Wednesday, 26 May 2010

The Best Art Business Books

I've produced a new "resources for artists" information website called The Best Art Business Books. Many thanks to all those who are already tweeting it and 'liking' it on Facebook!

Why did I create this new site. Well - as I've indicated before (Making A Mark - Amazon assigns ludicrous categories to Art Books 11 May 2010) it's sometimes really, really difficult to find the book you're looking for on a topic you're interested in on Amazon because of the way they are categorised and tagged - sometimes with very odd labels.

What I've also noticed is that there has been a fair few new books relating to the art business which may be of interest to artists - if they ever came across them!

So what this new site aims to do is provide a curated collection of the what appear to be the better books on Amazon which are about the art business and the business of being an artist or illustrator.

I've tried to sort books into appropriate categories and these relate to artists, illustrators, people selling in galleries and in less traditional venues, those setting up galleries and those who collect art!
  • Do you want to learn more about the business of being an artist?
  • Looking to improve your marketing of your art - and your sales?
  • Want to make the jump to full-time artist or illustrator but not sure what you don't know that you need to know?
  • Thinking about setting up and art gallery and looking for tips?
  • Need a form for an art business transaction?
  • Seeking legal advice on some aspect of the art business?
  • Starting to collect art and wondering whether there's a book that can help?
If any of the above apply then The Best Art Business Books has a book which can help you.

This selection of books about the business of fine art and illustration are a combination of my own personal recommendations, recommendations by artists and art bloggers I know and rate highly and books which have achieved a high rating on Amazon.
These are the topics which it covers.
You can find out about......
click a link to go straight to the topic
This is still a work in progress as I add in links to artists and illustrators who have blogs and posted a review of art business books they have read.

Can you help?

I'd be interested in your impressions and suggestions for how it could be improved.

Two questions for you:
  • Do you have a favourite book about the art business which you have found helpful?
  • Do you have a book about the business of being an artist which you have reviewed on your blog?

Monday, 24 May 2010

Product Review: Derwent Pocket Pencil Wrap

I've been testing the Derwent Pocket Pencil Wrap and have to say I'm very impressed. It's rapidly becoming a favourite bit of kit for a minimalist approach to sketching. As you can see from the photo it's become very well used very quickly! The solution to the marks on the canvas - which bother me not one jot - is to turn the pencil the other way round as shown in the packaging. I just prefer to have my pencil points up top!

I'm an inveterate buyer of pencil cases and pencil wraps - I'm always trying to find 'the perfect one'! I also had Derwent's bigger pencil wraps for more pencils so was familiar with the product and was keen to try this new version out - as a potential solution to the 'what do I take when I only want a few pencils and a small sketchbook in a pocket?' question

The pocket pencil wrap was launched in March and you can find my review below.

RECOMMENDED Product: Derwent Pocket Pencil Wrap
Summary: a canvas wrap which holds up to 12 pencils and pens. Suitable for slipping in a pocket with a small sketchbook
Technical Details:
  • made of a very sturdy grade of canvas
  • leather look edges
  • folds in two and fastens with a velcro fastening
  • capacity for 12 Derwent pencils or alternates
Who should buy this?
  • artists who sketch
  • artists who like putting all their sketching kit inside their jacket and trouser pockets - like David Hockney - will love it!
Who should not buy this?
  • artists who never take their pencils outside their home
  • artists attending a coloured pencil workshop (only because you'll likely want to take more than 12 pencils and there are bigger pencil wraps!)
  • thick canvas wrap helps protect pencils
  • flap over pencils helps keep them safe and stops them falling out. You don't need to worry which way you put it in a pocket
  • compact size makes it very easy to take pencils out; very easy to slip inside a jacket or trouser pocket or small bag
  • velcro fastening works well so long as you don't overfill the pencil wrap
Think Again?
  • pencils mark canvas if points are uppermost - it doesn't bother me at all. If it is likely to bother you then the simple solution is to invert the pencils
  • also of interest to people who want to take any sort of drawing implement out of their studio - it doesn't have to be a pencil!
  • it does NOT come with pencils
Manufacturer / Distributor: Cumberland Pencil Company / Derwent
  • supplied to me by Derwent as an item to review;
  • available from Derwent retailers. Online Retailers include: Heaton Cooper; Artifolk

