I’m back

Wow, I didn't mean to be away for so long - sorry about that. Despite my policy of trying to post most days, the last two weeks have been completely hopeless. Last week I had the cold from hell, on top of an existing illness and it just knocked me flat. I'm still sneezing explosively but at least I've got my voice back and I'm thankful that I'm no longer violently coughing quite so frequently. Ah well, at least it's taught me is that I need to store a backlog of extra posts to use when I'm not well - so I guess it was useful for something!

Needless to say, not much art has been happening around here lately - I've been managing to do my daily envelope for The Diary Project and that's been about it. However, in between doses of cough medicine and Lemsip, I have been getting plenty of knitting and reading done - so here, for your delectation and delight, is a book review.

Following Katherine's positive review of The Drawing Book by Dr. Sarah Simblet, I ordered a copy from the local library (don't you just love interlibrary loans!) and it's been my late night reading for the past week or so.

I can safely say that The Drawing Book will definitely be going on my Christmas wish list because it's absolutely chock full of good stuff, including one of the clearest explanations of traditional perspective that I've read.

The book is split into short, well written chapters on a variety of subjects including landscape drawing portraiture, nature drawing and even abstract drawing. I particularly liked that drawing from the imagination wasn't ignored - so many drawing instruction books focus solely on realism, which often puts me off since that's not my primary interest. Simblet introduces each topic with relevant drawings, both her own and other artists, before going on to detail a drawing exercise that the reader can attempt. However, even if you don't try any of the exercises - and I haven't yet - you'll still get a lot out of this book.

I was particularly struck by the way she looks at drawing with a fresh eye and how she's able to communicate that to the reader. The book is full of a wide range of great drawings and she has included some more unusual artists alongside the usual subjects such as Picasso, Goya and Rembrandt. The range of drawings is pleasingly global and stretches from neolithic cave painting right through to contemporary artists who are taking drawing in new directions. It was actually a little odd that I'd met three of the people whose work she showed but since she used to teach at my college and they also had links there, I guess it's not so very strange - the British art scene is staggeringly small at times!

The information about materials is also very solid. Apart from focusing on the usual things like paper, pencils, ink and charcoal - which all have handy, nicely illustrated, double page spreads scattered throughout the book - Simblet also highlights some more unusual drawing materials like silverpoint, which I've never considered using before and am now very keen to try. Her explanations of drawing materials are straightforward and easy to understand without being overly simplistic. Indeed, the same can be said for all the language throughout the book, which makes it pleasingly accessible - frankly, this is an absolute blessing since far too many art books are heavy-going to say the least.

I'd say this book would be good both for relative beginners and more experienced artists who are looking to expand or develop their drawing skills. Older children who are keen on art might also benefit from this book, not least because of the potted tour of art history. That said, I don't think it's a book that I'd give to a complete beginner because I think they might find it a bit daunting. But if you've been drawing for a little while and have got past the absolute basics, then I'd definitely recommend it - I've been drawing for years and I still learnt loads. Plus, it's beautifully laid out with high production values, reasonably priced, well edited and best of all, it doesn't make drawing seem boring!

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