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Book Reviews


Let me say right away that this book is worth it for the gorgeous photography of landscapes and the pigments themselves. It is just wonderful. If, however, you want a more in-depth exploration of pigments then maybe not so much. Book of Earth explores the naturally occurring pigments of ochres. When you think of earth colours you probably think browns and maybe oranges and yellows but there are strong blues, greens, purples, and reds all supplied by nature. The author is heavily influenced by the spiritual properties and mythology of these ochres. There is some science of how the earth produces these pigments and even how you can make them into paints but it really isn't strictly about their artistic properties. 

Jerry Saltz How to be an Artist
Heidi Gustafson Book of Earth

Jerry Saltz is the senior art critic for New York Magazine and quite the character. He says he is a failed artist who went into driving delivery trucks but felt the pull of the art world that he was so passionate about. Despite all of this I don't think he is a failed artist. He found his art in talking about art and his passion to celebrate artists and know their practices comes through in this little book How to be an Artist. It really is a step-by-step guide with little prompts or exercises like the chapter on Make Your Mark. This is really about when you go into the studio and you want to make art but where do you start? I have this all the time. Well just make a mark, any mark. "1. Cover a surface with pencils, charcoal, chalk, fabric - anything that can be removed. 2. Using erasers, rags, turpentine, scissors - even your fingers - make a new image by removing parts of that layer." This goes along with "Let Go of Being 'Good.' Start Thinking about Creating." Some of these things you know but part of your brain tries to take over like There are No Wasted Days or Look Hard, Look Openly. Sometimes we need that prompt from others to push us. 

Drawn from Life is a collection of prompts or things to think about when tackling drawing from life be in in a life drawing class with models or in a cafe or during your commute. The works of over 50 artists illustrate (no pun intended) basic principles of drawing as well as things to think about before you even start like using toned paper or working from video stills, using contrasting elements like collage. The drawing examples are all so beautiful and inspirational. 

David Hockney Moving Focus book
Helen Birch Drawn from Life

Yes another David Hockney book. Aren't you lucky? This one, David Hockney Moving Focus, is full of essays by professionals both in and not in the fine art world like Frank Gehry, the architect from my hometown of Toronto, British dancer and choreographer Wayne Sleep, and novelist Catherine Cusset and feature the works from the Tate Collection. It's another fascinating read with wonderful examples of Hockney's several decades of work. 

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