The Figurative Artist’s Handbook: A Contemporary Guide to Figure Drawing, Painting, and Composition
by Robert Zeller
Unlike other figure drawing instruction books, this one begins with a 67-page crash course in art history. “Figurative art always conveys a narrative, a point of view. At the present, it is considered vital for a figurative artist to have his or her own artistic voice, and to exhibit some originality. How can you hope to be original, to continue the conversation, if you do not listen to the past, to those who have come before you?”
The instructional chapters of the book are divided by pose category: Standing Figure, Front View; Standing Figure, Back View; Reclining Figure; Portrait Drawing; and Portrait Painting. Here are some of the common themes.
“Gesture is a river of movement, energy, and rhythm that flows through the figure in any given pose… Once you understand gesture you will be able to see the essential rhythm of a pose, which will allow you to properly plan your drawing. Think of gesture as a conceptual road map. Before you start drawing with your hand, first learn to draw with your eyes… Begin by scanning the entire figure for gestures that flow through the various forms, learning to see how all of the parts of the figure are connected… Learn to see this axis of energy first so that when you draw, you will be able to forge greater unity among the various parts of the figure.”
101 Things I Learned in Culinary School
by Louis Eguaras with Matthew Frederick
“The culinary world is ever evolving, as familiar techniques and experiences continually give way to new ones and force chefs to reevaluate their comfort zones. A chef’s understanding of food and cooking thereby needs to extend beyond knowledge of ingredients, technique, tools, and equipment. A chef must be a scholar of colors, textures, and fragrances. He or she must know the history of food, its chemistry and alchemy, the art of presentation, and how to keep customers safe. A chef has to know how to manage and meet customers’ needs and expectations, how to create and manage budgets, and how to delegate and answer to those working around him or her.”
This book introduces a variety of such topics. Here’s a sample of 10 items covered in the book.
“Why the chef’s jacket is double breasted. The front of a chef’s jacket is reversible. This allows a chef to wear the clean side over the dirty side if entering the dining room to greet guests. Additionally, the double layer of heavy cotton protects against hot spills and splatters. Cloth toggles are used instead of buttons, which can snag, break, or melt into food. The vented cuffs turn up, getting them out of the way of foods and leaving a fresh edge to turn down when entering the dining room.”
“Good beef is 30 days old. Beef is aged to allow an animal’s natural enzymes to break down tough connective tissues, resulting in deeper flavor and improved texture. Dry aging needs at least 11 days and may take more than 30 days. The meat is hung and exposed to climate controlled air, where it loses 15 to 30% of its weight, mostly due to water evaporation, becomes meatier and more buttery, and develops a more concentrated flavor. Dry aged beef is rarely found in supermarkets.”
101 Things to Learn in Art School
by Kit White
“Artists assimilate a whole range of psychological, aesthetic, political, and emotional data points, and they then make forms to organize and give meaning to them. That takes skill and practice, working in tandem with intelligence and keen observation… Basic form-giving skills help the student make the bridge between thought and embodiment.”
Kit White is an associate professor in the MFA program at Pratt Institute. Here’s a sample of his insights:
“Art is continuing a dialogue that stretches back through thousands of years. What you make is your contribution to that dialogue. Therefore, be conscious of what has come before you and the conversation that surrounds you. Try not to repeat what has already been said. Study art history and stay alert to the dialogue of your moment.”
“Composition is the foundation of image making. It is the spatial relationships between all of the parts in an image. Whether a drawing, a painting, a sculpture, a photograph, a video, or an installation, how a thing is composed determines its look, its feel, and its meaning. Compositional variation, like musical tunes, is limitless.”
101 Things I Learned in Film School
by Neil Landau with Matthew Frederick
“In my… twenty years of teaching, screenwriting, and filmmaking, I have been continually struck by how the creative process of filmmaking is at once painstakingly deliberate and fortuitously experimental,” writes Neil Landau, who teaches at the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television.
Creating a film or television program entails a variety of skills including budgeting, screenwriting, directing, acting, and numerous technical proficiencies. Here’s a sampling of the insights shared by the author.
“Film is a director’s medium; television is a writer’s medium. A movie is a one-of-a-kind undertaking: The production team and actors come together for several weeks or months to create a unique world that disappears upon the completion of filming. A strong director is essential in defining this world—form its artistic details to its broad nuances, script approval to casting, set design to special effects, and lighting and equipment to the overall visual style. A successful television series, by comparison, is long running, and production becomes rather standardized during its first season. The greatest challenge becomes the generation of new material each week, giving the gifted writer a proportionately greater opportunity to shine.”
101 Things I Learned in Fashion School
by Alfredo Cabrera with Matthew Frederick
“In my years of teaching, I have found that the greater obstacle… is not the acquiring of technical proficiency… but in accepting the need to design for real people… It took me years as a working designer to realize the importance of identifying a real living customer and recognizing what he or she will and won’t wear. Far from being anti-creative, it was for me the beginning of true creativity. For what is creativity if it isn’t to take something existing in one’s head and give it relevance in the real world?”
Alfredo Cabrera has taught and critiqued at Parsons The New School for Design, Fashion Institute of Technology, and Pratt Institute. Here’s a sampling of the insights he shares in the book.
“Simple clothes aren’t simple to design. When superfluous design elements are eliminated from a garment, more subtle considerations—proportion, line, fit—are magnified. This calls for a refined understanding of anatomy (e.g. how the neckline sits in relation to the clavicle), geometry, balance, positive and negative space, and the harmony of parts to whole.”
101 Things I Learned in Architecture School
by Matthew Frederick
Matthew Frederick presents 101 concepts in his “primer of architectural literacy.” Here is a sampling of his insights.
“Our experience of an architectural space is strongly influenced by how we arrive in it. A tall, bright space will feel taller and brighter if counterpointed by a low-ceilinged, softly lit space. A monumental or sacred space will feel more significant when placed at the end of a sequence of lesser spaces. A room with south-facing windows will be more strongly experienced after one passes through a series or north-facing spaces.”
The Truth About Art: Reclaiming Quality
by Patrick Doorly
“A bad work of art is an oxymoron, like bad skill,” writes Patrick Doorly, art history professor at Oxford University. “Art is high-quality endeavor.”
“Quality is not a thing but an event. When the subject [viewer] becomes aware of the object [art], quality describes the relationship that binds them… Beauty does not lie in the eye of the beholder, but that eye and the mind behind it form one half of the dynamic relationship we experience as beauty.”
The quality experience is preverbal. “It operates prior to intellectualization.”