Moira Huntly’s Sketchbook Secrets, by Moira Huntly, will inspire you to carry sketching supplies all the time.
It’s an especially good book to read when you’re planning a trip, and want to keep an illustrated travel journal while you’re on the road.
Or, if you’re participating in an all-day sketching marathon (like a “sketchcrawl”), you may refer to this book often, as you prepare for the day.
I’ve looked at a lot of books about keeping a sketchbook. Some are great. Most show illustrations that make me say:
- Umm, I’m not that good at sketching… not even close. (And, as a lifelong artist, that’s saying a lot.)
- I don’t have hours to include those kinds of details. Hello, I’ll be traveling! (Or waiting in the car for one of my kids. Or going past the site in a bus and a cloud of dust.)
- Okay, so I go home with a cool travel journal. Then it collects dust on my bookshelf. Why bother?
Ms. Huntly deals with all of those issues.
Are you an intermediate artist, or a novice with some sketching experience? Ms. Huntly’s sketches range from really simple to oh-my-goodness.
Her simple ones are most like what I’ll include in my journals. Even better, she shows how little detailing (or color) you can include for effects that will make you pause and say, “Wow… did I really draw that…?”
Though this book offers few how-to instructions, Ms. Huntly does simplify the whole “horizon line” issue of perspective: Whatever’s at eye level is your horizon. Stuff above that slopes down to the horizon level; objects below that line will slope up.
So, the issue of details becomes a non-issue. Whether you’re scribbling some lines and shapes in pencil as you fly past a cool site in a tour bus, or sitting at some wonderful cafe with hours on your hands, you can sketch what you see.
In addition, the author includes notes with many of her sketches. She describes the problems she encountered, the decisions she had to make, and what she found frustrating… and how she dealt with them. In some cases, she shows sketches that didn’t really work, and she explains why.
She talks about things like the little boats in the foreground give a sense of scale to the towering skyscrapers in the background. I hadn’t thought about that. (And frankly, I tend to be terrible at sketching boats, so I’d have left them out… except that I now see the point of including some.)
Finally, if you’ve wondered what to do with all those great sketches when you get home, Ms. Huntly shows many examples of paintings and colored drawings she created from her own sketches.
They’re juicy, evocative, and rich with emotions and splendor. In many cases, she’s taken a mundane, everyday scene and turned it into something awe-inspiring.
So, if you’re a fine artist and you’d like an art journal that’s filled with great ideas for gallery work, I think this book will inspire you, to0.
- Lots of pictures in a variety of techniques and materials, simple to advanced.
- People, buildings and landscapes from several countries. You’ll glean lots of ideas for great subjects, even in your hometown.
- Awe-inspiring completed works, from detailed sketches to full-scale paintings.
- After a list of materials and some basic tips, this is not a how-to book. If you want step-by-step drawing instructions, this isn’t the book for you.
- No photos to compare what she was looking at to what she actually drew. So, you’ll have to guess at how much she added, left out, and rearranged. (She explains some of that in the text with her sketches.)
- A lot of the art is very professional. If you “can’t draw a straight line,” this book may collect dust on your shelf until you’ve built your confidence… and your skills.
If you’re already someone who sketches, this is an ideal (and inspiring) book to own. Before a trip, follow Ms. Huntly’s suggestions and inspiration to sketch around your hometown. You’ll soon identify the techniques, materials, and subjects that you enjoy most. You’re ready to create wonderful travel journals, and finished art inspired by them!
Taking the Leap: Building a Career as a Visual Artist, by Cay Lang, is a good and important book for anyone who’s serious about a career in art.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you look at the broad field of art and art careers. (I tried to keep the list short at my Squidoo page about Art Careers. It’s still overwhelming.)
You need a starting point. One of my favorite parts of the movie, The Secret, is where the guy says something like, “If you think to yourself, ‘Well, I could do it that way, but I wish I didn’t have to,’ …that’s not it.”
In other words, if you’re not building the career of your dreams, pause. Rethink what you’re doing. If you’re doing something only because you think it’s the one-and-only way to succeed… you’re already off-track.
Art is about energy. If the energy isn’t there for you — and I mean in nearly every aspect of your career — find a way to make the energy happen.
I think it’s Stuart Wilde who talks about people buying energy, not things. When they buy your art, it’s about acquiring something that displays your unique energy. No energy = no sale.
So, you need a creative vision. You need a goal. You need a way to get there. And… you need to know the business side of a career in the visual arts.
Taking the Leap by Cay Lang is probably the best all-purpose guide to the nuts & bolt side of a career in the visual arts.
From the list of possible art careers, to creating your PR materials, to how to approach galleries and collectors… all the way to the ins & outs of contracts, Taking the Leap holds your hand and shows you what to do and what to avoid.
I won’t pretend this is light, amusing, inspiring reading.
Oh, it’s inspiring enough, especially when you read about the percentages of artists who are doing it wrong. They’re mistakes narrow the field considerably, giving you a h-u-g-e advantage.
But, this is roll-up-your-sleeves reading. It’s the kind of book you should own, and read when you’re serious about success. It’s as close to a blueprint for success as you’re going to find, with all the bits of information you’ll need to avoid costly blunders from the start.
My own copy is dog-eared and the spine — and a few pages — are stained with fruit juice. (I don’t drink coffee, or I’m sure there’d be coffee rings throughout this book.)
I understand artists. I’m one myself. We tend to try everything intuitive before looking for answers elsewhere.
And, by the time we’re consulting others, we’re usually securely in “starving artist” mode, reminding ourselves that Vincent Van Gogh sold one painting during his entire lifetime… and that was to a relative.
So, I understand that you don’t want to spend a cent that you don’t have to.
