Art  
Book Reviews

Screen Shot 2019-07-03 at 12.40.35 PM.pn

Women artists! This is full of interviews with women artists by an artist herself, Danielle Krysa. There are far too few of these books. It is so important to read about their processes and what influences them and what obstacles they've overcome. A Big Important Art Book Now with Women is definitely worthy of your book collection.

Studio : creative spaces for creative pe

Following along with the theme (and you'll see why I have been looking at these books if you go to my series of Creative Women in Hamilton) of creative spaces I give you Maker spaces : creative interiors from the homes and studios of inspiring makers and designers. Once again there are some truly envious creative spaces to admire in full colour in this book but it also talks about the variety of types of space like shared spaces. It features 13 creatives and their spaces and their artwork. Definitely a good book to curl up with on a grey day. 

Don't you love seeing other people's spaces? I know I do and HGTV proves that others do too. Studio : creative spaces for creative people is full of gorgeous photos of creative studio spaces. And if you are stuck in a small room or sharing a multi-purpose space then this will make you drool with envy. It does make the point that you can carve a space unique and functional to you almost anywhere. 

Maker spaces : creative interiors from t
Screen Shot 2019-12-06 at 11.59.31 AM.pn

In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs, I had totally forgotten that this book was on my wish list when it came out and didn't think about it until I had already started my own similar project Creative Women of Hamilton. So instead of research for what questions to ask my participants it acted as an inspiration and confirmation that what I am doing is working. So, yes it isn't a photography book as such but the photos are fantastic and it will inspire you as well. The interviews with each participant gives you hope for your own work. These women worked hard to be where they are and their talent is amazing. 

This man, Grayson Perry, got me through the first lockdown with his show Art Club on. Channel4! Now while this isn't an art book per se it is a book by an artist and has illustrations by said artist. The Descent of Man is an important book about masculinity today. See it as a guide for not becoming a stereotype if you are a man. And if you are raising a man how to go about that. 

51sNZE8RvyL._SX310_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg
41QDLfGA33L._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Now this Grayson Perry book is more about art, or specifically the art market and understanding art and the art world.  Playing to the Gallery dispels some myths about the art world and makes it more approachable to the layman. I love his comment about photography in the 1990s. How can you tell if a photograph is fine art? Well if they are huge! Even though he is now part of the art establishment he doesn't mind making fun of its elements. And of course there are more colourful, hilarious and piss-taking illustrations. 

Jean Haines' Atmospheric Watercolours: Painting with Freedom, Expression and Style is for the beginner and beyond. She takes you through the basics like what materials you will use etc. but she goes beyond this with demonstrations and such things as the philosophy of colour. It is useful if you are a watercolourist and feeling in a bit of a rut of late. Or you are trying to loosen up the way you paint. 

515hDM9WCXL._SX198_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_ML2_.jpg
51mGs1w1OAL._SX198_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_ML2_.jpg

Jean Haines' World of Watercolour is much more suitable for beginner to intermediate watercolour artist. Haines describes her style and influences, information about her palette and paper choices and brushes. There are loads of demonstrations of techniques building up the reader to using these elements in larger paintings. Landscape, wildlife and portrait instruction are all there. What drew me to this book is the looseness and simplification of Haines' work. 

51JRnC7ag1L._SX412_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Artists' Drawing Techniques published by Dorling Kindersley reminds me of their travel books. I used to pore over those and their pages of bird's eye views of museums in various cities. That same indepthness is in this book as well. It takes you through everything you need to get started such as composition and materials. Then in focuses in on media in each chapter - pencil, charcoal, pen and ink, coloured pencil and pastels. It starts you with beginner techniques and brings you up to more advanced techniques in wonderful, detailed photos. Materials are pictured and things like how the media reacts to different surfaces helps beginners and more advanced artists alike. 

51wOY7UigUL._SX419_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg
61TsNhv61vL._SX410_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Essential Techniques of Landscape Drawing by Suzanne Brooker is another incredible book focused on drawing. Brooker works from objects in order to show how light and form need to be drawn and then shows how this is applied to landscapes. You have to start small in order to tackle the wider world, literally. Techniques like tonal shading and contour lines will help you to portray realistic forms in nature. Then there is how to build up to a full landscape drawing by breaking the elements down. How to study cloud formations, how to portray different terrain and how to properly depict vegetation, how to suggest atmosphere and on. Packed with photos, this is a great guide for a landscape artist.  

