Archive for category Publisher: Two Rivers Press

The Greenwood Trees || Christina Hart-Davies

This celebration of native British trees has been inspired by the 800th anniversary of the Forest Charter. Coeval with Magna Carta, this document established the right and responsibilities of the king, nobles and commoners. It covered activities such as hunting, gathering wood, coppicing and pannage – collecting the acorns that fed domestic pigs. In many ways, it was the more important of the two charters, certainly for the daily life of the majority of people.

Trees have been central to the life of man for millennia. They provide food, fuel, shelter and even medicine. Although we now build mostly in brick and stone, our houses still contain a great deal of timber. In the course of this, myths, legends and tales have grown up and forests have acquired a life that takes them from the physical to the spiritual world.

This delightful book celebrates the role of trees and illustrates them with superb watercolours that show form, structure and detail as well as the way trees change through the seasons. Although it is not an art book as such, the quality of the work will inspire any botanical painter and show what can be done with simple materials.

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Silchester – Life on the Dig || Jenny Halstead & Michael Fulford

Strictly speaking, this isn’t an art book and has no business here. It is, however, a delightful account of what it is like to work on an archaeological site and is illustrated with some first-rate paintings and drawings, so I think it qualifies. On top of that, the publisher sent it unrequested, so I assume they wanted a review from this perspective.

As my artist friend is also interested in archaeology, I showed it to her and she shares my view of it. She comments that it’s a fully authentic account and would make a great gift for someone about to start a degree course, giving them a full flavour of both the delights and privations to come. “It covers everything bar the inside of a smelly portaloo”, she commented.

Jenny Halstead is an artist and illustrator and Michael Fulford is Professor of Archaeology at Reading University, which organised the work at Silchester, which is just north of Basingstoke. The text is therefore authoritative as well as entertaining and the illustrations include both general scenes (the art) and a good selection of finds (the illustrations). If you admired Victor Ambrus’ work on Channel 4’s Time Team, this will be right up your street.

The only comment my friend had was that the type used for the captions is far too small. I’m having some trouble even with my good glasses on, so you might want to have a magnifying glass to hand – it’s worth it.

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Plant Portraits by Post || Julia Trickey

This rather beautiful little book tells the story of the creation of a series of botanical illustrations that were used on Royal Mail’s self-service Post and Go stamps.

Although it stands alone as a guide to the development of clear botanical images, and can be read as a useful guide to that in itself, the fact that the results were to be reproduced at relatively low resolution and small size adds an extra dimension. What you see here as full-page images would be seen by the public at postage-stamp size. Detail therefore needs to be clear and kept to a minimum without compromising the quality of the picture or obscuring the nature of the subject.

The results are beautiful and subtle and the accompanying narrative, which describes both the plants and the painting process, is both instructive and absorbing. On the basis of this, I hope someone will sign Julia up for a larger book.

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Allen W Seaby – art and nature || Martin Andrews and Robert Gillmor

Allen W Seaby, who is hardly a household name today, was a prolific author and illustrator whose wildlife books you may want to track down after reading this one, which I hope you will. They’re not even particularly expensive.

If Seaby hadn’t been the grandfather of Robert Gillmor, the chances are he’d have continued to drift into undeserved obscurity, but history and serendipity are capricious fellows and here he is being rescued from that oblivion. He’s a wonderful discovery by any measure. His woodcuts and illustrations are sublime and were, in their time, innovative. His sense of colour is extraordinary and his modelling superb. If you get a sense of the Japanese, that’s entirely intentional, he having studied their traditional methods. His watercolours are soft, sensitive and have a very modern feel to them.

As well as plenty of illustrations, this short, but very full book has a memoir by Robert Gillmor, as well as a study of his grandfather as a wildlife artist and essays by Martin Andrews that concentrate on the woodcut process and Seaby’s work as an illustrator.

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