review: Foundations of Drawing

Foundations of Drawing

Foundations of Drawing: A practical guide to art history, tools, techniques, and styles by Al Gury

Looking for a book to use as a text while teaching yourself to draw (or to improve your drawing skills)? This one is designed for that purpose. Starting off with a history of drawing, Gury moves through prehistory, ancient, medieval, renaissance, baroque, nineteenth century, modern, and contemporary eras of how drawing has been used in art. From there, things move to the practical, with chapters on materials, skills, aesthetics, and demonstrations (still life, portraits, the human figure, etc.). Works of art by the author and other artists of varying degrees of fame are used as examples throughout, tying directly to the points made in the text. Includes index.

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

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review: Of Cats and Men

Of Cats and Men

Of Cats and Men: Profiles of History’s Great Cat-Loving Artists, Writers, Thinkers, and Statesmen by Sam Kalda

Ever wondered about the love of cats held by some famous dudes? This book showcases 30 guys who love (or loved, as some are no longer living) cats. Lots of writers and artists are included, and for each a few paragraphs describe the part that cats played in their lives. Some cat-related quotes are highlighted, and portraits of each man also feature at least one cat. The illustrations are attractive, modern compositions that depict the subject in their milieu. All of these fellows are very well-known, most are white, and most are American, and I’m not sure that the world needs more books focused on this pretty narrow range of humanity, but the art is appealing.

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

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review: Portrait Revolution

Portrait Revolution

Portrait Revolution: Inspiration from around the world for creating art in multiple mediums and style (with 450 portraits from the artists of Julia Kay’s portrait party) by Julia L. Kay

Author Julia Kay challenged herself to do a three-year project in which she made a self-portrait every day. At the close of those three years (in 2010), she started JKPP: Julia Kay’s Portrait Party, which she defines as “an international collaborative project in which artists all over the world make portraits of each other.” She created a flickr group (which now includes around 1000 members) and participants began making portraits of one another and the discussion and interaction became quite lively (this project started on flickr at a time when it was much easier to form communities there and in the years since, changes to the site have made it more difficult in my experience). Between 2010 and the creation of this book, artists from over 50 countries created and shared over 50,000 portraits, highlights of which are included here. Chapters arrange the portraits by media, by style, and by theme, and each portrait includes the title (first name and country of the subject), artist, media (physical and digital techniques are both included), original size, and a brief statement from the artist about the piece. The portraits are reproduced here in varying sizes, from just a couple inches square to an entire page (~9×7″). In some cases, a variety of portraits based on the same photograph are included, offering half a dozen or so interpretations. A separate chapter features a few portraits created by each of 15 artists with a paragraph or two of information each shared about their own style and process. The final chapter discusses things to think about and choices to make when creating portraits. A directory of artists, general index, and index of subjects are included.

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

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review: Road Food

Road Food

Road Food: An eater’s guide to more than 1,000 of the best local hot spots & hidden gems across America by Jane & Michael Stern (10th edition)

Fans of The Splendid Table will recognize these authors as regular guest experts in finding and reviewing food across the United States. This book divides the country into regions and focuses on a dozen or so eateries in each state in each region. Michigan’s entries include some of the most famous places you’ve already heard of such as Lafayette Coney Island, Northside Grill, and Zingerman’s Deli. Most of the Michigan restaurants are either up north or in Southeast Michigan, with a few exceptions on the west side – disappointingly nothing at all inland between Ann Arbor and Traverse City. Still, it’s a good guide for someone traveling and I have no doubt that the food at all of these places is excellent.

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

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review: How to Pack

How to Pack

How to Pack: Travel smart for any trip by Hitha Palepu

As a habitual overpacker, I am always looking for insight on how to do that less. My biggest issue is that I always want a bunch of extra of any given item just in case, so I’m not sure that any plan is going to help me get rid of that impulse. But I’m interested in learning regardless. This cute little book’s cover is designed to resemble an old-fashioned suitcase and is divided into sections addressing pre-packing, choosing clothing, selecting accessories, figuring out what toiletries to bring, how to maximize space in your luggage, and tips for dealing with airports and such. It also includes a number of checklists for various types of travel and destinations. Appealing hand-created illustrations are included throughout.

