Hands Around the World

365 Creative Ways to Build Cultural Awareness and Global Respect

If you are familiar with Williamson Kids Can! Books, you already know that they are very child-friendly activity books filled with creative ideas for fun and imaginative play. The book Hands Around the World: 365 Ways to Build Cultural Awareness and Global Respect is just as fun, but obviously even more important than a traditional activity book, as it is centered around helping us raise global citizens with compassion and respect for one another.

Susan Milord’s book approaches art and projects from the perspective of a year in the cultures of the world, with a daily focus on a specific cultural event. There are stories, foods, and arts from all around the world—as well as holidays that children may not be familiar with. I was afraid the book might be a little condescending from a Western perspective—which is always a risk in cultural education programs, no matter their intent—but so far, from using it, I haven’t seen anything like that. Western traditions are included in the book, providing it with a full global perspective rather than an “us versus them” mentality.

That said, the book does follow the Gregorian calendar—while mentioning that there are other calendars, such as the Chinese calendar and Jewish calendar, are also mentioned. Use of a world map is encouraged while learning from and playing with this book.

The book is easily organized like a calendar, which makes it simple to use. Just open up the current day’s date and you can start using it right away. Parents and teachers should know that some activities feature adapted materials when authentic ones will be difficult to locate; for example, there is an activity for making a turban in which most families may want to use any readily available cloth. Most activities are very safe, with a few exceptions that may require adult help with something like an Xacto knife.

Each week in the book features a fun tip or other helpful information pertaining to either that week or the entire program, such as utilizing climate information as well as topographical maps. Not every day features only one culture; for example, six different countries are highlighted on the New Year Celebration entry. Various traditions for New Year’s are also explored on a separate date, given that it’s such a big holiday.

I would recommend this book for any family and classroom. We live in a global community and it’s more important than ever to help our kids connect with and respect the people in not just their own neighborhoods, but in countries the world over entirely.

Ed Emberley Nostalgia

His series of "Learn to Draw" books is still in print today - and popular as ever!

A friend recently mentioned that she bought a bunch of old Ed Emberley books on Amazon, and I was instantly transported back to my childhood, spending hour after hour hunched over a stack of paper on the small desk in my bedroom, following the instructions to make one after another of Ed Emberley's creations.
Emberley's drawing books had their biggest surge in popularity in the 1970s and early 1980s. His books took you step by step through the process of drawing a tiny, simple little figure. Most of the drawings featured just a few easy shapes. You might start with an oval, add a few squggles and a triangle, and end up with a pretty great dragon. The possibilities were endless, and myriad.

It was heady stuff, to a little kid - and to the adult that I am now. I recognize that Emberley simply took a basic idea of art principles and ran with it: everything in the world can be broken down to a few simple shapes. Two ovals and two lines, and you've got a coffee cup. Two more ovals, and that cup has a handle. 
The process of adding shape upon shape to create a form is nothing new. But there's something truly fantastic in the appeal of Emberley's books. For one thing, they didn't mess around with perspective. Everything has an artistic aesthetic which is wonderfully, cheerfully 1950s in nature. Bold colors, adorable forms… the look of Emberley's books hasn't aged a bit, it's only become more wonderfully retro.
In hindsight, there was no objective reason to draw all of Emberley's creations tiny. But you felt you had to. Clearly from a perspective of book design, the drawings had to be small just to fit them all in there.  But it had the feeling of creating and populating an entire, miniature world. You could do a tiny intricate fantasy world (complete with knights and dragons and sword-wielding maidens [at least in MY fantasy world, the maidens wielded swords!]), or an industrial world with war ships and airplanes and robot cranes. Monsters! Animals! Household appliances! It felt infinite and powerful.
And such is the lasting legacy of Emberley's popular "learn to draw" series of books: they didn't just teach you how to draw specific things. They taught you how to draw anything you wanted. After a while, it was pretty obvious how it worked. I know that spark of understanding is part of what led me to become a life-long artist, and I'm sure I'm not the only one!

This Art Book Educates and Inspires

If you're a budding artist looking to further develop your craft, or a professional artist looking for new inspiration, you might want to check out 200 Projects to Strengthen Your Art Skills: For Aspiring Art Students by Valerie Colston. Available in a paperback edition from Barron's Educational Series, this 128-page book presents a plethora of ideas, tips, and inspiration in a concise and easy to understand format.

The book includes ideas and information geared toward developing skills in graphic design. Techniques such as lettering, line art, and texturing are covered, and readers will also gain insight into the use of color, tone, spatial relationships, composition, and perspective. Suggested projects are outlined in step-by-step detail so that students can apply and practice what they learn through the text.

With over 200 color illustrations highlighting specific techniques and examples of finished art, the aspiring artist has plenty of visual aids to accentuate and support the learning process. Especially helpful are the illustrations depicting artistic concepts that can be difficult to explain through words alone.

Colston has also included tips on setting up a studio area and selecting materials, and considerations when choosing computer software for creating digital art is discussed, as well. An overview of how to put together a professional artist's portfolio is also presented in clear, straightforward instructions.

