Showing posts with label Art. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Art. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Art Makers: Polymer Clay for Beginners by Emily Chen


Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I'd never heard of polymer clay and I don't consider myself an artist, but art interests me and has done more so since I started this childrens' picture book series of mine, so anything out of my experience zone tends to attract my attention.

For the most part, this book was well-written and very informative, colorfully illustrated and explained in detail where necessary. This 'clay' is made from polyvinyl chloride or PVC. The water that comes into your house and the waste you flush away more than likely runs through PVC pipes, and the electricity you use more than likely runs through cables insulated with PVC. Polymer clay is treated in various ways with 'plasticizers' to render it into modeling clay. You will need to work it to get it soft and ready to mold into whatever shapes you want, but once it's 'loosened up' it's just like clay. When heat-treated though, instead of melting or drooping, it hardens and retains its shape; it's rather like baking ceramic or pottery. It also retains its color. This makes it perfect for making items you want to keep and even use, such as jewelry. You could make buttons for your clothes and other useful items such as, for example, the pieces for a chess game - and even the chessboard itself!

The author shows many techniques and steps the reader through making a variety of items, some of which look good enough to eat - such as fake chocolate chip cookies and a fruit flan that, when done properly, looks very realistic. Polymer clay comes in a variety of bright colors and it mixes readily with other colors to blend shades. There are also varieties you can get which make for a semi-translucent or a pearlescent finish. You can, as the author explains, add other materials to the clay to change appearance, and make a more matte finish to your project. The clay remains workable until 'cured' by heating at relatively low temperatures in an ordinary oven, but perhaps a dedicated oven might be a better bet, or an alternate heating technique. Here's why.

The author doesn't mention this, which for me was a big no-no, but there are certain health risks associated with long-term use of certain types of polymer clay - specifically those which contain more than 0.1% of any of a half-dozen specific chemicals known as phthalates. This is why polymer clay isn't a good material for making children's toys or for making items which might be used as food containers. I understand that the manufacturers of this clay have sought to remove such plasticizers from the clay since 2008, but it's always a good idea to be fully aware of what it is you're working with and what the risks are, which is why I would have preferred at least a mention of this in the book.

I found this an inexcusable omission in that this was not mentioned at all. I also understand from reading around on the topic, that the clay doesn't necessarily need to be baked - it can be heat treated with a hair dryer, dryer for example, or put into very hot water and left for a time to harden that way. Given that some formulations of polymer clay could exude hydrogen chloride gas when heated, the water idea seems like a safer bet to me, but maybe more modern formulations of the clay do not have this problem.

The fact is that I don't know, and the author made no mention of this in this book. I think this was a serious omission and which is why I am not recommending this book. The author also neglected to mention pricing, which can vary and change over time, I know, but a rough price-range would have been nice as a guide. A dedicated oven (an old toaster oven will do) might cost around $70. The clay itself costs about a dollar an ounce, or perhaps more from a brief survey I did, and a hand pasta roller - which you can use to work the clay and make it malleable prior to modeling, will be around $30, although you can work it by hand or even with a rolling pin, I guess; then you would not want to use that rolling pin for food, so a dedicated roller is also wise.

So while this book did offer hints, tips and advice about getting started, the lack of any sort of pricing or safety warnings made it a fail for me, and I cannot commend it. It may well be that safety concerns have been reduced with newer formulations of this material, but still a note of caution would have been wise I felt, especially if (for all I know) there may be 'cut price' older formulations of this material out there. Hopefully there are not!


Portfolio: Beginning Pen & Ink by Desarae Lee


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Part of the Portfolio art series from Walter Foster Publishing, this book takes the reader from beginning level to competency status with advice on tools of the trade, techniques, step-by-step examples, and ideas for projects. It covers drawing techniques for achieving ink effects such as softly graduated shading, each aimed at improving your drawing technique and making it look ever more advanced and professional.

