Some time ago I wrote about “Reflections on a Pond” , then the latest book by accomplished plein air artist Kevin Macpherson. Well, Kevin has indeed been busy, as he’s just come out with a new DVD and has another instructional book close to publication.

Ed Terpeing, Kevin & Wanda Macpherson

Wanda & Kevin Macpherson and Ed Terpening

The new DVD, entitled “Brush with Life” is the first in a series of DVDs that will feature many acclaimed artists and their own specialties, including James Asher (watercolor), Joe Anna Arnett (still life), John Burton (figure) and Kenn Backhaus (painting outdoors). I had the pleasure of meeting with Kevin and his wife Wanda while they were in San Francisco today.

Perhaps like you, I’ve experienced many, many bad instructional DVDs. You know the format. Someone (usually a novice videographer) sets up a camera and films a demo. If you’re lucky, once in a while the artist will tell you what their thinking, rather than just watching–not that you can’t learn from the latter. You may even get to see something in focus once in a while. The Brush with Life DVD is the exception–easily the best instructional art DVD I’ve seen, although I believe Kevin would probably describe the audience for it as artist and art appreciator alike.

It’s really well produced. The DVD bounces back and forth between Kevin working on location and in-studio discussion about the topics he’s demonstrating. You may think this jarring, but the format really works, especially for “short attention span” folks like me. It kept me interested, and most importantly, I learned a tremendous amount. The production values are not present for the sake of making it “slick”, instead they’re used to educate. For example, at one point, he talks about organizing values in a pleasing design of abstract shapes. The DVD then shows the scene he’s talking about broken down into value puzzle pieces, similar to the value notan sketches I use. This is just one example in which the technology of video is used not for the sake of jazzing it up, but rather to make an important point. Finally, he takes you through the process for two paintings, from start to finish. I felt I had a complete experience.

The DVD includes some useful extras, such as: a beautiful online gallery; “Anyone Can Paint”, a short that demonstrates his wife Wanda’s progress, who only started painting a few years ago; “A Visual Journal”, an introduction and discussion about his new book, “Reflections on a Pond”; and “Tools of the Artist”, the only unfortunate turn in the DVD, as it’s basically a commercial from sponsoring art supply companies.

On other unfortunate complaint: the Brush with Life web site where you buy the DVD. The home page that lists the book and DVD, but doesn’t list the price, and you don’t find out the price even after you’re asked to provide your personal information, such as name, email, address, etc. Needless to say, this is very unusual. I realize the DVD has just been released, so this is probably an oversight. I’ve reported the problem to the web site and Kevin/Wanda and will update this blog post when it’s corrected. (Update 12-July: Just spoke to Kevin, he said the DVD is $95, and was sorry to hear the price wasn’t listed. This has since been fixed).

Again, overall the DVD is well worth buying (although I wish I could tell you what it costs 🙂 I’ve always found Kevin’s art inspirational, and there are so many great examples and well photographed examples here, I’m sure you’ll think the same. Others have seen the quality, too. According to Kevin, the first in this series will be broadcast in San Francisco Wednesday night.

What are your favorite art DVD/videos? Use the comments section of this post to add your own thoughts and favorites.


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