Whether your art is a hobby, a job, or a way of life unto itself, 200 Projects to Strengthen Your Art Skills: For Aspiring Art Students is an art book that offers lots of new ideas to try.

Take a Peek into the Art of Comic Inspired Cinema

Marvel's The Avengers will be out this May

If you're a fan of comic book art and the art of movie-making, you might want to check out Avengers: The Art of Marvel's The Avengers., a new book featuring lots of really well-crafted art.

Scheduled for release this spring on May 2nd, 2012, this hardcover title from Marvel highlights the artistry that went into creating a movie like The Avengers, from reproductions of the original concept art to full-color photographs of the actual movie set. Costume design and creation, production, special effects, and monster-making are also featured, and The Avengers characters are naturally all included.

The book also includes interviews with crew members, cast members, and others directly involved in the making of The Avengers. Joss Whedon, the film's writer and director, is featured, and producer Kevin Feige offers his thoughts, as well. Along with the peek into the many artistic aspects of movie making, the book presents an interesting and engaging portrait of what it's like to be involved in the world of cinematic art. Overall, the reader gains a sense of the enormous artistic accomplishment that bringing a comic book to life on the big screen entails.

The hardcover format makes for a sturdy book that should be around for years to come, and it's appropriate for artists and Marvel fans of all ages ranging from elementary school level to adult.

For working artists and aspiring artists interested in comics or film, Avengers: The Art of Marvel's The Avengers is worth considering. You'll get an inside look at comics and movie making that can inspire you in your own creative and artistic endeavors.


Explore the Art of Video Games in this Upcoming Art Book

If you're a gamer with a love for art, The Art of Video Games: From Pac-Man to Mass Effect is an art book that can't be missed. Scheduled for release this March 6th, 2012 from Welcome Books, the title chronicles the best in video game art to date. Inspired by The Art of Video Games exhibition that will be showcased at the Smithsonian American Art Museum from March to September this year, the book offers a companion to the exhibition that offers background information and insight on the evolution, development, and cultural significance of video game art.

In total, eighty games are covered, spanning five different eras of gaming from Atari to the original Sega to the Nintendo Wii. Gaming art represented include offerings from Microsoft Xbox 360, Sega Dreamcast, Super NES, Playstation 2, and more. Each game is described and background information on game development, innovations, and impact highlight the relevancy of these truly artistic creations. Patrick O'Rourke provides over 100 composite images created directly from the art featured in original games like Space Invaders, Sonic Adventure, Super Mario 64, Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, and more.

A collaboration between O'Rourke and Chris Melissinos, with an introduction by Mike Mika and a foreword by Elizabeth Broun, the book includes the experience and insights of several professionals in the gaming industry. Their professional and serious take on the world of video games really comes through and conveys to the reader a greater appreciation of this relatively modern artistic medium. So much more than munching dots or saving princesses, video games offer a medium for cultural expression and emotional exploration—in short, art! Whether you're an avid gamer or simply an artist looking for an art book that's a little different, The Art of Video Games is well worth a look.


New Book Helps Little Ones Appreciate Sculpture

Would you like your little ones to have a little more appreciation for the world of art? In addition to taking your kids to the museum, why not share an art book that's written especially to appeal to young readers? Out this April is Look! Look! Look! at Sculpture by Nancy E. Wallace with Linda K. Friedlaender, a book that promises to intrigue and amaze young readers with the beauty and diversity of sculpture.

The book tracks the movements of three sneaky mice who explore the wide variety of sculptures at the local museum. The mice notice the many differences in the sculptures, helping readers appreciate distinctions as they compare and contrast right along with these cute little critters. Differences in texture, size, and materials are all highlighted, and distinctions in angles and perspective are also touched upon in the text. The playful mice are inspired by all they see at the museum and end up creating their very own totally unique sculptures.

The illustrations in the book are unusual and quirky. Nancy Wallace uses a special collage method to create her art, and in Look! Look! Look! at Sculpture she has incorporated actual photographs of sculpture, giving the book a sort of three-dimensional look and feel that helps convey the allure of the sculpture arts.

Nancy Wallace is an accomplished author an illustrator of many books including Seeds! Seeds! Seeds!, The Valentine Express, and Alphabet House.

Look! Look! Look! at Sculpture is scheduled for release this April 1st, 2012 from Marshall Cavendish Childrens Books.






A Different Kind of Art Book

Complete Letters of Vincent Van Gogh is Intimate, Honest, and Interesting

There are a lot of books about Vincent Van Gogh: the man, the art, the wild rumors; but few books reveal the character of Van Gogh better than the Complete Letters of Vincent Van Gogh. This book, or rather this three-volume set of books, offers a collection of letters written by Vincent to his dear brother Theo, presenting an intimate look into the private fears and feelings of this celebrated and eccentric artist.

The letters are striking in their intensity. Some letters show Vincent at his creative height, excited about new mediums, new subjects, and new friends. Other letters show Vincent at his lowest lows, trapped in the depths of misery and despair.

