Friday, August 18, 2017

The lobsterbacks hold Boston Harbor

Although it lacks the toe-tapping appeal of the hit musical about the same man, the graphic novel Alexander Hamilton by Jonathan Hennessey and Justin Greenwood will help to bring to life one of the most interesting figures in American history.

The non-fiction book begins with a prologue that leads up to why Hamilton became such a well-known individual, including some historical writings citing Biblical evidence for the rights of kings to rule over people (and how free and lucky those subjects should feel!). In order to explain the times that Hamilton was born into, there is also some historical information on the sugar trade, established in the West Indies where the climate was favorable.  This new trade allowed British businessmen the ability to use their new found wealth to buy their way into Parliament, while British interests in the new American colonies were not so well represented abroad.  This led to the hated "stamp act" which punished the Americans for buying non-British goods.  The sugar industry also gave rise to the brutal slave trade in this part of the world.

The book goes on to detail Hamilton's difficult family circumstances: his mother had fled an abusive marriage and wasn't married to the man who became Hamilton's father.  The family split up and his mother died when he was young.  This left Hamilton, with no family to fall back on, with extremely limited prospects.  He was lucky to find a mentor in the Rev. Hugh Knox, who eventually helped the young man to publish a piece of writing that led to prominent citizens to help him travel from St. Croix to America for an education.  Once arrived, Hamilton became one of the most outspoken critics of British rule, delivering speeches and publishing pamphlets in an attempt to rally support for the cause of independence.

Hamilton's colorful career and path to the famous duel with Aaron Burr make up the majority of the book.  It is interesting to see events and people from (usually) dry history books come to life in the graphic novel format.  Hamilton is certainly an interesting figure and by showing his difficult upbringing and the motivation behind his beliefs, we can learn more about this major historical figure.  The occasionally convoluted language might be off-putting to younger readers, but those who want a glimpse into Hamilton's background will enjoy this effort.

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of Alexander Hamilton from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Getting started with a pencil

Some people are gifted artists and are effortlessly able to create artistic masterpieces.  For the rest of us, Foundations of Drawing gives not only a history of art, but useful information on the tools and techniques necessary to bring out your creative genius.

Lavishly illustrated with many examples, the author begins with the encouraging reassurance that "anyone can learn to draw."  The book then traces the history of drawing, from its supposedly romantic beginnings when young woman traced the outline of her war-bound boyfriend, to the more likely origins of cave paintings from over 700,000 years ago.  The author notes how Picasso and other artists were influenced by these early cave drawings and made "conscious decisions to adopt alternative methods of drawing."  That's always been my explanation, too . . .

After tracing the development of drawing through the centuries and various artistic movements,  there is a discussion of the various materials that can be used for creating your masterpiece.  In addition to giving a description of each type of material, the author also offers advice on how to use each one.  The majority of the book is devoted to Essential Drawing Skills and Demonstrations, including techniques such as blending, texture and working with light and shade.  Step-by-step instructions show how to begin and progress through such projects as drawing still lifes, animals and the human figure.  After your work is done, there is information on using fixatives and storing your work.

Whether you've always wanted to learn to draw, or are merely interested in art and art history, this book offers a great deal of in-depth information on the subject.  Even if you don't plan to start drawing yourself, seeing how artists go about their work is fascinating.

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of Foundations of Drawing from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review