Archive for category Author: Giovanni Civardi

Drawing Using Grids – Portraits, Babies & Children || Giovanni Civardi

This new series from the prolific and always worthwhile Giovanni Civardi does what it says on the tin.

The use of grids vastly simplifies any composition that requires perspective or proportion and artists have been using them for centuries; it’s what the camera obscura was for. Giovanni’s method doesn’t require any equipment and he demonstrates how to draw up an 11 x 8 rectangular grid that contains your subject: in this case, just the head and neck. There are initial notes on anatomy, features and proportions, the bulk of each volume then being occupied by a series of worked examples that progress from the initial outline on the grid to Giovanni’s usual sensitive result.

With so many books to his credit, finding new approaches is getting tricky and there’s inevitably a degree of repetition to the coverage. However, Giovanni is an artist of great skill and always worth a read. In this case, the simplicity he has introduced is, I think, a welcome novelty.

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Drawing Human Anatomy || Giovanni Civardi

I always have to check the copyright dates very carefully with Giovanni’s books, as new editions are starting to come out. This one goes back to 1990, but the pages have a fresh feel to them that makes me pretty sure it’s a complete re-working. The older books were often of a smaller format as well so, all things being equal, I’m going to treat this as new. Even if you have a well-thumbed 28 year old copy, you might still want to have a look at this.

Giovanni deals with skeletal and muscular structures and looks at various components – heads, hands, arms, feet – in detail. He also shows how the body performs at rest, in action and under stress. It’s probably worth noting that most of the gendered figures are male and I’d say that the muscle illustrations probably are as well.

A lot of books on anatomy are either aimed at, or are at least suitable for, the medical student. This is aimed firmly at the artist and is all the better for that.

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Drawing The Male Nude/Drawing The Female Nude || Giovanni Civardi

These two, which are totally complementary, very nearly caught me out. I was initially surprised that Giovanni had come to them so late in the canon, but was impressed by the freshness and simplicity of the style, which is totally different to some of his early works, some of which have an almost antique quality to them.

They are, in fact, among his earliest productions and were originally published, possibly in a different format, in 1995. There is no clue to this in either the printing history or the advance material. This isn’t Search Press’s fault – when I asked, they had to go back to the Italian publisher to find out.

So, let’s look at what we have. The first thing to say is that this printing is a complete re-working, with a new design and layout. They look exactly like all the rest of Giovanni’s books that Search Press have been publishing in English for some years. And, as I hinted at the beginning, they’re very, very good. The economy of line, attention to detail and variety of poses are second to none and it’s easy to see how I was fooled (I only found out by accident when I was checking ISBNs).

So, on that basis, if you want just about the best primers on figure drawing around, buy these. In fact, you might even want to if you have the originals. – I suspect the format may be larger and the reproduction probably better too.

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Portraits of Babies & Children || Giovanni Civardi

The sheer variety of this ongoing series is breathtaking, as is the quality that actually seems to improve with time.

Children are difficult subjects, not least because they’re hardly ever still and Giovanni acknowledges this with a short section on the use of photography. As ever, the main part of the book is a series of worked examples that demonstrate techniques with children of all ages – as the title implies.

What is particularly impressive is the depth of character that Giovanni manages to get into his work. Children are very much a work in progress and features, expressions and poses are constantly fluid. Picking the right moment is very much an exercise in observation and Giovanni is also sound on this – it’s getting to know your subject, as you should, but in particular detail.

Although this is not an in-depth study of a what is certainly a complex subject, it is nevertheless an excellent primer that includes much more than its 64 pages implies.

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Drawing Statues || Giovanni Civardi

Well, this is nothing if not niche! However, as Giovanni points out in his introduction, drawing statues has been part of art teaching since the sixteenth century. Originally, classical pieces were selected as examples of the highest standard of beauty, style, harmony and composition. On a practical level, they can be more accessible than a life model and have the advantage, as well as being static, of already being an interpretation that provides a clearly delineated form. Structure, anatomy and musculature have already been dealt with and it’s almost like having an outline prepared ready for you. As a first lesson in figure drawing, it’s a hard starting point to beat.

There is more of the worked demonstration here that is usual with Giovanni’s books, and it suits the subject matter well. Most of the statues include are indeed classical, but you’ll also find Degas’ Little Dancer and Rodin’s The Kiss. As ever, Giovanni’s sensitive pencil work is a joy to behold.

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Figure Drawing – a complete guide || Giovanni Civardi

I’m not normally a fan of reduced-format bind-ups, but this one makes pretty good sense. There are seven books here and, if they were in the original format, the 440 pages would simply be too heavy to handle easily. On top of that, Giovanni’s style is very much illustration-led, so the reduction has less effect that is often the case and there’s little or no sacrifice in usability on that score.

The selection included is well-chosen and kicks off with the excellent Drawing Techniques that was always a useful introduction. Some of the half-tones here are a little dark and it’s where the smaller page size is most felt. Even so, the important things are clear and it’s a good application of techniques to the specific field of figure drawing.

Further sections are: Understanding Human Form & Structure, The Nude, Sketching People, Heads & Faces, Drawing Hands & Feet and Clothing on Figures. It’s worth listing them simply to show how well this lives up to its own billing of being a complete guide.

To buy all these books individually would cost you over £60, so this is a bargain at £12.99. Price isn’t everything, of course, but the quality makes it an absolute steal.

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Figure Drawing – a complete guide || Giovanni Civardi

I’m not normally a fan of smaller-format bind-ups. The original books were the way they were for a reason and smaller pages and thick spines can make for difficult reading. All too often, they look like the sort of bumper value nonsense someone else would buy for you and which just sits on the shelf taking up space.

So, it’s a pleasure to be able to welcome this one. The Giovanni Civardi drawing books are a valuable resource, and there are a lot of them. This compilation includes seven, which would cost you the wrong side of sixty quid to buy individually. £12.99 for a bulk deal is a real bargain, especially as the result is actually usable. I’d like to say that Search Press have taken my previous criticisms of this kind of thing on board, but it’s probably more to do with the happenstance of production. What seems to have happened is that thinner paper and cover card have been used, meaning that the book falls open easily and isn’t too heavy to hold. It’ll even, more or less, lay flat by itself without breaking the spine. The smaller format also adds to the manageability: 440 A4 pages would make for a coffee table book, which this emphatically isn’t.

So, what do you get? Well, not Giovanni’s complete output, for sure. However, the selection is nicely thought-out and makes for a book that lives up to its own billing of being the complete guide. Drawing Techniques is a useful introduction. Being from 2002, some of the repro is showing its age compared to later titles, but not so much that it’s an issue, though the half-tones aren’t as good as they are later. Further chapters are Understanding Human Form & Structure, The Nude, Sketching People, Heads & Faces, Drawing Hands & Feet and Clothing on Figures. It’s worth a complete list to show just how nicely this progresses.

The page-size reduction necessarily reduces the size of the type too, so you may find yourself needing your glasses more that you otherwise would, but this isn’t too much of an issue due to the fact that so much of Giovanni’s instruction is done via the drawings rather than the words. The illustrations themselves are still perfectly adequate.

If you haven’t already got an extensive collection of the separate volumes, and you’re looking for a good primer on figure drawing, buy this. It’s very reasonably priced and so practical as to be ridiculously good value.

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