Archive for category Author: Pamela Wissman
It’s almost exactly two years since I reviewed the first Sketchbook Confidential and I wasn’t exactly complimentary about it. My problem with it was that, despite having two editors, it had no editorial content and therefore no way of knowing what it was that I was looking at. However, it must have struck some kind of a chord, at least in its home country, for here we are with volume 2.
Once again, 38 artists (two fewer than last time) present pages from their sketchbooks and say what they mean to them. And, again, they all seem to mean the same thing: a way of recording things, places, events and ideas. Robin Poteet says that sketching probably helps lower her blood pressure, which is arguably better, and certainly cheaper, than medication. I also don’t feel I know any more than I already did by being told that, “The local office-supply retailer binds my blank books for a nominal fee”. I’m guessing she’s a good customer and it’s sort of nice to know that her books are made for her, rather than being one of the almost endless variety available off the shelf, but I haven’t got any further into the creative process.
Selective quotes are unfair and I should say that the artists do their best to help us, but the problem, the same problem I had with the first volume, is that they all say the same thing and I have no editorial guidance to know what I should be looking for, or what these people are telling me about the creative process. Looking at an artist’s sketchbook can be illuminating. It can reveal what went on behind their public works, but it can also be like rummaging through their underwear drawer – just a little too intimate, too personal and, ultimately, unenlightening. Without a useful commentary, it can also be like looking though a pile of their family photographs albums – an endless parade of fading anonymity.
Subtitled: 120 dragons with advice and inspiration and 49 international artists.
OK, regular readers will know by now what I think of fantasy art. That said, I absolutely love this book. Leaving aside the obvious question a non-specialist reader would have – who knew there were 49 dragon artists in the world? – it’s a homage to something a lot of people take very seriously and it’s beautifully produced. Even I can see the point, not least because of the amount of good humour there is. As well as big fierce Germanic dragons, Chinese dragons, manga dragons, there are some that are just downright cute and there’s a wonderful cartoon from Ursula Vernon that I want on my wall.
I can’t tell you about the quality of the art, though it looks pretty good to me, but I can say that this is about the most comprehensive book you’re likely to find on what (surely?) has to be a specialised subject and that the production won’t let you down.
This is subtitled “secrets from the private sketches of over 40 master artists”, but it’s worth noting that this is an American book and these are not, on the whole, names you’re likely to have come across before in the UK.
That doesn’t however, need to be an impediment because an artist’s sketchbook can reveal more about them than a whole volume of their own writing. What are the details they concentrate on, what subjects grab their attention out in the field, how do they select the quick ideas and work them up into a finished painting? If you learn about the creative process, it doesn’t really matter who’s telling you.
The problem here is that, although the book has no fewer than two editors, it has virtually no editorial content. Each artist gets 4 pages to present their sketches and say what sketching means to them and, guess what?, it means the same to all of them and the same it would to you and me – it’s a notebook, the basis for a painting. I’d never have guessed. Without some more context: some notes on the images, points to watch, colours and then examples, or at least a description of how they were used later, I just feel as though I’m looking at the raw ingredients for a banquet. The result could be a thing of beauty as well as interest, but I have no way of telling how.
This has the feel of a good idea hastily cobbled together and leaves me wanting so much more, which is a shame.
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