Archive for category Medium: Drawing

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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Learn to Paint People Quickly || Hazel Soan

This series from Batsford is shaping up nicely and any book on painting people, especially as furniture for a larger work, is welcome.

Not everyone by any means wants to paint people as a subject in themselves, but an unpopulated painting always has a neglected look to it. In common with the style of the series, this is very much illustration-led and the text is concise to the point of terseness and mainly confined to explanatory captions. It should also be said that this is very welcome – if you don’t want an exhaustive in-depth study, being shown what’s going on rather than lectured at length is the proverbial breath of fresh air.

This is not to say that Hazel doesn’t manage to make the coverage comprehensive. There’s information on shape, proportion, pose, lighting and clothing and the chapters are arranged so that you can locate one particular topic easily. If you want to venture into portraiture, Hazel offers good basic advice, although you will probably want to graduate to more dedicated books as well. Groups, action and settings all get a look-in as well, making this one of the best starting-points you’ll find.

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The Complete Guide to Anatomy for Artists & Illustrators || Gottfried Bammes

This is the most substantial book I’ve seen on the subject of anatomy. Substantial, however, doesn’t mean incomprehensible and, looking into its pages, it becomes possible to believe the jacket’s claim that the original German edition is “bestselling” – even though I doubt it would have troubled the literary pages of the Frankfurter Allgemeine.

Gottfried Bammes does a remarkable job of explaining every aspect of both anatomy and the practice of drawing it in a way that simplifies without reduction to absurdity.

Anatomy, rather like perspective, is complex and comes with the additional hazard that, when writing about art, any author needs to avoid something that looks like a medical textbook. That Gottfried avoids this is, in large part, down to the quality of the drawings he uses to illustrate everything. He has a lightness of touch that, while it might be out of place in a hospital lecture theatre, is more than adequate in a drawing studio. The result is not only manageable, but looks and feels manageable. On top of this, the way the book is structured makes each section a unit in its own right; you can concentrate on the room without feeling weighed down by the rest of the building, large and ornate though it is.

I’d hesitate to recommend this as a primer but, if you’re interested in anatomy for artistic purposes, I doubt you’ll ever find a better, and certainly not a more complete, guide.

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Travelogue – round the world in watercolour || Bee Morrison

Bee Morrison is quite a traveller. Forty years as a practising artist has taken her to five continents, eighteen countries and twenty-eight ports, a journey she calculates would take some four months to complete as one trip. This journal is her imaginary tour, culled from her numerous sketchbooks.

Altogether, there are fifty illustrations which the cover tells us are “to colour”. That seems a shame, as Bee’s simple and sensitive line drawings stand well on their own and could, I think, be studied as a lesson in the art of less-is-more. However, if you want to go ahead, there’s a handy colour reference guide that gives you an idea of what that added dimension brings to the scene. Actually, I’m not sure that the paper the book is printed on would take watercolour terribly well, so you might well want to copy or trace the outlines – the upside is that they’re nicely crisp for that purpose.

This has been produced in a limited edition of 200 copies and each will be signed. If you’re a fan of Bee’s work, this is a nice personal souvenir. If she’s new to you, check out her website and have a look at some of her other books while you’re there.

Available from http://beemorrison.co.uk/Bees-Travelogue

Postscript: Bee tells me that the paper in the book is in fact remarkably suitable for both watercolour and coloured pencils, so give it a try if you want to.   She says, “It is quite bizarre …you would think that it would reject pencil and paint but quite the opposite.  My sample book has had a lot of layers of a very cheap pencil and keeps on taking the colour.”   She also says, helpfully, “please quote me and tell everyone that when they buy the Travelogue they also get the right to print any page for their own personal use.”

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Quick & Lively Urban Sketching || Klaus Meier-Pauken

This relatively short (64 page) book knocks off its subject with commendable alacrity and elan, as is entirely appropriate for a sketch. Working in fast-changing environments is more about observation than technique and requires confidence in your ability and materials.

Although the book is structured as a series of lessons, it doesn’t feel like a tutorial and certainly not a demonstration. Klaus explains – and shows you – what to look for, what to include and, above all, how to achieve a record of your scene quickly and efficiently. In a world overrun with smartphones, he addresses the question of “why sketch at all?” head on – the answer being in the cover blurb: it’s “an act of personal expression”. But, as an artist, you didn’t need to be told that.

Urban sketching is very much of the moment and its literature is a crowded market. Nevertheless, this is a worthwhile addition to the canon and one which doesn’t labour the simple point it has to make, which is simplicity.

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Perspective (Drawing Masterclass) || Tim Fisher

I’ve lost count of how many books on perspective I’ve seen in a long career. It’s a simple enough idea – you have a viewpoint, a subject and a vanishing point – but notoriously difficult to explain. All these books have made valiant and worthy attempts to keep things simple and some, using blocks and cones or different colours for the lines, have come close to success. The problem, though, is that almost everything you overlay only serves to complicate the image. What could be expressed in probably no more than a dozen or so words suddenly becomes so unmanageable that the poor reader just gives up and decides they’ll never get it right. This is a shame, as your eyes will tell you instantly when it is.

So it’s with great delight that I give an enormous Hurrah to this new contribution to the literature. Tim Fisher doesn’t forego diagrams, shapes or lines. What he does do, though, and it’s so simple it’s a forehead-slapper, is not to try to do everything at once. There are drawings here that have only four or five lines in them, and you can see what’s going on as a result. Yes, some parts don’t have their vanishing points delineated (get over it), but they’re not the bit he’s explaining. He also manages to keep the whole thing simple without over-simplifying and therefore missing the point entirely. Although this is billed as a Masterclass, the truth is that it’s by far the best primer I’ve ever seen. If you have other books, throw them away and buy this. You won’t regret it.

Oh, and Search press seem to have solved the problems of muddy half-tones that have bedevilled previous volumes in the series. Double Hurrah.

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Figure It Out! Drawing Essential Poses || Christopher Hart

Christopher Hart is the absolute master of the simplified guide to figure drawing. In this remarkably comprehensive guide, he takes a number of typical postures and breaks them down into a series of simple shapes that make them both easy to understand and to replicate. Part of the secret of his simplicity is to deal with only one thing at a time. When, for example, figures are clothed, the clothing is simple and little more than a few lines – it doesn’t distract from or complicate the main message and won’t detain you for more than a few seconds. While you’re at it, you might want to notice that folds, creases and hangs can be delineated in just one or two marks, though.

As well as shape and proportion, Christopher hints at perspective, but without going into a great deal of detail – this isn’t a book about perspective. He does, though, look at three-quarter as well as front and back views and explains how to portray depth – his figures are always more than just two-dimensional cut-outs.

If you’re new to figure drawing, or finding yourself bogged down in self-imposed complications, this is a brilliant life-saver.

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