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

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review: One Pan & Done

One pan & done

One Pan & Done: Hassle-free meals from the oven to your table by Molly Gilbert

I am a lazy, lazy cook and the idea of using just one pan to cook a full meal is very appealing to me. This book, by the author of Sheet Pan Suppers, takes the same basic notion – using one pan – and expands it to a variety of styles of pans. These recipes each use one of the following: sheet pan, cast iron skillet, dutch oven, 9×13″ baking dish, muffin tin, pie pan, loaf pan, or bundt pan. Virtually all types of meals are covered, including breakfast, brunch, starters/snacks/sides, sweets, and main dishes featuring veggies, poultry, fish, or meat. I will say that while many of these dishes truly are a whole meal in one dish (radish and ricotta frittata; turkey sausage, eggplant, & tomato penne) a lot of them really don’t cover enough of the food groups for me to be considered a full meal (it’s difficult for me to consider a meal complete without at least something green involved). They do appear to be pretty simple in terms of ingredient lists and prep time, and most of the recipes serve 4-6 people, so a couple like us would for sure have leftovers (a bonus in my book).

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

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Review: Doodletopia Fairies

Doodletopia Fairies
Doodletopia Fairies: Draw, Design, and Color Your Own Super-Magical and Beautiful Fairies by Christopher Hart

This latest entry in the Doodletopia series brings what fans will expect: an outline-based guide to drawing figures, in this case fairies, in a cute and anime-inspired style. This style fits well with fairies as it includes lots of large heads, big eyes, pointy ears, and svelte bodies (apparently fairies are all very similar in stature – no real differences in height or weight to be found). Some of the costumes are a little revealing on a level equal to Disney princesses (think Tinkerbell). A number of fairy poses are outlined for action drawings, and a few pages at the end are dedicated to fairy dwellings.

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

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review: Red-Blooded American Male

 Red-Blooded American Male

Red-Blooded American Male photographs by Robert Trachtenberg

This book contains dozens of very skillfully-taken photographs of mostly celebrities, all of whom are men (there are a few women in a few of the photos with these male celebrities, but not all of them are even named). There’s no denying the care that has been taken to set up each photograph including the setting, wardrobe, pose, timing, and all the other things that go into taking a good portrait. Many have been set up to elicit surprise or laughter in the viewer (Jimmy Kimmel wearing a Daenerys Targaryen costume, Bill Maher in a friendly hug with a spot-on George W. Bush impersonator, etc) and some are just very editorial fashion shots. Some capture the thing that the person is most known for and some seek to show an aspect of their personality. I can’t fault the skill with which this aesthetically appealing coffee table book was put together, but I just can’t get very excited about a book that has the sole purpose of celebrating a bunch of hyper-privileged mostly white dudes. I get the feeling that it’s supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, but that isn’t successful for me.

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

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review: You’re Saying It Wrong

You're Saying It Wrong

You’re Saying it Wrong: A Pronunciation Guide to the 150 Most Commonly Mispronounced Words and Their Tangled Histories of Misuse by Ross Petras and Kathryn Petras

This book provides a list of commonly mispronounced words with phonetic (but using the ‘normal’ alphabet – no schwas or other symbols used by academics and dictionaries) pronunciations, definitions, and a paragraph or two on the history of the word and in some cases an anecdote about ways to mispronounce it. The authors note at the start that they go with the correct or most commonly used pronunciation, regardless (note: see their entry on irregardless!) of how many other accepted or colloquial pronunciations there might be (a few entries have more than one pronunciation listed, but most stick to one). The entries include commonly used words (spurious, sherbet), historical words that come up sometimes (wassail), famous people (Wagner, van Gogh), phrases (would have [not would of!]), and others. Throughout the book, one-page lists highlight the pronunciations of words that fit into a particular area of interest: fashion, philosophy, gourmet food, and such. A fun book to look through for folks who like words and pedants who like to be right!

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

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review: David Bowie Retrospective and Coloring Book

David Bowie Retrospective and Coloring Book

David Bowie Retrospective and Coloring Book by Mel Elliott

This book is a tribute to David Bowie’s unique style and provides ready-to-color images of Bowie in many of his most iconic ensembles. Each image is accompanied by a brief description of the look (and even the description is outlined so that the reader can color the text), often highlighting the designer Bowie worked with. It is clear that the author has a deep love for Bowie and hopes to honor his memory with this book. Bowie fans and coloring book fans should all enjoy it.

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

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