Archive for category Publisher: Ilex Press

Cross Hatching in Pen & Ink || August Lamm

In four decades of writing about art, this is the first book I’ve seen solely devoted to the technique of cross hatching. You might think that it’s something that really only needs to be covered in a more general book about drawing, and you would be partly right because this is, in fact, a more general book than the title implies.

That’s not to say it’s running a false flag, but rather that any technique is only as valuable as the results it produces and August Lamm has the good sense to set her narrative in a wider context. Let’s say, therefore, that this is a book about drawing where cross hatching is the primary feature.

The main purpose of hatching is to create shade, emphasise detail and enhance shape in monochrome line work. This can be anything from simple shapes to still lifes, landscape and portraiture and figure work. It is those latter that form the bulk of what is presented here, although still lifes are used as conveniently simple initial exercises and the examples of landscape work well-chosen and informative.

The examples and exercises use both simple and more complex techniques, along with wash and inking where necessary. The cover illustration (I think a self-portrait) gives a good example of the sort of work than can be produced. August is also very sound on the basics of facial structure and the proportions of the figure, adding a perhaps unexpected dimension that increases the book’s broader appeal.

There is much to like here. A thorough introduction to hatching cannot but be welcomed, but the wider consideration of drawing methods provides a completeness that makes for a worthwhile and thought-provoking read.

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Brief Lessons in Seeing Differently || Frances Ambler

This is that rare beast, a book which is as valuable to the artist as it is to the art consumer.

Under a series of heads – See things in a fresh light, Learn the advantages of a different angle, Give yourself time and be still, etc – Frances Ambler provides advice on how to improve the quality of your art. Each section is short, as the title implies, and provides an outline that’s effectively a model for further study. Go away and think about it is her message. Much of it could also apply to ways of looking at paintings, hence the convenient dual appeal.

It’s an excellent idea and succeeds admirably in its aim to be thought-provoking. The use of examples adds weight to the arguments, but you’d better hope you have access to the artists and works cited as there are only a few illustrations, and those are grouped together at the back. To be fair, including more would take this beyond the realm of the budget pocket book into a larger, possibly coffee table tome. To avoid it simply being a large slab of text, the designers have used typographic tricks which you might find annoying if you hang around too long.

For all that, it’s a fun book, which I think is what it intends. After all, as Frances says, “The mundane becomes special as soon as you pay attention to it”.

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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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