Archive for category Author: Craig Nelson

Start to Finish (Secrets of Drawing) || Craig Nelson

Whereas the same author’s other title in this series had an obvious point, this one is less clearly defined. I think the idea of the title is that it’s full of hints and tips (the stock in trade of the series) on the whole process of drawing, but that’s not immediately clear from the title and an initial examination isn’t too much help either as the content seems all a bit jumbled up.

First impressions are important, but they aren’t the whole story, so does it fare better under closer examination? Well, yes, it does. Inevitably, cramming the book’s avowed intent into 96 smallish pages is a tall order, but, like the other titles in the series so far, the size isn’t a drawback. What does happen, though, is that a lot of material gets left out – you can’t do everything in a book this size and we therefore have to judge it on what’s left. Are enough topics covered and are they covered adequately? Well, when you only give yourself a page or two, you have to be succinct, and this can be a strength. Conveying a topic such as three-point perspective in one page is another tall order, but get it right and it can be easier to understand than a whole chapter on the subject. As long as perspective doesn’t give you brain-ache, you’ll appreciate this (if it does, you may never be able to get your head round it, sorry).

Overall, I’m impressed by what this does manage to include and, while I’m sure everyone will have their own idea of which of their favourite topics has been left out, the book nevertheless has a positive and busy feel to it that makes it a pleasure to use.

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Figures & Faces (Secrets of Drawing) || Craig Nelson

This is part of a new series from North Light which comes under the umbrella title of “Essential Artist Techniques”. Octavo format, 96 pages long, they’re clearly intended as quick and easy guides and perhaps also as impulse purchases – the sort of thing a shop might put on a display table or by the till, if art books ever make it off the lower back shelves, that is.

The pleasant surprise is how well they’re done. Small books are often rather dashed off, but care has clearly been taken over the production of these and the smaller page-size isn’t an immediate disadvantage – the illustrations are mostly full or half page and it’s the text rather than the pictures that has been condensed. There’s also a lot of colour, which is also credibly placed rather than feeling as though it’s just there to make the book look more attractive.

For the subject in question, the stripped-back approach works remarkably well and there are plenty of different poses and subjects, with sketches, diagrams and fully worked drawings. It works best, I think, as something to use for specific reference rather than to progress through from start to finish. It’s also effective if you just open it at random and take what serendipity gives you. Most topics are dealt with in a single page or spread, even the demonstrations only running to 4 pages, so you can pick up an idea quickly and easily.

As an aid to stimulating the imagination, this is superb. If you want to study a topic or the whole subject in more depth, there are plenty of other books, but they can be exhaustive (and exhausting; this is a big subject) and this has a sense of freshness and pace I really like.

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The Drawing Bible || Craig Nelson

Looking through this, the first thought has to be, “Wow, is that all drawing?”, because there’s a lot of colour and a very painterly approach throughout. Part of this is down to the inclusion of a fair amount of pastel, but further reading reveals that Craig Nelson also demonstrates the use of sketching and how the initial work is developed into a painting.

All of this produces an immediately attractive book that has you wanting to get started straight away. Because I always have a quibble, I’m going to say now that it’s a pity the format isn’t larger and that the blurb’s claim that it’s “easy to carry and use” is disingenuous. I’m sorry, but I don’t accept that people carry a library in their bag of materials; they do their reading at home and there’s no substitute for a decent-sized page, especially in a quite heavy 300 page book that doesn’t fall open easily.

Persistence is rewarded, albeit at the cost of a broken spine (not you, the book), with a huge variety of topics, mediums and techniques. Dropping in serendipitously tends to produce a sense of random chaos and this is one where it’s definitely worth starting at the contents page as the layout is really quite well organised, beginning with materials and mediums, and progressing through line and tone to perspective and proportion to landscapes, buildings and animals. As well as an excellent chapter on figures and faces, which is one of the best I’ve seen.

All-in-all, this is well thought-out and excellently produced, if only it weren’t for the small page size.

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Drawing & Painting People: The Essential Guide || ed. Jeffrey Blocksidge and Mary Burzlaff

Books on portraiture are thin on the ground and any new one is a welcome addition to a select band.

I’m going to start with a couple of reservations. The first is that the style of the finished results is a little stilted and formal and the second is that it’s also perhaps a little sentimentalised. However, this is an American book and that’s how they do things.

I wanted to get that out of the way because if you found this is a shop and flicked through it, you might be put off and start to think , “Ooh, no, that’s not for me” and that would be a pity because the coverage and presentation are some of the best and most comprehensive I’ve seen. The book consists of a series of quite detailed demonstrations, each by a single artist, of specific techniques: skin tones, hair colours, facial types and so on. This allows the reader to concentrate on one thing at a time without having to hunt through the whole book to pick out the specific parts they’re interested in. Although the material has appeared elsewhere, it’s been re-edited to give it a freshness and immediacy that sets this book apart. It’s not, therefore, one you necessarily need to work through from cover to cover, but rather something to use for reference as specific needs arise.

Leaving aside the small initial reservations, the quality of the work and the reproductions, the number of illustrations and the detailed explanations of the progress of each drawing or painting are pretty near perfect. Even if some of the facial types may be less familiar to European eyes and the treatments not quite what we’d expect, anyone following the book should be able to develop the skills to adapt to what they want. Quite simply, if you want to paint or draw portraits, buy this book. It’s excellent value at 192 pages for £14.99 and you’ll get a huge amount out of it.

North Light 2007

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