There are a few essential books on watercolor that I think everyone serious about their work or hobby should read. In my previous article I recommended that you should definitely consider Edgar Whitney’s Complete Guide to Watercolor Painting to be one such book. Today I want to add to the list one of Frank Webb’s books. Truth be told though, I may be biased. Frank Webb’s books were the ones that set me on the right path. They helped me to get where I’m now. They helped me to stop painting the world without and start painting the world within. For these reasons his work and teaching will forever have a special place in my heart.
Frank Webb’s first book Watercolor Energies is an excellent book and in fact the style in which it’s written reminds me of Edgar Whitney’s book. I have unfortunately overpaid insanely for the book and that is the reason why I haven’t reviewed it before. It was out of print for so long that the secondary market ones went so high in price that I simply couldn’t endorse it. The good news, however, is that all three of Frank Webb’s books are now back in print! These are Watercolor Energies, Webb on Watercolor and Strengthen Your Paintings with Dynamic Composition. I wish they came out a few years earlier though. According to my information they are available directly from the publisher Echo Point Books but that’s all I know about these new editions. Unfortunately I cannot say if these books are only reprinted originals or if they actually went through editing and if so how extensive it was. Note that I don’t own any of these new editions, therefore the information in this article refer to the original first printing from 1983.
The contents of the book are laid out very well I think. At least I find it very logical. Many books are so chaotic that there seems to be no way of knowing what is going on and how to access any particular topic. This is not the case with Watercolor Energies. The following is a list of contents:
In the list of contents you can notice that there is a chapter on Pattern. In my article on Edgar Whitney’s book I mentioned that there is very few books that touch on the problem of Design patterns at all. Well Frank Webb doesn’t omit this important topic in his book. His overview of the problem is slightly different from that of Edgar Whitney so you won’t find much repetition there, on the contrary, they complement each other and provide additional perspective.
The majority of photographs in the book is black and white (this may or may not differ in the new edition) but there’s quite a number of color photographs in the Execution chapter which includes two galleries of painting critiques. These are very helpful in observing and learning the way an artist looks at a painting. The analysis may not be too extensive but it gives you good idea of the aspects one considers when critiquing a painting.
I find this book quite “intimate” for the lack of a better word. You can clearly feel Frank’s voice and his personality come through. I really enjoyed the book for this aspect itself. Of course, the information is of highest quality, incomparable to a majority of other books out there. If you want to try only one of Frank Webb’s books because you’re not sure if they’re for you, I’d say go with Watercolor Energies. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the best one of the lot. I just think the style and language is very honest and captivating and best represents Frank Webb’s teaching style. If you’re still not sure though, I’m going to discuss the two other books from Frank Webb in my next two articles, coming up in the next couple of weeks.
Really there is not much more I’d like to say. This is again a book that I highly recommend. As always, please share this article with your friends and leave any questions you may have in the comment section below. I’ll be happy to answer any questions.