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Monthly review; Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Letters

Title: Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Letters

Authors/illustrator: Brian Froud, Ari Berk

Price: From £8 – £160 first edition

Where to buy (UK): Amazon, ebay, Waterstones

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This is one of my most treasured Froud books in my collection, possibly because it really stands out from the others. What makes this book so unique is the interaction the reader has with it. Each page is filled with Froud’s distinctive fairy illustrations, but also draws the reader/viewer in by having all sorts of interesting attachments. From ‘handwritten’ pull-out letters, to envelopes containing quaint surprises, this book encourages exploration by the reader, involving another sense (touch) rather than the usual individual sense of sight (though I must admit I’m a fan of the smell of new or very old books…I know I’m not alone in this!).

As with many of Froud’s book the creativity and attempt at authenticity doesn’t stop with the artwork. The text itself could be argued to be a work of art in itself. Throughout we’re treated to a range of interesting fonts, from beautiful italic handwriting to calligraphy-style work. One thing that Froud never fails to do is draw his audience in. It’s almost as if he believes these wonderful scenarios and worlds he imagines. I love the dedication to making the book and backstory seem as authentic as possible, it shows Froud’s utter enthusiasm for his work.

Much like his other books the target age for this book is debatable. Whilst fairies and similar subjects are often thought of as geared more towards children, Froud’s work always seems to fall into this ageless space. I can imagine children and adults alike enjoying this hands-on book. That being said, for the very reason that it is hands-on this book isn’t suitable for very young children as delicate pull-outs may be easily torn/damaged. Some understanding and prior-knowledge is also needed to understand the basis of this book. Many adults will be familiar with the true story of the girls who, in 1917, took ‘real’ photographs of fairies in Cottingley, England (which were later exposed as being fake). The book is intended to be a ‘scrapbook’ of the girl in the famous photograph, named Angelica Cottington. As mentioned in last month’s review of Froud’s ‘A Field Guide to Goblins; The Goblin Companion’, whist wonderfully elaborate the story can be difficult to follow, particularly for younger readers. For this reason I’d recommend this book for older teenagers on wards, however I’m sure children would love to be shown the quirky illustrations and would delight in the pull-outs being demonstrated (do take note that some fairy poses are quite cheeky though! Parents may want to flip through and judge for themselves first).

Price-wise this book is affordable and I personally feel that the joy I get from revisiting this book again and again is worth every penny paid. I’d recommend this book to anyone with an interest in illustration, other worlds, and those young at heart.

 

TIP: If you like this book there are other Lady Cottington books, which are available in Waterstones. You can see the whole collection on their website here: link

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Monthly Review; An oldie but a goodie

When I was a teenager I was obsessed with the work of Brian Froud and remember going into Waterstones (though back then it was an ‘Ottakar’s’) with my best friend and spending hours flicking through the pages with excitement. I had my first taste of Froud’s work as a 14 year old (with a growing interest and attachment to art) in the small art room at the education unit I attended for a year and was sucked into the magic of this other world that I wanted to enter for myself. Looking at the ethereal illustrations in ‘Good Faeries Bad Faeries‘ I knew I wanted to see more of this artists work. There was something about it that just sucked you in to this other realm and for that time it was like real life was on hold and we had entered this universe.

When I could, I bought some of Froud’s books, the first being the book I will be reviewing today: ‘A Field Guide to Goblins; The Goblin Companion’, followed by ‘Brian Froud’s Goblins!‘ and eventually the one I found most pleasurable to spend time exploring: ‘Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Letters‘ (which I’ll be talking about next month – keep an eye out for November’s review).

Being the first book in my Froud collection and still bringing me joy all these years on, today I’ll be guiding you through this little wonder and maybe even introducing you to a world you didn’t even know existed; the creative (but often slightly eccentric!) world of Brian Froud.

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Title:  A Field Guide to Goblins; The Goblin Companion

Price: Pennies (used) – £35 (new)

Where to buy: Amazon, ebay, World of Books, AbeBooks

About: A pocket-sized collection of some of Froud’s Goblin artwork ‘captured and catalogued’ (so the book states) by Terry Jones. Information and images of various Goblins, giving you a ‘who’s who’ of the Goblin world.

