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Art Book ARC Reviews

How to Draw Cool Stuff: A Drawing Guide for Teachers and Students by Catherine V Holmes

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Publishing Date: July 27, 2017


How to Draw Cool Stuff shows simple step-by-step illustrations that make it easy for anyone to draw cool stuff with precision and confidence. These pages will guide you through the basic principles of illustration by concentrating on easy-to-learn shapes that build into complex drawings.

With the step-by-step guidelines provided, anything can become easy to draw. This book contains a series of fun, hands-on exercises that will help you see line, shape, space and other elements in everyday objects and turn them into detailed works of art in just a few simple steps.

The exercises in this book will help train your brain so you can visualize ordinary objects in a different manner, allowing you to see through the eyes of an artist.

From photorealistic faces to holiday themes and tattoo drawings, How to Draw Cool Stuff makes drawing easier than you would think and more fun than you ever imagined! Now is the time to learn how to draw the subjects and scenes you’ve always dreamt of drawing. How to Draw Cool Stuff is suitable for artists of any age benefiting everyone from teachers and students to self-learners and hobbyists.

How to Draw Cool Stuff will help you realize your artistic potential and expose you to the pure joy of drawing!

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I really enjoyed this one! The step-by-step exercises are simple and easy to follow, with a wide variety of subjects sure to spark the imagination and truly impressive results. It would be excellent to use in schools as well as at home. Just flipping through it had me eager to pull out my pens and try some of the exercises, and I had a lot of “oh, duh! That’s how you draw that” moments.

I will definitely be trying out many of the exercises with my kiddo and in my own sketchbook. I would recommend this to anyone interested in improving their sketching, from beginners to more experienced artists. There’s something here for everyone.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Library Tales Publishing for providing an e-arc for review.

How to Draw Cool Stuff: Shading, Textures and Optical Illusions by Catherine V Holmes

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Publishing Date: July 27, 2017


“How to Draw Cool Stuff: Basics, Shading, Texture, Pattern and Optical Illusions” is the second book in the How to Draw Cool Stuff series. Inside you will find simple illustrations that cover the necessities of drawing cool stuff.

Specific exercises are provided that offer step-by-step guidelines for drawing a variety of subjects. Each lesson starts with an easy-to-draw shape that will become the basic structure of the drawing. From there, each step adds elements to that structure, allowing the artist to build on their creation and make a more detailed image.

Starting with the basic forms, the artist is provided a guide to help see objects in terms of simplified shapes. Instructions for shading to add depth, contrast, character and movement to a drawing are then covered. The varieties of texture and pattern that can be included in an artwork offer another layer of interest and depth to a design. These elements are necessary to indicate the way something looks like it feels in a work (texture) or creating the repetition of shapes, lines or colors (patterns). Illustrated optical illusions involve images that are sensed and perceived to be different from what they really are, showing examples of how the mind and the eyes can play tricks on each other.

All you need is a piece of paper, a pencil and an eraser and you are ready to draw cool stuff. Once the drawing is complete, it can be colored, shaded or designed in any way you like to make it original. Following these exercises is a great way to practice your craft and begin seeing things in terms of simple shapes within a complex object.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is an excellent companion to the How to Draw Cool Stuff: Drawing Guide For Teachers and Students. It again uses simple and easy-to-follow step-by-step instructions for drawing a wide variety of subjects but this time includes detailed information on shading and texture.

I am always a bit hesitant about shading my drawings, but now I feel equipped to attempt it. I am definitely eager to pull out my sketchbook.

This book has a bit more written instruction and description, which is helpful in learning the different types of shading and texture covered in these examples.

Again I would recommend this to everyone from beginner to advanced artist, although I do recommend starting with the Drawing Guide in order to become comfortable with breaking down objects into shapes before getting into the more complicated shading.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Library Tales Publishing for providing an e-arc for review.

The Urban Sketching Handbook: Understanding Light: Portraying Light Effects in On-Location Drawing and Painting by Katie Woodward


Publishing Date: December 28, 2021


The Urban Sketching Handbook: Understanding Light is an informative guide to heightening the impact of your artwork by capturing the look and subtleties of light in any scene.

In settings ranging from fields and mountains at daybreak to neon cityscapes at midnight, learn how to express light effects through color and value to improve and refine your drawings and paintings.

Artist and urban sketcher Katie Woodward offers strategies for:  
Selectively translating values for maximum effect
Using your sketchbook to experiment with the effects of natural as well as artificial light
Considering many options for visual solutions through work contributed by experienced urban sketchers 
Master the art of rendering light with The Urban Sketching Handbook: Understanding Light as your guide.

