Taming Wildlife with pastel pencils || Lucy Swinburne

This stunning guide to wildlife drawing manages to be both a thoroughly serious study and completely accessible at the same time. Only someone who is fully confident and at home with their subject matter and working methods can achieve that.

The choice of pastel pencils is an interesting one. The use of pencil allows for both fine detail and a degree of blending, but Lucy is silent on why pastels specifically, which is perhaps a shame. This is a very minor niggle, given the quality of the work, content and reproduction here, but still one where perhaps a couple of sentences would have helped. Gosh, I’m hard to please.

After a general introduction to materials and reference sources (Lucy uses photographs here), you move into a series of exercises and demonstrations that usefully deal with both details such as ears, noses and paws and larger demonstrations that deal with the whole animal. These include a wolf, a chimpanzee, a panda and a prowling jaguar. The culmination is a black leopard, where Lucy shows you how to get an almost unbelievable amount of detail into an apparently monochrome subject. While there is menace in the jaguar, here the creature is at rest and has an almost soulful expression – there’s a lot more to Lucy’s work and this book than just technical wizardry.

The demonstrations are thoughtfully presented, with the sections you’re not working on greyed (or rather, blued) out. I haven’t seen this done before, but it very effectively allows you to keep the background in mind without it distracting from the details you’re currently working on. Lucy also manages to achieve a near-perfect balance between saying enough in the explanation and saying too much. This is a book which assumes a certain level of ability – let’s be honest – but not that you also know everything it’s trying to teach you. Once again, this requires a degree of confidence.

It’s also worth saying a word about the production. Self-published books often suffer from, as well as a lack of an editor, a tendency to skimp on the quality of reproduction for fear of driving up costs. This is a mistake Lucy does not make. Work with this level of detail requires the reader to be able to see every mark, and you can. The generous page size also helps. Yes, it comes at a cost (commercially produced, this would probably be ten pounds or so cheaper), but it’s not an expense you should quail at – you absolutely get what you pay for.

There are also accompanying videos on Lucy’s website, which just adds to the depth of instruction available.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Also available from http://www.tamingwildflife.com

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