Archive for category Publisher: Sterling

Realistic Painting

I’ll be honest, I’m not absolutely sure what this is. The blurb tells me that it “will provide both the amateur and the seasoned creator with helpful knowledge in order to successfully execute the Realism style”. That, however, is not Magic Realism – highly detailed work that emulates photography – and looks suspiciously like conventional art that gets things like form and perspective right. There are occasional slight echoes of Edward Hopper, but I’m not convinced that’s deliberate. There is also an associated app that claims to be augmented reality but is, as far as I can tell, just a portal via on-page codes to video tutorials. I think it’s more added content than augmented reality.

So, having pretty much trashed the intent of the book, is there any point in going any further? Well, yes, because once you get past the ache to be new and high-tech, this is a very sound introduction to painting a good variety of subjects in watercolour, oil and acrylic. Yes, that old cross-media chestnut rears its head and, yes the subject you want may not be covered in the medium you use but, as long as you can follow the basic principles, the actual style of instruction, particularly working with problem areas and enlarged details is perfectly sound.

The lack of a named author is slightly odd, but there are plenty of different contributing artists and the text is concise and to the point. My initial thought was that it has the feel of a Parramon original and so, on further investigation, it turns out to be. That pedigree is generally a recommendation in itself and I’d say it is here. It’s hard to know who to recommend the book to – it’s a little too advanced for the complete beginner and sometimes a little too basic for the experienced artist. However, it’s something that may grab your attention and, as long as you feel you can get enough out of it to justify the price, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed and may well feel it has more to offer than you first thought.

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Bridgman’s Complete Guide to Drawing from Life || George Bridgman

This is every bit as comprehensive as its title suggests. The fact that it’s the fifth edition suggests longevity and the preface reveals that it was first published in 1952. This does help to explain the rather odd hatching that appears in the half-tones, and which makes them look rather faint. Don’t let this put you off, though, as the publisher does seem to have been aware of this and all the necessary detail is there; this edition is fully re-originated, albeit, I think, from earlier versions rather than the original drawings.

What you get is drawings of every aspect of the human form: whole body, heads, legs, arms, expressions, poses – the whole caboodle. There are detail pull-outs, block diagrams, varied viewpoints and stressed as well as relaxed poses. Muscle and skeletal structure is covered as well. If you want an example guide to human anatomy, you’ll have to go a long way to find anything as comprehensive as this, and I doubt there’s anything to match it on price.

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Drawing & Painting – the complete artist’s handbook || Gabriel Martin

There is much to like about this refreshing approach to the “all things to all people” school of literature. On the face of it, this is the sort of book you’d buy if you were thinking about taking up art but didn’t know where to start. That seems odd, as I’d assume most people have at least some idea of what they like in the first place, but there are enough books of this nature to imply a continuing market. Or maybe non-artists buy them as an ad hoc gift?

Delving further, though, suggests a more serious intent as, on top of just about every drawing and painting medium, a wide variety of styles, techniques and subjects are covered. It’s a bit of a scattergun approach and I think, to be honest, that a beginner would find themselves not a little confused and considerably overwhelmed by the sheer weight of information and lack of an obvious course-like progression. For the more experienced artist – who I’d assume would be more set in their ways and media – there’s bound to be something in the considerable cornucopia that will catch the eye. I said at the outset that there’s a lot to like and the freshness of the style and layout contribute a great deal to that. Books of this nature are often quite stuffy and old-fashioned. This is bright, vibrant and positively invites you in.

Although this is, at 288 pages, a substantial book, it’s not especially cheap, and perhaps not quite an impulse purchase. Nevertheless, I doubt you’d find it disappointing, even if it wasn’t something you kept by your side for everyday reference.

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Figure Drawing Studio || Butch Krieger

There’s not exactly a shortage of books on figure drawing at the moment, but new ones are almost always welcome as they bring a slightly different perspective to a tricky and endlessly debatable topic. This one, however, is genuinely different.

As well as guides to the technique, there have, from time to time, been collections of photographed poses that handily substitute for the live model the home worker may have trouble getting access to. Friends and relatives tend to look at best askance when asked to disrobe, even in an impeccable context!

