Archive for category Medium: Drawing

The Addictive Sketcher || Adebanji Alade

Sketching is the artist’s secret weapon. Often less intrusive than a camera, it also allows a degree of interpretation and note-taking that isn’t available to the photographer. Sometimes a quick image can be an end in itself, at others it’s the basis for a more considered work completed in the studio. The trick is to learn to see and to look, to be completely at home with your materials and to know exactly which details are important. All that comes with practice, so practise you must.

Adebanji Alade is, as the title suggests, a compulsive sketcher. In the introduction, he tells us how he learnt sketching from a battered copy of Alwyn Crawshaw’s Learn to Sketch, a slim volume that, while an excellent introduction, was hardly a full course in drawing. To learn this way requires not a little inherent skill, but Adebanji is too modest to say that. What he does tell us, though, is that, having discovered sketching, he fell in love with it. He also tells us that he loves God. This isn’t an essential part of the narrative, and he doesn’t pursue it, but what is important about it is that it tells us about him. He loves sketching and he loves God, so should we be surprised that he clearly loves his audience too? This isn’t a book that preaches, but rather one that explains. What leaps from every page is the sense of joy Adebanji feels when he out with paper and pencils. It’s infectious and I defy anyone not to want to get out there with him (probably in person, too).

This wouldn’t be an instructional book without instruction and that’s here in plenty, but it all comes from example. There are people, buildings, interiors and open spaces as well as seasons, light and weather. A huge variety of techniques are covered, but always in context and always leading to a worthwhile result – never a series of marks made for their own sake. There’s also handy advice on the etiquette of sketching – ask permission if necessary, thank people who comment on your work, be polite and, above all, stop if asked. If this is a book filled with love, it’s also one lacking in any kind of disrespect.

Adebanji immerses himself in sketching and this is a book that’s itself immersive. It’s also a joy, both tho read and to look at. “Once you catch the vision, you will never remain the same; you will spread the gospel of addictive sketching wherever you go, for the rest of your creative journey.” Couldn’t have put it better myself.

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Landscape Painting: The Complete Guide || Richard Pikesley

This is a bold claim which requires an artist of considerable skill and versatility to pull off at all, let alone successfully. In Richard Pikesley, Crowood undoubtedly have their man. An experienced artist and teacher, he is equally at home with oil and water-based media as well as drawing and pastel (although this latter does not receive extensive coverage).

At 224 pages, this is a substantial book that addresses the creative as well as technical processes. Richard begins with the whole question of seeing: that is to say, looking and observing, finding and understanding your subject. It says a lot about his overall approach that this is the starting point of the book, just as it should be for a painting, before brush or pencil hits paper or canvas. It’s also where he looks at perspective and parallax in both monochrome and colour. There’s a surprising amount of detail here and the subtleties that Richard finds even at this early stage are typical of the book as a whole – it’s about a lot more than just process and technique and the extent gives him space to consider much more than just major points and general headings.

As you may have gathered, there’s a lot to read here, although it’s leavened with plenty of example illustrations and the sections are nicely broken up. Extensive texts can, while invaluable, easily become indigestible in a practical context and the publisher is to be congratulated on recognising this. Richard has also chosen his words carefully and has not written simply for the sake of it, something I’ve seen happen when authors are given more space than they are perhaps used to.

Much of the book proceeds by explanation and example and there are only a few demonstrations, but this is not an exercise book – however useful and instructive those can be. Reading, rather than doing is not for everyone, but this is such a comprehensive study that this potential obstacle should be easy to overcome, especially with the wealth of illustrations that leaven and enhance the text.

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The 15-Minute Artist || Catherine V Holmes

Can you? Really? Should you? I’m no fan of the art-if-you-have-no-time school of book, which this proclaims itself to be. On the other hand, something that teaches you to get an image down quickly, without fiddling, while the idea is fresh in your mind and before it gets up and goes off for its lunch, I don’t have a problem with that.

So, let’s pretend, for all its protestation, that this is one of the latter. The idea of reducing the steps of drawing a wide range of subjects to a few simple stages can be liberating and enlightening, although it can also frustrate if the step reduction is achieved simply by leaving a lot out. Although there’s a tendency to do that here, the steps that are included do actually progress nicely and I don’t think you’d be too bothered by having to make giant leaps completely on your own.

