Friday, July 01, 2016

Favorite Art Books Part 4

A few months back I discovered James Watrous' book The Craft of Old-Master Drawings. Over the years I'd searched for concise information on drawing techniques, particularly metalpoint, without a lot of success. But I found in this book not only a truly excellent introduction to metalpoint, but also to many of the other materials traditionally employed in drawing. The book, first published in 1957, is still in print, published by the University of Wisconsin Press.

These days, and for many decades, the preferred mediums for drawing are charcoal and graphite, while older methods are used considerably less often. This book is intended as a relatively comprehensive review of nearly all of the methods of drawing available over the ages. Watrous begins with a very valuable and detailed discussion of metalpoint, a truly ancient technique. He gives a thorough diescription of metalpoint both from a historical viewpoint and a practical one, and is the reason I purchased the book in the first place. It's one of the very few modern, detailed outlines of techniques of silverpoint, gold point, and others that I have found.

Gary Hoff: "Dutch Iris," 2015 (silverpoint)
In the following chapters, the book details pen and ink methods, even including information about how to cure and cut goose quills and reeds into pens as in past centuries. Watrous also details how and why steel pen nibs arose and how they are best used. In a separate chapter he also provides information on inks used in drawing, including recipes and methods to prepare one's own bistre, iron-gall, and carbon black inks.
 
In a second section labelled "Broad Drawing Media," the author details working methods for chalk, pastels, crayons, charcoal and graphite. In these chapters, as in the earlier ones, he also providess useful recipes for making one's own materials.

This is a short book containing information that seems unlikely to go out of date. It's brief (under 200 pages) but also contains many illustrations from over the centuries displaying masterworks made with each of the various materials discussed. Although there is no mention of supports--parchment, paper, vellum, etc--I think that's a minor criticism. If you're interested in detailed information and recipes dealing with nearly every aspect of drawing, this book is for you. At less than $30, it's a bargain. Highly recommended.

Favorite Art Books Part 1
Favorite Art Books Part 2
Favorite Art Books Part 3
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