Just Draw Fineliner Art – Liam Carver

just draw fineliner art cover

Incredible illustrations crafted with fineliner pens.

I’d love to be more artistic and am always drawn to art books. However, they can often be more daunting than inspirational, either through fantastic skill or ‘complicated’ and/or expensive materials. Fineliner pens, however, are something I already own. I might still feel a little daunted about the skills on display, but that’s aspirational 😉

That said, the art here does cover the ‘wow, never in a million years’ through to ‘hmm, maybe with a bit of practice’ – which is perfect 🙂 Huge plus: it all starts with a ‘visual index’ – thumbnails of all the images from the book, making it really easy to find specific drawings, as well as just being quite the ‘wow’ page seeing all the talent on display from 34 different artists.

Each picture in the main section gets a double spread, and is accompanied by a brief description, highlighting a particular technique used in that drawing, and a ‘tip’ to encourage you to try it yourself. To be honest, I found the descriptions a little odd sometimes, as if the author had written them after looking at the piece, rather than getting information from the artist. Certainly, the discussion on his own work sounds a lot deeper and more confident – perhaps only to be expected.

The book ends with the almost obligatory section on materials, plus a list of further resources. It’s not surprising to see a link to Jake Parker’s Inktober website: the whole book feels strongly linked to the whole Inktober challenge. So if you are feeling inspired to pick up a fineliner, perhaps you’d also like to join this year’s online challenges 🙂

Overall: visually lovely, with a range of useful tips. One to dip in and out of for inspiration.

NetGalley eARC: 210 pages
First published: 3rd March 2020
Series: none
Read from: 2nd February – 1st March 2020

My rating: 7/10

The Art of Watercolor Lettering – Kelly Klapstein

art of watercolor lettering cover

“A Beginner’s Step-by-Step Guide to Painting Modern Calligraphy and Lettered Art”

Being more creative is one of my constant goals, but it can be intimidating for a beginner to get started. Calligraphy, for example, has a huge appeal to me, to the point where I’ve bought pens and inks and started practicing – and always been too disappointed to go on. And don’t get me started on watercolour – looks gorgeous, but not the easiest!

Combining the two forms intrigued me – surely it would just make for ‘difficult squared’?

This book starts off, as with most art books, with a list of equipment and some discussion about the various options – of brushes, papers, paints, and sundries. There’s a brief explanation of colour mixing theory, and then some simple warm up exercises to get you used to holding the brush and working with the paint.

As you can see, this is all very non-threatening, and perfect for total beginners as well as those who need a bit of a confidence boost!

The third chapter introduces the lettering, talking about the basic and some more complex styles. This is the ‘calligraphy’ part, if you like. Then we move on to the ‘watercolour’ part (yes, the whole book is that, but most intensely here!) and – oooh! The techniques (rainbows!) and hints (wet on wet effects) and use of colour is just making me want to go grab a paintbrush and start right now! I mean, look at this:

galaxy lettering example


The author also briefly covers other things like watercolour pencils and water-based brush markers, before suggesting how to use what you’ve learned to make ‘dreamy designs’.

Overall, I really like this book. It combines two art forms I hadn’t really thought to try together, and is presented in clear, easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions that will get just about anyone started and on their way to a fun, pretty hobby with all sorts of uses.

NetGalley eARC: 146 pages / 7 chapters
First published: 2019
Series: none
Read November 2019

My rating: 9/10

Creative Journaling – Renee Day

creative journaling cover

“A guide to over 100 techniques and ideas”

It’s been a few years since I stumbled across the concept of Bullet Journaling, and it grabbed me from the start: a mix of organisation and creativity sounds absolutely my thing! However, I’ve fallen into a bit of a rut with my ‘spreads’ (page designs) over the past year, never really got as creative with it all as I wanted, and am actually taking a bit of a break right now. My intention is to start a new journal with new enthusiasm for the new year.

So, when I spotted this book on NetGalley, it felt like a bit of a sign! 😉

Renee Day is behind the instagram account @theDIYday, and if you’re familiar with it you might know what to expect from this book. It covers four different kinds of journalling – dot grid (what I’d call bullet journaling), junk (aka altered book), mixed media, and travel. There are also section at the start and end on choosing materials and supplies, types of lettering, and making your own ‘extras’.

The first section was of most interest to me. If you’re a long-time ‘BuJo’er’ then you might find this a bit basic, or like me you might be glad of the different ideas – all fairly simple and ‘doable’, thank goodness! In fact, the idea of a reusable layout page struck me as genius! There are different styles, different techniques or embellishments, all presented in a step-by-step form with added hints and tips.

The ideas do get progressively more complex, so as a beginner you could follow each in turn and build your confidence – and your craft stash, if you want to try them all! I’d never thought about using my card-making kit (stamps, punches, etc) for my journal, but what a great way to try stuff out.

