Strokes of Genius, The Best of Drawing – The Sixth Volume: A book review

This book is the sixth in a series called “Strokes of Genius,” edited by Rachel Rubin Wolf (an artist and freelance editor), an excellent resource of 144 drawings from 142 artists.  The goal of the book is to provide readers with a collection of drawings that illustrate values, lights and darks created from different mediums (mainly graphite and charcoal) across a wide spectrum of subjects.

I’ve been looking for a drawing resource that is not so much instructional, as is a collection of high quality drawing images that are large enough to let me study artists’ results from a variety of techniques to achieve certain looks.

If one is looking for complete instruction, this is not the book, but here are several reasons why this book met my grade:

  • Each image has a corresponding paragraph from the artist explaining something important about how or why they achieved the result of their drawing.  It’s this personal touch that makes the book invaluable – giving just a hint of information, but enough that allows an artist to discover techniques on their own.
  • A couple of gems that I picked up in the book.  The one consistent message I heard over and over throughout the book was about value, artist Scott A. Williams message was spot on, “The correct use of value is critical for defining forms, controlling edges and creating a believable three-dimensional reality.”  Period, end of story – get the value right and all else falls into place.  I’ve returned to drawing in B&W over the last several months to work more on values, lights and darks.   In the book artist Linda Lucas Hardy summed up perfectly why I’ve been working so hard on this aspect of my art, “Value without color has the power to standalone – color without value can’t.”  It gets no better than this simple enough, but very powerful statement.
  • Many images fill the full 12” x 9.5” page, but you’ll also find many in the range of ¾ and ½ page sizes too.  For me this is an important aspect because the sizes allow me to see very clearly the artists’ work, and analyze their drawing techniques.
  • Additionally the larger sizes allow me to see the differences in how certain surfaces (papers, boards and other) and mediums perform as they respond to the artists’ strokes and touch. Very important because I have a tendency to get in a rut using the same support surfaces just because it’s there.  But here my vision for future works was sparked with many creative possibilities.
  • And finally, the quality of construction and materials this book was made from.  It’s a good solid, hefty book measuring 12” x 9.5”, with a matte finish used for the book cover and inside pages.  The high quality thick paper used for both the book cover and inside pages is top notch – meaning it could get a good handling from readers and won’t get worn down quickly.

In fact this book would make a very nice coffee table book, but seriously I wouldn’t do that because there is too much value in those beautifully illustrated pages – it should be picked up and used for the great artists’ resource it is.

If you are interested in the book, it can be found at North Light Shop. 

About Mary

Oil Pastelist
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28 Responses to Strokes of Genius, The Best of Drawing – The Sixth Volume: A book review

  1. Jeri Dihle says:

    Thanks for sharing this with us. I’m looking forward to receiving this. 🙂

  2. From what you read it really must be an interesting book, there is so much to learn in the artistic processes…and than for an absolute beginner…much more!

    • Mary says:

      Thank you Robert – I learn every day and this was (and is) a resource that I know is going to come in handy for many years to come.

  3. I love books that are really, truly helpful.

    This is a good book review. Even though this is a book I would never think to read, your enthusiasm makes it sound intriguing….and beautiful, too!

    • Mary says:

      Thank you Ruth. I think you’d appreciate not only the quality of the drawings, but how beautifully the book was put together.

  4. Sounds like a really useful book for artists, Mary. Great review. 🙂

  5. dsaquarelles says:

    the values are very important ! it is not very easy but this book is very interesting.

    • Mary says:

      Thank you Dsaquarelles – glad you enjoyed the review. I agree about values and is something that I continue to work at developing my abilities to see and express them whether with graphite/characoal or paints.

  6. Looks like a great book for artists…you have reviewed it so very well…it’s interesting to go through it… wonderfully done… 🙂

  7. Resa says:

    It sounds like the perfect book for you & many artists! I’m very glad you found it. have a wonderful week of creating!

  8. jvandervlugt says:

    Hi Mary. I have this as a pdf book (e-book), it’s on my netbook, BUT I don’t refer to it as much as I should! When I do art I dont want to “log in” to a device. Yes, I’m old school, I still like REAL books, with real pages! I’m glad you blogged about this, because I will find it on my “device” and start reading it again. Thank you. 😊

    • Mary says:

      Hi Joanna, there is no substitute for the real thing, right? Something about holding a book in my hands when I’m trying to learn, turning pages and making notes within the margins (although not in this book). Also the size of this book especially made it all the more interesting, being able to see the larger size images. Glad you enjoyed the review.

  9. I agree with Cynthia. Wonderful review and sounds like a must-buy! You’re making me wanna run for my graphite (in the midst of a paint every day in May challenge)! Thanks so much, Mary.

  10. Paul Beech says:

    Such a good review, Mary! Although a poet rather than an artist, I know I’d love this book.


  11. This looks like a great resource, Mary. I’m sure many will appreciate you sharing.

    • Mary says:

      Thanks Jill – I was surprised at how much I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I’m hopeful that it will show me some new techniques that will take some of my B&W to a new level. Hope you are having a wonderful weekend.

  12. Fabulous review, Mary – I feel that you so thoroughly summed it up that it’s almost as if I actually read the book myself, or at least got your very best Cliffnotes on this book. You’ve also opened my mind to new avenues. So thanks for sharing!

    • Mary says:

      Thanks very much Cynthia. It’s becoming a new and good resource for me with my B&W series, glad you enjoyed the review and found it helpful.

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