Archive for category Series: Drawing Masterclass

Drawing Trees & Flowers || Margaret Eggleton and Denis-John Naylor

This is a bind up of two volumes that have previously appeared. You can read Trees here and Flowers here.

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Perspective (Drawing Masterclass) || Tim Fisher

I’ve lost count of how many books on perspective I’ve seen in a long career. It’s a simple enough idea – you have a viewpoint, a subject and a vanishing point – but notoriously difficult to explain. All these books have made valiant and worthy attempts to keep things simple and some, using blocks and cones or different colours for the lines, have come close to success. The problem, though, is that almost everything you overlay only serves to complicate the image. What could be expressed in probably no more than a dozen or so words suddenly becomes so unmanageable that the poor reader just gives up and decides they’ll never get it right. This is a shame, as your eyes will tell you instantly when it is.

So it’s with great delight that I give an enormous Hurrah to this new contribution to the literature. Tim Fisher doesn’t forego diagrams, shapes or lines. What he does do, though, and it’s so simple it’s a forehead-slapper, is not to try to do everything at once. There are drawings here that have only four or five lines in them, and you can see what’s going on as a result. Yes, some parts don’t have their vanishing points delineated (get over it), but they’re not the bit he’s explaining. He also manages to keep the whole thing simple without over-simplifying and therefore missing the point entirely. Although this is billed as a Masterclass, the truth is that it’s by far the best primer I’ve ever seen. If you have other books, throw them away and buy this. You won’t regret it.

Oh, and Search press seem to have solved the problems of muddy half-tones that have bedevilled previous volumes in the series. Double Hurrah.

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Clothed Figures (Drawing Masterclass) || Lucy Swinburne

This series has gone a bit quiet lately, which is no bad thing. I don’t mean there’s anything wrong with it, just that it’s something that should only be added to when the right subject and author come along. And this new volume ticks all the boxes.

Lucy Swinburne’s sensitive pencil drawings capture personality perfectly and her modelling is also right up to standard. Perspective, especially in complex poses, is very easy to get wrong, but Lucy never misses a beat on this one. She’s also excellent on form, expression, character and the difficult subject of suggesting movement in what will always be a still-frame drawing.

The book is nicely progressive and features a good variety of subjects from young to old, male and female and different ethnicities. The instructional approach is to explain what you’re looking for under a particular heading and then to give examples with deconstructed captions that explain what was done. Demonstrations are not completely absent, but neither do they dominate in a book that’s aimed at the more experienced practitioner. This is important as both the subject and the readers are taken seriously – if you’re looking for an introduction to figure drawing, you shouldn’t be surprised to find that this isn’t it. Neither, though, is it so rarefied that it becomes inaccessible to anyone except those who don’t need it.

This is an excellent series whose standard has been kept up by judicious additions and this one enhances it considerably.

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Landscapes (Drawing Masterclass) || Margaret Eggleton

There’s an excellent variety of material here, including buildings, water, trees, flowers and even a few people. The structure of the book is to have main chapter headings that deal with various landscape elements such as skies, water or man-made structures and then to introduce examples and vignettes before moving on to a specific project that brings everything together. As a way of proceeding, this works very well and the sense of variety is encouraging, both creatively and as a way of drawing you into the book and getting you to explore further. I do have a reservation about some of the illustrations, though. These seem a little less than sharp and I can’t decide whether it’s the reproduction, the method of working or whether they’ve somehow been reduced to a different grayscale to that in which they were made. Other titles in this generally excellent series have crisp outlines, as, indeed, are the majority of those here, so I’m not sure what’s going on.

It’s a worthwhile book, for all that, and should contain pretty well everything you want to know.

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Life Drawing (Drawing Masterclass) || Eddie Armer

This isn’t so much a book about how to draw figures as what you can do with them. The biography that came with it tells me that Eddie is also a musician and there is certainly a fluidity and rhythm to his drawings that may or may not be connected. There is also a sense of improvisation that echoes Paul Klee’s comment about “taking a line for a walk”.

None of this matters really, as sources, influences and possible cross-overs have nothing to do with whether the book itself is any good and whether we like the illustrations and can learn from them. On the other hand, when Eddie does what he refers to as “scribble drawings” and creates seemingly random birds-nests from which a shape, then a recognisable figure emerge, I can’t help thinking of free jazz. For the uninitiated, someone once described that as sounding “like a pet shop burning down”, so I probably won’t labour the point.*

What’s exciting, though, is just how much Eddie is prepared to experiment and how he works with line, tone and perspective to produce figures that have that all-important quality of potential movement. The thing about people is that they’re never fully at rest. At any time they can change position, get up or run off, and a really successful drawing encompasses that quality.

