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.

Drawing On Creation, Getting Drawn In: a book review

I confess that I am a better buyer of books on creativity than I am a reader of them. My shelf is loaded with books on the creative process, on writing, on drawing and painting, on making beautiful things. I tend to see these books and dream. I rescue interesting books from bargain tables and bring them home with best intentions. Often I puruse the introduction and the first several pages. Invariably, these books collect dust on my shelf. Often I wish to get back to a book, but time and busyness keep me from my goals.

Drawn In: A Creative Process For Artists, Activists and Jesus Followers by Troy Bronsink

Drawn In: A Creative Process for Artists, Activists and Jesus Followers was a book that I read cover to cover. I found more here than interesting exercises to explore (though yes, there are some). Troy Bronsink lays out a theological foundation for the creative process which can be applied to whatever medium we work in. Hence the insights of this book are applicable to both artists and activists. Bronsink seeks to ‘sketch out the correlations between “the creative life and the life of faith by tracing how God creatively draws all things into one vision of a new creation (2)” Artists and activists in their own way participate in ‘new creation.’ So does every follower of Jesus.  Bronsink has plenty of personal examples of each. He is an artist (and musician), an activist, and of all things a Presbyterian pastor.

While Bronsink writes as a Christian and with an explicitly Christian, theological vision of the arts, his method is broad enough to accomodate artists and creatives from other faith perspectives. This book is evangelistic in the best sense–it gives a Christian vision of creativity and the arts without manipulating and demeaning the creative vision of those outside the fold. Anyone interested in Creativity or art will find much in this book which is instructive and helpful.

Bronsink develops his vision of creativity in two parts. Part one looks at God’s relationship with creation while part two examines our relationship with creation.  There is a self conscious patterning here. Bronsink believes that as artists (and activists) create, they are ‘imaging God’ and participating in God’s New-Creation. God’s creation of the world recorded in Genesis provides the basis  for his vision of the creative process.  Bronsink proposes a cycle of six waves (which reflect God’s role in the creation account):

  • Dreaming– God dreamed our future into existence, likewise our creative projects all begin with dreaming, meditating and brainstorming.
  • Hovering– The Spirit of God hovered over the chaos before the creation.  Our own creative process includes a period of incubation where we wait patiently for our dreams to bear fruit.
  • Risking–God created the heavens and the earth and we must risk creating if our artistic vision is to become reality.
  • Listening–God listened to his creation and heard its voice. We too must listen and hear from the stuff and material we are creating. This step is dialogical. Creator and creation listen to one another through the creative process.
  • Reintegration–God (re)integrated everything with the rest of creation.  Our own creating as ‘God’s comissioned artists’ involves are sharing generously our ‘art’ with the world: no strings attached.
  • Resting– As God rested at the end of His creation so we too must end creating and surrender our creation to its fate.

These six waves are repeated twice in the book. The opening chapter in section one presents God’s creation and the “Lost Arts” of creativity. The final chapter, “Make Your Life a Monastery,” presents our human appropriation of the process. Between these two  poles, Bronsik reflects on the medium of God’s work, materiality, space, time, working with others, our senses, how work relates to our vision and how we are ‘drawn in’  to participating in God’s creation.

I appreciate the richness of the theological reflection that went into this book as Bronsink reflects on the creative process.  He was a student of Anna Carter Florence (preaching), Darrell Guder (Missiology) and Walter Brueggemann (Old Testament). The stamp of each is evident in his theological vision, but he is unique in the manner that he appropriated their insights.

Bronsink is a good companion in the creative process. I liked this book a lot. I have yet to complete the thirty two creative exercises included in the book but they offer a chance to cement the lessons in these pages. I give this book five stars: ★★★★★

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