Thursday, November 25, 2010

Encyclopedia of Mysterious Places (Robert Ingpen and Philip Wilkinson)

Encyclopedia of Mysterious Places
Robert Ingpen and Philip Wilkinson
Barnes & Noble Books
Nonfiction, History
*** (Okay)

DESCRIPTION: From all corners of the globe and across a wide swath of history and prehistory, a number of archaological wonders and puzzles - from legendary cities to confounding relics of lost cultures - are discussed and illustrated here.

REVIEW: Another bargain-shelf gamble, I bought it hoping for inspiration. Unfortunately, this is a case of the subject matter being far more interesting than the presentation. The articles are sketchy at best and classroom-textbook boring at worst, and the illustrations are sometimes maddeningly obscure, choosing to depict a random artifact rather than a coherent map of the structure and failing to highlight what the text claimed were the chief curiosities about several structures. Many of the cities and structures mentioned I hadn't heard of, except perhaps vaguely. Instead of walking away knowing more about them, mostly I walked away wishing I'd bought a better book. If nothing else, though, it succeeds in reminding readers that there is far more we've forgotten about our own history than we like to admit.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

How to Paint and Draw Animals (David Astin)

How to Paint and Draw Animals
David Astin
Intercontinental Book Productions
Nonfiction, Art
*** (Okay)

DESCRIPTION: The artist describes the basics of drawing such animals as dogs, cats, horses, and birds. Also included are demonstration drawings of several subjects in different media, as well as notes on colors, composition, and the value of sketching from life.

REVIEW: On the surface, this makes a decent primer for animal drawing. Astin's methods of breaking down the structures of various subjects almost go too primitive, to the point of being unhelpful. I also wasn't sure about the demonstration projects. But he has some decent stuff here, presented in a relatively unintimidating format. Astin also touches (briefly) on birds, which several animal drawing books I own ignore completely. If you wanted to start drawing animals realistically, you could do worse than to start here, but I think other artists have covered the same material in other works, with more interesting results.