Art Equipment - Resources for Artists
Art Equipment -  Resources for Artists

This site is for visual artists. It provides links to: items of art equipment and tools recommended ways of putting together toolkits and recommendations for equipment for working in the studio or plein air

Thursday, 20 May 2010

A new colour tip for Caran d'Ache Luminance 6901

Caran d'Ache has made a change to their Luminance 6901 range of coloured pencils which means it's very likely that I'm going to start investing in more colours.

This new brand of lightfast coloured pencil has previously irritated because there were two ways of identifying the colour of the pencil - neither of which worked too well
  • the pencil was introduced with a colour chip painted on the very end of the pencil - it's too small and you can't see it at all when the pencil is lying down
  • the colour name and number is written round the end of the barrel in light lettering on a wood background which doesn't give great definition and consequently is very difficult to read
Basically these are two design flaws which are pretty big in terms of the functionality of choosing which pencil to use next!

I really love the pencils and their pigment rich coverage with lightfastness guaranteed - but they were frustrating to use. In practical terms I was always having to inspect a Luminance pencil prior to using it - and that just became irritating.

However I guess a lot of people must have complained or fed back to Caran d'Ache saying that they weren't too ecstatic about the arrangements for identifying colours, because the company has now changed the pencils!

The Luminance pencils now have a new colour cap on the end. It's not as big as the colour on the Lyra Rembrandt pencil but it's a start in the right direction. I'd personally have liked to see it a tad bigger but this is a LOT better than the previous arrangements for colour identification. The change will make it much easier to see what colour the pencil is when you go to pick it up.

Now if we could persuade Caran d'Ache to name the pencils along the barrel of the pencil I'd have a pretty big smile on my face!
Coloured Pencils - Resources for Artists

Find out about coloured pencils. This leading resource has information for everybody from experienced artists to beginners wanting to learn all they can. Topics include

  • tips and techniques for working with coloured pencils,
  • information about coloured pencil brands and associated products (CHECK OUT the poll - find out which make of artist grade coloured pencils is the favourite.)
  • coloured pencil societies,
  • coloured pencil artists and
  • forums where you can discuss coloured pencil matters with artists working in coloured pencils

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

CPSA Lightfastness Handbook Version 6 - out now

Version 6 of the CPSA Lightfastness Workbook was published at the beginning of May.

The workbook provides a set of sheets for all the different brands of coloured pencils. CPSA has been working its way through all the brands since it published the first version. Each sheet records the name and number of each coloured pencil which passed the lightfastness tests for every brand of artist grade coloured pencil in production. Which is another way of saying I can't think of any which are not now covered by this book.

Version 6
now includes new results for the following:
  • Caran d'Ache Luminance 6901,
  • Cretacolor Karmina,
  • Cretacolor Marino,
  • Staedtler Ergosoft,
  • Staedtler Ergosoft Aquarelle,
  • and Staedtler Karat Aquarelle
  • Updated information about brands tested
  • Corrections and additions ot color listings
  • Complete list of all pencils tested by brand
The lightfastness tests are conducted according to the international art materials standard for coloured pencils approved for this purpose in 2003 - which you can find explained on my website page about lightfastness - An overview of the lightfastness of reputable coloured pencils.

This is the post I wrote when version 5 was published and I got hold of my copy of it - CPSA Lightfastness Test Result Workbook - Version 5 published
If you want to know whether or not the colours you are using are acceptably lightfast or better (ie rate 5.5 or better against a blue wool card under approved test conditions) then I strongly recommend getting hold of the lightfastness test results. I've personally seen some of the original blue wool cards which were used and the way some of colours had bleached to nothingness when exposed to light!
How to order

This book is available only to CPSA Members which adds to the cost of this book an extra $40 to coloured pencil artists living in the US or Canada or $45 to artists living elsewhere. The cost of the book on the order form is indicated below

Cost in U.S. Funds
U.S. $15 + $2 shipping = $17.00
All other countries $18 + $5 shipping = $23.00

That means the cost of this book is as detailed in the table below.