The other thing this book lacks is anatomy. That’s not to say it isn’t important, but sometimes we don’t have to get bogged down in it and this is one of those times. I love this book for the way it celebrates the human form and, once again, Search Press are right on the button with their choice of author.

* For those of you who care, I’m thinking of the moment the melodic figure emerges from seeming chaos in Endangered Species on the Pat Metheny (et al) album Song X. Makes me cry every time and that’s not an easy thing to do. Or Morning Dew coalescing out of the free jam, Epilogue on the Grateful Dead’s Europe ’72.

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Animals (Drawing Masterclass) || Lucy Swinburne

As with previous volumes in this series, you get a lot for your money, though the layout here is a little more conventional, the book consisting mainly of a series of demonstrations and some notes on detail work. An innovation is the online demonstrations which you can access through a link or a QR code that you scan with a mobile phone. This is a good idea, though I must admit that I find the codes intrusive on the page and I do wonder whether the small screen of a phone is the ideal viewing medium. Tablets tend to have lower-resolution cameras and can struggle with these codes, so typing URLs on a keyboard may be the best solution. All the codes are the same and lead to a long online menu, so placing a single reference on the title page might have been a better idea.

I’m sorry to have taken so long over what sounds like a quibble, but the idea of using YouTube rather than supplying a bound-in DVD is so stunningly obvious that I’m genuinely surprised that this is the first time I’ve seen it done. It’s cheap, flexible and adds immeasurably to the value of the book without compromising the price and I’d urge other publishers to follow suit. Just keep the content good and appropriate, that’s all. A video done for the sake of it undoes all the good work of the printed page.

The book itself doesn’t start hugely promisingly. Lucy draws, as artists often do, her materials and equipment and it seems she struggles with three-dimensional objects and their perspective. This is particularly odd as this is one of her strengths when it comes to animals, which are much more difficult than a simple water pot. In every single case, her subjects have depth, texture, life and character and she is one of the best animal artists I’ve come across.

After the usual introduction to materials and techniques the book is, as I said, a series of demonstrations. These are divided into wild and domestic animals and include meerkats, elephants and tigers, dogs, cats and horses. Each section is a specific image, so you don’t get the huge variety that some other volumes in the series have introduced. At the same time, these are subjects that need a lot of attention and detail work and the trade-off is worthwhile.

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Portraits (Drawing Masterclass) || Carole Massey

Carole Massey packs a huge amount of material and ideas into a comparatively short 96 pages and this is one of the best books on portrait drawing that I’ve seen.

The problem that any book on portraiture has to overcome is that it’s full of pictures of people that you’ve never met, in contrast to the subjects you’re going to find in front of you. Carole counters this with a good variety of examples, male and female, young and old and with different skin tones, facial shapes and hair types. To borrow the old News of the World slogan, all human life (pretty much) is here.

The book is also full of demonstrations, examples, tips and exercises. One of the nice features is that every page feels different. All books are designed to a basic page layout, but this one is so flexible that the whole thing feels like a voyage of discovery and I think you’ll be finding new delights long after you first opened the cover.

“Masterclass” is a movable feast, but this is a book which lives up to a difficult billing. Essential reading.

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Flowers (Drawing Masterclass) || Margaret Eggleton

It comes as a shock to turn the pages of this interesting guide and find a complete lack of colour. Of course there should be a clue in the title, but we’re so accustomed to colour, both in drawing and in the subject, that it just seems to be a given here. The feeling is also emphasised by the fact that the greys (because this is about line and tone) are quite dark and the images therefore quite strong.

Get past that, though, and what you have is a very nicely done and, in terms of both styles and subject matter, very varied little book. Its stumbling point though, I can’t help thinking, is going to be whether anyone is going to think, “Ah just what I wanted” or, because of its rather hard-edged appearance, “But I do quite fancy trying it”.

There’s a lot you can learn from starting with a drawing, rather than reaching immediately for the paint box; you can learn it here, and I recommend you do. I just don’t think the look and feel of the book are going to help me make my point, though.

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