Tag Archives: art

Book Review: Colored Pencil Painting Portraits: Master a Revolutionary Method for Rendering Depth and Imitating Life, by Alyona Nickelsen

Colored Pencil Painting PortraitsI’ve always thought colored pencils were underrated, but I found them quite frustrating in my past attempts using them for realism. If I’d have had Alyona Nickelsen’s Colored Pencil Painting Portraits: Master a Revolutionary Method for Rendering Depth and Imitating Life twenty years ago, I probably wouldn’t have given up on them so easily. Every obstacle I encountered has been demonstrably removed through this book. Approaching them like oil paints, Nickelsen demonstrates ways colored pencils can be even more versatile and easier to use than any of us ever imagined. This incredibly informative, technical, scientific, and beautiful work will prove to be indispensable for any artist using (or wanting to use) colored pencils as a serious artistic medium. God bless Alyona and all the artists who follow her in elevating colored pencils in the world of art.

 

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Advertisements

Book Review: Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age, by Jeff Goins

Real Artists Don't StarveIn Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age, author Jeff Goins encourages artists of all varieties to forget what he calls “the myth of the starving artist” and start making steps toward being a “thriving artist.” I imagine many readers may find at least one thing helpful, motivating, and/or inspiring, but the work in its entirety is often contradictory and unconvincing—not once is it demonstrated that anyone ever has or will travel the entire path anecdotally articulated by Goins. While many aspiring and current career artists (emphasis on career) will relate to one story or another, careful readers will see how data has been cherry picked and organized in such a way that presents the best evidence for the agenda of each chapter. There is no cohesive link that connects all attributes of the “thriving artist” as articulated, although attempts are made to use Michelangelo as the test case. Ultimately, Goins desires artists to be smart, flexible, and business savvy, which is great; however, life context is not the same for everyone, and the “starving artist” is a reality, not a myth, for numerous reasons. While we may certainly desire that artists (at least the good ones, as we perceive them) have a path for obtaining a wonderfully prosperous and fulfilling career, it simply isn’t and won’t be the case for everyone.

The book is outlined as follows (my words in parentheses):

Introduction: Myth of the Starving Artist (Except that it’s a reality, and Goins acknowledges this in the text. I think the whole book simply demonstrates his desire is to make it a myth, which would be great.)

Part 1: Mind-Set
1 You Aren’t Born an Artist (This is really addressing careers, not artistic talent.)
2 Stop Trying to Be Original (We learn from history, so use history. There’s little to no originality in the world, but there’s a lot or organizing and rearranging. I don’t think that means we don’t try to be original.)
3 Apprentice Under a Master (Yes, please! This path will often require contradiction between other points in the book, but it’s one we desperately need to bring back in Western culture.)
4 Harness Your Stubbornness (This doesn’t mean you let go of principles and ideals, but an artist must remain flexible in the many details of a career as an artist.)

Part 2: Market
5 Cultivate Patrons (Easier for extroverts and the less humble—not the same thing, by the way—this can be tough, but a necessity for a career. Find people who like and want to spread your work.)
6 Go Join a Scene (Easier said than done. Single folks will find this to be a lot easier than those with spouses and families. Still, we need beauty everywhere, not just in metropolitan pockets.)
7 Collaborate with Others (It’s extremely helpful and often necessary to further one’s skills, ideas, etc.)
8 Practice in Public (This goes with chapter 5—another hard one, but helpful in the proper contexts.)

Part 3: Money (The really hard part.)
9 Don’t Work for Free (Unless you have to, which is one of the biggest problems. The anecdotes used in this chapter are of those well into their careers, not those just starting out.)
10 Own Your Work (Another difficult one, and something one should definitely work toward if able. Again, anecdotes used here are of those able to do so.)
11 Diversify Your Portfolio (As with many careers, one often discoveries one must be able to do more than one thing—art, marketing, business, etc.)
12 Make Money to Make Art (Some will need a second job to make art while others will make enough—or more than enough—with their art to make more. Stuff requires money, so you’re going to need it. It’s simple economics.)

Conclusion: Join the New Renaissance (Go buck the system! Or stay as you are. You know, whatever works for your career and ideals.)

In the endnotes, Goins provides a link for the sources and data used for this book: dontstarve.com/tools

 

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review: Portrait Revolution: Inspiration from Around the World for Creating Art in Multiple Mediums and Styles, by Julia L. Kay

Portrait RevolutionPortrait Revolution: Inspiration from Around the World for Creating Art in Multiple Mediums and Styles by Julia L. Kay is a beautiful and inspiring journey into the what, why, and how of portrait making through the mind’s eye of artists around the world. Wonderfully organized according to media, style, and theme, most of the book presents portrait samples of the same person as rendered by different artists. Every portrait includes subject, artist, medium, and size (when applicable), but many include notes by the artist—a brief explanation of the image or insight into method. The book concludes with featured artists and a helpful collage of quotes by included artists on portrait making.

While many may stumble upon this up at a bookstore, flip through its pages to see what he or she does and does not like, and then put it down—let’s be honest, not all of the included portraits are going to be aesthetically pleasing to all—Kay has included text for a reason. Read it! While I did not enjoy a great many of the portraits, I did enjoy hearing from the artists themselves, which caused me to think more deeply about how I might interpret a portrait in different ways. I learned.

