Today I would like to talk a little bit about another excellent book. It is, unfortunately, once again a book that has been out of print for quite a few years. It was originally published in 1974 and seems to have been an instant hit back in the day, as second and third printing followed in the immediate years after its release. Further reprints may have been released but my book was part of the third reprint. The book I am talking about is Robert E. Wood’s “Watercolor Workshop”.
It seems that I have a thing for out of print books. But that’s really not the case. The thing is that there’s simply not enough good enough books on watercolor published today. There, I said it. I am sorry, but I find that to be the case. And maybe it’s just that a teacher like that willing to put together a book like this comes around only once in a while. I’m not saying the presentation is not excellent but in many cases the modern book promotes the artist more than it teaches the student. I think that’s backwards thinking though I recognize that distribution of power is against human nature. Hence it seems that educating future generations of artists is perceived as a threat rather than an opportunity to elevate the arts. It also may be naive to think that everyone becoming an artist is actually ready to accept quality information or even willing to strive towards producing quality work (because as with anything, there’s artists and there’s artists). But I believe that once you recognize you’re not just another consumer, the quality of what you output is a considerable responsibility. If you are then correctly educated and guided, your thinking may then go through the process of transformation and you can become more than just another painter of pretty pictures.
Rant aside, similarly to the previous book I’ve reviewed, “Watercolor Workshop” by Robert E. Wood is one of those books that are concerned with offering the best advice for the student possible. I am not saying this is the ultimate book on watercolor painting. But it’s definitely one of the best books on the subject that I’ve had the opportunity to read and learn from. Robert E. Wood’s work showcases a talent of exceptional quality. The man seemed to have nothing but good ideas. And a plethora of them. Thought there certainly were acres of paper behind his confident work output, the sheer creativity and inventiveness found in his work is very inspiring.
The contents are divided into 13 chapters. I find them to be an excellent mix of theory and practice. The book emphasizes thought and concept and offers a good amount of advice on technique and materials as well. The instructions are clear and to the point. You may, depending on your level of advancement, need to read the book a couple of times to grasp what’s beyond your current capacity to understanding. This goes for most books that I’ve reviewed including Edgar Whitney’s, Frank Webb’s and Rex Brandt’s.
The illustrations and paintings reproduced in the book are all in black and white except a small number of pages that are reproduced in color. This may seem a drawback at first but if you think about it may well benefit you because it takes away the color and with it the confusion about value and color relationship in case you’re not fully able to see colors as tones. This will retrain you to think in value and feel in color. And so your learning is much easier when you see the examples as clear tonal studies.
The biggest problem with the book seems to be its availability. It’s been out of print for decades. There are some used copies available on Amazon where I got mine but you have to be willing to get a possibly very poorly handled book. I have to say I prefer new books if at all possible, but in this case getting a used copy was well worth it. If you’re in the US check your library, they may well keep a copy of this book, in which case you don’t even have to own one. Though I highly recommend that you do.
Let me know what you think in the comment section below. Have you read this book? Do you think you’re going to pick it up?