review: Everyday Watercolor

Everyday Watercolor

Everyday Watercolor: Learn to paint watercolor in 30 days by Jenna Rainey

Like a lot of folks, I’ve always admired the beauty of watercolor paintings and I feel like it’s a medium that appears to be more simple than it is – it’s not that it’s hard to use, but it’s hard to use well. This book takes you from color theory and other basics through the essential techniques all the way to complex layering. Each of five sections offers half a dozen daily assignments so you can build your skills and, as you add on to your previous knowledge, build a repertoire of techniques that will allow you to do whatever you want with watercolor. Each assignment includes the amount of time required to complete it, most of which are an hour or less.

full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books

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review: Color Index XL

Color Index XL

Color Index XL: More than 1,100 new palettes with CMYK and RGB formulas for designers and artists by Jim Krause

If you’re a designer or work with color in some other way, this book may be a handy tool. It is exactly what the subtitle says: it’s a collection of color palettes you can use to create a professional and pleasing look to the things you make. Each page has four versions of a palette – bright, light, dark, and muted – which include a lovely color image accompanied by the CMYK and RGB codes for each color used. The designs which demonstrate each palette are reminiscent of the tangram puzzles you may have enjoyed as a kid and may also be used as inspiration for creators. I can definitely see myself using this book as a tool while designing quilts and knitting designs. In addition to being useful, this book is also fun to flip through as a sort of art piece, if you’re into this sort of thing.

full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books

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review: A well-crafted home

a well-crafted home

A well-crafted home: inspiration and 60 projects for personalizing your space by Janet Crowther

This book is part of the current trend of making decor that will appear to be used or vintage. For many of them, you might be able to find materials at an estate sale or flea market, but you could also use new materials from Home Despot or your local hardware store. Each project is designated with a skill level and includes a finished size, so it’s easy to see at a glance if a particular project will work for both your ability and the space you have in mind. This aesthetic of this book, with matte color photos filled with tone-on-tone shades of cream, and its projects will appeal to fans of the decor on Fixer Upper. I feel like a few of these might actually be things that they’ve done on that show! The textiles used in the sample projects make you wish you could put your hands on them – you can almost feel the linen used to make a pillowcase and duvet. The book closes with instructions for a few of the techniques used, including several types of dyeing, a few ways of sewing seams, basic woodworking techniques, leather cutting, and distressing a mirror for an antique look. Like most books of this type, you may end up spending more on materials than you would buying a pre-made shabby chic item at a big box store, but the goal Crowther espouses is to enjoy the process as much as the product.

full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books

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Review: The Keto Reset Diet

The Keto Reset Diet

The Keto Reset Diet: Reboot your metabolism in 21 days and burn fat forever by Mark Sisson with Brad Kearns

This is a diet plan for those who are looking for a way to lose weight and aren’t shy about eating a very specific selection of types of foods. The idea behind this plan might sound familiar – it’s designed around eating high protein and very-low-if-any carbs. You follow this extremely strict plan for three weeks and then gradually ease up on those restrictions. This book includes both general guidelines and detailed meal plans for those 21 days. It also provides charts outlining grams of carbs, fat, and protein and total calories for the ingredients/portions used in the meal plans. All the recipes using those ingredients are also provided, so you can make all the items on the meal plans. I’m not good at restrictive diets myself – I tend to go overboard and then get mad at the world when I’m unsatisfied – and I’m not a medical professional or scientist, but I’ve heard from other folks that it has worked well for them. Your mileage may vary!

full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books

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review: the life-changing manga of tidying up

the life-changing manga of tidying up

the life-changing manga of tidying up: a magical story by Marie Kondo, illustrated by Yuko Uramoto

Are you a fan of the life-changing magic of tidying up? Or maybe you are looking for a different way into the Marie Kondo way of life? This book is a story-fied version of the original concept: it has a main character, Chiaki Suzuki, who is a young woman living in a cluttered Tokyo apartment. Her neighbor who likes to keep things tidy and Marie Kondo (AKA KonMari) herself also feature in the narrative. The story takes Chiaki from living a social life that mirrors her messy home to streamlining her wardrobe and letting go of the tangible reminders of past relationships. The concept that physical possessions weigh you down and hold you in the past will be familiar to KonMari devotees, as is the idea of using objects and clothing to spark joy and live a more fulfilling life.