Kudos to Kay and all contributors. I’ve been inspired to do more portraits and, perhaps, even look into finding interest from other artists in my area who may want to start up our own “portrait party.”

 

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Book Review: Sense and Spirituality: The Arts and Spiritual Formation, by James McCullough

Sense and SpiritualityJames McCullough recently received his PhD from St. Andrews, and Sense and Spirituality: The Arts and Spiritual Formation comes out of his dissertation (“Aesthesis and Ascesis: The Relationship between the Arts and Spiritual Formation,” 2013). The notes, “This book began its life as a doctoral dissertation, and … has undergone extensive editing and rewriting in order to make it readable and indeed palatable for a general audience” (xvii); however, McCullough states that this work “submits itself for approval and approbation…first and foremost, to the growing body of scholars and practitioners in the field of theological aesthetics” and “[s]econdly…to those in practical theology” (xv). I’m not certain that it has indeed been reworked for a “general audience”; it maintains the form, function, and readability of an academic thesis, not something one would generally pick up at a bookstore if interested in the arts and spiritual formation. However, not having read the actual dissertation, I am unable to compare and contrast notable differences and distinctions that may prove beneficial in determining which may be the most helpful for the intended theologian reader: the dissertation or Sense and Spirituality. For what it’s worth, given the brevity and lack of depth in “Part II: Practical Application,” it is my assumption that the dissertation would be the better route.

Part I: Theoretical Framework
McCullough simplifies “aesthesis and ascesis” into “sense and spirituality,” stating that his agenda is “to explore how skills in sensory perception with those related to ascetical development or spiritual formation, and how this dialectical relationship can be mediated, enhanced, or catalyzed through encounters with the arts” (9). The thesis is belabored and restated a number of times (academic filler material), but this is an important discussion to be had. How does art catalyze sense and spirituality “aimed toward progressive spiritual growth” (45)? McCullough takes roughly fifty pages to get to the point of trying to define art (craft, content, and context [Figure 03, p. 43]) and stating—in my own oversimplification—something that is quite well-known: the more one understands art, the more one may appreciate art, as well as the more one may gain from art. In this context, the gain intended is spiritual growth.

Part II: Practical Application
McCullough provides three examples in an attempt to demonstrate a practical application of his thesis: poetry (Four Quartets, T. S, Eliot), painting (The Four Holy Gospels, Makoto Fujimura), and music (Seven Last Words from the Cross, James MacMillan). Each of these is briefly discussed according to its craft, content, and context. The author writes, “I do not wish to write full-blown commentaries on these works, but something more akin to liner notes for a record album” (62), which is a shame because they do not, in my opinion, provide adequate commentary to qualify as examples of practical application of the original thesis (the chapter on Eliot provides only a hint of spirituality and does not appear to connect the reader with enough evidence to support its inclusion, though the subject matter itself certainly would if given greater attention; Fujimura’s is the most connected of the three, providing decent commentary on the purpose, method, and meaning behind the project, though the black and white images in a paperback do not help the reader; and MacMillan’s is, I believe, a poor example to use because of the tradition within which the music is composed, already easily recognized as “sacred” music intended for spiritual growth, meaning that the example appears to be stating the obvious). His conclusion, with which I concur: “Art is an irreducible amalgam of what is said and how it is said, to the point that they are inseparable” (101, emphasis original).

Part III: Conclusion
This “Part” is only five pages, restating and concluding in the tradition of this type of writing.

 

Truthfully, there’s some helpful material here despite its redundancy and what has already been noted concerning its practical application; however, much more work needs to be done in order to make it more accessible for a general audience. I’m now more interested in what the dissertation may have to offer.

Book Review: Q&A a Day for Creatives: 365 Questions, 4 Years, 1,460 Sketches: 4-Year Journal, by Potter Style

Q&A a Day for CreativesPotter Style, known for their interesting journals and quirky books related to games and literature, present their latest: Q&A a Day for Creatives, a four-year journal of a sketch-a-day with short bits of inspiration. Here’s how it’s laid out: Every page follows the solar calendar and contains an inspirational text and four 3.75”x3.75” (roughly) squares with “20_ _” in the bottom-left corner of each square. The idea is that one may begin anywhere in the calendar (say, the day you buy it), jot down the rest of the year in the first square (“2015”), read the text (September 15 reads, “What if you had to wear a disguise today? Picture it here.”), sketch whatever comes to mind, and repeat for four years, each year seeing those previous while sketching in the next square. (If you’re as curious as I am, you’ll quickly find that there is a page for February 29 with four squares. I say just fill them all in on that special day!) It’s certainly a neat idea to break up your day with a fresh idea and sketch to keep the brain going and seeing how one changes through the years. I like the idea, and I’m interested in seeing what comes from continued use.

With all that in mind, I’m a little disappointed in the paper used in this book intended for creative sketching. Crayons and colored pencil may do well, and graphite is fine on most paper but often smudges onto the opposite page. Any liquids (e.g., water color, pen & ink, etc.) should be avoided since the paper is too thin. Even using a normal felt or ballpoint pen is going to show through the other side if it doesn’t outright bleed through. So, keep this in mind if you’re looking for something to really have fun with. I’m probably going to stick with a simple, gel ink, ballpoint pen throughout.

 

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.