Watercolor ToolboxWatercolor Toolbox by Karen Richardson is an intriguing niche book. This isn't a "getting started" book that takes a newcomer step by step through selecting paints and brushes. It's also not a examples book that helps an experienced watercolor painter practice their skills. Instead, Watercolor Toolbox is a collection of problem-solving techniques to deal with common issues painters face.
The book starts with a quick summary of the types of supplies a watercolor painter should have, and it emphasizes several times that those paints, papers, and other items should be the best quality possible. If you skimp on your paint, you're going to likely have poor results in your painting, and this could frustrate you. By working with high quality supplies, you give yourself the best possible chance for success and enjoyment.
I love that Karen includes photos of her actual work areas. This lets you see what an active artist does when painting, and gives you ideas for your own workspace.
The book isn't about full start-to-end examples. Rather, it's about challenges painters face like "How do I make watercolor paint stay where I want it?" It then discusses the various techniques and how they work. I appreciate that, but I think visuals would help. This challenge is illustrated by lovely paintings of trees and flowers. They're nice, but if the discussion is talking about wet-in-wet and dry brush painting I'd love to see some actual images of a person doing one, and showing how the waters seep or don't seep. This is the sort of thing that getting-started books often have, and they're great. If the whole focus of the topic is on how these things work, visual examples would help immensely.
There's an entire section on staying motivated. They help a painter who's stuck in a rut find ways to get revitalized.
The final section has a few examples, but these are *extremely* high level and assume the reader has an in-depth knowledge of watercolors and can leap from barely done to fully-there without much help. Someone who wants examples would be far better served buying a book which tackled this material in a far more in depth manner.
So, to summarize. I found the challenge-and-solution area quite interesting, but felt the examples could have been fleshed out more and far better images could have been used to help us understand the description. Don't just show us a painting with speckles. Show us an image of someone actually *doing* the speckling so we can see how it's done. Don't just show us a finished image and say "scraping was used". Show us images of the scraping so we can see the technique.
If examples are going to be included, I'd make them more useful. Give more steps and more details for each step. Talk more about common problems and solutions since this is the focus of the book. Heim's Step-by-Step guide is stunning in this regard; I would love Karen's book to include more in-depth treatment, in the style of Heim's book.
With this only having 67 pages, and having such a high price, I'm not sure where that leaves me. If it's just going to be a short "how to fix problems" then I'd like for it to do that far more thoroughly, with better use of the space taken up by images. I'd like the examples to also contain the "how to fix problems" theme rather than being a collection of "here are some things you can paint". For the price of this one book I could easily buy five superb books which cover not only these topics but a wealth of others in a clearer fashion which would help both beginners and advanced painters.
I'll give this 3/5 stars as being a stellar concept with some great foundational material. If a new version was done that provided more useful images to go with the topics, and examples that had the "problems / solutions" style of content found in Heim's book, then I could easily go up a star or two.
I was provided a review copy of this book by the author.
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