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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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