The Good

If you love looking at other people’s sketchbooks this book is for you! Often in books we see only very polished versions of illustrations, which is why Froud’s book is so refreshing. Yes, you’ll see his complete work but you’ll also see works in progress and rough sketches. It’s interesting to see how his ideas develop and you get a real good glimpse into the imagination of this quirky artist’s work.

Another area that this book excels in is aesthetics. It’s evident that everything about this book has been carefully thought about. From the fonts used, to the annotations, to the tinted pages. All this contributes to the feel of the book and assists in drawing you in to Froud’s imagined world.

Whilst the best aspects of the book are of course the content, I have to mention the price. If you’re just getting interested in collecting Froud’s books or are looking for a gift for an art/illustration fan, this is an affordable place to start. Officially priced at an inexpensive £5.99 this book can be picked up online for even less.

The not so good

Whilst Froud’s books are always guaranteed to be a little…unique, shall we say, I have come across people who found the text (particularly in the introduction) to be a little confusing. I admit that it’s what some would consider a little bizarre but Froud fans would expect nothing less! In regards to intended audience Froud’s books can be deceiving. This isn’t an average children’s book…in fact, the majority would argue this isn’t a book intended for children at all! Though from the subject matter and the high volume of illustrations those unfamiliar with Froud would be forgiven for thinking so at first glance. This makes it difficult to judge what age range this book is suitable for, though I personally feel this is suited to teenagers all the way through to centenarians! The language used is too complex for children, though I’m sure they’d appreciate the host of unusual characters they’d meet if they were shown them.

So is it worth it?

Yes! In my opinion it’s worth every penny. As an illustrator this is definitely my cup of tea, as someone who still reads fairy tales and myths, this certainly satisfies that interest and as someone who likes to collect beautiful books to look at time and again, this is one of them. If you’re creative, interested in illustration or have a liking for fantasy, this is your book.

Rating: 4.5/5

Tip: If you like what you’ve read Waterstones has a huge collection of Brian Froud books. Take a look here: Link

If you’re a Froud fan (or become one!) check out the work of artist Amy Brown. You can find her website and see some of her work here: Link

Quick book review: Illustration Workshop

This month I’ll be reviewing a book I got in the summer; ‘Illustration Workshop’ by Mary Kate McDeritt.

 

Full title: Illustration Workshop: Find your style, practice drawing skills, and build a stellar portfolio.

Price: £9.85-£16.99

Where to buy (UK): Amazon, Book Depository

About: Written/compiled by American illustrator Mary Kate McDevitt, this appealing book guides you into the world of illustration. From the very first page you’re encouraged to get creative (literally – your first activity is to write your name and draw yourself) offering practical information on the industry, materials illustrators use, small warm-up activities and whole guided projects.

The Good

  • The layout – it’s fair to say this book is very aesthetically pleasing; with bright colours, illustrations throughout and interesting typography. The book itself is a piece of illustration work! It also breaks things down into sections making it easy to follow.
  • The writing style – The language and tone of the book appeals to ‘everyday’ people which makes it accessible to even beginners in the field of illustration. Everything is explained well without any hint of pretentiousness.
  • The activities range from small to large projects meaning if you have just 5 minutes to fill there’s something for you, if you have 5 hours to fill, there’s also something for you.
  • Projects are guided and go through a process. You follow each section of the project so you’re never left wondering where to go next. If your imagination seems to be having a day off, there are activities within each project to get your creative juices flowing, such as questions (‘who is your target audience?’) and a section for a spider diagram.
  • In addition to the mini activities within each project there’s also some visual inspiration, which is great for those of us who think more visually.
  • The book can be picked up very reasonably online
  • It’s a fun way of developing your illustration skills

The maybe not so good

  • If you’re from UK you’ll be aware that the book is American. There’ll be minor spelling/terminology differences
  • The information provided about working as an illustrator is limited. It’s a good introduction but this book isn’t for in-depth explanation

So is it worth it?