Another DK publication that doesn't disappoint at least to this art supply junkie! The Artist's Manual goes into great depth about media including photography, film and outdoor materials. It covers it all. The next part of the book goes into how this media is used to make art - blending techniques, colour information as well as forms of art from the traditional still life to painting from photographs and fabricating materials to form sculpture or assemblages for site specific works. Even if the latter isn't your thing it is still a fascinating read. I love the detail and photographs for printmaking - something that sometimes gets left out in art books on media and art making. This should be part of any artist's library. 

41OuJhHD8aL._SX419_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg
Screen Shot 2022-05-02 at 10.51.49 AM.png

Another Grayson Perry book! I have just loved watching his Art Club tv programme. Try to find it because it will restore your faith in humanity. The people and their stories really make it. And Grayson and his wife, Philippa, make an artwork each week. I wanted to see more of his actual artwork and this book, Grayson Perry, delivers. It's almost like a catalogue raisonné but is a monograph of his work and this is an updated and expanded edition. This book surveys his life and work and is written by Jacky Klein who also wrote his biography (see above). The book has large reproductions of his artwork and their inspiration as well as images from his life. The amount of detail in his work is incredible. 

Ann Blockley has a series of books on watercolour. Her Watercolour Workshop: Projects and Interpretations guides you on how to see your subject and how to combine techniques and mixed media to interpret it. There are the basics about choosing paper and tools but then you get started into full on guided projects such as ways to paint a white flower or using more inventive materials like gesso and tissue paper. It is mostly focused on landscape but the ideas can be applied to other things. I love that there is so much experiment away from the usual watercolour painting. The textures produced are wonderful. It's more about mark making rather than a realistic interpretation of a scene.

Screen Shot 2022-05-02 at 10.55.55 AM.png
Screen Shot 2022-05-02 at 11.11.56 AM.png

Jake Spicer often writes how to articles for the magazine Artist and Illustrator and they are amazing so I wanted to try his books. His You Will Be Able to Draw Faces by the End of This Book will be able to help even the most novice artist. The book is laid out in a workbook form with various exercises working you towards more and more study of certain aspects of the face including angles, neck and shoulders (sometimes forgotten about) to hair and accessories. Each part of the face also has its own exercises with plenty of space to try them out inside the book. At the beginning of the book there is even a guide to how long each segment takes if you are looking for warm-up exercises, ones that will take 15mins or longer studies. He is a great teacher. 

Now moving on to the full body. Jake Spicer again takes you step by step in his Figure Drawing: A Complete Guide to Drawing the Human Body. This isn't a workbook like the above with areas set aside to practice your skills. You'll have to have your own sketchbook for that. He discusses tools you may need, and there are exercises. There are also spotlights on famous artists and their interpretation of the human form. You'll learn about tone and contour, shadow, mark making but also looser interpretations of the human form in his Beyond Looking section. Here you are responding to a feeling, showing movement through gesture etc. It really is the clearest and most comprehensive instruction on drawing the human form. 

Screen Shot 2022-05-02 at 11.34.15 AM.png
Screen Shot 2022-05-02 at 11.49.15 AM.png

This book may be little but it is packed with ideas to get you out of your artistic rut. Joanna Goss' The Watercolor Ideas Book takes you from ideas concerning the nature of watercolour such as playing with opacity and glazing to themes to thinking well outside the box such as working on found paper or collage to using embroidery with it or creating dioramas. Every idea comes with a beautiful artwork as an example. 

David Chandler takes you through 30 watercolour works from the Tate collection in his Master Watercolour: Painting Techniques inspired by Influential Artists. You start with an artwork as inspiration by such notable figures as JMW Turner and Paul Cézanne to modern figures such as Maggi Hambling. Then the David Chandler gets to work using their artwork as inspiration to create an entirely new work and you see the steps he takes. The palette is listed as well as the tools he uses. Again this is inspiration and not a direct copy. Sometimes they are more alike the original and sometimes quite different. It is a great way to learn from the greats and also to break out of a rut to try something new. It's also just a beautiful guide to the Tate's watercolour collection. 