The Urban Sketching Handbook series offers location artists expert instruction on creative techniques, on-location tips and advice, and an abundance of visual inspiration. These handy references come in a compact, easy-to-carry format with an elastic band closure—perfect to toss in your backpack or artist’s tote.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was an excellent overview of the many ways light can affect the appearance and mood of a painting, especially a landscape painting. The text was informative and detailed, and the many examples really brought the lessons home. I feel like I learned SO MUCH that I now am itching to put into practice. Natural light at various times of day and night are covered, as well as artificial lights and lighting combinations. Also the many and varied types of shadow, reflections, textures, and light viewed through translucent objects.

I would recommend this to anyone with some painting experience who wishes to take their work to the next level by considering lighting. It’s an excellent resource.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Quarry Books for providing an e-arc for review.

ARC Review: Creative Acrylics by Carla Co Chua

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Publishing Date: February 1, 2022


Discover how easy, satisfying, and fun it is to create with acrylic paints and mediums in Creative Acrylics.

Acrylics are one of the most versatile, affordable, and accessible art mediums, and you’ll learn all the tips, tricks, and techniques for blending colors and building texture, plus excellent instruction on how to paint a range of different subjects.

Confused about which types of paints to use, and how to use them? Creative Acrylics cuts through the clutter and offers clear fundamentals for working with a variety of paints and mediums to produce beautiful results. Acrylic paint is water-soluble, dries quickly, and is forgiving, making it perfect for those starting out. Begin your acrylic painting journey with an expert who will guide you through enjoyable techniques and projects as you build confidence and ramp up your skills.

Step-by-step techniques, lessons, and projects cover a wide range of styles and genres, including color mixing, brushwork, glazing, and how to paint easy florals, still lifes, landscapes, and animals. Take your new skills even further and paint on different surfaces to create an apron, painted shells, a paintbrush rest, clay pot, and more.

In Creative Acrylics you’ll find:
How to set up your workspace to make painting more enjoyable
A guide to the different types of acrylic paint

Basic techniques such as understanding color and value, and how to add texture and other effects using paint and mediums

Lessons and projects that build skills: creating still lifes, florals, landscapes and skies, and painting on fabric, wood, shells, clay, and more
With all these ideas and inspiration, your acrylic painting journey can begin today!

Perfect for all skill levels, the books in the Art for Modern Makers series take a fun, practical approach to learning about and working with paints and other art mediums to create beautiful DIY projects and crafts.

My Review:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

This book was more of a beginners book than I was expecting or hoping for. I was also expecting more discussion of acrylic mediums, from the title and description, and there was hardly any except one brief mention.

I was already familiar with all the basic lessons presented here, but if I were completely new to painting then I can see how they might be useful.

The projects also didn’t spark my interest at all. The style was too rough with not enough detail, and the subject matter was uninspiring. The pictures were not clear enough to follow the steps easily.

I also found the instructions to be lacking with too much glossed over if it were truly aimed at beginners. I think this book would be frustrating for painters at any level, with it being either too basic for those with any familiarity with painting or leaving out too many vital bits of information to introduce complete beginners to painting.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Quarry Books for providing an e-arc for review.

ARC Review: Get Messy Art by Caylee Grey

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Publishing Date: December 14, 2021


Getting messy is the best part of creating! Get Messy Art gives you the freedom, inspiration, and ideas to experiment and play with art techniques and projects to create perfectly imperfect art.

We’re always told that play and experimentation is the foundation of growing as an artist. But where do you start? Where to find new techniques to try? How do you bring them all together? Get Messy Art has all the guidance, instruction, and inspiration you need. Based on the popular online class and community website Get Messy Art, this book brings together tons of creative art techniques and projects, including painting with watercolor and acrylic, mark-making, drawing with markers and pen and ink, sketching faces, and much more.

The fun doesn’t stop there. You’ll also learn how to make your own art journals and trendy junk journals—easy handmade books to work in that are personalized and one of a kind.

In Get Messy Art you’ll discover:
A welcoming environment that encourages play and experimentation, to help you become the artist you always wanted to be.
How to use no-rules, no-stress art techniques as a creative outlet to express feelings.

Actionable inspiration that will keep you going, even when motivation is scarce.
Fresh techniques that will show you innovative ways to use low-cost supplies such as paint and mediums, stencils, pens, and paper.

Easy background techniques that will get you started and banish fear of the blank page.
The satisfaction of making your own unique journals using simple methods.
Ultimately, art is all about creating for the sake of creating. It’s powerful, it’s cathartic, it’s messy—and it’s all yours. It’s time to get messy!

My Review:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This was an intriguing and inspiring selection of ideas for an art journal. The accompanying text didn’t really do anything for me — it was too vague, repetitive and “motivational” in the specific way that I find annoying. However the ideas for art spreads were inspiring and made me itch to try some of them for myself. I’ve never tried art journaling but I think I may have to give it a try to see if it gets me back into the creative flow.

I also really appreciated the materials list at the beginning of each spread. I now have a nice list of things to get at my art store and experiment with.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Quarry Books for providing an e-arc for review.