The book instructs on terminology with examples, explaining light, mood, shadow, texture, tone and value in terms of drawing effects, and while most of the book is black ink on white paper, it also introduces the idea of using color. This book was designed as a print book and there were issues with the page numbering such that, even on a full-screen iPad, I had to swipe by four screens before the page number went up by one. I'm not sure what was up with that. It looked to me like this was yet another book designed with little thought given to the electronic version. Aside from making it difficult to go to a specific page to reference something I'd read earlier, this was a minor issue, and overall I consider this a worthy read and a useful asset to anyone who is interested in pursuing this as a hobby or a career.


Artist Toolbox: Surfaces & Supports by Elizabeth T Gilbert


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This, the third title in a series, proved to be another useful book of information to help you not so much take steps as to stride confidently through your art ambitions by ensuring that you have the most suitable surfaces on which to work once you embark on an art project. It covers not only drawing and painting surfaces you might employ, but also what effect this medium has over that medium when using those surfaces.

Just like a building, a firm foundation gets your creation off to a good start in not only supporting your work physically, but also bolstering it artistically in terms of how your work looks both texturally and colorfully. There's no point is painting brilliantly if your support isn't there and your efforts are washed out or otherwise undermined because of a poor choice of material on which to paint or draw. It's not just how you do it and what medium you use to create the work, it's also about upon what medium you use as a foundation for your work, and how that's going to interact with your other materials and influence the final piece.

The book covers:

  • Canvas
  • Glass
  • Metal
  • Panels
  • Paper
  • Stone
  • Textiles
And the coverage isn't just in selecting a good medium and knowing how and what to paint on that particular piece, but also how to clean and prepare the material before you paint, so your efforts are not destined to fail. It also covers how to best preserve your work once it is painted.

The book contains some fabulous examples of artwork on each of these surfaces, and while no one can guarantee you will end up with strong artwork like those, you will be assuredly a lot closer to it knowing your materials and approaching your project fully prepared than ever you will going at it haphazardly! I commend this for being comprehensive, easy to understand, and offering good advice, and lots of tips and examples.


Artist Toolbox: Drawing Tools & Materials by Elizabeth T Gilbert


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This book is less about creating great art than it is about the tools you will need to create great art, and more importantly than the tools, how to use tools to get you the image you're seeking. And it also talks about creating great art - so what's not to like?!

As the title suggests, it covers a range drawing media, from colored and graphite pencils to crayons and crayon-like painting sticks in assorted forms, along with charcoal, vine charcoal, white charcoal, and conte materials, but it doesn't just talk about what's available, it gets into it about how to employ those materials to get the kind of results that will elevate your work to the next level, and it includes advice on how to store those materials to best preserve and protect them to prolong their life.

Since the surface upon which you create your art is also an important tool this area isn't spared attention, so we have a discussion of different materials available, and how your painting materials work on each surface, with some photographic examples of results achieved using different tools on different surfaces.

It goes beyond this as well, with step-by-step instructions on working through several projects for even a beginner to learn to draw effectively, so in short, everything you will need to get a firm grounding in your materials and your technique. I commend this as a comprehensive and useful tool to add to your artistic arsenal.


Friday, March 1, 2019

The Art of Modern Quilling by Erin Perkins Curet


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I had no idea what quilling was - never heard of it, which is why I was interested in this particular volume. It turned out to be quite fascinating. It's a skill that can be - I assume since I'm not a quiller myself - learned quite readily with some practice, and it requires little in the way of equipment to pursue this. The results are charming if they're to be judged by what this book contains. On that topic, I have to observe that this author seems to have an inordinate fondness for butterflies, but they were very pretty, and there is much more contained here than just alluring lepidoptera!

The most elaborate item she demonstrates is a clock face to which was attached a clock mechanism to create a wall-hanging, working clock. The work involved seems to my not-even-amateur eyes to be heavy and requires a dedicated crafter, but the result is quite stunning. I have to say though, that the utility of it to me was lessened by the fact that the clock had so many components and was so colorful that it was more likely to befuddle than enlighten anyone who was trying to decipher the time of day from it! As a hanging decoration however, it was truly eye-catching.

