I have to admit that I’m in two minds about this book. One the one hand, I don’t like it, but that has more to do with the fact that fantasy art tends to bring me out in a rash. On the other hand, I admire it enormously.
So, what’s going on? Well, there’s my acknowledged problem with the whole faerie thing, but I also find some of the finished results unattractive: these are not creations it’s always easy to like. But then I can also see that, if you want to draw young faces and figures, this is a book that really can’t be bettered. Melanie Philips is a professional natural history artist, so she clearly knows her stuff. Fantasy art is her hobby, a busman’s holiday if you will.
There’s a lot of good, basic stuff included, with charts and diagrams showing you how to get the shapes and proportions right as well as examples of the main features – eyes, noses, ears, etc. What Melanie is particularly good on is capturing expressions and she does this with the eye of an illustrator so that, if you want worry, boredom or fear, you get that as well as happy, smiling and the more usual ones. As well as drawing, there’s a certain amount on painting too and this is where, I think, things perhaps get a bit insipid. However, you can’t fault the draughtsmanship and these are figures that really do look right, with the correct proportions and the clothes well rendered. There’s an old adage that you can’t judge a book by its cover, but in this case, I think you can. The picture in the illustration pretty much sums up everything I’ve said, both for and against.
So, if you want to paint fairies, I can’t advise you; you’ll have to make up your own mind. But, if you’re struggling with figure drawing, give this a try. At just under a tenner, it’s excellent value and, even if it turns out not to be exactly what you want, I don’t think you’ll feel you’ve wasted your money. Is that faint praise? I hope not.