Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Bankside Gallery Bookshop

Bankside Gallery Shop
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I've previously mentioned bookshops which are good places to buy art books in London and I think I need to start reviewing them in the same way as I'm reviewing the art supplies shops.

One of the regular bookshops I visit is the one at the Bankside Gallery. It's not very large but it has an excellent selection of books. As one might one expect from the Gallery which is the home of the Royal Watercolour Society and the Royal Society of Painter Printmakers there's a rather good selection of books for fine art print-makers and those who paint using water-based paints - but that's not all they do.

Entrance to the Bankside Gallery
(immediate neighbour to west of Tate Modern)

Here's what it's got and what's it's good at providing.
The Bankside Gallery Bookshop is the destination store for those interested in both the history and practice of watercolour and printmaking. Our selection encompasses art monographs, how-to-do-it books on painting and printmaking techniques, art fiction, art books for children, and guides to London.
Bankside Gallery - Bookshop

It's probably got the best selection of books about the different methods of fine art printmaking anywhere in the UK. I have never ever seen the breadth and quality anywhere else and I know that the bookshop is frequented by professional printmakers in search of information.

They have:
  • books about techniques, from introductory texts to more detailed ones for experts. Examples include The Instant Printmaker, Printmaking for beginners and the range of other printmaking handbooks published by A&C Black,
  • books about or produced by famous printmakers. Examples include books about Elizabeth Blackadder and Jenny Uglow's book Nature's Engraver, A Life of Thomas Bewick. Last week in the shop I finally found the exhibition catalogue produced by the National Gallery for Australia for the exhibition they had a while back about Whistler's Etchings - including the London Series and both Venice series.
  • books, prints and cards by members of the Royal Society of Painter Printmakers

There is a really good selection of books about watercolour covering both techniques and artists.

The techniques section is equal to or better than the selection than I see in most good bookshops that stock books about watercolour. It's complemented by a number of good books about colour mixing and the use of colour. Yesterday, when I dropped in, it had the biggest number of Jeanne Dobie's classic book Making Colour Sing that I've ever seen (click the link for a review) - very useful to know for anybody teaching a class and wanting to recommend a book. It's a book which is not so easy to get hold of and you don't often see in normal bookshops.

Books by the Royal Watercolour Society. Prominent in the displays are a couple of books by the RWS. A few of the art societies have produced books about their type of art, but of all the ones I've seen I'd have to say that the RWS ones stand out in terms of breadth and quality.
  • The Watercolour Expert The Royal Watercolour Society, Royal Society of Painters in Water-Colours (Great Britain). Edited by Michael Leitch
The painters of the Royal Watercolour Society—among the finest in the world—present an inspirational showcase of their most innovative ideas. Using a highlighted sample, each artist details a technique that he or she finds particularly effective, and covers the entire process from concept to initial composition. Their enlightening discussions cover such subjects as training the eye, creating special effects, and working with unusual mixtures of paint. By revealing the thinking behind their compositional choices and offering expert tips on materials and techniques, these distinguished painters provide a unique introduction to their art and an intimate look at the creative process. In addition, a brief history of watercolor focuses on such illustrious past Society members as Cotman, Palmer, and Sargent.
Synopsis of The Watercolour Expert
There is also a very good selection of books about artists who worked in watercolour. I bought a couple of books about Edward Seago there last week.

General Artists Books

The more general art history and art techniques sections generally include standard texts. These are the sort of books which you might well find elsewhere simpley because of their generalist nature. At the same time they have very specialised books as well - and I've certainly raided the shop for books I've never seen anywhere else.

Royal Watercolour Societ
y Paper and Sketchbooks

The Gallery shop also sells the watercolour paper produced by John Purcell Paper working in conjunction with the President and Council of The Royal Watercolour Society. The paper has a cotton and linen furnish, is surface sized with gelatine and deckled edged. Each sheet is watermarked ROYAL WATERCOLOUR SOCIETY and stamped RWS on each sheet. Sheets are available in 50 x 65 cms and 56 x 76 cms in 300gsm and 425gsm in HP, NOT and Rough surfaces and are sold as single sheets or in packs of ten.

Sketch books created from the paper are also available. The red, green and blue covers denote the type of paper being used. The large landscape format sketchbook is very expensive but well worthwhile for those wanting a larger than average sketchbook which contains good quality paper. I keep umming and erring about which size I want to get and I think I'm leaning towards the big one if for no other reason than it's difficult to find anybody else doing one. The only issue then is working how to carry it - but I'm sure I can think of a solution...........


The shop stocks books about sketching and various published sketchbooks (some relating to series) which have been produced relating to various specific locations.

Pages 84 and 85 Lucca
"Taking a Line for a Walk"
copyright Christopher Lambert - used with permission

This is the shop where I bought Taking a Line for a Walk by Christopher Lambert which I gather is very popular and always in stock. Click the link for my book review.

Art Fiction

There are quite a lot of novels written about art and artists and this bookshop provides a great shelf to peruse.

Children's Books

There is an excellent selection of books about visual art for children or books for children which contain excellent examples of visual art.

Fine Art Prints

A wide selection of artists' prints - made using various fine art print-making techniques - are for sale in the Gallery. These include prints donated to the archives for support of the Gallery by past or deceased RE members.

Greeting cards and wrapping paper

If you like to buy good quality greetings cards which are a bit different, then this is the place to come. You can find a really interesting selection of cards which you won't often find on the high street. Besides cards produced by members of the societies, they also carry other stock and also make seasonal adjustments to the range (eg the Christmas cards have arrived).

If you need a present, wrapping paper and a card for a present for an artist which can all be purchased in one spot then this is the place to come!

In conclusion

The thing that makes this bookshop different is the quantity and quality of the resources it provides of interest to both society members, gallery friends as well as the general public - plus the books, prints and cards which are produced and/or designed and/or written by society members.

I forgot to mention that as a Friend of the Gallery, I also get a 10% discount on anything I buy there which creates a certain incentive to linger..........

If you're interested in watercolour or print-making and are walking along the South Bank/Bankside, it's worth paying a visit to the Gallery to check out the Gallery shop. They also have some rather good exhibitions!

The current exhibition - which finishes on Sunday - is The Poet and the Painter in which twenty Members of the Royal Watercolour Society, in collaboration with the Poetry Society, explore the way in which painting can flow from poetry.



  1. Thanks for this! I will surely be checking out this place, especially for the watercolour sketchbooks

  2. Thank you, Katherine for this excellent review. You have, of course, created a craving in me that is not going to be satisfied in the foreseeable future. The cream of Printmaking Books and Watercolour Books in the same venue - my idea of paradise!


COMMENTS HAVE BEEN CLOSED AGAIN because of too much spam.
My blog posts are always posted to my Making A Mark Facebook Page and you can comment there if you wish.

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.