A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
Like many artists, I’ve fantasized about seeing my paintings in a glossy book. But that honor seems to be reserved for 2 types of artists, the famous ones, obviously and the instructors, as there are “how to” books on almost every type of art and mediums. Those are the ones that fill library shelves. In between those two extremes, are the rest of us.
Today there are more opportunities than ever for artists to self-publish their own book. Myriad companies offer various sizes and formats, it’s only left for someone to decide on how much they want to spend. However, this isn’t about the mechanics of publishing an art book, I have no experience in that and many websites offer practical advice for those with questions about it.
As well as creating art, I also like to look at it and that’s the vantage point of this piece. In checking out various books, it quickly became apparent to me what made a pleasing experience and it had less to do with the cost, than the little things. Most of the art books were between 24 and 40 pages, which was shorter than expected. Professional suggestions were to focus on one’s recent work, thus impressing galleries and such with one’s current styles and subjects. But not all art books are intended for such blatant publicity. Depending on what the goal is, makes a difference in what work is chosen. If an artist is consistent in medium and style, then a more general overview could be allowed. I noted some artists published books every so many years, which would look nice on a bookshelf, but it could get expensive, both for the artist and their collectors. That would probably be best for someone with a large output or continually changing styles.
The website I most enjoyed was blurb where I could preview parts or entire books that are offered for sale. Along with art books, they have other types, such as weddings and travel books, but I concentrated on the ones in Fine Art and selected four for contrast.
One of the first I found and is still my favorite is Distinguished Local Trees Paintings and Drawings by Geoffrey Warburton which is a wonderful collection of trees near the artist’s rural home. They are portrayed in various seasons and mediums and some of them are truly striking in composition and mood. However, there is absolutely no information on what medium used or the size of the painting, or species of tree. I was able to guess that some pictures were watercolors and others pen and ink, but someone who is not an artist would have no idea. The lack of citations is the only thing which mars this book, which is unfortunate.
The appropriately named Marilyn Rose shows us how it’s done right in her array of floral bouquets, painted from life in watercolors each weekend in her Friday Flowers . Not only does she have the names and sizes of each painting, she also includes close-ups and details. It’s a very well done book, which was inspired by her followers on Facebook who look forward to each new work.
So that my nature bias isn’t too obvious, I will praise Pieramatteo’s La Poésie des Couleurs, full of Chagall style women musicians in whimsical colors, cityscapes and buildings in more muted colors. It’s all in French, but I could distinguish titles, poems and stories along with art of various sizes. I could be clichéd and say that it’s proof of the universality of art, but I won’t.
Some artists concentrated on a single theme, but others, such as Susan Jaworski-Stranc, followed a single project from start to finish, in her case a linoleum block print. She used this challenging medium to create a large scale triptych of squirrels in a tree, recording each step in Red Squirrels Blue Squirrels . It’s a very detailed look at the process, including the Medieval painting which inspired her color scheme, with photos, preliminary drawings and the multilayered printing procedure. After all this detail, the abrupt ending of the book is rather startling. I’m not sure why readers were not given a more gradual landing.
So there you have it, my observations of what makes a pleasing self published art book: info on each painting (at least the title), a little background, on either the artist or project, an ending that doesn’t feel as if a door has been slammed in your face and clear, crisp examples of the artworks. Then, even if the book is not a best seller, at least it’s something for the artist to be proud of.