Archive for category Publisher: A&C Black

Sculpture Parks and Trails of Britain and Ireland (2nd ed) || Alison Stace

This comprehensively illustrated guide provides both an idea of where you might want to go, how to get there and what to see when you do.

For the armchair traveller, the illustrations will provide a satisfying cornucopia in their own right, but the more adventurous will also want to keep it in the car (the Getting There directions don’t include public transport) as an essential vade mecum. I’m tempted to say the only way to resolve this dilemma is to buy two copies!

Organised by region, the book is easy to use for its intended purpose: as a guide for the traveller. The index, however, is only devoted to artists, so to find a particular place you either need to know where it is or work through the contents list. As there are only 66 parks listed (and I have no reason to believe this is in any way incomplete), this isn’t too much of an imposition. There are also handy maps at the beginning of each regional section.

This is a well thought-out and attractively-presented guide that should be of interest to the serious student or the curious traveller.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Sculpting in Copper || Jim Pratt & Sue White-Oakes

Copper was one of the earliest metals known to man and has been in use for over 4000 years.

Although this is part of a series called Basics of Sculpture, there is nothing elementary about the projects that make up the bulk of this book, although the instructions, explanations and illustrations are excellent and reasonably easy to follow. It would probably be advisable to have had some experience of metalworking before embarking on the rather beautiful owl that features in chapter 6! That said, the introduction to Materials, Methods and Tools is admirably clear and could almost certainly get you soldering, for example, with no other form of instruction. As heat, gas flames and quite heavy tools are involved, a small health and safety warning is probably desirable here – do please make sure you know what you’re doing and what you’re doing it with!

Blacks are absolute masters of this kind of thing and not afraid to price according to quality, which is quite the right thing in a book of this nature.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Understanding Modern Art (…Isms) || Sam Phillips

It would be terribly tempting to start this review with an “at last!”. Modern art has always had a reputation for being obscure and inscrutable. And I mean always. The first Impressionist exhibition was accused of “throwing a pot of paint in the public’s face” and caused riots. Hard to imagine that happening now; no-one suggested the disturbances of 2011 were a reaction to Damien Hirst’s spin paintings, although . . .

In fact, this is a book that doesn’t really set out to do what it says on the cover and it’s part of a series that Black’s are developing to cover more philosophical aspects – they’ve also done them on architecture and religion and the format is more of a short guide than an in-depth analysis. So, is it superficial? Well, not really. Rather, a series of schools, and they rather conveniently label themselves – Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism, Dadaism as well as Bauhaus, Pop Art and Street Art – are presented in more or less chronological order. Each one gets a single spread: just two not very large pages, but enough to summarise when it flourished, who were the main exponents and the basics of its philosophy.

If you wanted to study any one of these schools on its own, this isn’t the place to do it, but that’s not the purpose of the book. Instead, what you get is a readable account of how art has developed from Impressionism onwards, an annotated timeline if you will, and that works rather well. An art historian would undoubtedly huff and puff at the lack of detail, but the interested observer, among whom I count myself, is likely to welcome the opportunity to take an overview and to follow the narrative without getting bogged down on it. If you want more detail, there are plenty of other books, but this one is handleable, manageable, affordable and also benefits from Black’s commitment to quality reproduction.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

The Printmakers’ Bible || Colin Gale & Megan Fishpool

This is a deceptive book. Flip through the pages and it appears to be a simple, if comprehensive, guide mainly intended for the beginner or maybe the intermediate student. This is because the authors and editors have learnt from the many instructional guides around that cover a variety of media and have simply adopted and adapted them here. The result is something that’s admirably clear while at the same time catering to the serious professional.

As with pretty well all of Black’s art and craft books, this is beautifully and generously illustrated and almost every element of the text has a corresponding picture. This, rather ironically, only adds to the initial impression of a simpler approach. The fact, however, is that nothing is there without a reason, whether it’s to illustrate an item or a technique or to show the work of one of the many contemporary printmakers referenced.

The authors’ coverage is comprehensive, ranging from lithography and etching to digital and CAD/CAM work and the use of photoaluminium plates. Their bona fides both as members of the Artichoke Print Workshop and as previously-published writers, are also impeccable.

The word “bible” gets bandied about a lot in many fields and is normally used for a book that has a lot of different stuff in it and for which the publishers couldn’t think of another title. Here, however, it’s more than justified.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Making & Drawing || Kyra Cane

Kyra Cane explores the relationship between drawing in two dimensions and making in three, examining how the organic process of reducing an idea or a viewed object to a single-layered form then influences its creation or re-envisaging as a tangible piece of work.

Cane does not attempt to teach or preach, but rather interviews artists, craftspeople and makers working in fields that range from hard to soft materials and from pottery to jewellery and sculpture. The text is then condensed to provide descriptions of diverse working methods rather than straight quotes. This gives an authorial viewpoint and a consistency of approach, as well as keeping the text concise and allowing as much space as possible for illustrations.

