Book Review: Complete Artist's Manual by Simon Jennings

Complete Artist's Manual: The Definitive Guide to Materials and Techniques for Painting and Drawing (HarperCollins, Nov. 2013), is also available under the title The Complete Artist's Manual: The Definitive Guide to Painting and Drawing (Chronicle Books, Feb. 2014). The former has the red cover depicted left, the later has a slightly different cover in shades of blue. As far as I could tell from Amazon's preview the content is exactly the same.

Regarding content, the book is divided in 10 chapters:

  1. Supports is about choosing and preparing the right surface for painting and drawing. It covers canvases, panels, and papers, and the properties of each one. It goes through topics like how to stretch canvas, how to stretch watercolor paper, sizing for oils, priming for oils and acrylics, and more.
  • Drawing Media gives a brief overview of the characteristics and main techniques associated with pencils, colored pencils, charcoal, pastels, conté crayons, inks and markers.

  • Painting Media is one of the longest chapter of the book. For each of the three most popular painting mediums (oils, acrylics and watercolors) it covers the properties of the paints, recommended starter palettes, brushes and accessories. For oils it also covers binders, mediums and diluents. Egg tempera, gouache and chroma-color are briefly explained.

  • Where Shall I Start? is a very short chapter about choosing a medium and a subject and preparing for painting, either in a studio or outdoors.

  • Drawing & Sketching is about the two fundamentals to all art: drawing and observation. Is goes about things like drawing from live models and the importance of keeping a sketchbook.

  • Painting Techniques presents a wide range of techniques that artists use to produce their paintings. It covers oils, acrylics and watercolors.

  • Color & Composition talks about color theory, color mixing and some composition principles that contribute to a balanced design.

  • What Shall I Paint? is a catalogue of painting themes and their variations, with step-by-step examples and tips on how to approach certain challenges.

  • The Studio presents the requirements for a comfortable and well organised working space. It also explains varnishing, the use of fixatives, mounting and framing as methods of preserving and displaying finished artworks.

  • Gallery of Art presents works of art featuring common painting subjects, from still-lifes to portraits.

In spite of its subtitle - The Definitive Guide to Materials and Techniques for Painting and Drawing - the book is mainly about painting, and even there it can't be considered a definitive guide. Nevertheless, it's a good reference for beginners and intermediates alike, for seasoned artists I'm not so sure.

As a beginner what attracted me the most was the contrast between the materials and techniques used for oils, acrylics and watercolors. It surely helped me to decide on which one of those to focus first.

The Complete Artist's Manual is available from Amazon US | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES.