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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

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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Monthly review – handstitching guide books

I spent months reading reviews and borrowing from libraries in the search for the ultimate hand-stitching guide! I wanted something that I could use as a reference that covered all the essentials, but without bogging you down with dense descriptions. Finally my search was over when I discovered Margaret Rowan’s ‘The Complete Guide to Handstitching & Embellishing Techniques’. If you too are looking for a sewing guide to last you a lifetime, your search may be over…

 

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Details

Full title: Stitch! The Complete Guide to Handstitching & Embellishing Technique –  The creative guide for dressmakers and needlecrafters that takes your work to a new level

Author: MargaretRowan

ISBN978-1-86351-453-8

PublisherSally Milner Publishing Pty Ltd (2013)

So, what sets this book apart from the thousands of other sewing books? Plenty! Unlike the majority of modern publications, Rowan’s book is dedicated solely to hand-stitching, with not a sewing machine in sight! and what’s more is that the author somehow manages to make the book suitable for all abilities. Many of the books I read used terms that would only be familiar to experienced sewers, whilst Rowan maintains an un-daunting, reader-friendly stance throughout. That’s not to say this book is geared solely towards beginners; whilst it’s an excellent place to start (covering all of what I deem ‘essentials’ from which needles to select, to how to prepare fabric – details often left out in books of the same genre) the book is clearly divided into logical, clear stages, from ‘tools and equipment’ in Chapter 1 ‘stitching essentials’ , progressing to ‘functional stitches’ in chapter 2, and advancing to ‘decorative stitches’ in chapter 3. What I particularly like is the ‘stitch selector’ at the beginning of the book, which visual examples of each stitch covered in the book, along with a ‘skill level’. Depending on where you feel you are in ability, you can skip to where you feel you are, or if you’re a seasoned pro just double-checking which technique is best to use for your current project, you can dip in and out and use the book as a reference.

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The layout of the book is one of the best I’ve come across, with no ‘information overload’ that you sometimes come across. There are several clear, colour images to demonstrate the technique/stitch, with clearly numbered steps, and a side-bar style panel which reminds you of the skill level, tools and materials you’ll need, and usefully some extra notes.

The books aesthetic is on a par with its functionality, with close-ups of the stitch/technique in the corner being decorative and also useful.

Another thing I found impressive about the book is that there are lots of useful extras in the ‘Resources’ section near the back. Again, Rowan pays attention to the ‘nitty gritty’ without bogging the reader down. This book itself is a manual on how to complete an entire sewing project, whereas usually you would have to consult various sources. From a ‘pressing guide’ to an ‘estimating fabric requirements’ chart,  this book covers it all, somehow squeezing it all into 256 pages (including contents, index etc). You will even find a ‘Directory of Motifs’ (designed by Kelly Fletcher) in chapter 4, covering everything from nature to celebrations and lettering.

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However, whilst I highly recommend adding this book to your collection (it’ll be the only one you need!) availability in the UK is sorely limited, and very difficult to track down at a reasonable price. But I can honestly say that the search will be worth it!

 

You can read more about this book by visiting the publishers page here: Sally Milner Publishing

Taking Great Photos – Quick book review

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Title: The Crafter’s Guide to Taking Great Photos: Foolproof techniques to make your handmade creations shine online

Author: Heidi Adnum

Publisher: Search Press Ltd (21st Dec 2011)

Price: £12.99

Are you a crafter looking to show off your work online? Or perhaps an artist wanting to show your work in it’s best light? Whether you’re a complete novice in the world of photography, or are an old hand just looking for tips and ideas on brushing up your skills, then this is the book for you!

Organised into logical chunks and divided by craft (for example ‘fashion & fabrics’ and ‘knitting & needle craft’) the book is easy to navigate your way around, whilst also having the benefit of visual examples to accompany written instructions, for those of us who learn better by demonstration rather than text alone.

However, to fully understand the layout I strongly recommend scanning the contents pages before you begin (something often overlooked in eagerness to ‘get stuck in’) as subjects such as ‘light’ are found not only in the ‘camera basics’ section, but also further on in the ‘DIY accessories tutorials’ section, which without understanding the layout could cause confusion.

What’s wonderful about the book is that, unlike some photography books, it’s not automatically assumed that the reader has extensive, or even further than a basic understanding of photography, and guides you step-by-step, from the very beginning (getting to grips with a camera) to the very end (editing, uploading, and generally making use of your photos).

The book also includes interviews with practitioners who work within each subject area, for example knitting, and presents relevant questions. This allows beginners to learn from other’s experiences, saving time spent ‘hitting and missing’ – this has already been done for you! and the resulting conclusions/tips there for the taking.

The book also takes into consideration cost, meaning it’s in-tune with the reality of the often limited budget of artists and crafters. What you spend on purchasing this book, you could potentially save on photography equipment. The section ‘DIY accessories tutorials’ offers relatively simple and low-effort (not to mention inexpensive) ways of creating everything from a tripod, to a light tent and light box.

My second recommendation is to arm yourself with a pen and notepad and take notes as you read, as there are so many useful hints and tips throughout. After reading the book I came away with several pages of useful advice. Below are my top 5 favourite:

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  1. Read your camera manual! (yes, it may sound obvious, but we’re often so eager to get started with our gadgets that we fail to consult the manual. Learn the modes/settings on your camera)
  2. Plan your shoot beforehand
  3. To show the scale of your fabric, use items involved in the making, for example, dressmaker’s scissors
  4. You can add ‘value’ to your photo by using your own packaging and props
  5. Make use of what’s around you – try shooting in a forest or somewhere industrial

 

This book is available on Amazon .

 

A creative event celebrating individual talents!

After months of planning I bring to you…

unityposter

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