Category of purchaser
CPSA membership
cost of bookpostage
existing CPSA member / lives USA

lives USA
existing CPSA member / lives Canada

lives Canada
existing CPSA member / lives overseas

lives overseas

A fully paid up member of UKCPS living in the UK would need to pay $68 for this book.

I can highly recommend it - although I do wish CPSA would price it to make it more accessible for UKCPS members. I know many members who would like to order a copy but who have been completely deterred by the huge cost to overseas artists who are not members of CPSA.

In effect this is prospective income which CPSA is not realising at the moment due to its pricing policy. Such income could be realised if
  • either subscription rates were created for overseas members of other coloured pencil societies which recognise that they are unable to participate in or benefit from the bulk of CPSA activities at a branch level
  • or a book price for fully paid up members of recognised coloured pencil societies located outside the USA which doesn't require you to become a member of CPSA (eg book price plus a premium contribution to recoup costs)
I'm sure an agreement could be reached for mutual benefit if there is goodwill and effort applied on both sides.

A greener option? Another option which I hope CPSA will seriously consider is to produce the book on CD or DVD so that members could print off only those pages they needed for the brands of coloured pencils that they own. That would be a much greener option, would help cut costs of production and postage and would save a few trees as well!

Further Information

For further information, try the CPSA website - Product Research

My website Making A Mark has a page which provides An overview of the lightfastness of reputable coloured pencils. This covers:
You can also read more about pigments and how they relate to colour in Making a Mark: Colour - a materials perspective #1 - pigments and dyes

Coloured Pencils - Resources for Artists
Find out about coloured pencils. This leading resource has information for everybody from experienced artists to beginners wanting to learn all they can. Topics include
  • tips and techniques for working with coloured pencils,
  • information about coloured pencil brands and associated products (CHECK OUT the poll - find out which make of artist grade coloured pencils is the favourite.)
  • coloured pencil societies,
  • coloured pencil artists and
  • forums where you can discuss coloured pencil matters with artists working in coloured pencils

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Book review: Botanical Painting with Coloured Pencils

Title:(In the UK) Botanical Painting with Coloured Pencils
(In the USA) Botanical Portraits with Colored Pencils
Author: Ann Swan SBA, GM
Synopsis: This is the first comprehensive guide to using coloured pencils for botanical painting. Ann Swan, an RHS Gold medal winner and one of the top UK coloured pencil artists in this genre, provides a guide to how and why coloured pencils are especially suitable for the accuracy required for botanical illustration. Topics covered include: all aspects of working with coloured pencils, including techniques for underpainting, layering and burnishing and several step by step demonstrations of how to develop artwork and mix and build up colour. Also provided are tips on how to complete a work to exhibition/gallery standard. The book also includes a gallery of artwork by the author, her students and other botanical artists also working in coloured pencils
Summary review: This is the first ever book written by an RHS gold medal winning artist to deal in depth with the execution of botanical art in coloured pencils to exhibition standard. It's an invaluable guide to those wanting to develop their skills in using coloured pencils for botanical art. It's also an extremely useful resource for all coloured pencil artists wanting to achieve the very high standards of execution achieved by both Ann Swan and her students.
  • botanical art basics: a comprehensive overview of the techniques required to record information from live plant material
  • excellent and practical advice on how to photograph a plant to record information
  • detailed advice and information about techniques used to develop artwork
  • very clear step by step demonstrations with good explanations of materials and approaches used
  • particularly good section on small details (hairs, stamens, thorns, roots, tendrils)
  • a really excellent section on finishing touches
  • gallery of coloured pencil work by RHS gold medal winning coloured pencil artists
  • includes around 200 colour illustrations
Think Again?
  • limited review of different brands of coloured pencils for botanical artwork
  • more information about the lightfastness of specific colours would be very useful
  • Ann tends to prefer the 'underdog' in the plant world for her own work - she's less about the popular and floral and more about the plants which don't get enough attention
Who should buy this?:
  • anybody aspiring to win an RHS gold medal for coloured pencil artwork
  • botanical artists wanting to explore a different medium
  • botanical art students and improvers
  • botanical art tutors
  • all coloured pencil artists seeking to improve their knowledge and techniques
Who should not buy this?
  • anybody not interested in plants, flowers or botanical art
  • anybody not wanting to improve their use of coloured pencils
  • UK: Collins 1 April 2009| | ISBN-10: 0007275528 | ISBN-13: 978-0007275526
  • USA: Barron's Educational Series (April 2010) | ISBN-10: 0764169742 | ISBN-13: 978-0764169748
  • Technical data: Hardcover (with dust jacket) - 128 pages;

