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THE BEGINNERS GUIDE. WATERCOLOUR LANDSCAPES (article first published : 2001-11-11)

I can think of no-one more qualified to review The Beginners Guide. Watercolour Landscapes than myself because I am the ultimate beginner in this branch of the arts, be it landscapes or any other form of watercolour work.

I have devoured every watercolour manual that has the word “beginner” in its title and in fact I must be the best-read beginner in the art of watercolour. But this book by Ian Sidaway made sense, even to me.

An established artist living in Twickenham in the UK, Ian Sidaway trained as a designer and started painting in 1970. Since then he has exhibited widely in Europe and the USA. He has illustrated books on a range of subjects and has written several books on art techniques.

What particularly impressed me was Ian Sidaway’s method of getting over his instructions without being too wordy and this he does in a unique way. His book contains many reproductions by contemporary artists depicting scenes from all over the world and for a number of these, he must have been present while the artists were working. Photographs by Mike Good show their method, step-by-step, from the beginning to the final result.

One in particular is a South African landscape painted by Roger Hutchins entitled The Vineyard. A detail of this work is featured on the cover and the full work appears on page 40 accompanied by an explanation of a very interesting technique adopted by Hutchins.

Ian Sidaway even makes history an interesting subject when, at the beginning of his book, he tells us of the origins of watercolour painting,

On page 8 is a watercolour picture by an artist of the 1600 period, Anthony Van Dyck whose works in oils are legendary but this picture - as opposed to some of his paintings that took months or years to complete – is a picture of an English landscape that was dashed off in no more than two hours. It is refreshingly very alive. And that is watercolour’s attraction, because I feel sure we aspiring artists like to see the fruits of our labours quickly.

Having destroyed several hectares of A4-size scrap letterhead paper and after reading and reviewing The Beginners Guide. Watercolour Landscapes, I have ventured my halting efforts on to real watercolour paper and I find it very exciting. All the materials mentioned in the book are available in South Africa and most by the same brand-names or certainly by their equivalents.

The Beginners Guide. Watercolour Landscapes by Ian Sidaway is published by New Holland Publishers (UK) Ltd and is available at all good bookshops and suppliers of art materials at R119.95 – John Simpson




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