This book looks fabulous and, just flicking quickly through it, you can see that it’s full of ideas and inspiration and there’s no doubt that you’d probably buy it there and then because it would be sure to get you going in arts and crafts.
And yet. And yet it flatters to deceive (not deliberately, stick with me). In this, it’s not alone and there are hundreds of similar craft-based books out there that do the same thing. It’s a project book and it’s got beautiful photographs of 42 things you can do with canvas, acrylic paint and a few bits and pieces to use as collage. Then, on the left-hand page, it tell you how to get that result. Yes, on the left-hand page. One page. This is not testing stuff. You also ought to be aware that it’s a 110-page paperback, so I’m not too sure about the “big” in the title, either.
The truth is, I’m being far too toffee-nosed about this. This website normally reviews fairly serious books about painting and it can, in its own little way, get as pretentious as the best of them. This book isn’t high art. It doesn’t have an author and the introduction is by “the editorial team”, so they can stand united and fall divided. If it was a cookery book, it would be one of those cut’n’paste recycled recipe ones for people who want to create an impressive looking meal without spending a week in the kitchen.
And you know what, that’s just fine. In fact, I’ve just realised just how just fine it is. It’s not for people who want to create high art. It’s for people who do actually want someone to tell them not just how to create a picture or whatever, but to come up with the idea in the first place. Hey, we can’t all be creative geniuses, but I bet that if you had a go at a few of these projects, you’d produce at least a halfway decent result and it might encourage you to go on a bit, try some ideas of your own and then, who knows, you might come back here and scour my hard-written words for something that’ll get you on to the next stage, and won’t I be pleased as Punch then?
If you don’t buy this for yourself, buy it for someone you love. It’s even got ideas for children in it. It’s a load of fun. Have some, why don’t you?
First published 2007