Up to this point, Ms Day is on the side of stamps and tapes rather than a lot of artistic skill, which is something of a relief. She gets a bit more crafty with the ‘junk journaling’, something new to me but which is quite intriguing, and more again with the mixed media. This feels aspirational for me right now – maybe after some confidence building with my bujo I’ll feel more capable of creating a ‘hot glue layout’, or something this pretty:

stitched galaxy layout from book

After the fairly self-explanatory travel journalling section, I really loved the section on ‘DIY accessories’ – make your own tabs looks fab, and I would never have thought of making my own washi tape or decorated paperclips.

Overall, this is a lovely book full of ideas for beginners and more experienced journallers alike. The step-by-step instructions makes it a lot more accessible than the equivalent blog/social-media offering, too. Recommended – and might just spark a good New Year’s Resolution for me 😉

NetGalley eARC: 211 pages
First published: 14th January 2020
Series: none
Read November 2019

My rating: 8/10

A Dangle A Day – Angela Porter

a dangle a day cover

“A dangle is a beautiful string of charms you can use to decorate all kinds of things, including alphabets, shapes, borders, illustrations, quotations, and anything else you can think of.”

I got into zentangling a while back – sort of doodling with rules – and I’ve been meaning to get back into it for ages. I’ve also taking to Bullet Journalling in a big way, finding it a fab mix of my needs to be organised and a bit creative. So when I spotted A Dangle A Day on NetGalley, it looked just my thing – and I was right!

The first section is on lettering. This has always appealed to me, and there are plenty of step-by-step examples – one for each letter and number, each in a different kind of style to mix and match – which will be very handy when I’m stuck for inspiration.

The second section is on seasons. Doodles and ‘dangles’ can look quite simple, but coming up with ideas is half the battle. The author took that work out of the equation for me, providing dozens of examples of just the kinds of seasonally-appropriate little doodles I was after, be that holly or bells for Christmas, hearts and flowers, or more abstract designs, plus colour schemes that match the seasons.

The actual ‘dangle’ part of the title refers to stringing doodles together in streamer-like chains, and while I wasn’t too sure about that part to begin with, the description of using them as BuJo section breaks was a lightbulb moment. They were also perfect for decorating my Christmas card envelopes.

Dangles and zentangling and doodling are lovely, relaxing and just ‘nice’ activities that I recommend wholeheartedly, and this book is a fantastic resource for inspiration. There are sections after each example for you to have your own go, if you have the physical book, but even if not – get the pens out, and have a play about. It’s great for the soul 🙂

NetGalley eARC: 147 pages
First published: 2019
Series: none
Finished reading: 9th February 2019

My rating: 9/10

How to be Both – Ali Smith

Ho this is a mighty twisting thing fast as a fish being pulled by its mouth on a hook…

The words ‘Award Winning’ usually have me running for the hills – Oscar nominees are usually very good, very boring films, for instance! But somehow, the accolade of winning the Man Booker Prize this year brought this book to my attention and I thought, why not shake my reading up a bit?

The big marketing ‘thing’ with this book is that the two sections can appear in either order. They are linked, but fairly loosely.

My copy started with the section on 15th Century artist, Francesco del Cossa – who, I only learned after reading, was a real person. I might have enjoyed this part of the book even more had I known I could go google for some of the artwork being described – so, maybe do that!

There are more than a few reviews suggesting that this section was difficult to enjoy, and had to be returned to after reading the more modern half. I confess, the opening few pages almost saw me give up: the stuttering stream of consciousness just did nothing for me, nor the repeated use of “Cause” for because, and “Just saying” – not very in-period, really! But I love art, and this period, so it wasn’t too hard to keep going. However, it all ends rather abruptly, and so I went on to the other section hoping for some explanations…

The other half of the book follows George struggling to cope after the death of her mother, in a contemporary setting. It’s (clearly!) very well done, interspersing grief and memories and the struggle to keep going with modern life. But of course, as it doesn’t actually ‘follow’ the tale of del Cossa, there is no resolution to be had.

So here’s the thing: literary fiction isn’t my usual read, and it sort of grates on me that it ‘gets away’ with a whole pile of things that so-called genre fiction wouldn’t. Like, no real plot, and certainly no real resolution(s). The two parts of the book do tie together, in a fashion, but with minimal explanation.

Overall, it’s obviously very well written, and the prose is a joy to simply read. But while it deals with art, and death, and grief, and all sorts of other ‘real’ stuff admirably, I can’t help but feel a small ‘well, what was THAT about?’. Maybe the flaw is mine, and I’m simply not deep enough for this kind of book! 😉

Consider this moral conundrum for a moment…

HB: 372 pages, 2 sections which can be read in either order.
Read 13th – 25th June 2015

My rating: 7/10