Archive for category Medium: Drawing

Urban Drawing || Phil Dean

“Tate Sketch Club”, it says prominently and promisingly at the top of the cover of this rather excellent guide. The front flap also promotes a life drawing volume in the same series. But for recent events one suspects the series, which has much to recommend it, would be more widely populated. Still, at least future volumes are something to look forward to.

The information sheet tells me that Phil is theshoreditchsketcher.com and that’s very much of the moment. Inner city, hipster and online – I’m positively aching.

Arch comments aside, he’s also very good – it’s absolutely essential that, if you’re going to put the name of a prestigious institution to a series of guides (and it’s becoming increasingly common) that the authors are top-notch. Phil’s style is that of the urban sketcher – very freehand, movement in straight lines, buildings ancient and modern, people – where they appear – engrossed in their diurnal lives.

The author biography tells us that Phil is a graphic designer and runs his own creative agency and this shows up in the drawings – they have a feeling of an architectural impression – those imagined scenes of idealised life designed to get public and planners onside. That, however, is no bad thing as this is mainly about buildings and there’s a softer edge than I’ve implied. I said of people “when they appear” because Phil is not Adebanji Alade and his subject is mainly the built environment, on which he’s very sound. He works in pen and pencil, is good with half-tones and can do very good figure work when he wants to. He also manages to knock the tricky subject of perspective off in only a few paragraphs too. He can talk the talk as well as draw the draw.

Urban sketching is very much the business of the moment – I can remember when books on townscapes were the hardest sell in the business. Quite whether books on it will go down quite so well with everyone working from home remains to be seen. This, though, concentrating on structures rather than crowds, may be just what you were look for right now.

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How To Draw All The Things For Kids || Alli Koch

I don’t normally review books that have no words because there’s very little you can say about them. Yes, they have stage-by-stage illustrations, usually, but without written instructions, the working process is entirely down to the user and completely subjective. Rather than review the book, I’d really need to be writing about you, the gentle reader. And I don’t think either of us want that.

This, though, is such a brilliant idea that it merits a mention. Yes, it’s all the foregoing, but books aimed at children need to catch their imagination immediately. Instruction is work and work is school and, well, down with skool, as Nigel Molesworth reminded us.

The pages here are friendly – the outlines are large and the images rounded in a way that makes them inviting (don’t argue with me, this is subjective, I told you that). They also include, as well as animals, insects and figures, a cupcake, a camera and even a unicorn (yes, of course they exist if you have a vivid enough imagination).

I have an ongoing project to send anything like this down to my grandchildren and, at some point, I may be able to report on how they get on with them.

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Charcoal || Richard Rochester

GMC’s occasional series of simple introductions to individual media lands on one that’s rarely covered on its own. Even as part of a more general survey of drawing media, charcoal often only gets a passing mention.

Why this is, is hard to say. True, it can be messy. True also, it can look a mess in unskilled hands. Pure black that can’t be easily diluted into a tone is tricky to master. It requires a lot of leavening with a light touch and generous use of the background support or additional materials. Keeping to the spirit of the single medium approach, Richard uses “white charcoal” which, while technically not that substance, nevertheless behaves like it.

The book is based around a series of demonstrations that cover a good range of subjects from still lifes to wildlife, figures, landscapes and seascapes. Each one requires a different technical approach and this is where you’ll learn the more detailed skills. As well as traditional sticks, Richard also works with compressed charcoal and charcoal pencils.

Even if you don’t think, at the end of it, that you’d want to work in charcoal on its own, you’ll nevertheless be impressed and surprised by its versatility and be ready – eager even – to incorporate it in your drawing armoury.

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Artist’s Guide to Human Anatomy || Giovanni Civardi

I’m not absolutely sure whether this is a new book or one of the older titles that has been reissued. To a very large extent, that’s not relevant, as these reissues appear to have all new origination and are often in a larger format. Quite simply, if you have an old and well-thumbed copy, you’ll probably want this anyway.

Giovanni has, of course, produced books on just about every aspect of figure drawing, but this one fills in the gap for those who need more about the actual structure of the human body. Inevitably, there’s a medical aspect to some of this, and many artists may feel that it gives them more information than they need. At the same time, this is written in Giovanni’s characteristic straightforward style and is definitely for the lay reader rather than the specialist.

There is no doubt that it’s thorough. There’s plenty of information about bone and muscle structure as well as how everything fits together and sustains the outward pose. Beyond the technicality there’s a wealth of aesthetic material that’s of fundamental use to the artist.

If you want to know what underpins the figures you’re drawing, how and why they appear the way they do, there’s no better guide, from an artistic point of view, than this.

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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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