Mix & Match Valentine's Day Cards - 2021 Version
100 Days of Art Botanical: Days 1-10

Library Book Book Reviews: February 2021

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I thought that I would resurrect an old blog feature: Book Club...but with a twist! 

If you listen to the podcast then you know that I love our local library.  And I love requesting books from different library branches all over the state of Massachusetts and being able to pick them up at my local library. For free.  A public library truly is an amazing thing!

One of the main ways that I use my library is to figure out whether or not a book is buy-worthy.  Over the years I've bought a ton of books online -- based on recommendations or loving the artwork of a particular author or pure guesswork -- only to be totally disappointed in the book.  Then it sits on my shelf staring at me.  Lately, I've started to grab the books I'm interested in from my local library.  After the kind of flip through you'd do in a book store, I can usually tell whether or not I'm truly interested. But I still like to live with the book for a week or two and decide if it's buy-worthy.  Being buy-worthy is a personal thing.  One person's bible is another person's boring.  It all depends on the individual. Nonetheless, I decided that I might as well share my book explorations with you.  I tend to pick up a new stash of books about once a month.  These are the four I currently have on my desk:

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How to Keep a Sketchbook Journal by Claudia Nice

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My first thought upon glancing at this book: Not for me.  If I had been browsing, I would have put it back on the shelf.  However, since I had it in my house, one night I decided to actually read it.  And you know what?  I found some useful stuff!  It's still not a book that I want to buy and that's okay.  Here's what I liked:

  • Claudia Nice breaks down the different types of sketchbook journals that one could keep based on the purpose of keeping that sketchbook journal.  I didn't necessarily agree with her categorizations, but I like the idea of starting a sketchbook with a clear purpose.
  • I really liked the DIY denim tool case she shows how to make.  It's a nice alternative to the super cool but super spendy ones that are out there.
  • There were a lot of drawing tips and her journal pages are beautiful.  Not my style, but it's all good information.

Sketchbook Confidential: Secrets from the private sketches of over 40 master artists edited by Pamela Wissman and Stefanie Laufersweiler

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No instruction.  Just inspiration.  Each of the included artists has four pages of their sketches and thoughts on keeping a sketchbook.  I really enjoyed reading this one and being introduced to some new artists.  Of note:

  • I laughed to myself when Claudia Nice (author of the first book in this post) showed up as one of the sketchbook artists in this book!
  • I did look up one artist whose sketchbooks I loooooooved only to discover that her instagram feed is full of her finished work, which (interestingly) I do not care for.  Isn't that odd?
  • The editors gathered a variety of artists -- most are realistic oil painters, but there are sculptors, an abstract artist, a jewelry maker, and others.
  • I found that I enjoyed the text more than the images.  I glanced over the images for context, but I devoured the words.  Lots of great contradictory thoughts. Some artists sketch occasionally and others every day.  (Though, almost everyone said that sketching is a muscle and must be exercised at least weekly if not daily.)  Some sketch to get to finished work, some sketch to make sense of their ideas, some sketch to document...but every artist indicated a need to sketch.
  • I enjoyed this book and would recommend it as a good read.  However, I feel no need to add it to my personal library.  It was a really good borrow from the public library, but not something I foresee referring back to.  
  • I now have two handwritten pages of quotes I wrote down while I read this book.

Practical Mixed-Media Printmaking by Sarah Riley

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This book isn't for me.  I think there are some great ideas in there, but it's not written for me.  The writing is very formal.  This is definitely an academic artist writing for other academic artists.  Most importantly, almost all of the techniques work best when you have access to a printing or etching press.  I ended up flipping through this one pretty fast after trying to read the first few pages.  On the plus side, I enjoyed the artist profiles scattered throughout the book and it's always interesting to read about art techniques.  If you have access to press, this might be a book you'd enjoy.  The Amazon reviews are almost all 5-star.

Sketchbook Explorations for Mixed-Media and Textile Artists by Shelley Rhodes

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This one had me at hello. From it's slightly fuzzy cover to the beautiful artwork inside, I fell in love with the aesthetics of this book.  It covers a lot of the same territory as the other two sketchbook books in this blog post, but with one BIG difference: the focus is on abstract work.  I've seen a lot of sketchbooks from figurative painters, cartoonists, and landscape artists, but I feel like the sketchbooks of abstract artists are rarely shown.  Does that mean abstract artists don't keep sketchbooks?!  I find that difficult to believe.  And certainly, Shelley Rhodes, and the artists whose work she shares, have filled many sketchbooks between them.  This one I'm going to have to purchase to add to my library.  I also need to buy a can of soda in order to make one of her "cola pens" -- a pen made from a tin can.  Some other things I love about this book:

  • Shelley Rhodes calls her sketchbooks "workbooks" and that tickles my brain in all the right places.
  • She has many of the same beliefs that I do about using old projects and cutting things up.  I feel like she and I are process compatible.  When seeking out a teacher (which is exactly what the author of a book is) it's important to find someone with whom you are process compatible.  You can still learn from people who are not, but it makes for an easier and more pleasant experience when you're aligned. And please note that I said: process compatible.  It's actually MORE important to be process compatible than finished outcome compatible.  That is the big mistake that many people make.  This is probably a podcast topic or a blog post because I have a lot to say on the subject, but I'll leave it alone for now.
  • Shelley Rhodes doesn't confine herself to the traditional book format and I love that.  Her "walk sketches," done on long strips of paper, are something that I'm going to try to do.
  • I think this book offers a perfect balance (for me) of inspiration and instruction.
  • One of the most unusual parts of the book is also one of my favorites: Shelley Rhodes discusses how she organizes her pages to be aesthetically pleasing.  Not because they're finished work, but because that's part of her creative process.
  • Overall a book that I will refer back to.  I also followed Shelley Rhodes on instagram and you should too!

So there you have it, a round-up of this month's library haul. Have your read any of these?  If not, what's on your bookshelf at the moment?

Thanks for stopping by!

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