This book has different titles for the UK and USA markets and I'm not quite sure why they've done that but I guess there must have been a good reason! So
  • if you're in the UK it's Botanical Painting with Coloured (with a 'u') Pencils and
  • if you're in the USA it's Botanical Portraits with Colored (without the 'u') Pencils!
Coloured pencils is a medium which now accounts for something like 10% of all the artwork in the Annual Exhibition of the Society of Botanical Artists in the UK. (seeThe biggest exhibition of coloured pencil artwork in the UK and Botanical art in coloured pencils)

The recent huge increase in such artwork is due to a few artists who have pioneered the use of coloured pencils for artwork which meets the gold medal standard of the Royal Horticultural Society.

Ann Swan has been enormously influential largely due to her teaching activities and her devoted students - many of whom now now have work in the Annual Exhibition of the Society of Botanical Artists and some of whom now have their very own RHS gold medals!

I've tried to sign up for one of Ann's workshops on a number of occasions but they're extremely popular and always booked up months ahead. She's a very experienced tutor and has been been teaching her workshops for over 15 years in the UK and abroad. If you can't get to one of her workshops then I reckon this book has got to be the next best thing.
An invaluable book for all botanical artists wanting to try this medium
Society of Botanical Artists (quoted on the front cover)
This book has been long awaited and it doesn't disappoint - although the content is as one would expect very much influenced by Ann's own personal preferences as a practising artist. Now - down to the details

Overall one needs to remember this book is about to combine two subjects - botanical art and coloured pencils. This means its covers authoritative information about how to tackle botanical art as well as advice and demonstrations about how to develop botanical artwork using coloured pencils. It's the combination of the two approaches which meld to make the excellent quality of Ann's artwork.

Throughout the book there are demonstrations identifying precisely which art materials were used and in what order - plus the details of any other technique used to achieve the overall effect.

Which brand? The first thing you need to know is that Ann favours Faber Castell Polychromos pencils. She highlights how they have a good range of the colours frequently used by botanical artists. However her review of art materials at the beginning of the book includes reference to Sanford Prismacolor and also provides a short overview of other artist brands she is familiar with and provides a brief comment on useful colours. As an artist who is teaching her own personal techniques, Ann needs to be able to use those brands which she prefers to use. This book in no way sets out to be a review of different brands and consequently for me this is a 'need to know' aspect - and I suspect it may well prompt some purchases of Polychromos pencils by those who have not tried them before! The book details a good basic range of Polychromos Pencils.
I like the way Ann's coverage of basics in relation to art materials, equipment and studio leans towards text rather than images because it provides more relevant information!

Recording plant information
Ann starts with a chapter about getting to know your subject. This is an overview of all matters relating to working from life with botanical material - including how to examine the plan structure, record information about the plant and preserve plant material. It's packed full of practical information and tips for working with plant material. For those artists used to working from photos this chapter will be absolutely invaluable. I like the way the emphasis is placed on all the preparation work involved in producing good quality drawings for example - creating tonal studies, colour swatches and colour matching. These are the habits of the experienced and practiced botanical artist the world over and are ones that need to be learned by all artists aspiring to producing prize-winning botanical artwork.

