Archive for category Medium: Pencil

Draw Animals in Nature || Lee Hammond

Lee Hammond is a prolific and competent author who can not only turn her hand to a wide variety of subjects but also write about them with authority.

This book covers a wide variety of wild animals (ie not cats and dogs) depicted sensitively in pencil. It is not a series of detailed demonstrations, but rather examples, each of which provides a specific lesson in shapes, textures and surfaces. There are, though, several exercises that get you practising a specific subject in three or four stages and allow you to practise with a guiding hand beside you.

As a result, this isn’t a book about how to draw specific animals, and especially not about how to complete a series of projects, but rather a more generalised look at the practice of drawing animals in general. It’s something that could keep you occupied for some time and will, in the process, teach you a great deal.

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The Figure in Composition || Paul G Braun

There’s a charm and lightness to the illustrations in this book that makes it immediately attractive. The slightly retro look to the costumes also, perversely, gives it a sense of modernity. Finally, the looseness of the line gives the figures a sinuousness and a sense of movement, or the potential for it. The man relaxing with a cigarette in one hand and the other in a trouser pocket might push himself away from the wall and walk off at any moment.

So it comes as a surprise, a shock even, to discover that this is a reprint of something that first appeared in 1930. There’s really very little to give it away and the reproduction from what may very well have been a printed original (surely the printing plates can’t have survived?) has been sensitively handled.

The words are descriptive rather than tied to the illustrations – “you will see how the folds give the form and pose of the figure” – but, as in this example, you really do see, and the lack of detailed instructions doesn’t matter at all.

Honestly, this is one of the best books on figure drawing I’ve seen. It’s over eighty years old and fresh as a daisy. Have we really progressed so little? £8.99 is maybe a tad expensive for a 64-page octavo paperback, but it doesn’t need any further padding.

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Strokes of Genius 3 – Fresh Perspectives || ed Rachel Rubin Wolf

For this survey of contemporary work, the contributing artists were asked to complete the phrase, “Drawing is…”. That’s a wide brief, but it’s also arguably the best way to go as it merely provides a conundrum for thought rather than a constriction. Rachel was obviously pleased with the response, “the connection between eye, heart and hand”, as she’s quoted it on the jacket flap. It’s an obvious answer, perhaps rather trite, saccharine even, but it’s quite hard to sum it up any better.

Every book needs a way in and this is as good as any for what’s otherwise going to be a random collection (and none the worse for that). As long as it’s a rattle- rather than a rag-bag, we’re OK. In fact, this is a generously formatted and superbly reproduced look at what’s going on in the world (or at least the North American part of it) today. There’s some stunning and genuinely innovative work here, all of which the book does full justice to (and, in these straitened times it’s nice to see the publisher hasn’t been afraid to do the work and let the price follow). The chapters groups things by land and townscapes, portraits, still lifes, figures and animals, and each artist has provided short notes that explain what they were trying to do.

If you love drawing, this is definitely one to put on your Christmas list.

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How to Draw & Paint Science Fiction Art || Geoff Taylor

This particular branch of fantasy art is highly specialised and there’s more to it than can really be covered in a single volume. However, this introductory guide makes a very good job of introducing landscapes, buildings, characters and visions. There’s a good variety of subjects from the technical (machines and robots) to figures, animals and aliens. Techniques used include traditional pen & pencil as well as digital work, but it’s probably best that you have a basic grounding in your tools as this is more about working with them than learning to work with them. Geoff Taylor has worked for Disney Interactive Studios and has also done work for Microsoft and his experience and expertise really show.

This is an excellent production and to be recommended on that basis alone.


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Natural History Painting with the Eden Project || Rosie Martin & Meriel Thurstan

Many, many congratulations to the authors (and their editor) for not over-egging a successful formula and producing Yet More Flower Painting with the EP. And much, much respect to them for proving that they’re much more than (very good) flower painters.

In fact, the subject matter of their third book is a surprise on every page, partly because you just don’t see this sort of thing in painting books but also because they’ve managed to turn what are frequently unconsidered trifles into sublime little works of art. There are birds, fish, shells, pebbles, feathers, bark, beetles, rocks, crystals – the contents of a compendium of country walks, in fact and they all have the kind of beauty you’re often encouraged to look for but somehow all too often fail to see. I don’t care if you tell me you’d never want to paint these yourself, just buy the book and marvel at what Rosie and Meriel have found (and then tell me you won’t maybe just have a bit of a go, y’know, just because).

At a practical level, because that’s what’s being pitched here, this is a book about colours and textures and also about finding subjects in the unlikeliest of places. It’s about looking, seeing and interpreting and what you can do if you just keep your eyes and your mind open. It’s a revelation.