Screen Shot 2022-05-02 at 12.09.53 PM.png
Screen Shot 2022-05-02 at 12.21.01 PM.png

Hazel Sloan's Light and Shade in Watercolour is a thorough book examining how to depict light and shade in watercolour (the same key elements can be applied to different media), to exploring colour and how to use light and shade to create an effect or add to a composition. Most of the examples are focused on landscape or figures but there are also examples of floral and other objects. It also deals with using focus and blur (and how to achieve that) to denote atmosphere, objects of attention or in shade. 

I love looking at other people's sketchbooks. I know mine are often little moments around my city or elsewhere or working out different techniques and ideas. For the great artist David Hockney it is more of the former. A Yorkshire Sketchbook is a beautiful reproduction of his sketchbook. Nothing is left out (except for a couple of blank pages). They are just little snatches and scenes from his beloved Yorkshire. It is really delightful to see. I'm trying to be looser in my sketches like Hockney. 

Screen Shot 2022-05-16 at 1.43.25 PM.png
Screen Shot 2022-05-16 at 2.07.03 PM.png

I came to this book, Urban Drawing, because I follow the author/artist on Instagram. He is known as @shoreditchsketcher . I just love his images of buildings and street scenes from London. And I also miss London a whole lot... There's the usual instruction on composition and perspective needed (or not because that's cool too!) for urban drawing. However, I think Phil Dean excels at describing how altering line size or adding tone etc. can change the composition and outcome. There are many exercises to try out as well. And follow him on Instagram!

The more I look through City Sketching Reimagined by Jeanette Barnes and Paul Brandford the more I like it and the more I learn. Some of these are just snippets like using a glue stick to much up your paper and try drawing over it for a looser look. Some of the hints or insights are just like that - small snippets of ideas while others dive into the key things like perspective (that pesky thing!) and approaching the drawing of figures. Some are just spotlights on the places the authors have sketched (including my hometown of Toronto!). There are more of their ideas on tools and media and exercises for those who like that sort of thing. The images are incredible. Some of them remind me of a wild Piranesi drawings or architecture - so much line work that really imbue the image with life of a hectic city. This book feels like a conversation with a friend. And I can totally take the advice of going to a cocktail bar and sketching!

Screen Shot 2022-05-16 at 2.19.34 PM.png
Screen Shot 2022-05-19 at 1.16.29 PM.png

Another David Hockney book...Spring Cannot be Cancelled. Can you have too many? This is an artist who in his 80s is still exploring and still learning and I think that is an inspiration. Hockney could just churn out the same work that made him famous but he doesn't. In an exchange between the artist and art critic, Martin Gayford we explore these ideas and art history. Like the draw of Yorkshire, the nature of the place and the changes of the season, you have a similar but with the artist's home in France his subject while we were all in lockdown. A beautiful and informative book. This isn't a coffee table book although it has wonderful reproduction of Hockney's and other notable artists' work. It is very rich exploration of what is art by both a critic and an artist with long careers.

I haven't done calligraphy for years and I'm out of practice. I also know certain calligraphy is see as more modern. In steps Modern Calligraphy Workshop. This is another one of those books that I got at the library and then wanted to own for myself. 

There are practice lines and exercises (I like doing lines of lettering) but Imogen Owen also shows you other ideas to inspire and take you into more creative typography. My favourite to practice was definitely the brush lettering technique. I need more practice with the beautiful handwriting examples. 

Screen Shot 2022-06-01 at 2.04.33 PM.png

I've only just started working with oil pastels. That's if you don't include the horrible ones we had in school. The hard as a rock kind. If you haven't tried them, treat yourself to a small set of Sennelier and you will be surprised how lovely they are to work with. So I thought I better look for a book to see any techniques to help this journey. And why not start at the beginning with Beginner's Guide to Painting with Oil Pastels by Tim Fisher. It's a slim book but packed with a lot. There's the usual start about the history of oil pastels (pretty recent!) to different tools and surfaces you can use and their prep. It touches on solvents and other tools that you may already have if you're an oil painter. But it also explores using them in combination with acrylic paints and inks. The rest of the book features step by step projects. Definitely useful for those starting off. 

