Archive for category Series: How to Read
Gosh. Look, stop reading this and nip over to those nice Amazon people and place your order now! In just 64 pages, Gwen Scott, a new author to me, has managed to come up with one of the best books around on this very well-covered subject. Even though it’s pitched at the beginner, I’d have no hesitation in recommending it to someone who’s got a bit further than the basics.
The first half of the book is inevitably taken up with the technical introduction, but the section on basic techniques gives a clue to how well thought-out the whole book is and has examples, such as how to paint leaves in the wet-in-wet spread, that are just breathtaking in their clarity and simplicity. Follow that with sections on colour, composition and a wonderful guide to painting skies and you’d be happy if the book stopped there, but it doesn’t and the Old Cottage and Autumn Lane demonstrations that follow manage to include a huge number of the main elements of landscape painting. If I have a quibble, I suppose it’s that open landscapes are a bit thin on the ground, but come on, what do you want – everything for less than a tenner? Gimme strength!
I don’t often gush, but if Search Press don’t sign Gwen up for another book pronto, they need their heads examined.
I was less than enthusiastic about the first volume in this series, but its successor hits the spot, the mark, the nail on the head. Symbols pervade pretty much all aspects of culture, art and religion and decoding them is often the key to understanding. With such a variety, no one is going to remember everything and a handy pocket guide is exactly what you need. This one is arranged primarily by continent and then by culture and/or religion or usage so, for example, you get Christian angels, Graeco-Roman deities and fantastic creatures – groupings driven by what there is rather than made-up categories the author wants to shoe-horn the material into.
I’ve said before that making pocket-size books for the sake of it just hampers clarity and understanding, but this is exactly the sort of thing you are going to want to carry round with you and the concise explanations are something you can readily absorb on a city tour or a gallery visit.
OK, this is what it says on the back of the book: “How to Read Pattern is a practical introduction to looking at and appreciating the decorative art of pattern in textile design. It is a lavishly illustrated guide to the use of pattern, exploring themes and motifs across a range of cultural aesthetics. Small enough to carry in your pocket and serious enough to offer real answers.”
I have a number of issues with this. Firstly, I think the word “lavishly” doesn’t sit well with something that’s six and a half inches square. Extensive, maybe, but this feels like something that’s been shoehorned into a format just for the sake of it. What you get is a lot (3 or 4 per page) of small reproductions of well-known and/or typical fabric patterns from oriental carpets to William Morris’s Strawberry Thief as well as modernist and psychedelic designs. Each of these comes with a short caption telling you what it is and the whole thing is arranged into groups of subjects and pattern types.
Why the pocket format? This is never something you’re going to cart round the shops or galleries and consult so that you can say, “Oh yes, that’s a landscape and those are stripes”. You’ll know that. If you want a history of textile design, you’ll buy something else, something that has room for decent-sized illustrations and text that has some meaning, not something that states what Basil Fawlty would refer to as “the bleedin’ obvious”.
As you’d expect from Black’s the quality of the illustrations is excellent, but save your tenner for a cup of tea and a Bath bun in the cafeteria.
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