Sunday, November 18, 2012

Two Book Reviews

Since I love creative books and have collected and read so many over the years, I tried cutting back this year. After all, there is only so much shelf space. Yes, I tried reading art and craft ebooks but was very disappointed—so many juicy photographs and layouts left out—and these type of tomes need to be held, taken down from shelves, consulted, propped open when doing exercises. Beginning to feel malnourished, I recently ordered “Personal Geographies” and "Artist's Journal Workshop". Turns out I made good choices!

I have not gotten too far into “Personal Geographies” and already it has provided me with incredible inspiration and ideas. Jill K. Berry has a unique angle of creating personal maps in this mixed-media technique guide that stretches your mind, whether or not you actually do the projects. Reading a little at a time, I already have topics for journal spreads as well as larger pieces. Ms. Berry gives you a broad outline of what she did and why but since you tailor-fit the exercises to your own life, the possibilities are endless. Not only are Ms. Berry’s finished pieces insightful but the other contributing artists have additional ideas.

Usually I focus on one art technique book at a time. But, I couldn’t help it—I started reading “Artist’s Journal Workshop” by Cathy Johnson, as well. Her segment on the 2012 Strathmore online workshops earlier this year was one of my top favorites from the last two years. As a testament to her gentle and encouraging teaching style, I almost wanted to dive into watercolors--her chosen media-- even though I do not use them.

Instead of reviewing which materials to use in your artist journal, she begins asking three thoughtful questions that may define your approach. Ms. Johnson draws and paints exquisitely. I love reading her journal spreads as well as the other invited artists. Even though the focus is on realism, not my usual approach, I do not feel intimidated. I go through periods of wanting to sketch. My drawing is usually confined to small notebooks, working out bookbinding choices about covers, papers, closures or designing 3-D projects and assemblages. But sometimes I want to stretch, illustrating photographs I have taken or exploring memories or dreams. Ms. Johnson gives you courage, guidance, and advice.

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