Friday, September 25, 2015

Books Full of Artsy Goodness: My Five Most "Dog-eared" Art Books

I was all set to do a review for the Derwent InkTense pencils, which are awesome by-the-way, but I had an artsy brain fartsy and just could not think of a subject to paint. It's the weather these days, not that I am sad to say goodbye to the 100 degree temps. Fall is my favorite time of year, and it should be inspiring my best work, yet allergies and migraines have been my daily bane for the past ten days.

When I get blocked, I usually pull out my favorite art books. Some of them are instructional, while others are just eye candy. I have many books in paper and digital forms, but there are certain titles that I always return to for an inspirational nudge when needed. I am not listing them in any particular order.

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pic from Amazon site Creating Textures in Pen and Ink with Watercolor
cover image from Amazon
1. Creating Textures in Pen & Ink with Watercolor, By Claudia Nice

My love of pen and ink predates my infatuation with colored pencils, which is saying a lot, believe me. I have Speedball dip pens, "Manga" style fine liner pens and countless other ink tools and products in my bottomless stash. I also keep a lot of pen and ink books, including several Kindle additions of works by Claudia Nice.

I really like her art style and clear, concise instructions. Like most of her books, Creating Textures in Pen & Ink with Watercolor begins with a chapter covering materials and a chapter discussing techniques and how they apply to the subject matter (in this case, textures). The rest of the book is separated into chapters by texture, with illustrated tutorials for the following, starting with Chapter Three:

  • Transparency: glass, plastic, eyes, water (still and moving)
  • Metallic: shiny, tarnished, rusted, weathered metals 
  • Earthy: rocks, dirt, mulch, tree roots, brick and stone masonry
  • Skies and Weather: clouds, sunset and sunrise, storms, snow 
  • Wood grains: Furniture, rooftops, freshly cut, petrified, weathered 
  • Trees: bark and foliage textures, lichen and moss covered, closeup, distant
  • Translucent Florals: both still life and nature settings
  • Still Life Strategies: textures of fruits and veggies, wicker, fabrics, shells
  • Fur to Feathers: fur, feathers, scales, butterfly/moth wings

This is one of the most thorough books I have read as it covers almost all standard textures. You can apply Claudia's techniques easily to any textures she did not cover specifically in a chapter. Her style is representational, not photo-realistic, very well suited for illustrations.  

Colored Pencil Painting Bible pic from
cover image from Amazon
2.  Colored Pencil Painting Bible, by Alyona Nickelson. This is one of the most comprehensive colored pencil instruction books in my collection, and I have a lot of books about colored pencil. Alyona is as good at teaching as she is at making art. If you want to learn how to use colored pencils to create photo-realistic pieces, then you need this book. Even if your style is not as tight and realistic, the tips inside will still help you learn and refine color pencil techniques.

This book is intended for beginners, but it can also help more experienced artists who have used the medium before. Alyona's art is inspiring in itself because many people would never believe that colored pencil could be used in such a way- just look at the cover art! The five chapters cover the following:

  • Basic materials, setting up
  • First marks- foundation layer
  • Essential techniques
  • Textures and surfaces
  • Practice using basic still life setups 

There are many books that cover the subject, but I think Alyona's instruction is the most user-friendly. Purely subjective, of course.

image of Animals in colored pencil book cover from Amazon
cover image from Amazon
3. Animals in Colored Pencil, by Debra Kauffman Yaun. This is more like a booklet, really, with only 32 pages, but sometimes "short and sweet" is what you need. I bought the Kindle addition for a low price when I needed an artsy fix and had only a little bit of spending cash. What I like about this book is that it offers a loose, casual approach to drawing with colored pencils, not the layer-intensive perfectionist style that seems to be popular among cp artists. 

Aside from the first short chapter on tools and techniques, this book is all about tutorial, none of the color theory, composition and other filler that a more experienced reader will likely skip anyway. Each subsequent chapter contains a step-by-step guide where Debra shows us how she draws the subject. She takes us through her process, from the first simple sketch to the very last detail. Like Claudia Nice, Debra has a more illustrative style, and you can see her "hand" in the work. Here is a list of the subjects:

image of colored pencil fox drawing
Foxxxy by Pumibel, 2012
  • Rooster
  • Shetland Sheepdog
  • Gray Squirrel
  • Horse
  • Lory
  • Leopard
  • Maine Coon
  • Alpaca
  • Box Turtle
  • Red Fox
  • Bush Baby
  • Cow

It is a great book for practice, especially when you are feeling blocked and just want to do some sketches or visual journal work. The projects are small-scale and quick, and it is not necessary to fill in every bit of paper tooth. However, there are enough details to give the finished pieces some flair and personality. I posted my own fox drawing, which I made in 2012 using Debra's tutorial.

Image of Fantasy Art Now, 2012, hardback cover from Amazon site
Hardcover image from Amazon
4. Fantasy Art Now: The Very Best in Contemporary Fantasy Art & Illustration,
edited by Martin McKenna, 2007 edition. There are several books in this series, but I have the hardback from October of 2007, a gift from my sis. My copy has been shuffled around and survived a fire, so it has some character marks on the cover, but the pages are still in great shape. This is not a "how-to" book but a showcase for some great fantasy art.

The layout of this book has chapters arranged by subject, like heroes and barbarians, warrior women, witches and warlocks, fairies and elves, monsters and beasts, landscapes, and action scenes. The artists are from all over the world, and they use any medium you can imagine from traditional watercolor, oils, and colored pencil to digital painting, photo manipulation and 3D modeling. This is some serious inspirational eye candy, especially for fantasy and sci-fi lovers.

image of Dover Victorian Fashions A Pictorial Archive cover
Cover image from Amazon
5. Victorian Fashions: A Pictorial Archive, 965 Illustrations  Dover Illustration Series.

This is another inspiration and eye-candy book, but it can also serve as a reference for those who want to draw or design Victorian-era fashions. The images are reproductions from vintage catalogs. The first mail order fashion catalogs were filled with hand-drawn illustrations as this was before photography had really "caught on" for use in published media.

I love a vintage illustration, whether it is truly antique or from the mid-20th century. The images in this book include detailed drawings of Victorian accessories and undergarments as well as women and girls wearing the fashions of the time. I have the digital version, which requires a tablet or pc for optimal viewing. I would recommend buying the soft cover edition if you only have a small eReader. Despite the full-color cover, most of the images inside are black and white, just as they were published originally.

So that wraps up my top five books for art instruction and inspiration. I have a large "library" of titles in this category, but I picked those that I return to often for creative ideas. What art (or arts and crafts) books do you recommend to others?

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