I think I was most impressed by the jewelry the author constructed. The paper is curled, glued, and treated with some sort of fixative so it's not just raw paper. She created a pair of dangling earrings which were rather bell-shaped and quite pretty, and she made a necklace out of quilled hemispheres of paper glued together to make spheres, and threaded onto a string. The end result was remarkable. Not that I plan on making any of this myself, but I can't help but admire the skill and work that went into all the things she made. They were solid, colorful, beautiful to look at, and very attention-grabbing.

There's a quilling article in Wikipedia if you want to learn a little about the art, but if you want to learn how to actually do the art, then this is definitely the book to go with. The author has clearly mastered this, and has gone beyond mimicking things - as anyone would do when developing her skills - and she has moved on into a fascinating and creative world of her own. I commend it for a captivating and instructional glimpse into a world I had not known even existed.


Colorways: Acrylic Animals by Megan Wells


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I've reviewed several books about art and painting over the last few months. I don't consider myself an artist by any means, but I have dabbled, and it is a topic which fascinates me and in which there is always something to learn - especially if you're a writer and want to imbue your stories with a little realism. It doesn't hurt to absorb some advice from established artists in books like this to sort of sprinkle yourself with a bit of authenticity to use in your writing projects. Plus the books are interesting in themselves. I'm always happy to learn how artists do what they do and get such appealing works out of the seemingly paltry source materials of some colored pigments and some brushes. It's really quite magical when you think about it. The paintbrush as a magic wand! Paint as fairy dust!

This book is firmly in the acrylic camp, and it takes a loose and playful approach to painting animals. This artist definitely has fun, and the art here isn't about absolute photographic realism, but about conveying a sense and feeling for the animal subject and making it stand out, in both how the basic image looks and also in the colors it employs including some collage techniques in one image.

The subject titles are amusing. We have complementary cows, pointillistic pandas, tetradic llamas, and vibrant flamingos. The titles are a hint to the technique the author/artist is going to use and the shades and hues of paint that are going to be employed in it, because each exercise follows a slightly different strategy to reaching the end goal, although there are certain rules about building-up the painting which are common to all. The level is beginners, so if you're just starting out, have a little experience, or have never picked up a brush before, this should still work for you. I don't think anyone is so advanced that they can't learn from a new talent!

There was one section on painting a giraffe that I found interesting for several reasons. The author shows her work - like anyone taking a math test should do! - so you can see the steps to the result, and sometimes looking at those early images, I wondered if I were painting this, would I have stopped there and not gone on to 'finish' the work. Is a work of art ever finished? I guess it is if the artist thinks so, but there are different places any individual can stop and say it's done, so it was interesting to think about that. Another reason this was interesting is that the giraffe image was laterally reversed in the final picture. I think someone got an image the wrong way round, but it didn't detract from the effect of seeing the resulting finished-image after following all the steps to get there.

The book is replete with hints, tips, suggestions, and most importantly, encouragement, and the whole works well together to give anyone a solid grounding in expanding their range and ability if they're looking for a leg up. I commend it as a worthy read. Each time I read something like this it makes me want to go pick up some supplies at the art store and get to it! Fortunately for my kids' clothing and dietary needs I restrain many of these impulses! But setting yourself up with some basic brushes and colors doesn't cost that much these days, and you can paint on pretty much anything you want! Grant Wood's American Gothic was painted on "beaverboard" which is more like cardboard than it is like canvas! So grab this book and get to it!


Monday, December 31, 2018

The New Color Mixing Companion by Josie Lewis


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This was a useful book for artists, going into some interesting and practical detail about color mixing, gradation, shading and tinting. It's patently evident that the author has put in some serious work here. It covers collage, mixed media, and pure paint, and works through examples you can follow practically, exploring various aspects of color mixing as you go.

The book includes a glossary of terms and goes above and beyond color wheels and simple paint-matching and contrasting into a more advanced appreciation of just what color can do and how it can impact the eye. It offers inexpensive solutions and provides a series of printed templates for the practical experimentation and emulation of the examples the author sets. Obviously it's intended as a print book, and presumably using photocopies of these images rather than paint directly in the book(!), but it would be no problem to take a screen-shot of the images in your ebook version, bring them into a computer so they can be printed out to work with them that way.

I found this to be a comprehensive, detailed, and eminently useful contribution to painting, and I commend it as a worthy read.


