Archive for category Medium: Drawing

Urban Sketching Step by Step || Klaus Meier-Pauken

I can’t help thinking that the popularity of urban sketching is going to wane at some point. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with it – far from it – but simply that, having been extensively served with books covering every imaginable aspect (and some which, frankly, stretch the point), the world is eventually going to move on.

Many books on the subject mimic their subject by being busy, brash and complex. A vibrant city will be cacophonous and confusing. Capturing that requires a special way of working that uses quickly-drawn lines and bright colours. Results are impressionistic and suggest movement and crowds, even in what at least purport to be quiet corners. It can be quite an assault on the senses and many authors feel the need to reflect that.

So, what have we here? Well, a rather different take on the subject. Klaus, whose Quick & Lively Urban Sketching appeared a few years ago, has pared the instruction down. The format here is larger than is usual in this field and there’s more white space on the pages, which are generally less frenetic. The pace is much less “do this and this and this and this” and more a series of conventional exercises and short demonstrations that work at a slower pace and allow you to catch your breath. The subtitle is “Techniques for creating quick and lively urban scenes” and that word ‘techniques’ is important. Yes, the quick and lively – the soul of urban sketching – is here, but this is about how you do it and is something to practise with before you venture out into the field, sketchbook on your knee and pencil poised.

No one seems to have thought to do this before and it could breathe new life into the topic.

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The Graphic Novelist’s Guide to Drawing Perspective || Dan Cooney

I was particularly keen to have a look at this, as coming at perspective from a different – and specific – angle could well provide new insights for the general artist.

Perspective in graphic art is often enhanced as figures leap or reach out of the frame, but it also requires realistic, accurate and proportional backgrounds for them to work within and against. There is considerable potential there for landscapes and figure work.

The first thing that strikes you on a quick flick-through is the amount of workspace. This is a book where you practise on the page, so working in pencil would be a good idea. Most of the grids are squared-up, but some come with vanishing points helpfully hard-coded into the guidelines and this is certainly going to make things easier.

The book is certainly thorough and varied, but I’d recommend starting from the beginning and working through it. Opening it at random, or even trying to find a particular topic, can be confusing as diagrams, practice pages and grid lines seem to come at you from all angles. Rather like trying to untangle a ball of string, it helps to find a free end and work from there.

Will it appeal to the general painter? Does it make their life any simpler? To be honest, I’m not sure. Graphic art tends towards the technical and this does too – at times, it feels more like technical drawing – and this might be a bar to clarity for many. However, if you’re struggling with perspective and haven’t found another book that really explains it to you, at least have a look at this. It’s nothing but thorough and may be the breakthrough you’re looking for.

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Painting Nature’s Details || Meriel Thurstan and Rosie Martin

This was originally published in 2009 as Natural History Painting With The Eden Project and has now been reissued in paperback.

You can read my original review here.

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The Two-Pencil Method || Mark Crilley

The title tells you what this book is likely to be about, and the subtitle confirms the bold claim: “the revolutionary approach to drawing it all”. No holding back, then.

The claim should be easy to verify – open the book at any point and … are the results any good? A bit more flicking through confirms that, oh my goodness, they are. Not only can Mark draw, but confining himself to one graphite and one black coloured pencil isn’t going to hold him back. A short discussion of materials leads on to basic mark-making and you’ll want to read this because this level of simplicity absolutely depends on getting the foundations right.

From here, there’s a look at working with simple objects and different types of subject, handily introducing things such as hard and soft edges, shapes, tones and textures. As well as being a revolutionary approach, it also turns out that this is a very nicely graduated course in basic drawing. You like it even more, don’t you?

The final section (roughly half the book) is a series of short demonstrations that are really more like tutorials. These cover just about every subject you’re likely to encounter, by way of landscapes to portraits via animals, water and still lifes.

If you like drawing, this is a stonkingly good survey of working methods tucked inside the aforesaid “revolutionary approach” (that’s really just an excuse for simplifying and clearing out a few cobwebs).

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Essential Techniques of Landscape Drawing || Suzanne Brooker

This masterclass in landscape drawing contains a wealth of information, both practical and theoretical. A lot of Watson Guptill books are ones to read rather than work with, but there are quite a lot of exercises and demonstrations here, covering elements such as clouds and skies, hills, trees and water. Suzanne also discusses marks and lines, composition, texture and shading.

In spite of the amount and density of the information presented, the generous page size means that the layout never feels crammed and you’re unlikely ever to feel overwhelmed. This is helped in part by the sensible chapter structure that is both progressive and topical. It’s a comprehensive guide that should prove thoroughly rewarding.

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10 Step Drawing: Flowers || Mary Woodin, Animals || Heather Kilgour

This new series presents what we might call a quick route to drawing. Each of 75 projects includes nine outline stages, plus a final one where the colour is added. What is most useful is the simple shapes with which each begins. If you’re new to drawing, getting this right can be the hardest part and represents the foundations on which the finished result will stand or fall. Anyone with experience will probably find the rather regimented steps that follow exasperating, but do please move along there – this isn’t for you. Beginners should find the process much more reassuring and the routines easy to follow and get to grips with. The fact that the colouring-in is one stage with little more instruction that “colour it in” isn’t ideal, but these are books about drawing, not painting, and you’d need at least another 10 steps to cover this fully. Stop quibbling. The method and results are really quite attractive.

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The Field Guide to Drawing & Sketching Animals || Tim Pond

This is, I think, the best book on drawing animals I’ve seen. The sheer breadth of the coverage and the amount of detail that Tim goes into is breathtaking. More than that, though, it remains at all times completely accessible and you’re never left feeling bewildered by the amount of information on every page.

The ability to do this comes from confidence and, as you can see from the results, Tim is completely at home with his subject and his materials. For what is avowedly a book about drawing, there’s a lot of colour, much of it in the form of washes. As I write, I have to keep reminding myself that this is a drawing, not a painting, book although there is a convincing argument for treating it as the latter. One of the things I particularly like is that Tim doesn’t bother with backgrounds, except for the occasional prop of a bit of vegetation. Too many artists opt either for a complete jungle or a nondescript cyclorama that makes the subject look like an exhibit in a menagerie. Tim’s creatures exist for themselves and in their own right. They leap off the page and they’re all the better for that.

Drawing (or painting) animals is a complex subject. There’s structure, form and behaviour as well as that elephant in the corner, anatomy. Tim has a neat way of dealing with that: shading. I’ve seen this done before and, frankly, it often just adds to the confusion. Tim uses a lot more colours than is usual and it just works. Even I can understand it and, more to the point, I believe I can. Another of his tricks is what he calls Wizards and Gizmos, little shortcuts to getting shapes and proportions right that allow you to build solid foundations for your subject that will pay dividends later. These are more than clever tricks for their own sake and are very handy ways of dealing with some of the more technical aspects of the subject.

There’s masses to get your teeth into here, from techniques to almost every living thing you can think of, from crustaceans to ungulates. This is a book that will keep you engaged – even engrossed – for a very long time and which delivers everything it promises as well as a lot more.

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