together with the technology we use, create authentic sounds showcasing our guitar heroes. Finally, we have a team of people back stage who have helped create a fantastic piece of film in it’s own right, which runs alongside the live show on giant screens. So it’s hopefully a dynamic and thrilling experience, as it merges the live aspect with recordings of the original artists and footage from the various time periods. 

How many guitars will you be using on stage? 
As I said the guitar, each of them, is very much a key part of the show. I use 15 currently, but collectively as a band we have over 30 in the show. But we constantly add to our collection – all in the name of research of course – so our show is organic and changes as we bring new sounds in, look at different guitar giants and listen to feedback about what the audience would like to see.

Which guitar is your favourite? 
Without a doubt it has to be the one I’ve had the longest. I’ve had it since I was 11 years old; so it’s very much been a companion on this journey with me to this point in my life. It’s my old white fender Stratocaster. 

How long have you been playing guitar? 
I started playing when I was six years old. You’d find me inside listening to music, playing guitar – rather than outside kicking a football around. Not giving my age away, but I’ve only every played guitar/music – I was self taught, but it became my day job and only job I’ve ever had. I’m very fortunate to have a path where I can earn a living doing what I love and now this show feels like a culmination of all those parts coming together. 

DO you play other instruments or are you solely a guitarist? 
No, the guitar is my first love but as a lover of music (and a working musician), but I play several instruments – drums, bass. I do most of the vocals. I write music for my You Tube channel where I demo guitars and other musical equipment. 

Where and when is the show performing? 
We will be at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry on Saturday 27 January 2018, but we have various other dates which you can see on the website, across the UK. 

Website details Website: 
Video Link: 

YouTube Channel: (Phil Walker Guitarist)

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Drawing MANGA style

Having received a copy of How to Draw MANGA in Simple Steps by Yishan Li, to fully scrutinize. I thought the best way to do it was to try drawing one of the Manga style characters following the step-by-step method of doing so directly from a page from the book.

Being a 2D artist who sketches and draws the figure and form of people and animals pretty accurately in a purposely naive illustrative style and being a fan of comic book art, I decided to reproduce a copy- cat image of the character shown in (FIGURE 2) digitally, using a graphic's tablet (for the first time properly), alongside Photoshop computer software with which I am more familiar. 

So below is the page I chose to copy. I 've never been very good at approaching my creativity in a trained way. What I would usually do is just look at the character completed (the guy in colour in the picture below) and line draw a version that would match him pretty well.

Page is page 13 from the book 'How to Draw MANGA in Simple Steps' byYishan Li

The source material presented in the book I mentioned above, has, in itself, a wealth of instructional content to enable you to get very good at mimicking the art style quickly. My attempt at using a tablet to draw is very amateurish as you will see, and there are so many digital artists who could teach you the art form much, much better.  Least, this way, I can offer a few trouble shooting tips.

Instead of trying to draw an even oval for the face, I selected an oval shape from the side panel. Later found I couldn't erase the hard lines in favour of the more desired chiseled look overdrawing I had produced 

Probably should have continually selected more layers to amend errors more easily. I used the eraser tool a lot to tidy up the lines.

above you will see the problem developing with oval face, also notice the first signs of me gravitating from the source example and my own style of drawing coming through (just can't help it!)

Instead of blocking I favour the more sketchy approach and I find myself not following exactly Li's tips to achieve a like-for-like composition. I have to make a bigger collar and have my guy holding on to that instead of his arm floating

With the colour and tones added I produce an acceptable version of a Manga character but one that does not resemble much the character from the book on page 13

I might be a clever clogs pencil sketcher/pen on paper doodler usually, but I have to say this approach for me is a whole new ball game! My free form skills were heavily restricted and stilted by the mechanics of the tools I was using. My son, who works the other way and finds it easier to draw using the computer and who creates better stuff if he follows this kind of stage by stage instruction, thought that I should have hand drawn on paper all the steps above to demonstrate and not provided the evidence in screen shots. My thoughts however, is though I found it all very frustrating with the practice bringing about such limitations, I do believe one can produce some fabulous Manga creations using this book as a guide, whether it be digitally (with more practice in my case), or traditionally. I like originality however, and so make no excuses for being original! 

Direct your stockist enquiries here

Also available from the same series  How to Draw PEOPLE in Simple Steps

Friday, 15 September 2017

THE JOY OF SEEING an art exhibition showcasing the work of the late Gordon Snee - Artist

Artwork by the late Gordon Snee - Abstract Artist

THE JOY OF SEEING is the first retrospective of the newly-discovered abstract painter, Gordon Snee . The exhibition opens on 30th September in Halifax UK, which not only showcases Snee's paintings but also reveals an absolute treasure trove of unseen pictures saved from the bonfire by Snee's daughter, Jo Snee. 

Gordon Snee painted from the late 1940s to 2013. He rarely exhibited his work. It was only after his death that his vast legacy of paintings, drawings, sketch-books and maquettes came to light. His life's work was only saved from the bonfire by the timely action of Jo, just after his funeral.

Since then, Jo has brought together a band of supporters for her father's work. With her daughter, Rachel she ran a couple of pop-up exhibitions in disused buildings in Sheffield's Kelham Island. The sculptor, Simon Wigglesworth-Baker built a full-size sculpture from one of Snee's models. Ernest Wright and Son Ltd, one of Britain's last hand-made scissor factories, donated space for the 'Snee Studio', where the pictures can be safely stored (and viewed by appointment). Jo restored and framed the hundreds of paintings, drawings, wood and lino cuts that her father left behind.

