4 great new art books

Our favourite recent releases to inform and inspire your own art work.

Need a little extra inspiration in your life? Here are four of the best art books we've come across this month; see which ones would fit best on your shelves.

Paris je t'aime: the sketching lover's companion

This bijou volume is a visual love letter to Paris

A French illustrator and artist currently based in Barcelona, Lapin is a leading light in the "urban sketching" movement. Lugging his sketchbook and compact sketching gear around the cities of the world, from Istanbul to Tokyo, he's filled around 160 sketchbooks over the years, and released many books based on them. But this latest release sees Lapin return to his home country, where he spent a month sketching on the streets of Paris, seeking out in particular the locations he remembered from his early 20s.

Paris Je T'aime reveals Lapin's unique perspective on the city of love, depicting encounters, friendships, café terraces and daydreaming strolls. His style is remarkably distinctive: using a black ink pen as his main tool, he sketches in old accounts books and adds in subdued colours with watercolour pens. These evocative, larger-than-life sketches are threaded together in this bijou book by handwritten tales of his travels, from artist's squats to the Eiffel Tower, Aligne Market to the Moulin Rouge, and beyond.

Si Lewen's Parade: an artist's odyssey

Si Lewen's Parade is an epic visual tale of conflict
  • Author: Si Lewen
  • Publisher: Abrams
  • Price: £25

A "wordless story" that, in 1957, protested against war's unending horror and futility, Si Lewen's Parade has now been rediscovered, remastered, and presented in a new book by cartoonist and editor Art Spiegelman. 

Parade tells an epic tale of recurring conflict as Lewen, a Polish Jew born in 1918, experienced it across the 20th century, in 55 landscape-format drawings. In a spectrum of styles that combine the essence of woodcut prints with the vocabulary of modernism, the art becomes progressively darker, both figuratively and literally, as the series progresses – from the joyful parades that marked the end of World War I to the death marches of World War II and the Korean War. 

In an unusual two-sided, accordion-fold format, the series is beautifully reproduced, along with some archive material, such as an admiring letter from Albert Einstein. Turn the book around and the reversed pages offer a thorough overview of the artist's career by Spiegelman. In short, it feels like you're getting two, very thoughtfully and lovingly compiled books in one. 

Human Figure Drawing: drawing gestures, postures and movements 

This guide takes an informal approach to figure drawing
  • Author: Daniela Brambilla
  • Publisher: Promopress
  • Price: £21.99

If you want precise and exacting rules for how to draw human figures, this is not the book for you. Rather than follow a series of prescriptive lessons or adhere to a pedantic level of anatomical accuracy, Daniela Brambilla instead urges the reader to take a more informal, laid-back approach to figure drawing, so as to gradually improve their confidence over time. In short, the book doesn't tell you how you should draw, but instead offers suggestions about how to begin drawing. 

This doesn't mean it's not packed with detailed advice and inspiring examples, both drawn and painted. Its 17 chapters cover a range of topics in depth, from the fundamentals – capturing gestures, seeing contours and getting proportions right – to broader skills such as reflecting a subject's age and conveying their personality. 

Each chapter concludes with a series of exercises that encourage you to put what you've learned into practice, in a way that should, over time, become instinctive. So to a large extent, what you get out of this book will depend greatly on what you put into it. 

Invented Landscapes

Our favourite book of the month is a treasure trove of awesome vistas
  • Author: Tula Telfair
  • Publisher: Abrams
  • Price: £40

When you first glance at Tula Telfair's panoramic landscapes, you think you're seeing photographs. It takes a moment before you realise they're actually oil paintings. With delicate brushstrokes and a mastery of colour and light, Telfair creates stunning, awe-inspiring vistas suggestive of American deserts, African waterfalls, Antarctic ice flows. Each is alluring and vividly detailed. 

Despite what your eyes tell you, these scenes are not found in nature but conjured entirely from imagination and memory. And Telfair has a lot of memories to draw on. She was brought up in Gabon, surrounded by a variety of tribes, and helped raise orphaned baby lowland gorillas; she also lived in Asia and Europe before moving to the US. So, it's not surprising the power and fragility of nature is at the heart of her work.

This beautifully printed hardback brings together 120 images of Telfair's paintings, works-in-progress and personal photos, as well as essays telling her story, explaining her technique, and discussing the interplay between realism and invention in her art.

This article originally appeared in Paint & Draw issue 1; buy it here!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom May is a freelance writer and editor specialising in design and technology. He was previously associate editor at Creative Bloq and deputy editor at net magazine, the world's best-selling magazine for web designers. Over two decades in journalism he's worked for a wide range of mainstream titles including The Sun, Radio Times, NME, Heat, Company and Bella.

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Art