A first glance at this, sitting on the shelf, screams “Quarto”. They’re a company that designs and produces books that publishers then put their imprint on and sell. They’re very much design-led and have always been at the forefront of that. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that book design would be twenty or thirty years behind where it is now if it weren’t for them. They’ve absolutely nailed the art of getting the reader to understand the point from a simple set of images, the minimum of text and almost always a single page or a single spread.
This, which as far as I can tell is all new material (you do have to check these days!), is a classic of their style. The subtitle, “200 tips, techniques and trade secrets”, tells you what to expect. Each section is numbered, and there are 234 in all so you get quite a bonus, and the book covers things like perspective, foreshortening, contour drawing, the use of photographs, facial features and colour values. There’s also an overall chapter structure that groups things into Tools and Materials and Techniques as well as the more esoteric: Working with Your Subject and Commissions and Display. To be honest, I think the chapters have been introduced to break the book up and I’m not really sure they’re necessary. A list of tips is a list of tips and I like the fact that they go from the technically practical to the more general – “a little psychology” on the “Working with Pets” page isn’t something I’d have automatically expected.
Serendipity is a word you’d very much associate with this book. It’s one to dip into, and especially to open at random, rather than to read, or even to use for reference, though there’s an index if you want to do that.