An Illustrated Life – Danny Gregory

Danny Gregory was an ad man who began keeping an illustrated journal in his mid-30s. It was a way to reconnect with the creative side of his brain and the person he was before. He wanted to get into the habit of drawing again and “deepen how he saw the world”. Since then he has filled journals, written books, set up his own website and inspired a web group called Every Day Matters (see my Links) in which artists of all kinds share their own illustrated journals.

In this book, An Illustrated Life, Gregory collects interviews and facsimiles of journal pages from many artists and illustrators. In the interviews artists discuss what their rules are for their own journals, what materials they use and what they gain from journal keeping. The interviews are fascinating enough, but some of the artwork on the pages are stunning. The book introduced me to artists that I hadn’t encountered before but really want to again: Butch Belair, France Belleville, Peter Cusack and Chris Ware. As an art supply junkie, of course, what materials the artists use was of particular interest and I was happy to find that some of my favourites are also theirs.

The book is everything people have said it is; fascinating, colourful, intimate and inspiring. Yes, indeed inspiring. I can see why Gregory has inspired the Every Day Matters group.

Drawing and Painting with Coloured Pencil – Kristy Ann Kutch

Kutch is a well-respected coloured pencil artist who paints some fantastic paintings. Her paintings of flowers are warm and velvety, I especially like ‘Magnolia Flurry’, the creams and blues in this piece are just lovely.

This books covers the basics; pencils, tools, techniques, supports, all that the beginner needs. Most coloured pencil books include this but Kutch also devotes quite a bit of her book to the discussion of Watercolour pencils and how to use them. She provides some great techniques for putting pigment onto the paper other than the basic draw and wet technique. Some of the effects she gets are fantastic I was particularly interested in the cherries demonstration:

I recently completed a cherries piece and I know that it took many, many layers to get that cherry glow and glossy finish something that Kristy manages with watercolour pencils in fewer steps. Granted, Kutch’s style doesn’t always lean towards hyper-realism but she does create interesting paintings with great texture. This may not be the best coloured pencil guide you can buy, but it’s a useful tool in your arsenal especially if you want to try out watercolour pencils.


Colored Pencil Painting Bible – Alyona Nickelsen

If you can only buy one coloured pencil instruction manual, I would suggest that you invest in Alyona Nickelsen’s book, Colored Pencil Painting Bible: Techniques for Achieving Luminous Color and Ultrarealistic Effects. Nickelsen begins with the basics that we come to expect from such an instruction book: paper choices, pencil choices, lightfastness, colour theory, tools and accessories. She then goes onto to describe the techniques you can use to get different effects, such as using low tack tape over pigment which you then score to lift pigment back off the page, and creating textures and highlights.

Helpfully, Nickelsen also talks briefly about taking good reference photographs yourself and how lighting affects your composition and painting. The most useful section of the book, however, is the demonstrations. These are true demonstrations rather than tutorials which allow you to replicate ideas and techniques in your own paintings rather than aiming to replicate a full painting by the author. So we get useful and essential information about rendering water, water droplets, ice, fire, glass, white, wood, copper, brass, silver, fabric including denim, fruit and vegetables, crumpled paper, multi-coloured glass, eggs – even a dandelion. She shows us how to create various textured surfaces like those we find in fruits and vegetables: soft, furry peaches, dimpled strawberries, glossy cherries. As well as short demonstrations and long exercises, we get bitesize examples that we can digest quickly while we work. My particular favourite demonstration is on pearls. The wealth of colour, glow and luminosity that Nickelsen imbibes in these seemingly simple, white spheres is stunning.

Nickelsen’s painting is better than the reference photo.

I used Nickelsen’s instruction recently while painting my Cherries piece. In one exercise she taught me so much: layering, modelling, highlighting, appreciation of values and colour theory. She got me using my Masking Fluid which previously I was reluctant to involve.

I can’t fault this book and while I may outgrow other instruction books, this one will remain on my shelves – I will always go back to it.






Doodlemum: A Year of Family Life

I posted a while ago about Doodlemum –  a blog in which Doodlemum (Angie Stevens) sketches everyday family life with charm, wit and love.

Her sketches are both funny and moving with silly little incidents lovingly recorded in her Moleskine sketchbook and published on her blog. I presume it is a Moleskine with the characteristic yellow, round-cornered pages. I think I first found out about her through The Guardian but I read her blog everyday and recognise a lot of her experiences. It helps too that she is an excellent sketcher with a fantastic ability to capture moments in time in her simple drawings.


Well, Doodlemum released a book, a collection of her sketches forming a year in the life of her chaotic but adorable family. It’s a lovely collection and it replicates the yellow pages and feel of the Moleskine sketchbook. My favourite is not included unfortunately but there is plenty to be found therein. There seems to be a common theme among my favourites in the collection…can you spot it?


If you like comics based on real-life minutiae, if you like art, if you just like a bit of charm then you will like this book. Angie Stevens is hugely talented and long may she doodle. I can’t wait to see the teenage years!



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