I’m delighted to be able to add Alvaro Castagnet’s 2011 book, ‘Painting with Passion – Beyond Technique’ to my reference library, where it can sit beside his 2011 publication ‘Watercolor Painting with Passion’.
As with so many of the books in my collection, it’s an Ebay purchase and, I have to confess, it’s right up there with the most money that I’ve ever paid for a book.
So. Is it worth it?
Well, I feel I have to be honest and say “it depends”!
While it contains a number of illustrated step by step demonstrations, I certainly wouldn’t classify this book as a ‘how to’ publication.
His first book, Watercolor Painting with Passion is a far more comprehensive ‘how to’ guide to his approach to painting, even if his distinctive sensibility and means of expression have developed considerably between these two publications. Reading his earlier book, and studying his most recent paintings, you can easily understand the trajectory of his artistic practice.
Even if you wish to paint in a similar vein as Alvaro Castagnet, I doubt this ‘Beyond Technique’ book would help you along that path any better than the many DVDs and YouTube videos that are readily available that are either free, or cost a fraction of what you might expect to pay for this book. For reference, Amazon is currently quoting £260 for this book. There is also one currently available on Ebay for £195 (which has been available at that price for quite some time now!). I’d like to make it clear that I paid considerably less for my copy, so unless you’re very impatient, it may be worth shopping around or biding your time!
I should point out that there is an immediately available E-version of this book available on Amazon for around £20s. I’m afraid I purposefully don’t link to this but should anyone be interested, I’m sure you won’t have any difficulty finding it!. Here’s a quick preview of the electronic version:
If it’s not a ‘how to’ book, what is it?
Well, I found it to be more like Alvaro’s personal artistic manifesto. While he’s obviously a master of ‘his’ technique – one that he has obviously evolved over the years – his main driving point is that it needs to come from within. What he expresses in his paintings is not a filter, veneer or technique to which he applies to every subject – but is an expression of his personal, emotional reaction to a subject.
Now this is a really moot point and I’m not well enough versed in the subtleties of philosophical debating to put all sides of the argument here. There’s no doubt however that he has developed a particularly strong and distinctive watercolour language that has become his signature.
In my opinion, what he does incredibly well is to take a scene, simplify and distil it and, through the mastery of his ‘technique’ heighten its impact to deliver his vision. When considering this, I’m attracted to both his vision, and the techniques he employs to realise it.
I know that ultimately, I need to be painting my vision, but I believe that this is developing and will continue to do so as long as I carry on looking, observing, learning from others and, of course, painting and painting and painting!
So. Why should anyone buy this book?
Well, I suppose it all depends on how much you enjoy his paintings and how much you think you may be able to learn from studying them.
I already know that this will be a book that I return to again and again. Not so much for the pearls of wisdom contained within the text, but to be able to immerse myself in such a wonderfully rich collection of paintings, from which I think I can learn a great deal.
There are a number of step-by-step demonstrations in the book so it seemed churlish not to have at least a little play with them.
This step-by-step painting of boats in Cadaques looked like the quickest and easiest of all the demos and, as time was most certainly against me this week, this was an all important factor!
Here’s how I got along, following the instructions as closely as possible!
I was quite pleased with how this turned out and, as a visitor commented, it’s a little more colourful than my usual fare! So, feeling quite encouraged and still with a little time left to spare, I used the back of one of my many failures to endeavour to replicate one of the quick sketches featured in the book.
When this book first arrived with me, it was in ‘mint’ condition. After only a few days, however, it’s been well-thumbed and is already sporting a dashing array of paint splatters! I doubt that this won’t have done anything for the resale value of this book, but fortunately the real measure of this book’s value to me goes far beyond pounds and pence!
Online workshops with Alvaro Castagnet
Should anyone be interested, there are some links below to posts where I share my experience and my paintings from some of the online workshops that I’ve taken with Alvaro Castagnet: