Category Archives: Art books

Review: ‘The Realism Challenge: Drawing and Painting Secrets from a Modern Master of Hyperrealism’


You may know Mark Crilley from his manga series, “Miki Falls,” or his series with Dark Horse Comics, “Brody’s Ghost.” Or you may know him as the internet viral sensation. Crilley’s drawing demonstration videos have received well over two hundred million views on YouTube. You’ve probably seen them. The challenge is to create hyperrealistic versions of common objects that look just like the real thing—something humans have been trying to do for thousands of years. The French call it “trompe l’oeil.” And now the secrets behind creating this art have been collected in one book so you can see for yourself what it takes to do your own hyperreal drawings.

The Realism Challenge is easy in a lot of ways. Just follow the step-by-step instruction, and you’ll be amazed at the results you can achieve. Even if you don’t fancy yourself an artist, getting to see the process is fascinating. But chances are that, once you become familiar, you’ll want to try your hand at it too.

Toast--from The Realism Challenge by Mark Crilley--2015

We hear a lot about the hyperreal world we live in. The realistic work of Mark Crilley is perfectly in step with a zeitgeist that revels in intense, vivid, and urgent reality. That said, realistic art is as timeless as the pursuit of realism.


“The Realism Challenge: Drawing and Painting Secrets from a Modern Master of Hyperrealism” is published by Watson-Guptill, an imprint of Penguin Random House. It is a 160-page trade paperback, with 200 illustrations, priced at $19.99 (Can $23.99). You can find it at Amazon right here.


Filed under Amazon, Art, Art books, Comics, Hyperrealism, Illustration, Mark Crilley, Penguin Random House

Review: ‘Freehand Figure Drawing For Illustrators: Mastering the Art of Drawing from Memory’


Whether you are an artist, or would like to be, being able to draw without a model, but from memory, can be a challenge. With David H. Ross, you are definitely learning from the best. Mr. Ross has worked with all the major North American comic book publishers including Marvel Comics, DC Comics, and Dark Horse Comics. I can tell you, as an artist myself, that he knows numerous techniques that do indeed make it possible to work from memory. Look no further than his new book, “Freehand Figure Drawing For Illustrators: Mastering the Art of Drawing from Memory,” published by Watson-Guptill Publications, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Here you will find the time-honored methods and practical guidelines that you need. In a lot of ways, it all seems rather easy and Ross makes that possible with very clear examples, one step at a time. I believe that clearing all the clutter is essential in art instruction. You address one aspect, focus on that, and move on to the next. Ross begins with the first place you need to go and that’s the space that your model inhabits. If you’ve ever felt a need for a refresher on perspective, you’ll find it here.


The basics and then some, that’s what this book offers. I have fond memories of art school and having my trusty little wooden mannequin as well as a skeleton and skull to keep me company. But, with this book, you find ways to internalize that reference. That’s a key point. So, when you do have your model in the flesh, you can work faster as you go deeper into your interpretation. Anatomy, posture, bone structure, all of this will already be stored away and allow you to concentrate on the unique character of your model. And, of course, with this book’s guidance, you can always work without a model at all.

“Freehand Figure Drawing” is a 208-page trade paperback, published by Watson-Guptill, an imprint of Penguin Random House, and is available as of July 28th. For more details, visit our friends at Penguin Random House right here.


Filed under animation, Art, Art books, Comics, Education, Illustration, Penguin Random House, Watson-Guptill Publications

Review: THIS IS CEZANNE, published by Laurence King Publishing


Like Van Gogh, Cezanne (1839–1906) stood out from his contemporaries. He was the original bad boy, or “enfant terrible.” He was brash, experimental, and ahead of his time. Unlike Van Gogh, his life and work is not nearly as familiar to the general public. “This is Cezanne,” part of the This is Art series from Laurence King Publishing, provides an inviting and illuminating look at a most intriguing and influential artist. You will delight in this work, monograph by Jorella Andrews and illustrations by Patrick Vale.


Cezanne first gained notoriety, or infamy, from his paintings that parodied some of the leading figures from the older generation of artists. It shocked. It offended. It was a sensation. And that common thread of sensation ran through his later work concerned with the tactile and immersive. A rebel to the end, Cezanne did enjoy working with conventional compositions (still life, plein air, domestic scene), often with a sardonic twist and, just as often, with a gentle quality.


Bad boy antics aside, Cezanne was deeply interested in art tradition at its roots, going back to basics of line and color. This was also of great interest to a fellow artist provocateur, Edouard Manet. The two of them lampooned mindless art traditionalists. However, they could both be found in the Louvre studying the masters…on their own terms, gleaning what they needed.


“This is Cezanne” is available now. Visit our friends at Laurence King Publishing right here. You can also find this book at Amazon right here.


Filed under Art, Art books, Art History, Cezanne, Laurence King Publishing, Modern Art

Review: THIS IS VAN GOGH, published by Laurence King Publishing


Vincent van Gogh, the quintessential symbol of the artist. But, just like any public figure, the reality of the person is far more complicated. Unlike popular belief, Van Gogh was no caricature of a madman with a paintbrush. You could say there were two Van Goghs: the tortured soul; and the sophisticated artist attuned to trends in contemporary art. Make no mistake, Van Gogh knew his art and directly from some his most celebrated contemporaries. In “This is Van Gogh,” one of the latest in the “This is Art” series, published by Laurence King Publishing, George Roddam provides a concise and substantial monograph accompanied by moving illustrations by Sława Harasymowicz. This graphic novel format proves to be a most compelling look at the artist suitable for any age.

Van Gogh

As much as loneliness and rejection weighed upon Van Gogh, it’s essential to know that he was just as absorbed with art matters: content, composition, and, most importantly, color theory. Red. Green. Opposing colors on the color wheel. Brought together. They evoke tension. They evoke emotional turmoil. A band of colors, just like the ones used by the local weavers. Behold, their close unison creates a vibrant gray throughout. Black. A more complex and dazzling black is made up by blending multiple colors. Color theory. The impressionists, ah, some became mired in it. Color theory. The Post-Impressionsits, ah, some became too technical about it. Color! Use it. Revel in it. The tension between green and red!

Illustration in "This is Van Gogh" by Sława Harasymowicz

Illustration in “This is Van Gogh” by Sława Harasymowicz

The “This is Art” series is, I cannot stress enough, a wonderful treat and useful art tool. Each monograph is expertly written and the illustrations are from some of the best artists around the world. “This is Van Gogh” is available now. Visit our friends at Laurence King Publishing right here. You can also find this book at Amazon right here.


Filed under Art, Art books, Art History, Laurence King Publishing, Van Gogh

Review: Pablo: Art Masters Series


To explore the life of Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) is to explore the life of a man who left a huge mark on art, so huge a mark that to take him out of the picture would be, well, unthinkable. To better understand the man, we have this new graphic novel, published by SelfMadeHero, simply entitled, “Pablo.”

How better to get a grip on the man behind the legend than to explore his early years. And who better to guide us than the woman in his young life, Fernande Olivier. This is no simple story of love, or friendship, or an artist’s development. This is the great Picasso, after all. However, with Fernande’s help, we get a down to earth look at him. The creators of this graphic novel have placed Fernande in the role she had always aspired to, that of storyteller. Through the script by Julie Birmant and the artwork by Clément Oubrerie, we get one of the most lucid depictions of the life of Picasso, one of the most celebrated and enigmatic of public figures.


Fernande. Who was this person? Fernande Olivier (born Amélie Lang; 1881–1966) would become a well-known artist’s model and, ultimately, a writer. She was involved with Picasso from 1904 to 1911. She was one of the models for Picasso’s landmark work, “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.” Picasso would paint her over one hundred times. Fernande’s memoir entitled, “Picasso and his Friends,” was published in 1930. It outraged Picasso and led to her agreeing not to publish any more details about their time together until after their deaths. Without a doubt, Picasso would not be pleased with this new graphic novel. Fernande is not a woman easily impressed with Picasso’s antics. As we see here, she is a veteran of Parisian art circles. And she proves quite a match for him.


Picasso. The world would know his name. But, as for Fernande, there came a point when she no longer had a place in his life. As his star ascended, she only reminded him of the hard times. Julie Birmant and Clément Oubrerie depict a career that began in poverty and reached its climax with the advent of cubism and modern art. We see Picasso’s art develop through friendships with poets Max Jacob and Guillaume Apollinaire, the painter Georges Braque, and his great rival Henri Matisse. And all through, arguably, the most fruitful and significant time in his career, there was Fernande.

This is a book that provides a fresh new look at Paris, the capital of the art world at the turn of the 20th century. Julie Birmant gives a nod to younger readers by including such terms and phrases as “awesome” and “kill me now” in the dialogue. It’s not overdone and adds a contemporary feel to the action. For the most part, the narrative is straightforward and peppered with intriguing bits of insight. Here, for instance, is a description of the first time that Fernande saw Picasso’s studio: “I still remember the smell: a mixture of wet dog, oil, dust and tobacco…the smell of work.”

This is a very honest and beautiful work. It will appeal to all ages from teen on up. It’s a frank look at the artist’s life and just goes to show that even the great Picasso had to start somewhere and he did not do it alone. In many ways, it’s the very same path that any young artist takes today, including the revelations from reading Rimbaud. Picasso lived that life long before Millennials and this book does a wonderful job of bridging that gap. The young Picasso is made quite relatable and would fit right in any coffee shop today.

“Pablo” is a 344-page trade paperback, published by SelfMadeHero. It is available as of May 5, 2015. For more details, visit our friends at SelfMadeHero right here. You can also find it at Amazon right here.


Filed under Art, Art books, Comics, France, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Modern Art, Pablo Picasso, Paris, SelfMadeHero

Review: THIS IS GAUGUIN, published by Laurence King Publishing


We think of Paul Gauguin when we think of the stereotype of an artist running away from it all to an island paradise and going native. Well, at least that used to be the dream. Paul Gauguin certainly lived it. He remains the most celebrated example even if the details cast a shadow on his work. His was a most eccentric artistic and personal journey. Written by George Roddam and illustrated by Sława Harasymowicz, this is a complex story told in a clear and concise manner.


Born in Paris in 1848, Paul Gauguin came into the world during an uprising that would have made the Occupy movement blush. It led the family to flee to another familial branch in Peru, but not before Gauguin’s father died of a heart attack. In 1855, the family returned to Paris but Gauguin’s love for the tropics ran deep. Fast forward a few more years, Gauguin’s life reached critical mass. He had allowed himself to enter into a career as a stock broker and had married Mette, a young Danish woman from a respectable family. They had children, five in all. However, he was developing into a very capable artist. In time, he would establish himself among the great Impressionists of the day. And an inevitable conflict would arise.

Teha'amana, Paul Gauguin's 13-year-old lover

Teha’amana, Paul Gauguin’s 13-year-old lover

We look at Gauguin’s work and it feels all part of a whole. The depiction of young women from Brittany eventually makes way for the depiction of young women in Tahiti. Gauguin follows his idealistic and romantic notions. In the same way that he mistakens the traditional head-dresses of the Breton women as significant, so he goes on to project wisdom and nobility upon the Tahitian girls he meets. There is one girl in particular, Teha’amana, only 13 years old, who he takes as a lover. She proves to be very silent. Gauguin sees that as a sign of great wisdom. More likely, it was a child’s reaction to becoming sexually involved with a grown man. Gauguin explained the relationship as part of the local custom.

What we remember most of the work of Gauguin is an unapologetic embrace of primitive culture. His work is a unique offshoot of the Impressionists’ aim to depict daily life. This book does a capable job of providing context to the most celebrated case of an artist going native.

Learn more about this new artist series by visiting our friends at Laurence King Publishing right here.

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Filed under Art, Art books, Art History, Impressionism, Laurence King Publishing, Paul Gauguin

Review: THIS IS Dalí, published by Laurence King Publishing


Salvador Dalí is another artist that we feel we know. We can think of one of his paintings of melting time pieces in the desert and instantly identify with Surrealism. Dalí is a prime example of an artist superstar. Much in the same vein as Warhol, his persona was a formidable brand. Unlike Warhol, the antics of Dalí could often cloud the actual work. If you pore over a number of Dalí paintings, then you see something deservedly ranked at the top. Without a doubt, there was both Dalí, the eccentric, and Dalí, the master artist.


In “This is Dalí,” we get another wonderful pairing of scholarly and lively writing by Catherine Ingram and compelling illustrations by Andrew Rae.

Learn more about this fun and informative new artist series by visiting our friends at Laurence King Publishing right here.

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Filed under Art, Art books, Laurence King Publishing, Salvador Dalí, Surrealism

Review: THIS IS BACON, published by Laurence King Publishing


Francis Bacon is a little bit less well known to the general public than Warhol and Pollock but every bit as powerful. Bacon was the product of the vibrant and gritty London Soho scene of the ’50s and ’60s. It was a world of rough trade and intellectuals. It was a bubbling cauldron of sexual liberation and creative abandon. Bacon quite naturally exemplified the zeitgeist. Having been caught by his father as he was reveling in wearing his mother’s underwear, he was summarily kicked out of the home at age 16, left to fend for himself. He wasn’t involved with art at the time, never had formal training, but art became his outlet, and he mastered it.