In my opinion I love this book! It was affordable, pleasing to look at (I’m a very visual person) and gave my need to practice my illustration skills/develop my style a direction. It can be hard to pull a project idea out of the air, which is why this book is so useful. I like the honesty with which McDermitt writes and the personal edge she gives it. The projects are engaging and the small warm-ups very unique! I’d recommend this book to anyone looking to develop their illustration skills, especially if they feel they need more direction.

Rating: 4.5/5

Monthly tutorial: Using Body-Chan model for artists

Last week I reviewed Body-Kun models for artists and as promised this week I’ll be showing you how to use them. As I’ve been experimenting with children’s book illustration lately I’ll be creating a character in this style.

The instructions that come with some Body-Kun sets show one way to use the sets but I like to use them just as direct references. You can take a photo using your phone then upload it to Photoshop and go from there (there are plenty of videos on youtube showing this) but I’ll be showing you how to develop a character in a more traditional way.

Start off by getting your model in to your desired pose. Body-Kun dolls are just the right size to be used with dolls house furniture, so you can use props. You can use the stand if you’re using a flying or standing pose, but as mine was able to balance on its own I didn’t use it.

NB: Apologies in advance for the not so great lighting!

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Once you have a pose you’re happy with, place the doll at the right height depending on what perspective you want. I wanted mine straight-on, so placed it at eye level.

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This is your reference, so now you just start drawing! Don’t worry about clothing etc at this stage, just draw what you see. Below I’ll show you the steps I went through.

 

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Once you’ve finished drawing out the basic shape, make your lines more fluid. I think that when it comes to children’s illustration the lines are much more soft, less angular. I’ve just drawn some guidelines on the face, though with children’s illustration characters don’t have to adhere to any real measurement rules.

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Once you’ve smoothed off your silhouette, rub out the inner lines and begin drawing in your clothes. I’ve decided my character will be a gardener.

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Keep adjusting as you go along until you’re happy with the shape and how the clothes sit.

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Once you’re happy with your body/clothes you can add your face and hair. Don’t forget to rub out the inner lines.

 

 

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Once you’re finished with the drawing stage you can begin to add colour. I decided to outline mine with fine liner first.

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Quick Review: Grayson Perry

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Title: The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever

Author: Grayson Perry

Price: £9.49 – £17.00 (RRP £16.99)

Thanks to a vibrant red cover and distinctive typography this book won’t go unnoticed on a shelf! The title itself draws interest, and was in fact the title given by Perry to one of his exhibitions, which ran from the 8th June to the 10th of September at the Serpentine Gallery last year. The synopsis on the inner cover expresses Perry’s commendable belief that ‘ art shouldn’t be an exclusive club for people who ‘get’ it, but for everyone’. However, it must be said that in his introduction (which is more a small essay) his references to publications, artists, and exhibitions, would probably bewilder anyone other than those already holding a keen interest in art, rather than your ‘average Joe’, something which Matt Breen of Time Out firmly believes Perry isn’t: ‘What really undermines all his elitism-versus-populism, high-versus-low, posh-versus-common prevaricating is a strong sense that, deep down, he wishes he was still the un-pigeonhole-able outsider’ [Full article] and also:  ‘Perry is now a fully-paid member of the establishment. Power, popularity: whatever you want to call it, he has it’. That may be so, but one thing is undeniable: Perry’s work is full of narrative and symbolism. It’s not only his work that conveys the thought behind his work, but also his very honest, analytical introduction. There is definitely passion fuelling his work.

In addition to an introduction from Perry there’s a contribution from Sandy Toksvig, who appeared on The Graham Norton show with Perry back in 2016. Her contribution further emphasises the political tone of the exhibition/book, delivered in an interesting, story-like narrative.

From the very beginning of the book you feel as though you’re immersed in the sketchbook of Perry, with doodles and illustrations littering the cover. What’s nice is that as well as high quality images of his finished work further in the book, you’re first granted a peek in to Perry’s creative and thought process, with annotations revealing snippets of thoughts. A note of warning to parents though, this book does contain some graphic sketches, so isn’t suitable for children. That being said, Grayson fearlessly and effectively confronts a subject close to his heart: masculinity, just one of the many issues covered in his work.