Meanwhile, arts writer, Simon Evans read Snee's seventy note and sketch books and so began to uncover the artist's lonely struggle against a hidden 'cultural cold war', so The Joy of Seeing exhibition throws new light on the secret history of post-war European art. 

Now this team are set to open what is the first major retrospective of Snee's work, at one of the north's leading independent galleries: The Crossley at Dean Clough Mills in Halifax. Alongside the exhibition there will be talks about Snee's work, a book launch, and projects with The Brooksbank School in Elland and Longley College in Sheffield.

Read more about the story of Gordon Snee here

Monday, 11 September 2017

Making Quilts and Badges from T-shirts - Book Feature

I have a friend who is a talented quilter and our craft group have made small quilted items under her direction. All four of us have visited a quilt exhibiting gallery at one time or another. So I was very interested in having the chance to feature the ideas given in The T-Shirt Quilt Book by Lindsay Conner and Carla Hegeman Crim for three reasons:

1. Because the idea of making keepsake quilts from tees which represent the wearers' fandom fancies; be it music related, sporting related, fundraising related – whichever - is such a good one. The t-shirting fabric lends itself so wonderfully in being able to represent a favourite theme into a very personal, one-of-a-kind keepsake for someone to treasure, or to commemorate someone or something special in such a tactile and pleasing format.

2. Because my own interest in the theme of this book strays ever so slightly as I have a new hobby. I’ve started putting patches on clothes and this book gives me loads of ideas for me to customize clothing with handmade badges that I can make from charity shop purchases, not only second hand T-shirts, but baby sleep suits stealing away their cute graphics; padded baby books and padded wall hangings, bed quilts etc. etc., Note: the following five designs are my own and do not appear in the book

3. Because the drain on the earth's resources involved in producing masses of cotton T-Shirts is so costly in such an immeasurable enormity (as represented in the following video) so goes to prove that producing this wardrobe staple has consequences in terms of environmental impact, therefore the idea of reusing existing clothing items this way is an eco-friendly thing to do and very valuable in that sense.

Today, the book I feature has contributed to me having one or two light bulb moments. Block building info; templates and full instructions for 8 projects are also included in the book, yet I'm a fan of it mostly because of the images and suggestions it has given me in terms of creative ideas of how to reuse my charity shop finds.

Here are some images from the book:

Here's some t-shirt quilts featured on Pinterest 

The T-Shirt Quilt Book is available from Amazon
Disclosure applies see here

Direct your stockist enquiries to:

Monday, 4 September 2017

Primary School Nostalgia

Doesn't seem five minutes ago that I blogged about term end and School Sports Day. Hasn't it been the quickest summer holiday EVER!

So this week it's back to school for most. As always this time of year my thoughts turn to the many parents of little ones taking their first steps on the educational ladder.

Many of the Ravensburger jigsaw themes that I see mirror the social good in life and often act a prompter for an idea to blog. I think this puzzle box image, looking back to infants engaging with a teacher in a classroom is very poignant. We hope the profession hasn't redefined itself over time, and that teaching a child how to tell the time or reading a story out loud is still vital and enjoyed, and has not become a tick box chore

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Thursday, 31 August 2017

COLOUR by Marion Deuchars - Book Feature and Review

This book explores colour and its meaning to humans and what we relate colours to. The author is award-winning illustrator, Marion Deuchars.

a two page illustration by Marion Deuchars asking 'Why do children paint rainbows but adults don't?

Questions are presented (but not answered), like this one above about painting rainbows. Designed for us to consider how we might have looked at things as a child and how we look at things differently as an adult. 

Quote by Georgia O'Keefe  from the book Colour by Marion Deuchars

This quote above by Georgia O'Keefe appears in the book. It is a personal response to the subject of colour by the famous artist known for her bold and vibrant painting of enlarged flowers particularly

Colour scheme 'Evening in Istanbul' from the book Colour by Marion Deuchars

Colour Scheme 'Tahitian Women on the Beach' from the book Colour by Marion Deuchars

Colour Scheme 'St Ives'  from the book Colour by Marion Deuchars

The three colour schemes shown above are a selection of twelve altogether, where Deuchars has produced a palette of colours from famous artworks, so we are
 absorbed in that feeling of familiarity when we think of the original paintings. Artworks mentioned above are:Evening in Istanbul by the late American painter Stuart Davis style was cubism, modern art, pop art, and abstract; 'Tahitian Women on the Beach' by Gauguin whose striking use of colour, especially in his Tahitian works,produced such powerful forms; 'St Ives' by the late British artist Ben Nicholson who gave extra considerations to colour in his compositions. Colour was very textural to Nicholson. The book does not include any pictures of the famous artworks alongside the Deuchars colour blocks, I guess this would change the overall presentation of a book that features the author's illustrative work only.

Most Japanese children draw the sun as a big red circle from the book Colour by Marion Deuchars

Colour in art related facts are included. See pic immediately above and the two below.

from the book Colour by Marion Deuchars

from the book Colour by Marion Deuchars

My superstitious Nan always said it was 'Blue and Green should never be Seen!' What is the correct saying?

from the book Colour by Marion Deuchars

In this simple colour blob circle Deuchars shows those wonderful shades of the colour blue.

from the book Colour by Marion Deuchars

This is my favourite page, I love the manuscript style writing and the pink tones

More about the book:
• Hardcover - handle with care as it can easily crease and mark. Pages are a excellent publishing quality, art editorial work is very good

• Content: Offers engagement, provokes thoughts, feelings and curiosity about Colour
• The author presents us with a book that is visually very pleasing
Comment and review by Debra Hall, Creative Writer