Archive for category Subject: Faces

The Book of Emotions || ed Edgar Gerrard Hughes

Sometimes, things arrive on my mat that I’m not expecting and I certainly didn’t expect this one. I wasn’t even quite sure who’d sent it to me, but then I noticed the name of a PR agent who knows me well. Kate, I feel seen – you knew I’d have a go at this, didn’t you?

On the face of it (pun laboriously intended), this isn’t at all a fit for a site that reviews art books, but expressions are, after all, an important part of painting people. There’s a lot here about how emotions develop and are expressed. Some of it is so much self-indulgent guff, but there’s much to enjoy – 30 questions to ask yourself about falling in love, for instance, balanced by another 19 about falling out of love. For all that I dismissed a chunk of the book just now, I think it makes a serious point by not taking itself too seriously. If you want to compile something on How To Be Self-Aware, you might choose this as a starting point. I’m beginning to like Edgar rather a lot, if nothing else because his PhD is in the politics of grief in nineteenth-century Britain, which is definitely a thing.

The reason I have it, and why I’m writing about it is the illustrations. There are artworks, graphic illustrations (the comic book one in the Love section is to die for, and she damn near is), diagrams and photographs. Charles Darwin was fascinated by the way emotions develop and are expressed, studying the faces of his children in microscopic detail (what a dad!). He includes many photographic illustrations in The Expression of The Emotions in Man And Animals and a selection of these, along with some by Duchenne de Boulogne (Mécanisme de la Physionomie Humaine, 1862) are included for our enlightenment and delectation. As well as the author’s own animadversions, there are also pieces by other writers and I particularly enjoyed After the Party by Natalie Hume, along with its full-page colour plate of the blue lobster that forms the centrepiece of the story (actually a generic blue lobster – we don’t need to be that literal).

I could go on, because this is the most enormous fun. To be serious though (I can do serious), if you draw or paint people, this has plenty of reference material that you’ll find useful. A pile of enjoyment is just a completely free bonus.

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Today’s Artist DVD series

Drawing Realistic Faces Workshop || Carrie Stuart Parks & Rick Parks
Painting in Acrylic Workshop || Lee Hammond
Drawing for the Beginner Workshop || Mark Willenbrink

I’m going to put all these together in one review as the approach is identical in all of them. It’s an idea that I’m surprised no one has come up with before, because it’s elegant in its simplicity.

What you get is a slim volume and a DVD. The words and printed illustrations complement the moving images and give you the chance to practice exercises and techniques without having to constantly pause the film, or maybe to work away from the TV.

The only thing you might want to be aware of is that, although they’re all-region, the discs are in NTSC format. Most players will accommodate this, but it’s worth checking your manual before you expend.

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Heads & Faces with character and expression || Giovanni Civardi

As has become the style with Giovanni Civardi’s recent books, there is very little actual teaching here, but rather a process of leading by example. If it’s true that the eyes are a window to the soul, then the face is the primary key to capturing the character of your sitter and, with Giovanni’s sensitive pencil drawings, you have plenty of inspiring material to work with.

I really can’t think of anything more to say about this. It’s not a drawing manual or a course, just a neatly presented collection of works that really will help you to understand how to portray the human face.

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Figures & Faces (Secrets of Drawing) || Craig Nelson

This is part of a new series from North Light which comes under the umbrella title of “Essential Artist Techniques”. Octavo format, 96 pages long, they’re clearly intended as quick and easy guides and perhaps also as impulse purchases – the sort of thing a shop might put on a display table or by the till, if art books ever make it off the lower back shelves, that is.

The pleasant surprise is how well they’re done. Small books are often rather dashed off, but care has clearly been taken over the production of these and the smaller page-size isn’t an immediate disadvantage – the illustrations are mostly full or half page and it’s the text rather than the pictures that has been condensed. There’s also a lot of colour, which is also credibly placed rather than feeling as though it’s just there to make the book look more attractive.

For the subject in question, the stripped-back approach works remarkably well and there are plenty of different poses and subjects, with sketches, diagrams and fully worked drawings. It works best, I think, as something to use for specific reference rather than to progress through from start to finish. It’s also effective if you just open it at random and take what serendipity gives you. Most topics are dealt with in a single page or spread, even the demonstrations only running to 4 pages, so you can pick up an idea quickly and easily.

As an aid to stimulating the imagination, this is superb. If you want to study a topic or the whole subject in more depth, there are plenty of other books, but they can be exhaustive (and exhausting; this is a big subject) and this has a sense of freshness and pace I really like.

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Face Parts || Simon Jennings

This is the companion volume to Simon’s very successful Body Parts, which appeared last year, and was planned at the same time. It features the same layout, with a huge variety of photographic images and artistic interpretations in a variety of media. Neither book is a step-by-step how-to of its subject, but rather an in-depth guide to detail work that is absolutely invaluable for any figurative or portrait artist. Using either book it is possible to dispense with a model for most work, allowing much greater freedom in terms of both time taken and variety of interpretation and experimentation.

Simon’s approach in all his books is simply to immerse the reader in visual material to the extent almost of sensory overload so that the subject simply takes over your consciousness. It’s a bold and brave way of working and won’t be for everyone; certainly I wouldn’t recommend this as a book for beginners, who are going to want rather more hand-holding than Simon has to offer. However, for anyone who is reasonably confident with their medium and materials, both books are an invaluable source of reference material as well as guides to methods of working.

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