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Drawing & Painting Buildings || Jonathan Newey

It’s good to find a book on painting buildings that isn’t by Richard Taylor. Not, I should say at once, that there’s anything wrong with Richard; far from it, his many books on the subject are so good that he has, until now, pretty much defined and cornered the market. Rather, it’s good to find a new author who stands comparison with him.

This is nothing if not thorough and it’s well thought-out, with step-by-step demonstrations as well as detail sketches and completed paintings that are analysed. In contrast to a lot of recent art books, where the text tends to be confined to extended captions, this is much more fully written and is one to read through as much as it is to look at. The less-text approach works well and the argument in its favour is that it allows the pictures themselves to do the talking. Some readers, however, nay find that they want more detail in the explanations and they’ll get them here because, for each of the exercises featured, Jonathan explains both the intention and approach as well as the techniques used.

There’s a generous variety of building types and locations, including houses, castles, bridges and churches – even new buildings – and a handy section on architectural detail which deals with carvings, windows, bricks, tiles and all those little things that give a building character.

This is a very comprehensive look at just about every aspect of painting buildings and one which should sustain you for along time to come.

Crowood Press 2008
£16.99

http://rcm-uk.amazon.co.uk/e/cm?t=artbookreview-21&o=2&p=8&l=as1&asins=1861269994&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr

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The Coloured Pencil Artist’s Drawing Bible || Jane Strother

Coloured pencils have always been the Cinderella of art materials. They’re the things we give children, that we buy cheaply by the box because they don’t make too much mess and they don’t require hours of preparation and cleaning up afterwards (the pencils; children do that all by themselves). So we put them aside when we grow up and become Proper Artists and move on to the serious matter of oils and watercolours. And maybe pastels.

Graphic designers are not so constrained, however. Having a job to do, they’ll use any tool that gets it done and they have driven the development of ranges of artist and designer quality pencils that can hold their head up with any other medium. And that has, in its turn, spawned the occasional book that shows you just what you can achieve if you just believe.

Put all these innovative ideas together with a proven and excellent series and you have the perfect guide for both the beginner and more experienced artist alike.

Search Press 2008
£12.99

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Masterful Colour: Vibrant Colored Pencil Drawings Layer by Layer || Arlene Steinberg

The subtitle to this is important because it’s the only clue on the cover to what the book is really about and that’s just about the most thorough and comprehensive look at coloured pencil drawing I’ve ever seen.

For a long time, coloured pencils languished at the back of the art cupboard, overshadowed by their more famous cousins, the oils, the watercolours and perhaps the pastels too. Shyly, they bided their time, but knew that they’d always be seen as the tools of the child and the schoolroom, never able to compete in the brash world of Real Art. But the people who make pencils had other ideas and other marketing teams and they started to produce artists’ quality ranges: blending and watercolour pencils and they positively demanded that these be taken seriously. Well, you know how persuasive a marketing person can be when they’ve got a sales director breathing down their neck.

This book is a positive masterclass and a real revelation of what you can achieve with anything so humble as a pencil, something that doesn’t need expensive brushes or paper or special mediums, something you can just take out of the box and use, right there and then; say kids, why don’t we do the show . . . Right Here?

Arlene Steinberg’s technique is to build colours up in layers so that, for example, to finish with a green tomato, you start with a red one (I won’t spoil it for you here). It says in the blurb that this is based on the techniques of the Old Masters and I’m not going to argue with that, though I suspect telling you that might be a way of validating the medium and getting you to take it seriously. And Arlene certainly does take it seriously. There’s a very vague whiff of the obsessive here because she has a bit of a mountain to climb. You are, after all, being asked to create serious artworks with, oh my gosh, pencils. And you will.

This is good stuff. Some of the results are better than others, but that’s no bad thing because you can see what works best and what just works. Tell you what: there’s not going to be anything like this for a long time, so buy it now before they sell out!

North Light 2008
£18.99

http://rcm-uk.amazon.co.uk/e/cm?t=artbookreview-21&o=2&p=8&l=as1&asins=1581809573&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr

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The Nude || Giovanni Civardi

There’s a lot to be said for a book on figure drawing that finishes after 64 pages. This is, of course, a huge subject and some equally huge and all-encompassing books have been written about it which are both exhaustive and exhausting.

In a series of wonderfully sensitive pencil drawings, Giovanni looks at the practice of figure drawing, explaining the main form, proportion, basic anatomy, muscle structure, perspective and pose. The limited extent of the book means that everything has to be done succinctly and you don’t get page after page of almost identical analyses of muscles or barely-changed poses.

The converse of this is, of course, that the book can only really scratch the surface but, if you want a well thought-out introduction to a huge subject that can be a lifetime’s study in itself, there really is no better place to start.

First published 2007
£8.99

http://rcm-uk.amazon.co.uk/e/cm?t=artbookreview-21&o=2&p=8&l=as1&asins=1844482448&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr

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