full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books

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review: The Essential Instant Pot Cookbook

The Essential Instant Pot Cookbook

The Essential Instant Pot Cookbook: Fresh and foolproof recipes for your electric pressure cooker by Coco Morante

Instant Pots are all the rage these days! We don’t have one (yet) but since K does virtually all the cooking in our household, it’s up to him to want one enough to actually get one. So I haven’t actually tried these recipes myself, but they look pretty good. The recipes cover a wide variety of things: breakfast dishes, bean and grain-based recipes, soups, meat-specific meals (poultry, pork, and beef), veggies and side dishes, and desserts. It also includes basic info on operating this piece of equipment, troubleshooting for common problems, a list for stocking your pantry for cooking with it, and how the pressure system works. There’s also a chapter on converting other recipes to work with an Instant Pot. The book is divided into chapters by type of dish and is indexed for easy reference.

full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books

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review: Color Squared

Color Squared

Color Squared: Color, Dot, Dash, or Stamp Your Way to Pixel Art by Lee Meredith

Coloring books for grown-ups are super popular these days. This is a take on those, but each image is a grid with a number or letter in each square. You fill those squares in using your tool of choice and, gradually, a pixelated image will appear. Instructions are included for using different ways of filling in the squares, such as drawing circles, lines, or dots. A basic monotone image is included for each coloring page, showing what it would look like if you filled each square fully using greyscale.

full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books

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review: Perspective in Action

Perspective in Action

Perspective in Action: Creative exercises for depicting spatial representation from the Renaissance to the Digital Age by David Chelsea

Do you remember sitting in a school hallway drawing lockers to learn how to capture perspective? I can totally recall the big brown drawing surface balanced on my knees and the quiet concentration of a class of middle graders focused on something that seemed like a Very Important Life Skill. This book takes a practical approach and uses sequential art (it looks like a comic book/graphic novel) to take the reader step by step. Many of the panels show not just what’s being drawn but the artist or artist’s hand as well, giving a really easy to follow demonstration of the technique being described. It even has a chapter on motion perspective, so you can draw your own animated gif!

full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books

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review: Colored Pencil Painting Portraits

Colored Pencil Painting Portraits by Alyona Nickelsen

Colored Pencil Painting Portraits: Master a revolutionary method for rendering depth and imitating life by Alonya Nickelsen

I have not done much in the way of colored pencil art myself, but I am a fan of picture books and some of my favorites use colored pencil (among other media). This book focuses on realistically rendered portraits, though, so it’s quite different from those picture books. Nickelsen focuses on using colored pencils to achieve the look of painting and starts with a discussion of some of the other tools that can be used (solvents, blenders, fixatives, and such). She then moves on to discuss portraiture techniques while integrating specific tips related to using colored pencils throughout. The book closes with a focus on five portraits she created, detailing the tools she used and steps she took to create them. An appendix rates various brands of colored pencils when used with different types of papers.

full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books

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review: Manga Art

Manga Art

Manga Art: Inspiration and techniques from an expert illustrator by Mark Crilley

I’m familiar with Mark Crilley from way back – he was a speaker at several youth librarian conferences back when I was heavily involved in planning said conferences (he lives in Michigan, so he was easier to book than some out-of-state folks) and his books became popular in my library (place of work) pretty quickly after he started releasing them. He’s known for his manga illustrations and in this book, he shares information about drawing in the manga style with lots and lots of examples. Lest you think it’s all one thing, these examples are created using a variety of techniques and variations within the manga style, so the illustrations aren’t monotonous – you might not necessarily guess right off the bat that they’re all created by the same person. For each example, Crilley offers a personal story about how, why, and when he created it, all with the purpose of celebrating the process of making art. Appealing for young folks and adults.

full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books

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