Screen Shot 2022-05-19 at 1.28.01 PM.png

Illustration: What's the Point?: A Book of Illustrated Illustrations that Illustrate Illustration by Mouni Feddag tries to answer this question. I found it more of a personal journey and an artist asking themselves why they illustrate, how it is useful to them (and potential clients). It is certainly not a guide for the industry for new graduates. The illustrations are great and quirky. I enjoyed it more for the illustrations than the text. But maybe that's what the point is? 

Screen Shot 2022-06-03 at 10.07.49 AM.png
Screen Shot 2022-06-03 at 10.18.32 AM.png

Anywhere, Anytime Art: Illustration: An artist's guide to illustration on the go! by Betsy Beier is another book with a similar style of illustration. The title suggests this is about travel or working plein air but the projects are mostly ones you would do at home. They are more idea prompts with an illustrated sample. There is even a section on lettering to add to journalling while travelling or other studio projects. Mostly beginner level stuff. 

The Art of Gouache by Vikorija Semjonova is more for those just starting with gouache. It uses the standard formula of talking about materials. It has a good few pages about how to mix colours. Then the majority focuses on the 20 projects. All of these are in the author's style which is illustrative, with flat perspective. Maybe they were spur your imagination into creating your own projects. 

Screen Shot 2022-06-03 at 10.24.57 AM.png
Screen Shot 2022-06-16 at 1.00.13 PM.png

Yes another David Hockney book. The Arrival of Spring, Normandy 2020 is another mostly picture book. There's a short interview at the beginning and even in its brevity I got so much out of what Hockney was saying about art and about this work. This body of work was done for a show at the Royal Academy focusing on the changes in seasons at his four acres in Normandy almost exclusively done on an iPad (Hockney has even had brushes designed for him). The plan was to work from the start of the year of 2020. Who knew then that a pandemic would make this easier with none of the usual distractions of visitors or events? 

This book does not lie when it says it is a comprehensive guide. The American Society of Botanical Artists put together Botanical Art Techniques full of step-by-step projects in every type of media from the humblest of graphite and ink to watercolour, coloured pencils, egg tempera and oils. Different substrates are used such as vellum as well as techniques such as printmaking and metalpoint. It is truly a gorgeous book with large illustrations to walk you through the techniques and media. There's also information on how to work on scale and in-depth look at various media such as pen types and how to use a pencil for different mark making. Highly recommended for the amateur to the more advanced artist. I got this out of the library but I want it to be a part of my art book collection even though I am not a botanical artist.

Screen Shot 2022-07-19 at 10.37.18 AM.png

Sketching Perspective by Ilga Leimanis clearly lays out the rules of perspective and how to apply it to drawings of buildings and interiors that can be worked up into full scale paintings, architectural models, interior design or for your urban sketches. As usual materials and equipment are discussed. Drawing on location and its requirements are also discussed as well as using using simple equipment like your body or holding up your drawing material to distinguish measurements and composition. There's also how to add figures and detail to give a sense of place. It also covers the more tricky aerial and panoramic perspectives

Screen Shot 2022-07-18 at 1.45.45 PM.png

The Art of Still Life: An Essential Reference for Contemporary Artists that Includes the Artwork of Over Eighty Past and Present Masters by Todd M Casey showcases his masterful painting skills that are contemporary (especially subject matter) but steeped in classical techniques. Chapters are divided up into Tools and your Studio, Ideas and Vision, Composition, Light, Structure, Colour science, Applying sculptural modelling of forms, Guidelines and Techniques and Putting this All Together. Casey works in oil paint but a lot of this could be applied to other media like acrylic and watercolour with obvious modifications. He includes a lot of photographs of his studio and still life setups as well as his preliminary sketches and drawings. I love seeing the workings of artists. There are also exercises and diagrams to get an understanding of light and colour, for example. The coffee table format of the book allows for wonderful, large images that you can pore over as he breaks down images of his works and those by other artists. Perfect for anyone interested in still life or having difficulties capturing forms. For amateur to more advanced. 