This consistency, as well as the variety of work and workers covered, is what makes the book so valuable, both for makers, collectors and even the more dilettante viewer.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Botanical Illustration – the first ten lessons || Valerie C Price

Opening this book at random, I was rather surprised to discover that Lesson 7 is “A Flower”! However, it turns out that the approach really is as basic as that and the previous lessons have included a mushroom, an apple and a leaf.

This is by no means a bad thing, although if you were expecting a guide to the rather technical style of botanical illustration, you’d be disappointed. It’s a quibble, but I can’t help feeling that Botanical Painting would have been a better title. Anyway, having got that out of the way and established what the book is about, is it any good? Well, if you want to start painting botanical subjects (and not just flowers, either), Valerie really will start you from the beginning. I don’t think I’ve seen such a basic primer as this and certainly not one that works in so much detail. If you’re struggling with the subject and need your hand held, it’ll be held firmly here and you won’t feel that you’re being pushed along faster than you can or want to go.

Each lesson is basically a demonstration, but there are slightly more words here than is sometimes the case and Valerie explains everything very carefully. Each lesson ends with a Critical Assessment which analyses what might have gone wrong along the way. A teacher who was there in person would be able to look at your work and this is a creditable attempt to do the same thing off the printed page.

The final lesson, A Botanical Plate, is longer and more detailed and brings together everything you’ve learnt so far. I think the plate referred to is the illustrative style I referred to at the beginning, though I have to confess I’m not sure. The subject is a plant, with flowers, leaves and stem, in a pot and, again, I rather think something like “the whole thing” might have been a better heading.

Quibbles aside, this is an excellent attempt at a guide to paint plants for the complete beginner that achieves most of what it sets out to do and which, if that’s what you’re looking for, should fit the bill admirably.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

A Visual Language – elements of design || David Cohen & Scott Anderson

This is a revised and expanded edition of a book which I reviewed here in 2007. The large number of new images make it a worthwhile update and purchase.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Figure Drawing for Comics and Graphic Novels || Daniel Cooney

I’ve seen a number of books on drawing strips over the years and this is easily the best because it manages to feel both contemporary and timeless. The hurdle that all books like this have to get over is that they can’t illustrate real-life examples, nor can they do a sustained book-length demonstration; everything has to be covered in a few pages leaving you, the reader, to work out how to develop the ideas (probably just when you’d welcome some advice on that score).

What Daniel Cooney doesn’t do is attempt to emulate any particular style or genre (although there’s ample evidence that he’s a pretty good inker), but rather show you how to get to grips with the basics, such as figure and character modelling, as well as the construction of strips, including some concise examples of right and wrong.

I’ve waxed lyrical elsewhere about the virtues of Quarto, who put this together. If ever a book needed a design-led approach, it’s this one and they’ve acquitted themselves well.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Post-Digital Printmaking || Paul Catanese and Angela Geary

This is a complex technical manual that describes the use of equipment that’s probably going to be beyond the scope of the solo worker or small studio. However, if you can get access, then this is a useful book that mainly concentrates on the creative, rather than the technical processes. Although there is a technical introduction, I think it’s fair to say that a newcomer would want a considerable degree of help in getting started and that this would be available from the equipment’s owners and from other practitioners.

As is usual with Black’s manuals, the main meat of the book is an in-depth study of the work of artists in the field covered. This, again, puts the book firmly in the creative camp and the extensive and high-quality illustrations make the possibilities of the medium clear.

The book is authoritative, while at the same time concise and is an excellent introduction to a technique that requires the use of complex equipment.

Leave a comment

Digital Art Techniques for Artists & Illustrators || Joel Lardner & Paul Roberts

The risk run by all books in this fast-developing field is that they’re outdated by the next software upgrade. However, digital design is now beginning to settle down and most of the technical developments are at the edges, with minor interface tweaks. In fact, complaints abound that version advances often mean little more than moving frequently-used functions to unfamiliar places and ensuring that older versions won’t run under newer operating systems.

Wisely, the authors choose to stick to two software packages, Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, with clear markers at the beginning of each chapter indicating which is covered. As the landscape settles down, certain programs become dominant and these two have been the lingua franca for long enough to assume they won’t be toast in the next few months.

Whilst there is a professional feel to the layout of the book and the topics covered, this is a book which is, in all probability, going to appeal to the non-professional market – and I use the term as a subtle differentiator from “amateur”. Anyone going into or already working in a professional studio will probably have had formal training in the field and the kind of work covered is more in the field of illustration than fine art.

All that said, this is a Quarto-produced book and therefore stands very much on its layout. There are no lengthy technical dissertations, but rather a series of spreads illustrating a variety of topics from using layers to the use of colours and the handling of vector art and creating animated gifs. Critically, the authors also show you how the many context menus will drop down and how the various effects will preview. It’s here that they give themselves the greatest hostage to fortune as packages are tweaked, but the basic principles usually win through, so it’s a risk worth taking.

For anyone, professional, semi-professional or, indeed, amateur, who wants a simple guide to the main drawing packages, this is invaluable and easy to understand. Given the complexity of such software, it’ll probably be an aide-memoire for the regular user as well.

Leave a comment

  • Archives

  • Categories