The British contemporary art scene was more introverted than the American. It really wasn’t pop as much as personal. Its answer to Abstract Expressionism was a return to the figure and to the self. Along with various other artists exploring the inner life, like David Hockney and R.B. Kitaj, it was Bacon who took this soulful approach to some of its greatest heights.


Funny how some people mistake Francis Bacon with the great philosopher. And how ironic that this artist, by the name of Bacon, would come to paint on, in part, the theme of meat.

Part of Laurence King Publishing’s This is Art series, this little book packs a lot of valuable information. It is quite a compelling narrative, written by Kitty Hauser with illustrations by Christina Christoforou. It will prove inspiring to any artist working today. Here’s a little taste of the text:

Bacon’s training took place not at art school but through the voraciousness of his eye, and the extremity of his experiences. He liked to observe human behaviour, especially when it was governed by instinct rather than convention. His relative lack of a formal education meant he did not make the usual kinds of distinctions between life and art, or between high culture and low. His mind and his studio were well stocked with images from a multitude of sources – cinema, medical literature, art galleries, everyday life – and some of these images inevitably found their way, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously, into his paintings. ‘Don’t forget that I look at everything’, he said. ‘And everything I see gets ground up very fine. In the end one never knows, certainly I myself never know, what the images in my paintings are made up of.’


Learn more about this fun and informative new artist series by visiting our friends at Laurence King Publishing right here.

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Filed under Art, Art books, Francis Bacon, Laurence King Publishing

Review: THIS IS POLLOCK, published by Laurence King Publishing


Jackson Pollock can still be a slap in the face for some art elitists, and that’s just as it should be. In a lively new art series by Laurence King Publishing, we get a clear picture on one of most significant artists among the Abstract Expressionism movement.

I was at a party, only a few years ago, when a discussion on art began to take shape. Our host, I recall, had a problem with any art outside his traditional taste and this guy, although young, was already quite a conservative old fogey. He lambasted Pollock. I, in turn, explained to him that Pollock’s drip paintings were, in part, a complex dance with paint. Many have attempted to emulate a Pollock drip painting and have failed. The best I could get out of my friend was a nod and wink and his suggestion that I had a perfect conversation chestnut to use at parties. Of course, he was dead wrong. Pollock is no party favor.


I wish I had this book to hand out to everyone at that party. Maybe it would have changed minds. Maybe it would have provided information that was new and compelling. As in her book on Warhol for this series, Catherine Ingram tells it like it is. She gives us an intimate picture of Pollock growing up, albeit a rather bumpy ride. And she fills in the gaps on how Pollock grew as an artist and how he came to lead the charge in contemporary painting. His drip paintings would prove to not only take the art world by storm but the general public as well. Peter Arkle provides poignant as well as whimsical depictions of Pollock’s life in the graphic novel-style presentation.


For an artist with a reputation for being a “bad boy,” Pollock actually desired solitude. He found that in the woods of Long Island, along with his wife, the artist Lee Krasner.

Pollock remains a powerful force even today. All it takes is the latest “rediscovery” of his paintings. You can read about one of Pollock’s earliest drip paintings returning to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice right here.

Learn more about this fun and informative new artist series by visiting our friends at Laurence King Publishing right here.


Filed under Art, Art books, Art History, Book Reviews, Books, Jackson Pollock, Laurence King Publishing

Review: THIS IS WARHOL, published by Laurence King Publishing


This week we will consider Laurence King Publishing’s exciting new artist series in a graphic novel format. We begin with “This is Warhol.” We will continue with Jackson Pollock, Francis Bacon, Salvador Dali, and end the week with Paul Gauguin. How often have you started the week with Andy Warhol and ended the week with Paul Gauguin? Well, you lucky duck, this is your week. These are all iconoclasts and each of their work continues to reverberate. Among this group, we feel closest to Warhol, despite the fact he was personally quite distant. We think we know him. But, as this book clearly demonstrates, there is much more than meets the casual observer.


Catherine Ingram writes with great enthusiasm and confidence in her subject. She weaves a compelling narrative in such a concise manner, never wasting a word. As she’s describing Warhol’s childhood, she is deftly planting seeds that link us to the vision of the leading figure of Pop Art. Andy, the child, is gazing upon his neighborhood church’s icons. As a Catholic, the icons are powerful figures for Warhol. As an adult, he will take that same level of emotional attachment to his depictions of Campbell’s soup cans and Hollywood stars. But weren’t these repeated images from pop culture simply statements about an empty and shallow society? No, Ingram makes a case for much more being said.

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Filed under Andy Warhol, Art, Art books, Laurence King Publishing, Pop Art, pop culture