Screen Shot 2022-07-19 at 10.52.46 AM.png
Screen Shot 2022-07-19 at 12.27.36 PM.png

I already thought I had read this book because I had Hazel Sloan's Light and Shade in Watercolour. But this one is a companion to the "how-to-quickly" book above. Learn to Paint People Quickly is less about completing a full length portrait. It's more about populating your paintings with people sometimes with just minimal brushstrokes. Often our eyes finish the "picture" as we are so aware of what a person looks like. There are examples of more completed portraits but that isn't the aim of this book. Like her book above, the focus is mostly on watercolour and oil but the elements laid out here can be applied to pastel and acrylic and other media. Sloan makes sure you also think of elements that add character and realism to your figures with things like accessories and logos, how to portray figures closer and further away and place them in their surrounding. Again, it is heavy on examples and has just enough text to guide you through.

Screen Shot 2022-08-04 at 11.09.44 AM.png

Here's another gorgeous botanical book, Botanical Illustration from Life: A visual guide to observing, drawing and painting plants. I think this one is even better at breaking down the beginning drawing side of the botanical portrait. In fact a third of the book is just about drawing, colour doesn't start until page 90 (not that you have to use colour). When Işık Güner does delve into colour, there's the same attention to detail about what colours to choose, their lightfastness, how they mix, how they work on paper etc. Then there's how they can be used to denote perspective and texture. The next section of the book is all about observation of the plant world with different leaf and flower structures, and not forgetting roots, seed pods etc. So much detail is given to the examples the artist uses.   

Screen Shot 2022-08-04 at 11.38.24 AM.png

Similar title but quite a bit different. This one is like a course in botanical drawing.  Botanical Sketchbook is a series of assignments. It is based on the Distance Learning Diploma Course by the Society of Botanical Artists. One of the students in the course was particularly gifted and this is her, Mary Ann Scott's portfolio from the course along with her tutor's assessment from the "bad" to the good. But quite frankly her so-called "disappointing results" are still fabulous and beautiful to study. Don't be disheartened by seeing these stunning works and thinking "that's supposedly bad?! How can I compete?" This course is the creme de la creme of botanical art so very, very exacting standards! I would take this book for the prompts to further my own development.

Screen Shot 2022-08-19 at 12.03.19 PM.png

Now this book, Colour for Botanical Artists and Illustrators, does offer a tonne of information for artists. There are lists of the main manufacturers of watercolour including information about their lines, their codes for lightfastness and other details. You are shown how to colour mix and colour match. There's of course a how chapter on what is colour and how we see colour but also importantly how we see colour in different categories of plants like silvery foliage, black and white in nature (spoiler: there is no true black or white) not when you factor in transparency, how light reflects off things or colours around them. There are loads of photographs from the natural world and their painted images. The last section of the book is full of tutorials. It is a pleasure to read and full of a wealth of information that you can even use beyond botanical art.  

Screen Shot 2022-08-23 at 1.26.56 PM.png

The artist Sandi Hester on her YouTube channel put me on to this artist. Even though I've studied this period of art I had not heard of Charlotte Salomon and the Theatre of Memory. Her time and production was very limited. As a Jew living in Berlin when war broke out she had to flee to France to her grandparents in Nice. Her lack of "name" in art circles meant she didn't afford the same safety line as other intellectuals and artists. In fact it wasn't until research in the 1990s that she became more widely known. Her production in the years between 1941-42 include 784 paintings completed in the South of France that were formed into a narrative cycle that was at once a musical, a book and a memorial to life. Upon a doctor's advice she began painting again to deal with wondering if she would take her own life (as many family members, including her mother had done) or doing something more unusual. Musical notes are sometimes written on the mostly gouache paintings, passages of text pages and overlays for works are also included. She died at Auschwitz in 1943. While a troubling subject matter her style is fascinating. The book is a very weighty tome and more academic in scope so this is not a coffee table book. 

Screen Shot 2022-09-13 at 10.30.04 AM.png

This book was right up my street! I've been trying to use more mixed media in my art to get texture that I'm after and to solve issues. If you are not a landscape artist it doesn't matter. There is so much to learn in Drawing Dramatic Landscapes by the artist Robert Dutton. The first section deals with the media he uses and papers. Then the book delves into how each can be employed in mark making with techniques and examples shown of his work. The remainder of the book goes into greater detail of various works, how he approaches the work and how he uses the media all together. It's fascinating. And it gets the "this library book needs to be ordered for my own collection!" award. 

