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Joe Dowden's Complete Guide to Painting Water in Watercolour


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About the Author

Joe Francis Dowden turned professional in 1982 and has since written many successful books and has been published by David & Charles, Sterling and Search Press. He has sold out at numerous "one man" shows and has exhibited his work throughout Britain. He lives in Worthing, East Sussex.


Painting water surfaces is a great challenge for many watercolor painters. Perhaps it has already happened to you that your painted landscape has been successful, but the deficient representation of water, waves and reflections spoils the mood of the picture.

The artist Joe Dowden promises in his overall work on the representation of water that after reading and reworking his numerous exercises, you will be able to create realistic landscapes. They learn the correct painting of light reflections, convey the illusion of depth and represent movements of the water. But the reproduction of architecture, people and nature will also be easier with the presented techniques.

As usual in any extensive textbook, Joe Dowden presents his favorite material (brush, paper, media, and less common tools). This chapter should not be skipped when working through, but it also contains unusual, hardly known applications, which are indispensable for the exact reworking.

The following chapters deal with composition, selection of the pictorial material, color perspective and short exercises on the respective topic. The list of used watercolor paints is very extensive, as the painter likes to experiment with new shades and their mixtures. Joe Dowden recommends the purchase of these colors if you want to follow the painting instructions exactly. Numerous pictorial examples from the painter's extensive work deepen what has been learned. In accompanying texts the respective technique is briefly and concisely explained.

The main part of the book is seven step-by-step instructions. The spectrum of the examples covers the whole range of possible water caves. The presentation of children on the beach, swans on moving water, waterfall, sailing boats on the sea, lakes, mountains and much more can be worked out in detailed exercises of different difficulty levels. Very helpful is the extensive picture material. Up to 79 individual work steps simplify true-to-nature painting. In addition to the presented topics, pictures of the artist are shown. They show the most diverse variations of what has been learned, and also the comprehensive description of painting techniques.


The presented book can be described as an indispensable standard work for the representation of water scenes. Painters with advanced knowledge will, after careful reading and reworking the pictorial examples, be able to create impressive landscapes in a more realistic way

Originally published in German:

* Kreative Review *

Feb 14

When it comes to water, Joe Dowden's your man. If you want that elusive quality of depth and solidity, the way water occupies rather than lying on a surface, he's got it. One of the exercises in this genuinely comprehensive book is of a wet pavement, a simple subject that's really tricky because the water and the flagstones are effectively the same thing, but he pulls it off perfectly. Another is a child running through the shallow ripples at the edge of the tide and, again, he manages to get the passing-through-ness without the feet being engulfed or somehow tripping along on top. Both these little moments are virtuoso performances that aren't even the big set pieces of the book. Joe doesn't just paint water, but the things that surround water - trees, landscapes, people (he's particularly good on people), boats and light. The thing about water is that it's a reactive subject, informed and shaped by the things that illuminate it, reflect in and off it and shape it with waves, ripples and spray. There's a huge amount of material here and I can't find a stone that isn't - often literally - left unturned. Books that make big claims sometimes fail to live up to them and need a qualification, but this delivers everything you could want.

* *

Apr 14

Water is one of the most challenging things to paint; it is wet to start with, constantly in motion and reflects light. Here is a whole book dedicated to teaching watercolorists how to master this tricky technique. This is one of Search Press' rare hardbacks, so expect something a bit special. I could probably be heard from some way off clapping when the author said you could use student or artist's quality paints, didn't need to buy too many materials and did not even mention an easel. I loved the list of dos and don'ts for brush care, and the list of ordinary items that can be found around the house. This is a book about painting, not spending money and is packed with projects. I was also impressed by the way Mr Dowden showed a photo, and pointed out various parts of it showing different water effects. Then he does the same with a painting. There are sections on mixing relevant colors, short exercises on painting various water effects and then it is on with the projects. Anybody who has worked through any of the excellent Ready To Paint series on watercolors will be ready to tackle these, and in grand Search Press style expect plenty of stages, each one showing what to add next. Some of the projects run to over fifty stages, so beginners are amply catered for which is good. Paint beach scenes, lakes, rivers, seascapes and more gradually learning more and more about painting water. This book is a whole course in itself, and one of the best and most exhaustive this range features. Ideal for anybody who wants to learn how to paint water in watercolor.

* *

June 14

Joe Dowden's new book is all about water - painting what you see, the way you see it. Joe has developed a number of techniques to portray the special quality of water and here he shares them with us. From the materials you'll need, to how to look carefully at the scene in front of you and to pick out the excitement from it, Joe looks at source material, colour mixing, tone and perspective, before including seven step-by-step demonstrations that clearly describe every step of the way. Joe's work is filled with sparkling light that has earned him a reputation around the world.

* Leisure Painter, The *

Mar 14

Joe shares his experience of mastering the techniques of painting water in this extraordinary book that is nothing short of a tour de force. The book begins with the usual materials section. Painting what you see; composition and format; source material; colour; tone; perspective and painting water are all included. There are 7 step by step demonstrations of painting different water scenes including wet sand; rippled water; lake and mountains; sparkling sea, a sailing boat and Arabian pool. The book is well illustrated throughout with stunning work and Joe shares his techniques and tips along the way. Highly recommended.

* Karen Platt *

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