Saturday, December 29, 2018

Rohan at the Louvre by Hirohiko Araki


Rating: WORTHY!

Also known as Toshiyuki Araki, this author's oddball graphic novel tells of a young man's arrival at a boarding house where he encounters a mysterious divorcée, with whom he has an oddball but platonic relationship. Rohan himself wants to be a manganeer of course, dreaming of creating his own comic book. It is this, rather than Rohan himself which attracts the attention of the divorcée, despite her violent treatment of his first effort - because he drew her as a part of it. In a moment they have together, she reveals to him the story of the most evil painting ever put on canvas, and which is kept locked-away in the darkest corner of the Louvre.

A decade later, Rohan discovers that the painting this woman told him of actually exists, and is everything she claimed for it! Beautifully illustrated and artfully told, this was an enjoyable and wistful fantasy tale in more than one way. I commend it as a worthy read.


Colorways: Watercolor Flowers by Bley Hack


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I've been posting several reviews on various art forms, and here's another to add to the collection, which will doubtlessly be my last art book review this year. This one, part of a 'Colorways' art series, focuses on the delicate art of watercolor flowers and how to achieve various looks and effects with this ethereal medium.

The author offers hints and tips from her own personal experience, including useful techniques such as wet-into-wet painting, washes, gradations, and glazing, as well as step-by-step instruction on achieving certain effects such as capturing a rose bloom for example, which by any other name still looks as sweet! The book includes advice on how to keep a painting frame of mind when your tools are not to hand - or better yet, when you have a camera to hand to capture ideas for future paintings, and in this day and age, who doesn't have a cellphone camera? Hey if you don't, go get one for art's sake!

The book goes beyond just watercolors and into collage with a step-by-step on creating a picture frame made from a watercolor, and I enjoyed reading this and adding to my stock of general knowledge even though I don't have any immediate plans to immerse myself in this demanding medium. I commend this as a worthy read, and a useful tool for anyone interested in improving their watercolor technique.


Calligraphic Drawing by Schin Loong


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I've been reviewing several books on art recently, including one on calligraphy, and this one adds to the collection of those I commend both for their artistry and their teaching.

This one particularly intrigued me because I've never seen a calligraphy book which really talks about art as opposed to writing. The closest most calligraphy books get to art (although arguably, calligraphy itself is art, but you know what I mean - I hope!) is in the flourishes and embellishments added to the written word, but this one goes a step further and is solely about art, with writing added here and there as a kind of embellishment!

Clearly the author is a master of this form, at least as judged through my amateur eyes. The creations she has on display here are charming, inventive, accomplished, and beautiful to behold, but this is not an art gallery, it's an instructional book which takes you through the steps she followed to make these images of (from the book blurb) "pigeon, swan, crane, rooster, jellyfish, goldfish, peacock, parrot, owl, raccoon, elephant, puppy, rabbit, fox, and zebra." That list doesn't do the book justice though, because the real art is in the hints and tips of how to get these ideas from your mind onto the page via your pen, and there are plenty of those, provided by someone who has clearly, been there, done that, and got the calligraphy art to prove it!

I was inspired by this and with the timely help of a Christmas gift card and the untiring assistance of a Barnes and Noble employee (you don't get this at Amazon!) was able to find and buy a modest calligraphy set myself, to start my own practice which will probably not make perfect, but which will give me a great deal of satisfaction, I don't doubt! Who knows, maybe a future book in The Little Rattuses series will have a calligraphic element? I doubt very much it will be to the standard exhibited by this author, but hope springs eternal in rats, you know! I commend this book highly, and not only for being a thing of beauty, but also being a thing of great utility. It'll be a joy to be holding this book in your hands!


Leonardo's Science Workshop by Heidi Olinger


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This was a fun book advertised as a STEAM book, which to me was confusing until I realized it meant STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, (and) Mathematics. I've never known it to be referred to as STEAM, although it does have other acronyms that have been used from time to time. To the best of my knowledge, the America COMPETES Act of 2007 refers to it as STEM, although the companion book I also review today includes Art, so maybe that's where they're pulling the 'A' from.

