If you have access to the internet and You Tube videos, there is no dearth of water colour painting tutorials. Even if you want to buy a book on how to paint with water colour, ‘Teach Yourself’ books are a dime a dozen. So there is intense competition in this field and any new volume will have to provide the learners with something absolutely special to justify its price.
Jenna Rainey’s Everyday Watercolor: Learn to Paint Watercolor in 30 Days is another addition to those illustrated ‘how to paint’ books. The introductory chapter has a few details on how the author became a ‘self-taught artist’ because, at a certain stage of life, she ‘came across the right watercolor supplies’. She adds immediately…’and something changed for me’. Unfortunately, for this reviewer, that was a spoiler that came too early in the book. Jenna Rainey recommends expensive paints, paper and brushes and one wonders if these are really so essential for a novice or a beginner. Her emphasis on the ‘correct materials’ to make the process enjoyable perhaps reveals her own infatuation rather than a genuine need. She then endeavours to spread her own infatuation rather candidly: ‘I hope the list of supplies and those fundamental tips are getting you excited to paint for yourself!’ Thus, the first chapter of the book is more about the “I”, the established artist, rather than the “you”, the novice learner. Shouldn’t it have been the other way round?
Everyday Watercolor will tell you about straight lines and curves, values and volume, shadows and patterns and will help you to learn some basic techniques of water colour painting with illustrated lessons. Jenna will teach you how to add a few layers of paint, one after the other, and how to create highlights and mid-tones. Jenna’s models are mostly natural objects — plants, fruits and flowers in their passive and inert state — a papaya or a saguaro cactus. There are a few very simple landscapes. After a few lessons, it becomes rather mundane and almost frustrating because there are very few live drawings that show objects on the move. Would it have been so difficult to introduce a few interesting scenes in those paintings? A beginner would do well to paint objects of her own choice than copying what is provided in this book.
Jenna Rainey’s words of wisdom like how you can make a beautiful picture without painting in great detail or how two reference photos, one black-and-white and the other coloured, can help you understand depth and tone, do not impress much because neither her words nor the paintings are able to inspire the uninitiated to try her hand in painting. As the author of a ‘do-it-yourself’ manual, she would have been more successful if she could have stimulated, with her own paintings, her readers to paint for the first time. As Jenna asserts, ‘Break the rules!’
As I have hinted at the beginning, you’ll get better water colour lessons free-of-cost if you search the net and you have a great variety of good books to choose from. It’s a pity that I can’t include Everyday Watercolor in that list of books.
This reviewer received a free electronic copy of the book from Netgalley for an honest review.
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