1. ‘Photoshop Elements Crafts Book‘ by Elizabeth Bulger (Donated by the author)
This book has two main elements to take into consideration – the crafts and the computer program.
From a crafty perspective, while the crafts are basic they are simply examples of what you could do. One example is very cute – using photographic patterns and turning them into folded paper objects – the example is a folded paper handbag. Using old photos as a decal and applying it to different surfaces – they made a quite stylish candle holder. From a photographic manipulation perspective there are some very useful tips. How to work with layers, how to select images, etc. there is a good introduction to the program, how to use the menus and palettes, which if you are unfamiliar with adobe programs is very useful. If you have this program and you take lots of photos and you are interested in crafts then this is a good book to have around.
When I first looked at this book I was not really sure what to think. What a brilliant idea, but from a craft perspective the book seemed a bit dull, the images not very exciting, the projects quite basic. On further inspection I realised that it was really well set out and easy to understand. I took a step back out of my photography/design/craft mode and stepped into my computer program mode and assessed the book under that banner. Also another hangup I needed to consider when looking at this book was my pre-knowledge of photoshop – Photoshop elements is not photoshop, rather a simple photo editing program that allows easy control and enables simple fixes for the everyday photographer (ie most of us).
I did a bit of search to see what others had to say and found a review of the book on slashdot the nerdiest site around. Slashdot says Ultimately, The Adobe Photoshop Elements Crafts Book is a slick, well designed book with interesting projects. It is weakened from a lack of clarity and minimal explanations of why? that would greatly increase its utility in transferring the lessons to other ventures. It is a book well-suited to someone who already has a basic understanding of the Photoshop family, but perhaps one that may be a little unclear for real beginners. It will definitely appeal to readers with an independent spirit for creating or personalizing their surroundings.” Read the rest of the review which gives an excellent overview of all the sections of the book.
2. Visual Chronicles by Linda Woods and Karen Dinino (Donated by the authors)
Subtitled ‘The no-fear guide to creating Art Journals, creative manifestos and altered books.
The world of journalling and scrapbooking and visual diaries is so extensive and broad. Really anybody can do a visual diary or art journal, you certainly don’t need to be an artist, you just need to want to express yourself somehow. I have never been good at keeping journals, they tend to be a messy mishmash of thoughts and ideas and a clumsy attempt at illustration and design. I have spent hours in awe at the craft shop looking at all those bits and pieces for scrapbooking knowing I would never have the patience or money to spend on it all. I have often thought of journals though, I love looking at other peoples journals, at famous artists or talented friends who keep exquisite beautiful intricate journals filled with details and surprises.
Which is what drew me to ‘visual chronicles’ this is not about spending money on equipment, but rather on ideas to get started, ideas to embellish, ideas that lead to more ideas. I love that they suggest using simple materials and found objects such as paint palette cards, and further, what a colourful book, wonderful illustrations and typography too – perhaps they have gone a tad overboard on the scratch and grungy paintbrushes and use of lots of different fonts, but hey this is an ideas book and it all laid out in front of you. Before I begin to look at the projects I have to mention that this book is not just about making but also about thinking, lots of self help advice in here too.
Now for the fun bit, the projects.
The mini prompt journal – I love it. Motivational sayings, words to get you going. Just one word or quote per page, the pages are in fact small tag shaped and sized elements lovingly created out of different papers and attached through the top with a screw post to allow it swing apart. The instructions are good. The supplies list is simple, the photo instructions are clear and there is some advice on how to generate text and find the sayings to put on the cards.
Altered book – this is a fun idea, I have always felt strange about tearing up old books, but this seems kind of worthwhile and fun too. Turning an old book into a journal by glueing pages together, changing the shape of the book by cutting it with a saw and painting the book pages, then going on to use the book for your special purpose.
Probably the best part of this book for me is the fear busters. “I can’t draw” sort of stuff. The book address a number of these issues and breaks the stereotype of visual journalling. It gives tips on journalling in many ways, journals that travel, jourals to make with someone else – a joint project, mail out journals, self portrait journals, all good and worthwhile and interesting ways to keep in touch with yourself and family and friends. I want to keep this book.
This book is about tecniques, drawing and design elements, printing and stamping and stencils and paint. Using and creating texture, capturing forms, making collage. Visually a very beautiful book, stylish and elegant, well laid out. But what abou the content. From the first sentence this book resonated with me – the difficulty as an artist and as someone not always confident about what was to happen on the page, the hesitation before putting pencil to paper. Making that first mark.
This book goes through the basic art techniques, gives instructions and projects to get you started on and familiar with each of the techniques. Projects to either get you back into art or give you confidence to try your hand at something new or for experienced artists, exercises to keep practice. Techiques include using found objects as stencils such as laces and feathers and nature. Then there is stamping, making stamps and pattern making, other kinds of print making using beautiful leaves, and fish prints. I want to try the pattern dyeing of paper using similar techniques to tie dyeing fabric. What a beautiful book.