I was lucky enough to receive this book for my birthday, a very good choice by my husband, it turns out – I hadn’t even heard of it. ‘A Bigger Message – Conversations with David Hockney’ has received great reviews since its publication some years ago. (Just take a look at the Amazon reviews and goodreads)
I found it very accessible and, contrary to my usual greedy, gobbling approach, I paced myself so that I actually stood a chance of digesting some of the ideas Hockney explores. Bitesize chunks, with time to consider in between.
The book takes the form of a wide-ranging dialogue between the author and Hockney, giving an insight into the mind of the artist, his approach to art and his constant quest to represent the world and imagination. The dialogue roams widely, from comparing the use of different types of perspective (I’d never considered there could be more than one) and the limitations of photography, to how the iPad is changing art. There are plenty of pictures too!
I found the ideas gave me a new perspective (haha), and Hockney himself seems very engaging and a real ‘live wire.’ It was revealing also to hear the back story behind some of his pictures, which helped me to make sense of his progression in art and how he’s arrived at the style he has today.
I know that I will come back to this book, and I’ll be lending it to friends with an interest in art. If you get a chance to borrow a copy, I’d say ‘Yes,’ find a comfy chair and take the phone off the hook…
I adore pop-up books. It’s the ingenuity of the designers which intrigues me the most – the ability to produce the 3D model from 2 dimensions.
I’m lucky enough to have a very small collection of modern pop-ups, mostly by master ‘paper engineer’ illustrators, Sabuda and Reinhart. They are known for their triumphs with dinosaurs and castles, and they have also illustrated storybooks, including The Wizard of Oz, complete with hot air balloon. It seems they can bring any subject to life, springing from the page. I treasure these books, and hope that they will survive down the generations, until their glue and wonderful folds give up…
If you’re interested in finding out more, there’s an interesting interview here in which Sabuda and Reinhart discuss their process, and a clip of them talking about their work:
Does the brush paint, or does the ink? Or does the paper, the hand, the brain, the mind, the vision, or the person? Or does a painting paint? – Kazuaki Tanahashi, Brush Mind
This book is illustrated with close-ups of one-line calligraphic strokes from East Asian influence, and contains some of Tanahashi’s musings on the creative process. Some are written as haiku. A couple of my favourite quotes are:
You can’t hide anything in a line. You are there whatever line you draw. And you will stay there, even when you go somewhere else…
In the Oriental calligraphic tradition, you are not supposed to touch up or white out a trace of your brush. Every brush stroke must be decisive; there is no going back. It’s just like life.
It’s all food for thought. And on that note, back to it.
Well, after my watercolour efforts the previous day, I needed a real contrast. When I feel a bit short on ideas, my first port of call is 200 Projects to Get You Into Art School. It’s not a detailed ‘how to’ book, more of a ‘Jack of all trades’. However, it does present a good range of options to try, and I take the view that once I have an interesting idea for an approach I can either develop it myself or explore online for more inspiration or technical advice.
As I was flicking through the book, my eye was caught by a striking portrait made from a collage of torn magazine pages. Now let’s be clear, I’ve never been into collage, I couldn’t see its appeal. But yesterday, tearing and sticking seemed to be just what I needed to get over the wrangling with paint of the day before.
I chose a rose for my picture, raided my old Sunday supplements, grabbed a glue stick and plunged in. The paper often tore unpredictably, and it was quite fiddly as I was working small (8x8ins). But the the resulting interesting rugged edges showed up well on the black sketchbook and added an unusual dimension. It was, unexpectedly, tremendous fun!
I realised afterwards that the process has also taught me a lot about looking at block shapes of colour and tone, a useful exercise in itself. Every day you learn a little…
It contains wonderful, weird and downright brilliant portraits produced by artists from many different countries. Some artists have chosen cartoon or graphic styles, others total realism, and still others seem to be on a completely different plane. Some interpretations are funny, and some deadly serious. And what a range of media and approaches. There’s everything from watercolours to digital art, oils and graphite, mixed media and acrylic, pills and nail varnish.
For example, Jason Mecier makes portraits from junk associated with the person or character he’s showing. I love hisNicholas Cageportrait – so much detail to look at, and humorous too.
But I have to be honest, my favourite images in the book are by Stina Persson. Her watercolours are gloriously colourful and free, quite delicious.
Maybe one day… but in the meantime, I can think of nothing I’d like more than to spend an hour or two just revelling in this book.
So far, I’ve been impressed by the Brushes app for iPad. It’s so intuitive, it is very easy to get started ‘painting’ and experimenting. Although I wouldn’t want to be confined to digital art, it does offer some true benefits. One of the great advantages of drawing on a tablet is that it allows you to work in very low light conditions which present tremendous difficulties for traditional media. Plus, it requires no effort to get materials out and clearing up is a press of a button. Marvellous.
Here’s two similar pictures I’ve produced – one is using Brushes, the other’s in Conte pastels. It was an interesting experiment – the experimental digital version came first, and was much quicker (albeit not as accurate)!
I love paper; it’s so versatile. Mark, cut, score, layer, fold, tear, paint, quill – whatever you choose, from two dimensions to three, it’s cheap, accessible and full of potential.
To see what paper can do in the hands of real artists, Push Paper is worth a look. It showcases an impressive range of approaches, from huge 3D sculptures to miniature masterpieces and ‘cutting-edge’ creations.
And then there’s Joe Bagley – incredible detail and skill, not to mention patience.
I just had to try the self portrait again, to see if I could improve. This time I took some advice and found a piece of leftover mount board to sketch on; I didn’t worry too much at the time that it was a sludgy green. That, it turned out, was a mistake.
Overnight I’d done some reading about portraits, mostly from Betty Edwards’ book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. I’d been impressed by the way she managed, in just 5 days, to get her pupils from producing childish pictures to credible self-portraits. How hard could it be?
Betty gives a lot of useful advice about proportion and relationship between one area of the head and another. I used these techniques in my next picture. They did help, but the portrait I produced looked extremely cross and still didn’t look like me. In fact my son dubbed it Shrek princess, partly due to the green background which shows through the pastels (lesson learned).
I was encouraged that at least the board was a better surface than the heavily textured paper I had previously used, but decided that next time I would choose an even smoother card. And maybe not focus quite so much on the jowls…