Archive for category Author: Rachel Rubin Wolf

Splash 13 – alternative approaches || ed Rachel Rubin Wolf

Splash is all about the editorial eye and Rachel Rubin Wolf is very good at collecting works that, while unconnected in themselves, play off each other and develop a theme. This isn’t a painting manual as such, but it shows you what can be – and is being – achieved with watercolour.

There’s a huge variety of stuff here, from the highly realistic to the totally abstract. I turned to the introduction in the hope of a definition of the alternative approach, but Rachel and the artists she quotes are coy on the subject. I think that the idea is that these people are working in ways that are less familiar to them. As a concept, it’s fine, but it does rather assume that we know the rest of their work. In the US, this might be the case, but here, I don’t think the idea works, these not being artists we are familiar with. Not that it really matters. There’s some super work here and the book is worth much more than a passing look.

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Strokes of Genius 4 || ed Rachel Rubin Wolf

It’s always hard to know why to recommend books like this, though never hard to recommend them in the first place.

None of the blurb gives any clue to how or why the illustrations were chosen, and I rather like that. I like the idea that I’ve been presented with a collection of works that someone else likes, or thinks I (an unknown quantity to her) might like. I’ve known Rachel Rubin Wolf by name for more years than she’d probably thank me for mentioning and it’s a name that has always signified quality; she knows how to put a book together and this one is no exception.

The book is divided into five sections: portraits, ʼscapes [sic], still lifes, figures and animals, which provides a structure, though by far the best approach is simply to open it at random and follow your hands. If you just want a collection of contemporary drawings by artists you may never have heard of, this’ll suit perfectly. If you want ideas and inspiration, ditto. It won’t teach you anything and it’s not meant to. It exists because it is and, personally, I think it adds considerably to the greater good (whatever that is).

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Strokes of Genius 3 – Fresh Perspectives || ed Rachel Rubin Wolf

For this survey of contemporary work, the contributing artists were asked to complete the phrase, “Drawing is…”. That’s a wide brief, but it’s also arguably the best way to go as it merely provides a conundrum for thought rather than a constriction. Rachel was obviously pleased with the response, “the connection between eye, heart and hand”, as she’s quoted it on the jacket flap. It’s an obvious answer, perhaps rather trite, saccharine even, but it’s quite hard to sum it up any better.

Every book needs a way in and this is as good as any for what’s otherwise going to be a random collection (and none the worse for that). As long as it’s a rattle- rather than a rag-bag, we’re OK. In fact, this is a generously formatted and superbly reproduced look at what’s going on in the world (or at least the North American part of it) today. There’s some stunning and genuinely innovative work here, all of which the book does full justice to (and, in these straitened times it’s nice to see the publisher hasn’t been afraid to do the work and let the price follow). The chapters groups things by land and townscapes, portraits, still lifes, figures and animals, and each artist has provided short notes that explain what they were trying to do.

If you love drawing, this is definitely one to put on your Christmas list.

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Splash 12 – celebrating artistic vision || ed. Rachel Rubin Wolf

This is one of those books that North Light put out once in a while, ostensibly to showcase new talent but which, being a cynic, I suspect of being a way to re-use material they already own the rights to.

As a concept, it’s a good idea because you get to see what current trends are and also to have a look at the work of a wide range of (American) artists you wouldn’t necessarily be buying books by. It’s also not subject specific, so you get landscapes, people, buildings, animals, townscapes. Each picture has a caption which very briefly explains it and there’s also a selection of short quotes, sometimes by the artist, sometimes by a critic and sometimes by someone completely irrelevant. It’s a bit like a lucky dip and definitely has a whiff of sawdust about it, but whether that’s from the tombola or the hasty construction, I’m not quite sure.

From all of which, you can probably gather that I’m not going to recommend that you buy it. However, I am going to suggest that you track down a copy in your local library, because you’re pretty much guaranteed to find at least one interesting painting here and maybe get a few ideas you didn’t even know you were looking for, into the bargain. That’s assuming you still have a local library. With the demise of the independent bookshop and the marketing of books as commodities, browsing serendipitously is a thing of the past. Go into any bookshop you can find and you’ll be pretty much guaranteed to see the same old stuff, even on the back shelves.

Yes, I know you can go online and find anything but, when you can see it all, you can actually see nothing. The point of the sidestreet bookshop was that the stock reflected the owner’s preoccupations and there’d always be something you hadn’t even considered and the surprise of the new guaranteed a sale. Back in the days when I ran an architectural bookshop, one of my favourite customers used that phrase to me, “surprise the reader” – show them something they, as an expert, didn’t know about. It’s a tall order for a non-specialist, but it made the research fun, and it worked too.

Now we’re killing off libraries as well and they were the last bastion of quiet browsing over random subjects. We only care about information, not knowledge, and it’s not something you can teach in schools, however much you tinker with the exam system. The trouble with books is they’re written by writers and writers tend to have liberal minds and we really must stamp liberal thought out at all costs.

Rant over, but don’t forget to have a look at this book. They’re up to number 12 in the series, so it must be working.

North Light

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