One of my favorite places to frequent at a book store is the crafting/art section. I’m sure you guessed that, right? I love pulling out the tomes on specific subject matter and learning new techniques. In the world of crafting, much of what I’ve learned has been through reading tutorials and carefully following the directions until I could make it my own. (In other words, I didn’t go to school for this, though wouldn’t that have been nice?)
Our local library has an incredible selection of art and crafting books, so as of late, I’ve been checking them out before I buy (which, coming from someone who has bought a large selection of fairly unusable art books is a nice gift!) Anyway, recently I stumbled upon the Lab Series, which is what it sounds like, a series of books that teach you how to do a specific thing. (I would say, ‘art project’ but not all of them are art books.) I initially checked out Drawing Lab for Mixed-Media Artists thinking it would be a nice exercise to work on one chapter a day (or at least every other day.)
Though I really like the idea of art books, I have to admit that most of the time, I flip through them, take a few concepts that are new to me and then let them go. It is a very rare thing for me to work through a book, but as I looked through the pages of Drawing Lab for the first time, I could hear my heart singing. This was going to be fun.
Each of the chapters are a two page spread, and you can read through the instructions in a matter of minutes. I like the two page approach, because I could read about the project, and then prop the book open as I worked on it rather than having to turn pages to reference what to do next. Carla Sondheim, the author, is a joy to read. She’s light-hearted and real, and never comes across as The Arteest who is looking down upon us, the students.
My favorite part of the book are the exercises which range from making paper dolls (yes!) to scribbly drawings. In the picture below, you can see my attempt at the Index Card Multiples exercise where she has you take 20 index cards and a large chisel point marker and sketch an animal over and over again. It was interesting to see how my cat “evolved” and now I want to follow Sondheim’s directions to take it further by scanning a drawing, printing it larger and doodling over it. (You can see her example of a more elaborate doodle on the far right.) I think I’ll actually do this exercise again as I need to work on drawing fast and “as loose as possible” as she teaches.
I also checked out Art Lab for Kids: 52 Creative Adventures in Drawing, Painting, Printmaking, Paper, and Mixed Media-For Budding Artists of All Ages and Art Lab for Little Kids: 52 Playful Projects for Preschoolers to go through with my daughter, though, who am I kidding, I want to try these projects too! The Art Lab for Little Kids book starts off with a project we tried last week: dipping chalk into buttermilk and then drawing onto paper. Before you scrunch up your nose and say, “Buttermilk?!” you’ve got to try it. The milk makes the chalk smooth and silky and it glides across the paper—so lovely! We experimented and found that it was easier for us to first wet the paper completely and then draw.
I never would have thought to try most of the projects in these books, and I love that. I also appreciate that most of the supplies are things we have around the house and the art supplies don’t have to be top-of-the-line expensive ones. I just wanted to share this recent find as I know many of you are on the look out for creative art books for you and the kids.