I have two long shelves filled with books on watercolour painting and on art more generally. I also buy and collect art magazines, chief among them a French publication (translated into English) named The Art of Watercolour. I’ll refer to it as TAW for short.
TAW doesn’t come cheap, as magazines go. The current price is £8.95 – you can buy a paperback book for that. The 35th issue just appeared in the shops and I picked up a copy at WH Smith this morning. I thought it might be interesting to review it and tell you what you get for your £8.95. (Let me add that I have no business connection with TAW and this post is not an ad in disguise.)
I normally buy TAW. Sometimes, however, I’ll take a sneak peek at it first and not buy it if the contents disappoint me. That doesn’t happen often, though.
Watercolour is almost exclusively TAW’s subject medium. I say ‘almost’ because I seem to remember an article or two in the past that touched on acrylics and collage, but not in any major way.
OK, back to Issue 35 of Art of Watercolour, dated June-September 2019. It’s a quarterly publication from Diverti Editions in Naintré, France. The first thing to notice is that TAW is printed on a quality, gloss paper with a stiffish cover. Dimensions are 23 x 29 x 0.6 centimetres. There are 130 pages. Only 2 of the pages contain ads and those are for Diverti’s own products. Clearly, advertising revenue doesn’t help to subsidise TAW, which is refreshing (and maybe explains the magazine’s price).
Issue 35 advertises itself as a special anniversary issue, with TAW now being 9 years old. By the way, older issues I own run to 98 pages, so the 130 pages of Issue 35 are probably not the norm!
TAW has a strong international flavour, which I reckon makes for a good mix. Right on the front cover of Issue 35, the main image is of a painting by a young Mongolian artist named Munkhbataar Surentsetseg, who is new to me. His figurative work features in an article and it’s impressive. Flicking through the mag I see paintings by artists from America, France, India, Japan, China, Thailand, the UK, Russia and Brazil, to name only some of them. No disrespect meant to the talented Mr Surentsetseg, who may still be an obscure figure, but TAW’s editors take care to include big names like John Salminen, Mark Mehaffey and David Poxon as well as lesser-known painters.
As for the contents, there’s a ‘tribute’ of paintings of Notre Dame Cathedral, by several illustrious artists, following the disastrous fire. Two of them actually show the cathedral burning. Then a What’s On section telling you what the latest prestigious art shows are – though this annoys me slightly, because the basic implication seems to be that all artists are wealthy jetsetters.
There’s a Readers’ Competition, a regular feature, with some fantastic entries. And a plethora of articles about the work of artists such as the aforementioned Salminen, Mehaffey and Poxon (who sound like a New York law firm, don’t they?), step-by-step painting demonstrations and a shedload of technical advice.
All in all, there’s plenty in TAW #35 to keep me dipping in there for a long while.
It is, however, a magazine intended for watercolour artists. Art collectors too might get something from it. Non-painters could appreciate the paintings, but the written content wouldn’t mean much to them, I would guess.
I’ll end on a general criticism. This is a bugbear of mine. Font size varies in size and colour in TAW. That’s mostly OK, but sometimes the font gets way too small (or too faint) for comfortable reading.