Analysis and Critique: How to Engage and Write About Anything by Prof. Dorsey Armstrong

Filed under:Art,Writing — posted by Randolph on August 25, 2017 @ 3:20 pm


Analysis and Critique: How to Engage and Write About Anything by  Prof. Dorsey Armstrong

This lecture series provides a guide for writing critiques. It is one of the Great Courses lectures series presented by Prof. Dorsey Armstrong of Purdue University.

The lectures focus primarily on organizing your thoughts and getting them on paper in a well-structured and readable form. She also encourages reading in as broad a spectrum as you can manage. Then a lesser emphasis on analysis, which, for me, felt like it came more from making your own thoughts clear and concise, then getting them in written form.

She speaks clearly and is well-organized. This makes it easy for her to get her points across. Her thoughts are reflected in the accompanying booklet. Although I felt it was too close, as it is often verbatim. Having read the book first, I felt like large portions of the lecture were redundant.

The material does a good job of covering the subject, and it felt adequately in-depth. In 24 lectures, each just shy of a half-hour, she covers a lot of ground. Although most of the lectures either discuss the subject matter abstractly, she does draw good examples from several works including fiction, poetry, drama and non-fiction. One lecture is devoted to grammar, which I felt was more of a sore point for her and, for me, felt like it should have been outside the scope of this lecture series.

I felt the lectures were good and well worth the time. I listed to several of them multiple times.

Art Techniques for Line & Wash by Paul Taggart

Filed under:Art — posted by Randolph on March 17, 2017 @ 9:44 am

Art Techniques for Line & Wash by Paul Taggart

This book looks at the quality of line and different washes, comparing different media and styles to generate lines. Then looking at different media for the washes including watercolor, ink and acrylic.

It includes media that serve both purposes, such as watercolor pencils, non-waterproof inks and washes over pastel.

I didn’t feel the book had a lot to offer, but it is a quick and easy read and has nice art. I think there are better books to learn about line quality from.

Mastering Composition: Techniques and Principles to Dramatically Improve Your Painting by Ian Roberts

Filed under:Art — posted by Randolph on August 13, 2016 @ 8:00 am

Mastering Composition: Techniques and Principles to Dramatically Improve Your Painting by Ian Roberts

This is a wonderful book for learning composition. I felt that Ian Roberts broke the concepts down and explained them well. He discusses different compositional forms with examples and explains whey they work.

There are a lot of examples from his own work, discussing why it works and what some subtle changes could do to it.

The book includes a dvd. The technical quality of the DVD is poor, I had to turn the sound on my tv almost to maximum to hear it adequately, and the dvd buzzed in the player.

But after that, the content was excellent. He showed most of the pictures in the book, and showed them with alterations while discussing what these alterations do to the eye movement. Then he goes through the same video again without the voice so you can see and feel the effects yourself. The dvd is an excellent addition to the book.

Landscape Painting Essentials by Johannes Vloothuis

Filed under:Art — posted by Randolph on March 9, 2016 @ 10:25 am

Landscape Painting Essentials by Johannes Vloothuis

The author has studied many paintings to gather what he believes are the essential rules of composition. He presents these as simple rules and provides examples of their use. He also has several step-by-step painting examples that expand on the compositional instruction he’s providing.

The book is composed of seven chapters which collect different concepts based on the chapter heading. These include (roughly) how we see, abstract shapes, color theory, movement, simplify, shape repetition and depth. The top of each page is further color coded to help finding sections of the book.

Overall, the book is excellent. It is easy to read. The examples really help teach the subject and make the concepts stick, I feel just reading this book will improve my composition in both plein aire and working from reference material. I believe a second reading will help even further.

The Constant Art of Being a Writer: The Life, Art and Business of Fiction by N. M. Kelby

Filed under:Art,Writing — posted by Randolph on February 9, 2016 @ 11:09 am

The Constant Art of Being a Writer: The Life, Art and Business of Fiction by N. M. Kelby

The author, N. M. Kelby, has experience both as a publisher and an author, she is providing her insights and experience to the novice author. This book give the reader a solid foundation of, what I presume are, all the steps toward publishing and selling a book.

The book starts with developing discipline, good writing habits and finding support. It continues through writing, editing, finding an agent, finding a publisher or self-publishing, selling, touring, and even estate planning. If you haven’t actually published a book, this will help you work through steps you haven’t even considered.

The book is an easy read and well-organized. It takes you though the steps pretty much in order of how you will encounter them with lots of advice and tips on the way. She provides lots of URLs for online support, both in writing and editing groups, to authors’ anecdotes of bad experiences.

Even for the non-author, it is interesting and will give you a real appreciation for what these guys go through.

Symmetry: A Journey into the Patterns of Nature by Marcus du Sautoy

Filed under:Art,History — posted by Randolph on February 22, 2014 @ 7:55 pm

Symmetry: A Journey into the Patterns of Nature
by Marcus du Sautoy

Symmetry has two points of focus. One is the symmetry in nature and its relationship to mathematics. Second is the history of mathematical symmetry and the people behind the exploration.

The mathematics is expressed in simple terms, the only equations are simple that anyone can recognize, a few diagrams, and the digits of large numbers. Much is in the descriptions of bizarre objects in muti-, as in more than 20, dimensional space. The author describes them in terms of their numbers of symmetry, no imagery is required.

The main issues with the book are it can be redundant and slow. I felt some of the historical stories on people should have been left out or shortened.

On the positive side, it flows well and is easy to read. It does a good job of tying different areas of math together, and it does mention by name a few more complex topics as he covers them. I think the book would have done better by providing more math, since that was the focus of the book, it feels like an important part was omitted.

If you have an interest in math, you will probably find the book of interest. Otherwise I’d pass it up.

How Music Works by John Powell

Filed under:Art,Technical — posted by Randolph on March 27, 2011 @ 8:57 pm

How Music Works by John Powell
This book is a technical book about music, how it works and what it is.  It discusses the physics of music in very non-technical and easy-to-understand terms.  It also covers some of the history, and why things are the way they are.
According to the author, the target audience is everyone, whether a neophyte to music or an aficionado.  I disagree with this assessment.  I found the book interesting, but low in information density and primarily of use to those who haven’t studied much music.

The book does cover all the major details of music.  I also felt the author does a good job of making it understandable. Even though I have studied music, I felt John Powell helped me solidify my understanding of a number of topics.

John Powell also interjects his humor into the book, making it more palatable for those who already know the information he is covering.  However, I felt he went overboard and could have used a lot less.  At times, it got rather old.

Due to the low density of information, the book is a fairly fast read without sacrificing the ability to retain information.

The book also includes a CD.  The CD contains sound tracks that compare different elements of music.  For instance, one of the tracks compares and discusses the sound from a guitar string played from different positions, focusing on the quality and timbre of the sound.  The CD is short, but has a few interesting elements to it.  You will probably listen to it once and forget about it.

If you don’t know much about music, this book would probably be a good place to start.  Otherwise, I don’t think it provides much value.

Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them by Francine Prose

Filed under:Art — posted by Randolph on May 14, 2010 @ 3:57 pm

Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them by Francine ProseReading Like a Writer is a description of writing. It focuses on the use of the word in literature, and makes excellent use of examples for well-known books to illustrate her points. Francine Prose describes the strengths of her selected passages and why the wording is important.

The book is aimed at improving the readers ability to appreciate good literature. She discusses the nuances of word use, picking at the meaning of individual words, and what is not said and why that is important. She talks about the use of paragraphs, and how changing the paragraphing changes meaning of text. She shows how to derive meaning from what isn’t stated in the text, and makes me appreciate the effort that a quality writer goes to to get the words right.

After reading this work, I feel I have a new respect for literature. I’m eager to try to tackle some of the books she’s recommended.

Fast Sketching Techniques by David J. Rankin

Filed under:Art — posted by Randolph on March 4, 2010 @ 3:50 pm

Fast Sketching Techniques by David J. RankinFast Sketching Techniques provides technical instruction on how to sketch quickly without sacrificing a lot of quality.

What drew me to the book is the quality of the sketches. Although not of a high drawing quality, they are very good given the time constraint and working environment.

The books strengths are the step-by-step approach to the drawing subjects, compositional considerations, and clarity of instructions. The numerous drawings are nice and fit well with the material.

Unfortunately, the book doesn’t have enough material. The author is constantly repeating himself with only minor variations in subjects. He has a lot of anecdotal filler material that may be interesting, but doesn’t support the theme of the book. I felt like this was a good magazine article that was stretched out to sell as a book.

How Fiction Works by James Wood

Filed under:Art,Favorites — posted by Randolph on March 2, 2010 @ 3:49 pm

How Fiction Works by James WoodThis book provides discusses fiction and provides an analysis of the tools to make it effective.

James Wood talks primarily about the point of view and voice. He does a comparative analysis of different styles and makes frequent and effective use of examples. Throughout the book, he talks about the tension between the narrator and the characters, how the author can use time, character development and conversation, and on. He never completely leaves a topic, as he will remind us in later sections of those earlier elements and how they are being used in conjunction with the current topics.

The book provides a great deal of information, more than can easily be absorbed in its reading. I feel to book had given me new tools for the analysis of literature, and whetted my appetite for more information.


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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace