DVD Review- Castagnet's "Inspired Watercolor"

This is the second of three reviews I’m doing on some of Alvaro Castagnet’s DVDs.  In this video, Alvaro is on the Costa Brava, in Spain.  I’ll admit that of all the DVDs, this one is the most scenic and evocative- great locations and good Spanish guitar music, with good production values.  The paintings are some of my favorites as well, which can carry you pretty far along in a DVD like this.  Educationally, there was, incidentally, a lot of focus on color and its application, perhaps more so than in the other DVDs.  This was interesting and informative to hear about.

As before, it’s worth noting that none of Alvaro’s DVDs are regularly available on Amazon (although, for example, there's a copy available today, 6/27/15, that wasn't available a few days ago...), which is why interlibrary loans are so important for US viewers.  Amazon does have reviews for his DVDs though.  You can, however, buy them directly from Alvaro’s website.  There’s even a short trailer for each DVD located there.

At the beginning, they spend perhaps a total of 5 minutes on paints and materials, much less than in his earlier DVD.  It is, in truth, only given a cursory inspection.  It’s better than nothing, particularly if you’ve not seen Alvaro paint before, but the first DVD has more value on this point.  From there, he paints 5 different scenes over 90 minutes- about 15 minutes a scene.  They include-

            -a scene looking down on the waterfront of Cadaques

            -a boat scene looking across the bay at Cadaques

            -a street scene from Girona, with umbrellas and pillars (reminiscent, in some ways, of the painting from the last review)

            -a street scene looking across the main bridge in Girona, and

            -a half-shaded arcade with a row of pillars

Throughout the video, unfortunately, I do feel like there are a series of missed opportunities to teach.  Is it Alvaro or the editing of the production company?  Who knows.  But he’ll talk about things, such as the fact that the darker shadows he places wet into wet have less water on the brush, but he’s sometimes missing the “why” of it all, the “if you do this… then this will happen” element. (It’s because you’ll get blossoms or “cauliflowers” if you don’t— some of this is gone over in the series of posts I did on Zbukvic’s book back in January, where we talked about the Watercolor Clock). He’ll bring up that he has a plan of action from the beginning, and that he sticks to it, but he doesn’t actually say what it is.  So, for those of us who don’t know why, it’s sort of like he’s talking a secret language.  There are also various steps that are edited out- dry brush work on buildings here or there, sections of washes, etc.  So, that’s a legitimate issue with this more condensed format.

Still, there’s a lot to get from the DVD.  The first painting, looking down on the waterfront of Cadaques, is a beautiful composition, and actually seemed like the sort of thing a person might repaint on their own, to learn from.  Many of the other paintings, IMO, are actually quite complicated, although Alvaro makes them look easy.  The composition on this one, however, separates the shapes and has only very small people, which ought to allow an intermediately skilled painter to give it a go.

There’s also a lot of time spent on warm versus cool hues, and how he applies them, varying his hues within a family when he works wet into wet to make the make the washes “glow”.  He talks about and demonstrates the value of “broken colors” and the importance of greys too.  There’s also commentary on silhouettes and negative shapes, and how high contrast values lead the eye to your focal point.  So, there’s a good amount of educational content, but it’s of a different sort.

I do wish, since the entire DVD is done en plein air, that there was some basic instruction in that process, but perhaps my sense of what the DVD is about is not what the producers had in mind.  Still, there’s no discussion about this tripod and easel, or how he uses his sponge to daub off extra water from his brush, even though you see it on screen. (I cover a lot of this plein air stuff myself, which you can find in the Links page, under "Materials"). Nor is there any input on where he sets up (in the shade), or the fact that there are certain scenes where someone off-screen is clearly holding an umbrella, to cast some shade on the canvas, to allow for a more correct reading of values.  I’m no producer, and I know they aim to sell, but educationally these are things that I think would have made the DVD special and different- they’re definitely the sorts of things he goes over when you take a workshop from him. 

Still, there’s a lot in the DVDs that’s worth watching.  The paintings are gorgeous, some of my favorites from all his DVDs, and are very inspiring.  The production value is good, and the locations are beautiful, and Alvaro’s discussion of broken colors and values is instructive.  If you know enough that you find the first DVD a bit redundant, then I think you’ll find this 2nd DVD useful