The good news is, you public library probably has a copy of this book. The newest edition is best, but if you have to use an older copy, that’s okay. You’ll find enough information in it to get things moving in the right direction.
However, before long, you’ll realize that this book is an important reference to have in your studio or home office. It’s that useful, no matter where you are in your art career.
Take the leap!
The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women, by Gail McMeekin is truly a “portable mentor” as the subtitle suggests.
Published over ten years ago, many of the book’s themes have been repeated, embellished and embraced in other books, workshops and forums.
However, much of this advice is timeless and as important today as it was then.
It is about moving forward as a creative woman, overcoming past obstacles and fear, and claiming your creative self.
The chapters in this book take the reader on a journey… the journey to creativity. It is broken into three “gateways”:
- Engaging Your Creativity
- Mastering Your Challenges as a Creative Woman
- Actualizing Creative Results: The Power of Positive Priorities
From my experience, many artists turn to books for help when they feel stuck and unproductive. This book addresses those issues head-on.
In the section about surrendering to creative cycles, the author reminds us, “In the creative cycles of birth and death and rebirth, there are times when we are empty of ideas, adrift in a sea of ambiguity and nothingness. These times can be labeled the neutral zone, the void, a vacuum. No matter what they are called, they are part of the creative cycle, and wise women accept them and trust that when it’s time, their inspirations will percolate again. The void beckons like a doorway to transformation and new beginnings.”
A later chapter talks about knowing what supports and detracts from your creativity, and how to identify your personal positive priorities.
In other words, it helps you create a basic structure — perhaps a map — of your best path to creative expression, and where its boundaries are.
The 45 women interviewed for this book include:
- Sarah Ben Breathnach
- Clarissa Pinkola Estes
- Shakti Gawain
- Chris Madden
- Sigrid Olsen
- Barbara Sher
You can open the book to almost any page and find something inspiring.
Quotes in the margins add depth to each section.
The interviews and stories represent a wide range of backgrounds, philosophies, and approaches to creativity.
Much of this reads like a textbook.
No pictures. I wanted a break from the words… photos, artwork, anything visual.
A little dated, since many of these ideas have become part of our popular culture in the past ten years.
If your public library has this book, check it out. (If they don’t, recommend it.) If you’re a full-time artist or aspire to be one, a used copy of this book is a smart investment in your creativity and peace of mind. There’s a lot of, “Whew! I’m normal” in reading this. There are also a lot of great solutions to the nagging problems some of us have (erroneously) accepted as “just part of the job.”
Collage, Assemblage and Altered Art by Diane Maurer-Mathison is a good book for a school, the library of an art organization or club, or a public library.
It’s a thorough book about collage and assemblage, and it demonstrates altered art as well. Though readers may not be able to find the exact items used in this project book, I think the ideas can be adapted to other materials, if your brain works in that direction.
However, if you want a by-the-numbers approach to learning collage, assemblage or altered art, the projects may not always work for you.
In addition, I can’t rave about this book without reservations.
I like the book cover. (Well, mostly.)
I wanted to be really excited about this book. I even read it twice, months apart.
But… it’s not an exciting book. Not for me, anyway.
Sure, there’s something for everyone in its pages, but also something to bore everyone… if they’re at all familiar with this field of art.
For me, the clue was the vintage photo with the clown’s hat (or dunce’s cap) on the cover. That was a cliche about ten years ago. At this point, that imagery can be annoying to old-timers (like me), but it might still charm people who are discovering collage and assemblage for the first time.
I don’t want to sound as if I hate this book. I don’t. I actually like it, but not enough to own it.
It’s the kind of book that teachers will love because it’s a good, general reference. Almost any student can find something inspiring in its pages.
Like most of Maurer-Mathison’s books, this is a top-quality approach to a broad, art-related subject. She touches on every major point that someone will want to know about, if they’re exploring collage, assemblage and altered art.
My problem is, I wanted more extravagance from Collage, Assemblage and Altered Art. I wanted the author — and the art in this book — to go out on a limb, try daring and exciting things, and generally inspire me. I’m not sure if the publisher was being conservative, or what, but — for me — the exuberance was missing.
Compare this book with Altered Curiosities by Jane Ann Wynn; for me, Wynn’s book will win, nine times out of ten.
That said, I don’t think Maurer-Mathison intended it as anything intense or controversial. It’s not quite a textbook, but… it’s a lot like one.
If you’re buying books for a public library or a school, get this book. That’s an easy choice, because your patrons will enjoy this book tremendously. It’ll be taken out of the library often, and recommended to others.
However, if it’s for your own bookshelf, I can’t give it the same endorsement.
Of course, you should take a look at it, but I recommend browsing through it at a local bookstore, instead of buying it sight-unseen at Amazon.
Collage, Assemblage and Altered Art by Diane Maurer-Mathison
Caffeine for the Creative Mind is on the very short list of books I rate with the full five stars. It’s that good.
Subtitled “250 Exercises to Wake Up Your Brain,” this book offers some tremendously fun and stimulating exercises to get you un-stuck as an artist… in minutes.
This book suggests things I’ve never seen anywhere else. For example: Write down 20 things that smell great when they are cooking.
See? Doesn’t that kick your senses out of the doldrums?
Or how about these:
- Go take 15 pictures of different kinds of barriers.
- Build the shell of a robot out of objects around you right now.
- Choose a song and make a children’s story out of it.
This book offers 250 fresh, exciting ways to refresh your brain and your creativity.
It’s visually inspiring, too. The presentation — a mix of fonts in a very creative book design — makes this book tremendous fun to flip through.
Ordinarily, I try to say something negative (but fair) about every book, even those I rave about. With this book… I can’t think of anything bad to say about it.
Go buy a copy and take it out when you’re stuck. It will work. I promise.