Sunday, February 2, 2014

Book Review: Painting on Location

David Curtis is one of the leading plein-air painters, working in both watercolor and oil in the United Kingdom. He tackles complex scenes with admirable fluency and accuracy, and is one of the contemporary masters of contre-jour lighting.

For both dedicated fans and people new to his work, his newest book, Painting on Location: Secrets to Plein Air Painting, is an excellent presentation of his working methods, with many large reproductions of paintings that don't appear in previous books on Curtis's work.

His subject matter includes primarily coastal views, city scenes, and rural landscapes—no portraits or still lifes.

Curtis typically works fairly small in oil. Most of his paintings are around 8x10 or up to 12x16 inches. In his book he discusses how speed and confidence are affected by the scale of the work, and by other challenges such as limited time and changing light.

The book gives equal weight to his watercolors, which makes it valuable to specialists in either oil or watercolor, or to artists who want to branch out to a new medium. There are a few step-by-step sequences, photos taken of the motif for comparison, and photos of the painting rig.

Here's a video shot on location that shows some of the watercolor techniques in action. Curtis confidently drops color into wet washes in the early "ghost wash" stage. As he says, "Observe once, observe twice, and dive in."

(Video link) And here's another video trailer showing his oil techniques.

...also available from the North Light bookstore


David Webb said...

James, as a watercolourist, I'm a big fan of David Curtis. I have his book 'Light and Mood in Watercolour' and he certainly knows how to create an atmosphere in his paintings. Something I strive to do in my own work too.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the recommendation. I'll look into adding this book to my library.

Chris said...

James, I have a question about a book you mentioned working on about Adolph Menzel and his drawings. Is this still happening? I preordered it for a release date end of January but now i am told it is due for publication in the middle of the year. It sounded like a good book, I hope it is still a goer.


James Gurney said...

Hi, Chris,
The short answer is that I don't have a definite date. The project has run into some production complications that are beyond my control, and I'm still awaiting word from the publisher about it.

Robert J. Simone said...

Thanks for the heads up, James. David Curtis's books would be great additions to any painter's library. His videos are good, too. I remember that he also appeared in one episode of John Stobart's TV series back in the 90's. His speed and confident strokes are marvelous. He has a way of simplifying things such that they still look complex and detailed.

Tom Hart said...

David Curtis has a nice video demo called David Curtis - Portraiture in Oils on YouTube. I don't know if this link will work, but if not, search it under that title...