Art Group. February 2016

This month I tried a few different drawing subjects at Art Group: people, animals and still life. As I am only using these sessions to practice my drawing skills, I am still copying from other images I have found online. Having said that, these are not exact replicas – my own developing style comes into play and I omit or add certain details.

The animals – an elephant and a bear – were only quick sketches and I am not sure that I have got the proportions correct. Someone at the art group offered to photocopy the elephant so that I could experiment with colouring it in. I rejected this at the time, but this is an idea I could take up in the future. Maybe with a drawing I am happier with.

The drawing I am most pleased with is the Sorting Hat from the Harry Potter franchise. I copied this from an image I found on Pinterest. Whilst I was drawing I could tell that my version was not accurate in comparison to the original. The eyes and mouth are a lot higher on the picture I was copying from. I thought I had ruined the whole drawing, but once I looked at it separately from the printout, I saw that it still looked like hat from the films. I got a lot of comments from some of the other group attendees, including one I was probably not meant to hear: “she’s so good isn’t she?”

After looking at examples of my art work, someone told me my drawings deserve to be in a museum. She then proceeded to show me examples of Rembrandt’s paintings saying that I should attempt something like that. A bit too ambitious, maybe!

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How To Draw Anything: a review

If you can write your name, you have enough touch to learn to draw

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How To Draw Anything by Mark Linley

Author/artist Mark Linley believes that anyone can learn to draw and inspires everyone to pick up a pencil and create a work of art. Unlike many ‘how to draw’ books – those that provide step by step visual aids but no further insight – Linley goes into a lot more written detail.

First of all an artist needs to be able to look properly. Without studying the subject or object properly, no one would be able to produce an accurate sketch. Starting with landscapes, Linley tells the reader how to and what to look for when beginning a drawing in order to get a basic outline. It is only after this is down on paper that specific details can be added.

Linley explains various methods of shading and line marks to give a suggestion of perspective, and emphasises that an illustration does not need to be 100% accurate – that is what cameras are for. After landscapes, Linley takes the reader/future artist through plants, animals, people and cartoons in a similar manner.

Each chapter provides the reader with a few assignments to undertake based on what they have read, or the example illustrations. Many of these tasks are to copy Linley’s own examples, however he stresses that the outcome does not need to – or rather should not – look exactly like his. Each artist needs to develop their own style.

I found How To Draw Anything a lot more useful than the ever popular step-by-step guides that most people gravitate to. In those types of books we are NOT taught to draw, we are taught to copy. You may be able to accurately draw the same cat as the artist/author of the book, but you would not know where to start when face with a real life cat. Linley tells us what to look out for and where to start in these situations – you feel like you are actually learning something.

Mark Linley comes across as a humorous individual – his writing is full of puns and quips, intending to make the reader smile or laugh out loud, thus making them feel more relaxed about the subject. Linley does not only attempt to teach people how to draw, he tries to make each of us feel more comfortable about our abilities and encourages us to keep on trying.

Before reading this book I had already begun developing my own illustration style, however I gave a few of Linley’s assignments a try (see below). I am pleased with my outcomes and feel inspired to try more landscape drawings in the future.

 

Art Therapy: An Anti-Stress Colouring Book

Doodle and colour your stress away!

61d6gncxsllI was given a copy of this colouring book, Art Therapy, for Christmas a couple of years ago, before they became the latest craze. It was not until during the past half a year that I seriously got into colouring. Some people scoff and ridicule the idea that colouring can relieve stress, however, in my experience, it really can!

This particular book contains drawings from three different illustrators: Hannah Davies, Richard Merritt and Cindy Wilde; however you would not know it as all the pages are a similar style. The images range from animals, flowers and objects, to basic and complicated patterns.

With hundreds of colouring books to choose from, what makes Art Therapy, and others from the same series, different from the rest? Firstly, most of the patterns have been started for you. Some people may argue this is a negative point, yet I find it quite useful. I use the starting colours as a theme to stick to throughout the page (see above for examples). I like structure and rule following therefore this is a great book for me. Secondly, the book is split into to halves: images and patterns to colour in, and unfinished images and patterns. The second part of the book allows the owner of the book to finish the outlines of the colouring pages however they wish before colouring them in. This helps to nurture and develop illustration skills. I have not attempted these pages yet as I am moving through the book methodically (I did say I like structure and rule following!), I will post examples at a later date.

The paper quality is extremely good, a lot better than many other colouring books I have come across. Even though I do not use them (I only use pencils), this book should be suitable for felt tip pens – although I would avoid Sharpies, they go through everything!

Now the downside… it is a hardback. Not the easiest to colour in with it on your lap whilst watching television (although I manage some how). I have only completed 21 pages so far and I am already worried that it is going to fall apart. Having said that, the other day I noticed that The Works were selling a paper back version! Perhaps invest in that format if you are thinking of buying this book.