The subjects chosen are, frankly, a bit weird. There’s a lightbulb, a paintbrush, a serpent and an ant. Yeah, me too, though there are also some animals and birds and what you get taught does handle what are often complex shapes rather well. The author’s style is a bit flat and unadventurous, but that also makes the book easy to follow and is, I think, one of the reasons the truncated demonstrations are easy to follow – neither of you is trying to do too much at once.

I can’t honestly say this is a must-have book but, if you want an introduction that doesn’t ask you to spend hours on a single drawing and doesn’t tax your skills too much too early, it could be quite useful.

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Drawing Animals | Lucy Swinburne

This is an enlarged edition of a book that first appeared in the Masterclass series in 2013. Sensibly, this time, the publisher has resisted the temptation to re-brand it as being for the beginner.

The Masterclass series was a good idea intended to appeal to more advanced artists who perhaps didn’t feel the need for instruction in basic techniques or a breakdown of the materials they’d need. However, it’s a risky approach as the non-specialist can easily feel excluded and that the whole thing is maybe too difficult.

Although there is plenty of advanced work here, this is nevertheless a thoroughly approachable book and should certainly appeal to anyone with reasonable drawing skills who is wanting to turn their attention to the animal world. Domestic, wild and zoo animals are included and there’s plenty of information on structural features such as eyes, ears and noses as well as complete projects that put the techniques you’ve developed into practice. There’s also a handy section on working from photographs and transferring that image to paper using a grid to get the proportions right.

I liked the original and, although I’m unable to compare the two editions, this has the feel of a complete guide.

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How to Draw Dogs & Cats from Simple Templates || Christopher Hart

Christopher Hart is always good value and his many figure drawing books have proved deservedly popular. Turning his attention to the animal world, his straightforward approach will get you quickly on the road to success with what can be a tricky subject.

The book does what it says on the tin. The simple shapes really are simple, being mainly circles and ovals with variations on that theme. Put a few of those together and, before you know where you are, you have a recognisable outline. A little detail, some manipulation and a modicum of shading later, and there’s an entirely realistic dog or cat. You can accommodate smooth or rough fur, long or short ears and even a wide variety of facial expressions.

Whether you’re just starting out or part of the way along and starting to feel lost, this is a simple guide that will give you confidence from page one.

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Drawing Hands & Feet || Eddie Armer

There’s more, of course, to figure drawing than just the extremities, but hands and feet are notoriously difficult to get right and errors here can mar an otherwise successful piece of work.

Eddie’s method is to proceed by way of examples and exercises, with plenty of diagrams and blocking outlines along the way. Instead of contemplating what appears to be a mountain – the sheer complexity of digitation, for instance – you start with simple shapes and work from there. Breaking the problem down to a series of what become much simpler stages suddenly makes it manageable and the possibility of understanding it more reasonable.

A lot of books on figure drawing include what amounts to a basic anatomy course. While this is undoubtedly useful, it can be daunting and, if this is something you feel you don’t need, the lack of it here should give your heart an immediate lift. This is art, not physiology. There’s plenty of guidance on perspective, which is most definitely something you need to get to grips with, as well as hands and feet from different angles and in different poses.

At 96 pages, this is a concise guide, but there’s no sense of anything lacking or of corners being cut and it should provide all the information you need.

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Drawing: a complete guide || Stephen C P Gardner

This very thorough book really does live up to its title. The range of styles and subjects covered and the progression of the chapters provides a complete course. As a professor and administrator, Stephen Gardner has not only personal teaching experience, but also the opportunity to watch others at work and learn from their methods and (perhaps) mis-steps. It’s also worth saying that the very soft binding means that the book (it’s a substantial paperback) falls open easily and doesn’t have to be manhandled if you have both hands occupied trying to follow the exercises. Small things like that can make a big difference and, if that much thought has gone into the detail, the substance is likely to be good as well.

This isn’t, as you may have gathered, a book to dip into, try a few things and then zone out. The organisation, which is clear and structured, does mean that you can concentrate on one topic – mark-making, line, form, values, shape etc – at a time, but do expect a chapter to occupy most of a day, or maybe even a week, allowing for practice, studio exercises and a bit of revision.

Substantial in every way, this is essential reading for anyone who’s serious about drawing.

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