Frequently referencing Leonardo da Vinci, who was not a steampunk (in case you wondered!), but an artist, inventor and innovator, this book introduces youngsters to his work and through it to a look at science, nature, and even some art. Growing up with no formal education, Leonardo from Vinci nevertheless mastered a multidisciplinary approach to topics and excelled in pretty much everything he explored.

And he explored a lot, which gives this book a huge platform to launch an assortment of explorations itself, including flight, motion, 3D illusions, and even an electron dance, as well as making your own fabric from recycled plastics. Yes, depending on the age/ability of the child, some adult help may be required here to pursue all these topics, especially since da Vinci isn't the only great thinker of yesteryear who is called upon. Other well-known names are Galileo Galilei, James Clerk Maxwell, and Isaac Newton, so you know this needs to be approached with a certain amount of gravity, although an Apple computer isn't required....

I do ahve to point out that the airfoil explanation on page 20 is not correct. NASA’s own web page here: https://www.grc.nasa.gov/www/k-12/airplane/wrong1.html explains. Wikipedia also has an explanation: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lift_(force) . It’s also questionable whether Galileo Galilei dropped lead balls from the tower in Pisa, but likely he did a similar experiment rolling balls down a ramp. He wasn’t the first, though. John Philoponus did it a millennium before Galileo, and it was definitely done by Dutch scientists in the late sixteenth century.

More spectacularly, astronaut David Scott did it on the Moon during his Apollo 15 mission using a hammer and a feather, which in the Moon’s near-vacuum, both hit the ground at the same time. And on the topic of Moon astronauts, Neil Armstrong actually said, "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” It’s just that the ‘a’ got lost. If you listen very carefully you can just about catch a brief hesitation where he says it. If the first person to set foot on the moon had been a woman, I'd be willing to bet she would have said 'humankind', but I guess we'll never know!

Anyway, I commend this book as a fun and entertaining occupation for young - but not too young - children.


Leonardo's Art Workshop by Amy Leidtke


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This is a companion to the other book I reviewed today (Leonardo's Science Workshop), and is aimed at the arts, again through the lens of Leonardo of Vinci's accomplishments, and often referring to his own art and notebooks, of which he left many - although nowhere near as many as he wrote, it appears.

Leonardo never saw any separation between the topics of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, commonly referenced today under the acronym STEM (not STEAM, as these books term it). Leonardo always went deep into a subject if he went at all, wanting to understand not the superficial, but the integral, and this book follows his example, offering fun and delightfully messy topics like creating paints and dyes from food, as well as beautiful ones, such as working with prisms, and other aspects of using light for art, such as building a camera obscura, as well as understanding what light is.

Art of the past is explored in entertaining and practical ways such as in contour drawing, and to keep things in perspective, there's also a discussion of one-point perspective drawing. Science and art are brought together, in much the way Leonardo himself did, by exploring ideas and work by such artists as Sandro Botticelli and Paul Klee, and such scientists as Sir Isaac Newton and Leonardo Fibonacci.

There's a bad error on page 95 where an eight inch diameter circle is determined to have an area of fifty square feet! I think they meant fifty inches! Also page 109 on 'Spectacular Spans' has a color key which shows valley folds blue, but image shows them green. Whether this was just in my electronic copy I do not know, but if it's in the print version it needs correcting.

If you have time (and who doesn't?!), you can make your own sundial using information in this book, or even an infinity scope which sounds a lot more dangerous than it really is! The sundial isn't just a project. You learn in reading about it, not only how it was made, but why it was made the way it was - so please, do touch that dial! This is the approach throughout the book and is an excellent learning opportunity for any young child. I commend this book as a worthy read.


Sunday, December 16, 2018

101 Textures in Oil and Acrylic by Mia Tavonatti


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Subtitled 'Practical techniques for rendering a variety of surfaces' this book of well-over 100 pages demonstrates, with illustrated steps, how to achieve an amazing variety of realistic artistic effects, from creating skin, hair, feathers and fur to rock, pebbles, fabric, glass, copper, thatched roof, water, fruit, plants, and on and on.