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Children’s Picture Books: an evolution of British culture or childish commodities?

That was the title of my thesis I wrote in 2012. I wanted to write about something that interested me, something I would enjoy researching. At this point in my Graphic Design studies I was strongly interested in illustration, but I was aware that there was not enough theory surrounding the topic to use as a foundation of an essay, particularly one that needed to be based around an argument. So, I turned to picture books.

Reading has been a great joy for me – I usually get through over 100 books a year. Like most children I began learning through picture books, where the story was told through images rather than words. It felt natural to combine my love of reading and illustration together to result in the topic of children’s picture books.

However, I could not only write about books; I needed an argument. So, insert another of my passions: history, in particular British history. I decided to look at the evolution of the picture book in regards to the changes in British culture. Were children’s books moving in sync with the changing times, or were they purely a commodity, a way of making money?

Now that I had these elements in place it was easy to find relevant research and build up my argument. I was commended on my choice of question; I was told it was unique and very interesting. I enjoyed writing it – something other students found hard to believe.

For obvious reasons I cannot post my dissertation online, but I would like to share with you, three of the books I gathered for my research that I found extremely interesting and informative. If you are interested in this subject matter I highly recommend you seek these out.

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Puffin By Design: 70 Years of Imagination 1940-2000 
by Phil Baines

I admit that this book was not about picture books, but about children’s books in general. Therefore it was the least informative for my essay. Nonetheless, I would have bought this book regardless as book design is another area that I am greatly interested in.

Puffin By Design is essentially a visual timeline of book covers produced for Puffin (an imprint of Penguin Books) from the date of its formation until the publication of this book in 2010. Although mostly full of imagery, Phil Baines provides an insight into the development of Puffin and the changes in illustration and typography over the seven decades. Readers are shown the changing appearance of the books in order to appeal to youngsters of the era, to encourage them to read (or arguably buy).

Due to the lack of written word, and the fact that Puffin By Design mostly focuses on reading books rather than picture books, this book was the least cited in my thesis. However I could spend hours flicking through this book. It shows what has been successful in the past and thus is full of inspiration for upcoming designers wanting to work in the world of book publishing.

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Children Reading Pictures: Interpreting Visual Texts
by Evelyn Arizpe and Morag Styles

Children Reading Pictures is the result of a two year study, in which the authors interviewed a selection of primary school aged children to discover their understanding and interpretation of the illustrations within picture books.

Whilst not necessarily the most stimulating book to read, it is actually full of really interesting findings. Children are a lot more insightful than the average adult gives them credit for. Some of the interviewees were from migrant families, who had not yet got a grasp on the English language. These children were able to understand the stories to a certain extent purely by analysing the illustrations. When questioned, many were able to relate the images to events in their own lives. What some people may disregard as childish nonsense is actually extremely educational – children can learn as much from pictures as they can from words (and thus, as I argued, are easy targets for consumerism).

One of the more helpful chapters in Children Reading Pictures, in regards to my essay, was the interview and analysis of books by Anthony Browne, who, alongside Lauren Child, was one of the authors I heavily focused on in my writing. As students of English Literature will know, author’s works get ripped apart by teachers and lecturers in order to find meaning that was possibly not intended in the first place. In this case that was not a problem. Browne was able to provide an insight to his intentions when writing and drawing his books, and thus this can be viewed as a reliable source.

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Children’s Picturebooks: The Art of Visual Storytelling
by Martin Salisbury and Morag Styles

This was my favourite book that I bought for my thesis research. I could sit and read this for hours and hours. It was perfect for what I needed. Like with Puffin by DesignChildren’s Picturebooks is a visual timeline from the very first recorded book for children up until the present day (2012). However, this was a book about the INSIDE of the books, the actually stories, rather than the front covers.

Yet Children’s Picturebooks was so much more than a mere timeline. Salisbury looked into the key stages that make a picture book successful: the illustration, the typography, the story lines etc. With examples of famous illustrators, Salisbury demonstrates how artists and authors have kept children interested and managed to keep this dynamic sector of the publishing industry going.

This was perhaps the most cited book in my thesis (I admit I was warned about using it too much). There were chapters about controversial topics and the arguments as to whether children should be subjected to these or not. Could pictures influence the way children think or behave? – a perfect opinion to challenge in my essay!

 

If you are interested in book design, children’s books or illustration, I urge you to take a look at these books. You will not be disappointed.

For those looking for ideas for their own dissertation, I advise you to pick something you are interested in. This will make research less of a chore and much more enjoyable. You may be thinking that there is not enough content to write an essay on your passion, however combined with other elements you are bound to develop a question with a great amount of theory to back you up. Good luck and happy writing!