Screen Shot 2022-09-13 at 12.03.15 PM.png

This title is part of a series of "how-to-quickly" books by Hazel Sloan. Learn to Paint Portraits Quickly really lays out the building blocks you need to complete a portrait. Will that portrait be done in 10 mins? Unlikely. The quickly part is more in regards to once you have all these building blocks approaching your next portrait won't take as much time and fuss and will have fewer mistakes. This book lays out everything mostly visually with minimal but necessary text to explain everything from making your sitter comfortable to all of the key elements looked at such as eyes, hair, jawline, neck etc. There are a variety of examples mostly in watercolour and oil. There are colour mixing examples as well to get the right skin tone. A perfect little companion book.

Screen Shot 2022-07-19 at 12.39.53 PM.png

Botanical Art Techniques touched on coloured pencils used in botanical portraits but Ann Swan's Botanical Portraits with Colored Pencils goes further. There are just remarkable examples in this book. Anyone who thinks coloured pencils are just for kids, well you have to look at this. The author/artist lists her favourite pencils by colour and the rest of the tools she uses to create these stunning images. Then the all important measuring, composition and proportion needed in all botanical work. She then focuses on different coloured pencil techniques including layering of colours to produce other colours. There are step by step examples with her list of colours for those hoping to follow along. It's truly a lovely book and helpful book.

Screen Shot 2022-08-04 at 11.18.57 AM.png

Botanical Sketchbooks is a compilation of over 500 years of botanical sketching progressing from a time before the term sketch was applied when such works were actually working drawings for larger works or exercise to the time when scientists discovering plants from around the world used them to record species. There are amateurs mixed in with professional artists - 80 different ones in total. The book is divided into four sections: Made on Location; Doing Science; Making Art and A Pleasing Occupation. Some of the examples appear cursory with the briefest amount of work while others are fully worked up into a work that could be used by botanists and enthusiasts. Many contain notes by the sketcher, from the brief to a full-on entry. It's a fascinating book

Screen Shot 2022-08-19 at 11.45.34 AM.png

New Ideas in Botanical Painting seems, to me, to be more of a retrospective of the author/artist's botanical painting career rather than a how-to book on the subject. She talks about her gardens in England and France, her commercial work and her equipment. It's also about how she works on things from photography to lighting but more in a general sense rather than showing you step-by-step examples. Her work is lovely and worth a flip through but if you are looking for more guidance maybe refer to some of the other botanical painting books above. 

Screen Shot 2022-08-19 at 1.11.00 PM.png

So enough with botanical art for a bit. One of my favourite things to paint has to be urban landscape but I've been exploring more abstract, looser forms of that. Painting Abstract Landscapes by father (the artist) and daughter (an art writer). Gareth Edwards and Kate Reeve-Edwards walk you through his process and the thought that goes into the works. You still have to have something that engages the eye to draw you into the landscape, even more so as there are not recognizable structures etc. You still deal with the formal elements of a painting such as composition and colour but how these work in a more abstract way. There are also elements such as glazing that can be applied for representing mood, air, atmosphere etc. There are step by step images to show how a work comes together. There are also work featuring other artists. 

Screen Shot 2022-09-13 at 10.00.18 AM.png

As luck would have it I tripped across this book at the library. It was featured on a shelf and I had to queue to checkout my other books because the machine was broken. Yay because I love Japanese art. I immediately thought of Alex Katz when I saw the cover who a friend loves and the artist and author of Modern Japanese Painting Techniques, Shinichi Fukui, is also a fan. The first part of the book talks about influences both in Japanese and Western art, notes on illustration in general and the approach to a flat perspective. The next section Fukui interviews 7 other artists. Then the remaining part of the book, the majority of it, shows step by step of his process of painting in mostly acrylic with some gouache and ink. The choice of western media is more fast drying and better suited for those starting out.

Screen Shot 2022-09-13 at 11.50.05 AM.png

I found Make Your Art No Matter What a little light on the details of how. There's a lot of telling you what you should do and how it has helped Beth Pickens clients but not so much on the how one goes about it. There are a lot of generalisms and references back to the autthor's own experiences (she is a psychologist rather than an artist but advises artist clients). I'm not much of one for self-help books and I think it may be because of books like this. Too theoretical, too general and not enough concrete actions to take.