What makes this different and, in my experience, unique, is that it combines both approaches. It’s a thorough and progressive course in drawing the human figure and it’s also a collection of poses. However, the two are linked, and more than just as a guide to drawing from photographs. The approach is helped by having an included CD that contains 64 poses that you can rotate fully. This means that you’re not just limited to the fixed viewpoint of the printed page, but can effectively have the live model in front of you. It provides a whole new perspective, both literally and figuratively.

As well as the poses, you get outline shapes and contour drawings based on them and instruction on how to handle things like musculature, tone and perspective. All the things you’d expect, in fact. Combining all these things in one book is a massive task of juggling, but Butch Krieger has pulled it off with aplomb.

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Blue Dog Speaks || George Rodrigue

You can’t help warming to Blue Dog. Initially, the concept seems bizarre and the natural reaction is to ask, “is this art or a cartoon?” We’ll skim over the idea that a cartoon might not be art (of course it is). The point of the enquiry is to establish how we’re meant to view a series of paintings of a blue dog whose appearance is largely unchanged, though yet remarkably expressive for all that.

George Rodrigue explains, “When I began the series of Blue Dog paintings in 1984, I had no idea that they would consume the greater part of my life”. This is not something planned, but has rather taken over its creator rather in the way that it, quite inexplicably, also takes over the viewer. Open the book and you’ll want to delve deeper. Blue Dog somehow becomes everyman and speaks a greater truth than we find within ourselves. In meditation, there’s a thing called a Yantra, a perfectly-coordinated design, contemplating which allows the mind to open and become the recipient of its own inner truths. So, in a way that defies definition, does Blue Dog.

Each drawing has a title that’s integral to it. Some are descriptive, some bald statements, some gnomic. To continue the cartoon analogy, they’re the caption, yet they do not always explain, amplify or complement the painting. Sometimes they raise more questions than they answer.

As I said, Blue Dog defies and transcends explanation and I like that. If you were worried that the title implies that George Rodrigue might break the mystique, the two-page introduction is purely factual. Blue Dog remains enigmatic.

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Drawing For Beginners || David Sanmiguel

This is another of those excellent titles that originates from the Spanish publisher, Parramón. Characterised by their illustration-led approach, they provide an easy-to-follow step-by-step approach that leaves you in no doubt what you’re seeing and doing.

Ostensibly aimed at the complete beginner, this does indeed start with the fundamentals and shows you how to work with simple shapes. David will have you drawing animals (even horses) within a very few pages. He moves from there to movement and portraits, building on the skills you’re developing even as the subject matter changes. Landscapes and flowers are covered in addition in later chapters.

As well as subjects, techniques such as shading and chiaroscuro are introduced, as are the use of different materials charcoal, pen, and ink wash.

This is a thorough guide that packs a lot into a small space without cutting too many corners or becoming breathless. Although it’ll be perfectly comprehensible to beginners, the more experienced artist should find much here that’s invaluable, particularly in the technical sections.

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Drawing Birds With Colored Pencils || Kaaren Poole

Let’s get one thing clear before we start: this is an American book. You need to know that or you’ll be in for a shock the moment you look up “Robin”. There’s a UK-originated book coming later this year, but that’ll be on acrylics and anyway, this is so good that I think its transatlantic coverage is something you should try to ignore.

The book consist of a series of demonstrations which have a good amount of step-by-step instruction, but a limited number of individual illustrations. This makes it something for the more advanced worker, but frankly, this is a subject you probably wouldn’t want to tackle as a beginner anyway. Each demonstration covers a different species and starts with the colours you’re going to need. Kaaren tends to work using her colours straight, with only a small amount of blending, so it may be more pencils than you’re used to. She then proceeds in a series of three layers and explains the stages that go into each. You get an illustration for each layer but, as I said, not each stage.

Coloured pencils can produce wonderfully fine detail and are perfect for feathers, where a little blending gives you the softness of colour interaction. Achieving this is something Kaaren covers comprehensively.

This is a gorgeous book. The basic principles of mark-making, colour and structure can be applied to any bird, but you are going to have to be prepared to make that jump from what you see on the page to what you see on the branch. It’s worth the effort, though.

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