Many works are competent plant portraits, but when we visit an exhibition of botanical art and look around it is usually the interesting, striking or unusual compositions which catch our eye
Ann Swan - in the introduction to Composition and Style chapter
Composition and style This chapter is designed to take people who are competent at producing plant portraits to another level. She's very familiar with all the mistakes people commonly make when creating artwork. This is one of the few coloured pencil art instruction books that I've come across which gives over space to the design of the picture space and pictorial structure and matching both the the characteristics of your subject matter (in this case the plant material). I'm always amazed at how botanical artists manage to combine botanical accuracy with pleasing design and this chapter goes a very long way to explaining how. It's good to see Ann tackling the principles and elements of good composition in turn - while providing advice about how relevant and important each aspect is for the botanical artist. I liked the way she emphasised the psycholigical and mood aspects of design and composition - an aspect which I guess would not occur to most of us as being relevant to botanical art.

The commentary on how design and composition has changed over time is also very useful. (Incidentally, you can find websites I've created about the artists she mentions - containing links to information about the artists and their artwork - in A Compendium of Botanical Art)

Basic Pencil Techniques covers line drawing and the achievement of tonal contrast using monochrome media. She starts with monochrome work in pencil - and you very quickly begin to get a sense of the quality of work which can be achieved. Ann provides tips on how to work on pieces which may take a long time and techniques involving erasers, incising and underpainting graphite.

Coloured Pencil Techniques relate to layering, burnishing and underpainting and she provides clear explanations and images detailing how these work. (Speaking personally I was very grateful to learn that she considers Lascaux to be workable Fixative as I've never been sure!) I was fascinated to learn that one can underpaint with Faber Castell brush pens or Prismacolor felt tips to achieve much more saturated colour as I'd never considered doing this. (However using media such as this would render a work inadmissable to the Annual exhibitions of UKCPS or CPSA).

Her chapter on Colour very much focuses on the colours which are much used by botanical artists - particularly the greens! I'd have liked to see more focus on which greens were best in lightfastness terms as greens can be a bit of a problem due to some of the yellow and blue pigments used in the mix. I finally found an explanation for why layering dark colours over light colours can be more problematic than the other way round - and you'll need to buy yhr book to find out why! She provides very clear advice about what order to layer colours. She's also very good on how to tackle flowers which are light colours or white and prevent them from looking grey.

The Chapter on Small Details is to my mind one of the most valuable in the book for beginners and improvers. One of the things I found very useful was the detailed instructions for how exactly Ann gets the degree of finish in relation to specific aspects. One of the parts of the book which I read first was the one on how to achieve hairs on a sunflower bud! Ann is very obviously an expert at incising!

The best chapter in the whole book for me was the one on Finishing Touches - what you need to do to make your artwork look special in an exhibition. Particularly useful is the explanation of the different methods for sharpening up edges and removing unwanted marks. She then goes on to explain about signatures, storage, mounting and framing and presentation. I have to tell you Ann's own artwork always looks top notch and this chapter demonstrates why.

The book finishes with:
  • a gallery of artwork by fellow coloured pencil artists - including work by Diane Gould, Hilary Buckley, Susan Vize, MMaggie Hatherley Champ, Janie Gildown (stunning work!), Susan Rubin, Brenda B Green, Libby Kyer, Janie Pirie, Susan Christopher Coulson, Sylvia Sutton, Rachel Munn, Susan Martin and Janet Wilkinson
  • a summary checklist of tips
  • recommended stockists, societies, botanical art collections and gardens
Note: This book was sent to me to review by the author/publisher

Links: You can read more about:
Learn about the best botanical art and botanical illustration books. Includes reviews of

  • botanical art instruction books - for those wanting to develop their skills and
  • books about famous botanical artists and painters of flowers in the past and present.

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