The Complete Artist’s Manual, Grown-Up Projects, How-to-Sew, & More | Crafts & DIY Reviews

Art Instruction

HEATHER HALLIDAY, American Jewish Historical Soc., New York

Jennings, Simon. The Complete Artist’s Manual: The Definitive Guide to Painting and Drawing. Chronicle. 2014. 400p. illus. index. ISBN 9781452127163. pap. $29.95. ART INSTRUCTION

complete artist's manualIn his latest wide-ranging artist’s manual, Jennings walks readers through a great variety of drawing and painting techniques. While there are no step-by-step projects here, there is a lot of insightful description of principles, tools, and practices. The text is bolstered by over 1,300 color photographs of finished works, sketches, works in progress, tools, media, and materials. Chapters cover drawing and painting surfaces; choosing a subject, color, and composition; setting up a workspace; and the discipline of a routine creative practice. VERDICT This newly updated manual will have broad appeal to beginning and intermediate artists, and can even help experienced professionals hone their craft.

Kutch, Kristy Ann. The New Colored Pencil: Create Luminous Works with Innovative Materials and Techniques. Watson-Guptill: Crown. May 2014. 176p. illus. index. ISBN 9780770436933. pap. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9780770434472. ART INSTRUCTION

In recent years, the medium of colored pencil has expanded significantly. Divided into three sections on each main type of colored pencil—wax, oil, water-soluble—this guide covers both traditional and more modern colored pencil principles and styles. Included is a chapter on color theory; step-by-step exercises to familiarize the reader with a range of traditional, innovative, and unusual techniques; many handy comparison charts showing the characteristics of various tools, materials, and brands; and a very useful hue/color name/manufacturer appendix. ­VERDICT Artists of all levels looking for a versatile, portable, and colorful new medium can draw inspiration from this book.



Elliott, Mel. 1980s Bumper Activity Book: 52 Grown-Up Projects that Look Back to the Future. Portico. Apr. 2014. 141p. illus. ISBN 9781907554797. pap. $14.95. CRAFtS

Bumper Activity BookNostalgia works in strange ways. Many of the young people so fascinated with the neon-­colored pop culture excesses of the 1980s were not yet born (or barely aware of their surroundings) during the peak of the decade. But you’d be hard pressed to find an American who can’t identify the period’s icons, and hipsters have spent the last few years appropriating facial hair worthy of Magnum, P.I. English artist and illustrator Elliott is a child of the decade, who grew up obsessed with popular culture. This colorful book is a celebration of all things 1980s, from music to fashion to television to video games. Projects include a delightful mishmash of paper craft, stenciling (both on walls and fabric), basic sewing and cross-stitch, and coloring. The volume is reminiscent of a child’s activity book—perfect for a rainy day. However, the references to UK pop culture such as the band Bros, TV show Jim’ll Fix It, and singer ­Shakin’ Stevens will be lost on all but the most ardent Anglophiles, and the abundance of consumables may prove frustrating to crafters checking the item out from the library. VERDICT If you have ever wanted to build a DeLorean out of card stock, make finger puppets featuring the members of Wham!, or play the theme song to The Fall Guy on a recorder, this book is for you.

Fiber Crafts


Denham, Carolyn N.K. Merchant & Mills Sewing Book: Hand Sewing Techniques, Machine Know-How, Tools, Notions, Projects, Patterns. Chronicle. May 2014. 176p. illus. index. ISBN 9781452125497. $24.95. FIBER CRAFtS

Merchant & Mills Sewing BookDenham and her business partner ­Roderick Field founded the English haberdashery shop Merchant & Mills in 2010 and their gorgeously packaged notions and sewing kits (designed with a uniquely Victorian aesthetic) can be seen on sewists’ wish lists and Pinterest boards. Denham brings her sewing knowledge and old-­fashioned style to this sewing guide, which covers a selection of techniques for hand and machine sewing, along with vintage-style projects designed to reinforce the methods and skills shown in this book. The highlight is the extensive coverage of sewing ideas, which includes information about different types of scissors, needles, and pins—something that most similar manuals gloss over. The author uses illustrations rather than photographs for many of her examples, which, though lovely, may prove frustrating to novices who need a little more detail and direction. ­VERDICT Hipster sewists will be drawn to the dry humor and gorgeous aesthetics but this book isn’t really a how-to-sew guide, rather it covers “how to use old-fashioned techniques to sew better.”

Fox-Proverbs, Jenny. Start Stitching: Sweet and Simple Needle & Thread Projects. Fox Chapel. May 2014. 128p. illus. ISBN 9781574217308. pap. $19.99. FIBER CRAFTS

Start StitchingHand stitching is a growing trend among crafters and this overview provides basic knowledge on a variety of techniques—embroidery, sashiko, needlepoint, crewel, and cross-stitch—all geared toward sewists with an interest in contemporary fabrics, color palettes, and themes. Though none of the coverage is in depth, there’s enough to get a novice started, including materials used for each method, basic stitches, and a few practice patterns. The projects are reminiscent of designs from the modern craft magazines published in the UK (especially Mollie Makes and CrossStitcher) and will appeal to crafters who enjoy whimsical motifs as well as abstract arrangements. The second half of the book focuses on ways to use hand sewing as embellishment, including sewing on preprinted fabric and adding hand-stitched panels to small home goods such as pincushions, cloth napkins, and pillows. ­VERDICT This title may whet crafters’ appetites for hand stitching but more experienced sewists who want to delve deeper may prefer Katherine Shaughnessy’s The New Crewel, Anna Maria Horner’s Anna Maria’s Needleworks Notebook, or any of Search Press’s guides from the Royal School of Needlework.

This article was published in Library Journal's April 15, 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.