Complete Letters of Vincent Van Gogh presents an honest glimpse into the real-life struggles, triumphs, hopes, dreams, and heart of a man whose art continues to speak through our souls. Whether you want to find out more about Vincent Van Gogh the artist or Vincent Van Gogh the man, Letters to Theo will open your eyes in a way that only Vincent, himself can.

Originally published by the New York Graphic Society in 1958, the boxed set edition published by Bulfinch in is a replica of this earliest release. The collection contains over 1500 pages of letters and reproductions of over 200 sketches and doodles etched on the original letters. The books are hardcover, with sturdy binding and classic appeal.

Complete Letters of Vincent Van Gogh is a treasure trove of inspiration and empathy for any artist who has ever struggled and dared to keep painting nonetheless.

Learn to Make Garden Statuary and Sculpture: New Book Shows you How

Looking for new ways to capitalize on or simply express your artistic talents? Let your crafty side shine with Sherri Warner Hunter's new book, Creating Concrete Ornaments for the Garden: Making Pots, Planters, Bird Baths, Sculpture and More. Scheduled for upcoming release this March, 2012 from Lark Crafts, the book includes directions for over two dozen projects to make with concrete or similar mediums.

The projects range from a relatively simple planter to the more elaborate decorative walkway and water feature. Included are directions for crafting a relief panel, a unique sculpture, a sandcast bowl, a carved trough, and more. Molds, materials, texturizing, finishing, casting, and other methods are explained, and illustrations are included to better illuminate key details. You'll learn how to make a variety of garden statuary and accessories, and it's easy to adapt the techniques offered in this book to a wider scope of applications.

For the starving artist or the enterprising crafter, Creating Concrete Ornaments for the Garden is an especially good investment. Readers can learn to master a trade that can be transformed into real profit—garden sculptures are often hot sellers at craft fairs and local artist markets!

Sherri Warner Hunter, the book's author, is also the writer of the bestselling title Creating with Concrete, and her talent and creativity is just as prevalent in her latest effort. Although the descriptions of each project might be a little difficult to grasp at first, if you take a hands-on approach to learning each technique, you'll learn to master Sherri's expert methods in no time.


New Japanese Art Book Release from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Japanese art is diverse and harmonious, ancient and modern, beautiful and challenging. With so much history and meaning behind Japanese art, it can get a little confusing to sort it all out and fully understand these masterpieces. With a book that was just released last month on December 20th, 2011, expanding your knowledge of Japanese art will be a snap. Storytelling in Japanese Art is a new book that retells seventeen classic Japanese stories though the visual narrative of art. Authentic Japanese scrolls—thirty in all—dating from the 13th century to the 19th century are depicted in full color, quality images that really show the true details of these gorgeous pieces of art. Among the stories retold are the Peach Boy, Great Woven Cap, Tale of a Strange Marriage, and The Tale of the Genji. The stories range from adventurous to philosophical, romantic to downright scary, so there is a little something for all tastes. The illustrations are described in detail so that the reader can connect the story behind each scroll to the art itself. Many of the book's pages feature fold-outs that allow the reader to view the depicted scroll in its full span, and information about the history and tradition of Japanese storytelling through art is thoroughly discussed in the book's introduction. The 120-page book is published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is offered in an inexpensive paperback format. Authored by Masako Watanabe, senior research associate in the department of Asian art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Storytelling in Japanese Art is a scholarly work that's written in a style and tone the common art lover can understand and enjoy.

New Book Will Teach You How to Paint People Accurately

Painting Portraits and Figures in Watercolor by Mary Whyte is Great for Beginning and Intermediate Artists

If you're a serious artist who's looking to improve your skill at creating realistic faces and figures using watercolor, there's a new book out that will help you achieve your goal. Painting Portraits and Figures in Watercolor by Mary Whyte was released December, 2011 from Watson-Guptill. Appropriate for beginning and intermediate students of watercolor, the book leads the reader through the artistic process from start to finish, covering topics such as choosing the right tools, selecting the most effective mediums, composing the picture, and displaying your finished art. Well-illustrated with how-to photos demonstrating technique and reproductions of works from some of the great masters of watercolor, Whyte has created a book that's entertaining, educational, and effective.

The content of the book spans the topic of watercolor from multiple angles. In the “Materials and Tools” chapter, Whyte discusses everything from easels and paper to pallets and paints, and she even throws in useful information about where to buy supplies and what you'll need to set up a basic studio space. There's also an especially helpful chapter on techniques that discusses the use of washes and glazes and how to use texture and combine mediums. Other chapters explore values, drawing, color and light, edges, and backgrounds. Whyte has also included information on the basics of exploring your talent, dealing with failures, and how to live the artist's life.

An established professional artist and illustrator, Mary Whyte has exhibited her work in some of America's most renowned museums, and her art has been featured by the American Watercolor Society and Allied Artists of America.

The 160-page volume is available now in paperback or Kindle edition.