To be honest, one or two of the results looked a little off to my admittedly un-artistic eye, but the overwhelming majority of them were quite stunning and highly impressive. That's more than likely because this artist teaches her subject and has been painting and teaching for some two decades, working multiple professional jobs for a variety of well-known commercial employers, and winning awards. I've seen her described as "internationally acclaimed and sought-after muralist, illustrator, painter and mosaicist." and after reading this book, I have no problem not only believing that, but also understanding why.

Each page covers a different topic, but is set up in the same easy-to-follow style, with an illustrative image from the author's own work, accompanied by detailed step-by-step instructions for achieving the end result, and I guarantee if you can follow these steps, you can achieve the same kind of result, and improve your work immensely, if these images are anything to go by.

If I were less into writing and more into art, I would definitely have an easel up and be practicing these techniques. Unfortunately, there are only so many hours in a day, so until I can move to a planet that has a longer day, I'm happy to learn something from a master and perhaps use what I've learned to bring a character into a more sharply-focused life in a novel somewhere. For those who are into their art and have the time to work it, I commend this book as a worthy addition to any artist's library of resources.


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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The Little Book of Cartooning & Illustration by Maury Aaseng, Clay Butler, Jim Campbell, Dan D'Addario, Alex Hallat, Joe Oesterie


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This is a book I could only review in ebook format whereas the book is clearly designed as a print book, having prepared pages for you to practice the very lessons which are taught here. nut 'lesson' makes it sound much more formal than it really is, and much less fun!

The book begins with some simple rules for drawing and then tells you how and when to break them! Can't argue with that! The first topic is heads and faces, and all that go with them: eyes, ears, noses, expressions. After this it moves on to drawing hands and feet and then whole bodies, and adding color. It goes on to discuss animals and inanimate objects, scenes and gags, and caricatures; in short, everything you'll need to get started - assuming you're willing to take the bit between your teeth, say 'the heck with detractors', and actually get started creating your own images!

The written advice is short, simple, and broken into easy-to-follow steps, and the steps are accompanied by drawings illustrating how the drawing will progress. I found this book illuminating and instructive, and I commend it as a worthy read for anyone interested in cartooning or art in general for that matter.


Saturday, December 8, 2018

En Plein Air Watercolor by Ron Stocke


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This is the second of two complimentary books, the first dealing with acrylic, this one dealing with watercolor, a medium that is often taught first to young students, when perhaps acrylic ought to be taught instead. This artist has three decades of experience in the art world and specializes in watercolor.

This doesn't prevent him from conveying the important message that if you want to paint, you should learn to draw. Drawing is another way of seeing - a more concrete way in some regards, in that it captures the important details - not every detail, but the ones that made that big impression on you - on paper, so the importance of having a sketchbook to hand, of seeing what it is you want to paint, and reinforcing it in a sketch is invaluable.

Watercolor paintings start not with water or with color, but with that sketch: rough out the pictures you think you might want to paint. Paint only those you want! Keep sketches simple. This advice comes out of the first few pages of this book and seems like a sound beginning to me!

The author opens with this and with a discussion on perspective and subjects for drawing, before it heads into a discussion of equipment followed by a section on tension in pictures and how to avoid it, subject placement and so on. The details are paradoxically brief, but quite in depth and very educational.

The book contained a wealth of tips and suggestions about things people starting out may not consider much - such as how to paint windows, how to make shadows realistic and what separates a shadow from a reflection (other than the seemingly obvious!). These are the truly useful benefits of an author's long experience and while an artist is always growing into their own, it does no harm at all to pick up advice along the way and adapt it to make it your own.

As with the other book, the art is different for each person who sees it: some we feel is great, some not so great, some unappealing, some brilliant. Some of the paintings in this book are quite startling and made me see watercolor in a new way. I particularly liked English garden on page 52, Elliot Bay Marina on page 92 (the depiction of the water was masterful) and Solo in Paris on the next page, both of which were used in illustration of capturing realistic reflections.

