Sunday, May 15, 2011

Drawing Visual Illusions (Natalie Sirett)

Drawing Visual Illusions
Natalie Sirett
Metro Books
Nonfiction, YA? Art
***+ (Okay/Good)

DESCRIPTION: Visual arts are, in and of themselves, illusions: marks on flat surfaces, masquerading as faces, figures, and all manner of things. Some images do more than pretend to be something else. Through tricks of perspective and composition, they become something visually impossible - endless loops of staircases, shapes melding and metamorphosing, eye-twisting images that refuse to be interpreted in just one way. This book examines famous examples of visual illusions and explains how to make them yourself.

I found this in the Last Chance bin at Barnes & Noble, and figured it looked different (and cheap) enough to be worth a read. Sirett starts out with a quick overview of materials for artistic exercises throughout the book... perhaps too quick of an overview. She then covers many basic ideas that make illusion art work, examining images by popular illusionary artists from M.C. Escher to Salvadore Dali as well as her own works. The exercises themselves - of which there were fewer than implied by the introduction and jacket blurb - tend to gloss over important steps of construction, which she seems to consider irrelevant (a gross miscalculation when dealing with illusions that depend on realism.) Toward the end, Sirett wanders completely off topic to play with pen and ink techniques of little relevance to the stated concept of optical illusions. I learned just enough here to add the extra half-mark to an Okay rating. As bargain buys go, it wasn't terrible, but it would've been better with a stronger focus and more detailed exercises.

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