Archive for category Medium: Drawing

Drawing Masterclass || Guy Noble

A masterclass can take a number of forms. It can be simply a set of lessons for the advanced student or a lecture by an acknowledged expert, often for a selected audience. It can also, as is the case here, be an analysis of the work of other masters as a way of learning the techniques that mark true greatness.

The weakness of this approach is that it can all too easily become a study of art history rather than practice. The analysis has to be cogent and the lessons clearly and incisively extracted in order to be meaningful. Guy Noble studied at Byam Shaw School and teaches at Central St Martins. He is also a practising artist and has work in collections worldwide. His bona fides are impeccable.

The book begins with an overview of the art and method of drawing and this is, perhaps, its weakest point: some of it is a bit too basic. Does a masterclass need to be told about elementary techniques or how to stretch paper? However, the 100 studies of the work of an impressive variety of artists, both older and modern, are both concise and incisive and the analyses always to the point for the practical student. Subdividing by subject makes the book particularly easy to use and the whole richly deserves its self-applied masterclass tag.

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Artist’s Drawing Techniques

The strapline of this really rather enjoyable book, “develop your style, guided by professional artists” is perhaps an exercise in stating the obvious (would you want a bunch of amateurs telling you absolutely nothing?), but it does sum up what you get here. I think it’s pretty much certain that, if you were to pick it up for a cursory glance, you would be immediately enthralled and reckon there’s something – indeed quite a lot – for you.

The presentation is very much like the sort of book which I describe as something people buy for others rather than themselves. This, however, although slickly presented, is about much more than just appearance and the contributors offer a wide range of styles, subjects and techniques. Indeed, it’s precisely this variety that makes the book so appealing.

The layout is in the encyclopaedia style, with each topic generally covered in a single spread. What this can lose in superficiality, it makes up for in comprehensibility and the editors do seem to have addressed the dichotomy; there is no sense of trivialisation and the sheer number of illustrations keeps you engaged and informed at all times.

Media include pencil (graphite and colour), charcoal, pen & ink and pastel. There is also a bold attempt to cater for all levels of ability by dividing each section into techniques that are for the beginner, intermediate and advanced. This is always a hostage to fortune as one person’s beginner is another’s expert. However, some things genuinely are more difficult and the gradation is welcome. Maybe “elementary” might have made it clearer that the reference is (I think) to the techniques rather than the artist. It’s neatly done, though, and consistent throughout the book, which helps break up the broad range of the coverage and makes for easier reference.

All-in-all, this is one of the best general guides around and something which merits a lot more than a second look.

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Sketchits! Faces & Fashion || Christopher Hart

The always entertaining and informative Christopher Hart is back with a simple guide to drawing clothed figures. “More than 7 million books sold”, the cover proclaims and it’s not hard to see why. Christopher manages to simplify everything and to be elementary without talking down to the reader.

“Got Color? Just add lines”, the blurb tells us, adding that it’s “introducing an entirely new approach to drawing”. Well, up to a point, but the idea is ingenious – paint the basic shape, then add facial features, hair, accessories and detail such as folds and shadows. “Jump-start your creativity”.

If you want a simple guide to drawing figures, this would fit the bill nicely. If you don’t, you might find that the absence of complication encourages you to add your own simplification.

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Foundations of Drawing || Al Gury

This thorough and substantial guide to drawing is based on historical principles and uses examples from old and more recent masters as well as contemporary workers, including the author himself.

It is, as is common with Watson Guptill, not a simple how-to manual, but rather a discussion of the methods, techniques and creative uses of its subject that immerses the reader in a seminar rather than a class. Al has some thirty years’ experience of teaching and he puts this to good use, with clear explanations and a text that will keep the reader absorbed at all times.

Despite the approach, this is not a dry manual on what has passed, but includes plenty of practical work that examines topics from shading to perspective, Realism to Expressionism and a comprehensive range of subjects. The overall intention is to help you to develop your own portfolio and ways of working.

If you simply want to learn the mechanics of drawing, this will probably overwhelm you. However, if you’re interested in the whole creative process, it should amply satisfy.

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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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Draw – a graphic guide to life drawing || David Hedderman

I’m finding this more than a little confusing. The subtitle makes it sound interesting, but, drawing being graphic anyway, I was expecting something innovative – or at least different in a positive way.

The difficulties start out with the, to me, unnecessarily small format. Small is never good in art books because it immediately limits the size of the illustrations and some (too many) of these are so small as to be hard to interpret. The author’s style and the production don’t help either. Shades of black are never easy to see, and even less so when they’re against a dark background – often olive green – that seems to have been added by the designer rather than simply being the paper the image was drawn on.

It’s all the more of a shame because, when you do get to something that’s easily visible, it’s clear that David is actually very good and has some useful ideas. This is not a structured course, but rather something to dip into on a section-by-section basis, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Even at the relatively low price, though, I’m not sure there’s enough of that to make it worthwhile. It just seems mannered for the sake of being mannered.

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Colored Pencil Painting Portraits || Alyona Nickelsen

Thorough and comprehensive, this is more than just a practical guide. Aloyna includes historical examples that set modern approaches in context and show how portrait painting has developed over the centuries. As well as exercises and demonstrations, there are example poses, explanations of skin tones, facial features and structure, and extended consideration of the medium itself.

The subtitle refers to “a revolutionary method for rendering depth and imitating life”, which is a harmless enough strapline to aid sales. The blurb glosses this as “new layering tools and techniques”, although I do seem to have heard similar claims elsewhere. I’m not debunking the claim or the superb quality of the book, but I suspect that the author hasn’t in fact discovered something completely new, but rather adapted the glazing-like approach that coloured pencil artists have been using for some time. For all that, the results are impressive and the explanation of how to achieve them well executed, so you’d have nothing to complain about.

Watson Guptill books are characterised by their assiduous approach and detailed explanations and this is no exception. It’s one to read as well as work along with and an excellent masterclass in its subject.

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