The book is very image-heavy, which could be argued to be apt as the art takes centre stage to speak for itself.  However, each piece does come with an unassuming commentary, many of which divulge the interesting stories detailing the events/thoughts that lead to their creation.

The pieces themselves are wonderfully diverse, with a variety of mediums, from tapestry and ironwork to more traditional mediums. It’s interesting to see Perry’s sketches coming to life and serving their purpose: to create thought.

Final verdict Obviously a book will never compare to actually attending an exhibition, but I found this interesting, thought-provoking, and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in Perry, or even just symbolism and politics in art.

You can find this book on Amazon: link

Ebay: link

Book Depository: link

 

Monthly tutorial: Mini album

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  • Cutting mat
  • ruler
  • craft knife
  • pencil
  • paint brush/glue spreader
  • PVA glue
  • mounting board
  • decorative/patterned paper

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Start by cutting out your pieces. You will need two large pieces measuring 8 x 11 cm, two smaller pieces at 1 x 11cm and 1.4 x 11cm, and a slightly larger piece at 3 x 11cm.

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Now you need to arrange your pieces in the following order, with the side you want to be covered facing up.

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Now to attach your pretty paper! Put a dollop of PVA glue in a jar and mix with a little water until smooth, and ‘paint’ a thin layer on each board.

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Use something with a smooth edge to press out any air bubbles.

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Flip your book the right-side up and fold over/neaten your edges, sticking down with more PVA.

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You’ll need to score your paper where it will bend to avoid it tearing. You can use something such as a knitting needle, or use a proper scorer.

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To close your book you can use magnets or Velcro. I opted for stick-on Velcro.

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Your book is almost complete! Now you need to insert your pages. There are many ways you can do this depending on what you’ll be using your book for. If you want a sketchbook, simply attach a blank pad (similar to this one – check sizing) or if you’re creating an album like I have you can opt for a concertina-style pull-out.

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Measure 28 x 14 cm of moderate-heavy density paper (as opposed to card) and score at even intervals. Optional: I added a decorative edge using a paper punch. You can find all sorts of these online and in craft stores.

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Apply glue dots or double-sided sticky tape to the part you will be sticking to your album board, and firmly press into place. Now add your photos!

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First review of the year: Creative Paper Cutting

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Full title: Creative Paper Cutting; fifteen paper sculptures to inspire and delight

Author: Cheong-ah Hwang

ISBN: 978 1 86108 9205

Publisher: GMC Publications Ltd

Price: RRP £14.99 (from £10.31 via Amazon)

About: 15 paper cutting projects aimed mainly at beginners and young people, with information on tools/materials.

Here’s what I loved:

♦ The book encourages ‘out of the box’ thinking, promoting the creation of: ‘intricate artworks that can adorn walls, be sent as greetings cards or encased in quirky containers, such as empty pocket watches, glass pendants or clocks’ (inner cover description)

♦ Cheong-ah promotes the use of recycled materials, mentioning it on several occasions, including in the interesting introduction, in which you can also detect her passion for her art.

♦ Unlike some art/craft books she doesn’t assume you that have prior knowledge of materials, with a good section of the book dedicated to explaining essentials such as paper weight and techniques, which brings me to my next point…

♦ Whilst some craft books jump straight in to the projects, Hwang takes you step-by-step through the processes before you even pick up your tools (another reason why I feel this book is more suited to young people and absolute beginners)

♦ The book is aesthetically pleasing. It’s something I mention often when reviewing, but it’s so important to draw the reader in and keep that interest. There’s an abundance of images, a huge colour element, and even a quirky font.

♦ The projects offer variety – from your everyday greetings card, to a plaque, and even an upcycled pocket watch project!

♦ There are also useful (and interesting) extras at the end of the book, such as websites to visit, book recommendations, and suppliers.

