Elements of Style For Artists: a book review

I am the son of an artist and artistically reclined. I’m always on the look out for resources which will inspire me to pick up a pencil and brush and actually create something. With that in mind, I delved into Al Gury’s Foundations of Drawing: A Practical Guide to Art History, Tools, Techniques and StylesGury chairs the painting department at the Pennsylvania Academia of Fine Arts where he teaches drawing, and his works have been exhibited at the F.A.N. Gallery, in Philadelphia, and the National Academy of Design, in New York.

Foundations of Drawing by Al GuryFoundations of Drawing is not a “how to” book, with step-by-step instructions or a flourish of happy trees. Instead, Gury has compiled a resource which discusses the essential elements to drawing: art history, art mediums, materials and tools, skills and techniques, aesthetics and various subject matters (e.g. still lifes, architecture, portraits and figure drawing).

As such, I found this to be a good
at-a-glance’ resource for understanding the building blocks of drawing. It is like Elements of Style for artists, but with a lot more naked people. I knew a lot of the ‘art history’ portion of this book already, but the section on drawing materials was quite informative as a resource for understanding different drawing mediums & instruments (e.g. pen, pencil, charcoal, chalk, pastels, crayons, brush and paints, mix media). The section on techniques also has great information on how to achieve certain effects in various medium, and in composing drawings.

The book is full of illustrations, demonstrating a variety of styles and techniques (as shown from the cover). I would recommend this book to anyone interested in honing their craft as an artist and learning about various styles. Beginner artists may wish for a more step-by-step manual, but this would still be a good resource to have around. I give it four stars. –

Notice of material connection: I received a copy of this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for my honest review.

The Prayer of Art: a book review

Art and Prayer. Both are human attempts at transcendence. So art has adorned houses of worship throughout human history. In Western history, the visual arts reflected the faith and practices of Christianity (and Judaism). My own theology teachers spoke of the Medieval Synthesis–the confluence of the Arts and sciences, philosophy and theology throughout much of Western History. Since the Enlightenment, there has been a great deal of fragmentation. Art today is not always representational. Sometimes it aims at deconstructing the world, worldviews, and belief itself. But historically art and prayer were joined. Art sometimes depicting prayer, calling us to prayer, or making visible the interior dimensions of our prayer. 

Monsignor Timothy Verdon is the director of the Mount Tabor Centre in Barga, Italy. He directs the Diocesan Office of Sacred Art and Church Cultural Heritage, the Cathedral Foundation Museum, and the Centre for Ecumenism of the Archdiocese of Florence. As a senior cleric in the Roman Catholic Church and a respected art historian, Verdon is well acquainted with both prayer and art. In Art & Prayer: The Beauty of Turning to God, Verdon describes how the arts make visible the nature of prayer. With reference to church fathers, theologians and artists he explores the theme of prayer in Western art. The pieces that Verdon discusses are displayed in full color on beautiful glossy pages.

Most of the art  that Verdon profiles is from the Medieval era (from the 6th to the 15th Century). There are a couple of pieces that are older (third century) and  one piece is from the modern era (Filippo Rossi’s Magnificat). But this is not a chronological exploration, it is a thematic one. Verdon explores how art helps us enter prayer in everyday life (chapter one),  our spaces of prayer (chapter two, which also explores sacred architecture), liturgical prayer (chapter three), prayer of pleading (chapter four), lectio divina (chapter five), contemplative prayer (chapter six) and prayer at the hour of our death (chapter seven)

Verdon weaves theology and art, using various paintings, frescoes, reliefs and altar pieces to illustrate the Catholic tradition’s wisdom on the nature of prayer. Neither art nor prayer are understood through ferocious consumption, but through thoughtful contemplation. This book requires a slow, meditative reading. I found myself flipping back and reading several sections again, I recommend this book for Artists and pray-ers alike. There is lots to digest here–I give it five stars: ★★★★★

Thank you to Paraclete Press for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.