I've been asking what sort of art book is missing from our bookshelves. You've been volunteering your comments and views about which are the published books you like and what sort of book you would like to see on your shelves - if it were available. There was a great deal of commonality about the key issues, expressed from different perspectives. Some people talked about what they didn't like while others talked about what they wanted to see more of.
Views are summarised below. Please note that as in yesterday's post Your favourite art books - what you like
- The quotations in this post are from people who commented on the two posts last week about art instruction books and the one from yesterday
- The italicised comments are 'asides' from me.
The Art Book That's Missing from our shelves? ....the ones we're writing!! (cheeky!) Which means, I think, colourful, image-ful and as few words as possible. The average adult student won't read much.Now that's an interesting perspective from a practising artist and teacher. I think I'm of the view that the hobby/beginner artist level is pretty well catered to in a variety of ways - with lots of pics and not a lot of text.
The problem with a lot of instruction books is, that the first idea for it is born in someones publishers office. "What is our target group with the most possible sales?" Very often it seems only the very beginners come to their mind. "So, don't scare them off, it all has to be easy looking = bigger sales."Whether they do it well is debateable.....
I have a lot of art instruction books and the frustrating thing for me is that it all looks so easy and quick.To my mind the market which is less well satisfied - and is asking for more text - is "beyond the beginner" or what one might call the serious student. I think the serious student wants more than just eye candy.
For a while I felt inadequate as sometimes a piece took me a long time to complete. There are more than 5 easy steps to a drawing or painting - getting the number of pages to show or explain that may be difficult.
So many art instruction books are picture books for adults: in essence, eye candy that feeds, or feeds on, your dreams of becoming an artist without delivering much of value.If it's made to look easy - and it isn't - doesn't that just make the student feel like a failure? Should books be about fulfilling dreams or enabling potential?
What's very interesting about blogging is that I think it's uncovered a whole bunch of art bloggers who fall into the category of serious student (or lifelong student). These are typically people whose blogs are still alive after 3 months and who manage at least a few posts each month and more typically 1-2 posts per week. I come across a lot of people whose art blogs provide lots of evidence of a willingness to persist and a wish to continue learning. I note a lot of interest in any blog which provides serious and good quality information and advice, tips or techniques.
So maybe the audience for the "beyond the beginner" book has moved online?
Characteristics of an art instruction book you'd like to read
You mentioned several characteristics which I've summarised below. I've grouped comments into themes. You'll note that a number of the positive statements are the counterpart of the aspects which people didn't like. Also they are not describing one book so much as identifying characteristics they'd like to see more of.
- Books which promote different ways of seeing and different ways of doing
- a technical drawing book that was NOT so concerned with photo-realism (There are several available - but they're not always well known. See The Big Drawing Book Review - Resources for Artists )
- books which promote an inductive approach - demonstrating the very many different ways different artists approach the application of a basic principle (including those that ignore it or push it to its limits)
- books which are not limited to being a digest of a particular painter's style or way of doing things
- books which avoid the generic formulaic and take pleasure in highlighting different ways of doing things (eg Sarah Simblet's The Drawing Book: An Innovative, Practical Approach to Drawing the World Around You - includes lots of pictures - but they exhibit great variety and include many by great artists of the past and present)
- Books which treat you as if you were in a class or a workshop -
- books which bring out all the attention to detail of process that you get from a good tutor eg how to stretch a canvas; how to use a brush (Jennifer Young highlighted how much she appreciated the books by Emile Gruppe ("Direct Techniques in Oil", "Brushwork and "Gruppe on Color") - and yet most of them are out of print - including the one on brushwork!)
- books which bring a strong flavour of the artist rather than the views of the publisher (ie if the artist can't teach then don't ask them to do an art instruction book; however if an artist has developed a big following of students enthusiastic about their teaching the chances are the artist knows how to teach as well as how to produce art - and may well have a better idea of what works than the publishers)
- books linked to a feedback mechanism - books on their own are not enough
- books which teach you how artists developed their work - an accessible art instruction version of art history. A chance to learn how an artist developed his work, identifying all the preliminary and necessary steps along the way and what choice was made in the context of what was possible (ie what some art schools focus on)
......books are also the lifeline to the working methods of the 19th Century painters, and I put more stock in reading these primary accounts than in information passed down through four or five generations of word of mouth or master/pupil.
- A book which rivalled the quality of material available online for free - Does this mean that priced products - like books - need to ratchet up both their content and quality?
- a book which is honest and doesn't try to suggest it's all easy and quick. Books which don't make readers feel inadequate.
- A proper book - one that you can pick up. Neither you nor I are yet convinced that serious students are ready to read e-books using an e-book reader or that the technology can deliver it effectively via a Kindle or Sony Reader or somesuch. However this doesn't rule out self-publishing via Lulu or Blurb and the options of hardback, softback or online. [HOWEVER - late update - it is very interesting to see which art books can be delivered by Amazon to Kindle]