What I didn’t love so much…

◊ Some of the designs look very simplistic and child-like (such as ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ and ‘Kraken and Submarine’) so if you’re already a paper cutting enthusiast this book probably isn’t for you. That being said, this would be a great book for absolute beginners to learn the ropes, and could be the gateway to some advanced designs. I imagine some of these projects working well in schools or with youngsters, particularly the ‘Coat of Arms’ project.

Conclusion:

Useful for some – beginners and those wanting to gain confidence in paper cutting, as well as offering some project ideas for young people. A light-hearted way to spend a rainy afternoon, rather than a serious reference for practising artists.

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Good news! I’ve just added some unique, ready-framed paper art of my own to my online shop. Click the picture to find out more…

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Micro Review: An Illustrated Life by Danny Gregory

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Full title: An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers

Author: Danny Gregory

ISBN: 978-1600610868

Publisher: HOW books (US)

Price: From £8.29 – £18.78

About: A look inside the sketchbooks and lives of 50 creatives, chosen by author Danny Gregory, acting more as a curator of inspirational material than traditional ‘author’.

Why buy?:

♥ Ideal for visual-minded people (the very people often interested in the subject matter in the first place) It appeals wonderfully to its target audience. A visual table of contents is one example of the thought put into the layout/aesthetic of the book.

♥ The contents is international, giving the impression of dedication on the author’s part to unearth the creme de la creme of the art & design world. From Scotland to Sweden, Gregory reaches across the globe to compile his top 50.

♥ I can liken the contents to pinterest – You pick this book up looking for ‘creative inspiration’ and are met with a mass of results all in one place. From sketchbook pages, to photographs of work spaces, it’s all inside the pages of this book!

♥ It’s not style-biased. Often our own preferences see us gravitating towards a certain style; in Gregory’s book you’ll find no such thing! The book includes everything from traditional children’s book illustration, to digital drawings such as those by Barry Gritt, and even more detailed work with a more ‘fine arty’ feel.

 

Where can I get it?

Aside from searching your local library, the book can be purchased at a reasonable price on Amazon. The book was published in the USA, but after having a search around I found it quite easy to source as it was distributed in the UK. Click below to find out more:

‘An Illustrated Life’ on Amazon

‘An Illustrated Life’ on ebay

Creativity inspires creativity

‘House by the Railroad’, ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’,’The Goldfinch’…what do all these paintings have in common? The fact that they inspired someone enough to fuel their own inspiration, and create a whole narrative.

Over the past two weeks I’ve been considering the way in which we view art and allow our thoughts and impressions to create meaning beyond that intended by the artist. It cast my mind back to my dissertation, titled: ‘Forms of perception: To what extent does our physiology influence our interpretation of symbolic images in comparison to learnt cultural influences?’It’s interesting to see how one persons interpretation of a scenario can differ so vastly from another, which is exactly what happened last week when my writing group was presented with Georges Seurat’s ‘A Sunday on La Grande Jatte’ (1884).

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte - 1884
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With the majority of us having limited background knowledge on the piece (therefore being influenced  by contextual aspects only to a very small degree) the way in which each individual ‘read’ what was happening in the scene differed from person to person.

Last week I took you on a tour of my work space, including my ‘inspiration wall’, which contains many art postcards. The images that make it to my wall all have one thing in common: they take me somewhere else. They’re not just images, they’re visual stories which set my mind on a path to either imagined places, or evoke a feeling or memory. Below are some wonderful works from very talented artists whose work sets you wondering about the story behind the image. (Please click title links for full size and additional info)

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‘Dark Forest’

Nick Tripiciano

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‘Under the Table’

Dario Mekler

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‘Tribute to Debi Bismarck’

Dustin Panzino (Inkwell Illustration)

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And my own work open for interpretation: ‘One for Sorrow‘ Oil & pencil.

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Did you guess the books/movie linked with the artwork mentioned in the beginning?

‘House by the Railroad’ 1925 by Edward Hopper is said to have inspired the Bates house in Psycho.

‘Girl With a Pearl Earring’ 1665 by Johannes Vermeer inspired the novel of the same name by Tracy Chevalier and was later turned into a film.

‘The Goldfinch’ 1654 by Carel Fabritius inspired the book of the same name by Donna Tartt.

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