Like the acrylic book, this one is also designed as a print book and the ebook version on my tablet did not allow viewing of the entire image on some of the images (particularly toward the end of the book) that ran across more than one page. This is a problem with ebooks. Some I have seen presented as two-page images when they should have been shown as single pages. In this case, the opposite applies: it really should have been viewable as double-page images otherwise the educational power and import of what the artist is trying to show us is diminished annoyingly.

But that did not rob this book of its value. I know a lot more about watercolor now that I did before and I find it a fascinating medium! Consequently I commend this book as a worthy read! The author's website is at ronstocke.com.


En Plein Air: Acrylic by Mark Mehaffey


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I'm not a painter or artist of any kind notwithstanding my The Little Rattuses children's book series which is far more cartoonish than ever I'd label it art, but like they say: I may not know much about art but I know what I like, and it is a truism! Art, as a form of beauty, is very much in the eye of the beholder.

That doesn't mean we can't learn to better appreciate more of it, and to me that's why it's always useful to read a book like this one, which is not so much about art appreciation, but very much about art creation, particularly in the outdoors (the En Plein Air of the title) - and importantly how to travel light when you're on an expedition to find a locale and capture something there on canvas.

It occurs to me that there's no better way to appreciate art than to understand from an artist's perspective, what it takes to put together an eye-catching painting. This is the first of two En Plein Air book I shall be reviewing. The other is about watercolor - a medium that is often taught to kids in primary school, which is probably a bad idea, but while on the one hand it is an unfortunately cheap and favored solution, on the other, it is an introduction to art, and any such intro is better than none, I guess!

I have to say that the book is aimed at a print book audience, so the ebook version I had to review sliced up some of the paintings, and failed to show pages in juxtaposition, thereby diluting if not derailing the author's message and making it harder to compare one with another when you had to keep sliding the screen back and forth instead of sliding your eyes back and forth.

I've seen some ebooks that did present as a two-page view and I typically found that annoying since there seemed to be no reason for it, but in this case, there really was a valid reason to show the book in this format and it was viewable only as single pages, which downright spoiled parts of it. But as an amateur reviewer, ebooks are the new print copies, I'm sorry to say!

But anyway! The author starts out by briefly introducing the medium and the tools by which it is applied, talking about acrylic paints, and about canvases, brushes, and techniques for bringing all three together into a harmonious result. It's a bit like magic, isn't it?! The brushes are the wands, the medium is the spell and the painted canvas is the result.

Referring often to his own long experience, the author discusses lighting, paint hues, tints, tones and shades, paint temperature (and no it's not about freezing your butt off while sitting outdoors painting!) and about differences between acrylic and oil - and it's not just the price! There are even differences within acrylics which are well-worth knowing. There are many photographs - of paintings! - which admirably illustrate the points he makes in the brief, but highly illuminating text sections.

I have to say that some of the pictures did not look great to me, but many of them have an impressionistic element to them and I am not a big fan of the impressionists. I can't say how this author (who was a public school art instructor for some three decades) would describe his own work; I can only speak to how it appears to my amateur eyes, but to them, other paintings looked wonderful.

Talking of impressionism, two of these really made an impression on me. My favorite was the Morning Glow which he included on page 98 in a discussion of temperature blending. That painting was great and truly captured its subject. The two paintings on the next page, Corner in Winter and Deep Woods Violets were worthy of a special mention, too.

The other painting was revealed in stages starting on page 84, as the artist walks us through putting together an entire painting from scratch: how he does it and what his thinking is at each stage. This was very educational. The interesting thing for me though, was that I considered the painting to be perfect and highly atmospheric on only step three, and liked it less well as other elements were added to complete it in step 6.

It just goes to ask that old question: if a work of art ever really complete, and how do you know if it is? Eye of the beholder again! Another example was when I thought the pencil sketch made to assess values for a painting on page 82 was more impressive than the painting which is led to, but maybe that's just me! I'm sure you'll find your own likes, dislikes, and loves here as anyone would.

So I thought this book was well-worth the reading and if you don't find fresh inspiration and a renewed drive to go out there and do it after reading this, then it's all on you - right next to those paint splashes! I commend it as a worthy read. You can find the author's website at markmehaffeyfineart.com.


Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Complete Book of Calligraphy Lettering by Cari Ferraro, Eugene Metcalf, Arthur Newhall, John Stevens


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This book is exactly what it claims to be - complete! At least as far as a rank amateur like me can tell!

It contains everything from start to finish with information about pens, paper, brushes and even chalk. It covers a variety of alphabets and gives numerous detailed examples not only of how to create a beautiful calligraphic end result, but even down to the details of how to create each letter:- which strokes to use and which direction to draw them in, in black and colored ink and in an almost bewildering variety of styles, from simple lettering (no that any calligraphy is truly simple!) to exotic stuff with all the curlicues and flourishes you could hope for. Ancient and modern, elegant and edgy, it's all here.

I am about as far from a calligraphy expert as you can get, but I was impressed by the sheer amount of example and detail - some 240 pages of it, and the hints and tips which were included frequently. My guess is that if you cannot get these skills down from reading this, following the examples and practice, practice, practice, then you never will, so I commend this as a one-stop shop for learning this fine art.


Sunday, November 18, 2018

Paint Alchemy by Eva Marie Magill-Oliver


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Be warned that this is not a complete beginner's how to. It is a how to, but it covers a specific topic and assumes you know a little bit about what you're doing. It's much more of a guide to improved technique than a beginner's guide. For me, a beginners word here and there would have been useful.

For example, the author will mention using a specific brush by name, without explaining what that brush is, and although the illustrations are copious these are more of the finished work and of an assortment of painting tools than they are illustrative of the particular tools mentioned in the text at that point. An image of the brush just mentioned in the text would have been more useful to me, but that said, the book description does make it clear that this is aimed at "Exploring Process-Driven Techniques through Design, Pattern, Color, Abstraction, Acrylic and Mixed Media." It's not aimed at baby-sitting the reader!

From that perspective it does well - talking knowledgeably and from experience about techniques and materials and explaining how to work with them to achieve certain effects. It goes way beyond simple brush technique digressing into unusual topics such as blowing through a straw to move paint on a surface, and spraying the brushed-on paint with liquid to achieve a different effect than what the brush alone can offer. There's also an interesting mention of using thread soaked in bleach to achieve certain effects, so if you're looking for inspiration of a slightly different sort - in moving beyond simple brushwork, then this book is ideal. I commend it as a worthy read for budding artists looking for the next phase in their arsenal.


Friday, November 16, 2018

Hand Lettering A to Z Workbook by Abbey Sy


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Note that this is a companion to Hand Lettering A to Z. I didn't realize it fully at the time I requested this for review, so this is a very short review for a very short book aimed at the print book market, because though it had some 195 pages, only about 23 of these are the book. The rest is largely-blank exercise sheets where you can practice the character sets the author lays out for you. I haven't read the original volume, so I cannot comment on that.

Those twenty-three pages lay out in brief the rules and arts required to create your own hand-lettered whatever-you-want-to create! The tips and hints start before you even write the letters, beginning with information on the kinds of paper and tools you might want to lay your hands on first, and then progressing into different styles of writing and different effects that can be achieved using those tools. I commend this as a worthy companion book, but as I said, I can't comment on the book it's a companion to!


Friday, November 2, 2018

Collage Workshop for Kids by Shannon Merenstein


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Not to be confused with College Workshop for kids (which I just made up), this is collage workshop aimed at a young audience! Kids love to do this kind of thing and it was interesting to me because I've been toying with an idea of doing a collage episode of my Little Rattuses series (which I'll then of course have to photograph since I'm not going to create a score of original collage books to sell! LOL! So while you never always know where you'll get good ideas and tips - which is why it's a good idea to read lots and keep your eyes open, you do now, because this book is full of them!

The book contains everything you need to know - the supplies you'll have to bring yourself! But once you have them, this book will tell you - and your kids - in easy, illustrated steps how to turn them into some pretty cool collages that any young child would be thrilled by and proud of. You can create anything in collage, and make it look pretty darned real by choosing the right materials, and once you get the bug, you can move on to creating your own entirely original collages. I commend this book as a fun adventure which will teach kids to be creative and leave them with some nice art skills and a wealth of confidence. Plus who knows - maybe a new hobby, too? Or even a career!