on 17 October 2013
I bought this for my mother-in-law as she is a really keen artist as well as being a great fan of Andrew Marr's. The book is exactly what I wanted - a perfect gift book for someone who's interested in drawing/painting/sketching and wants to understand more about the subject. Andrew Marr's writing is very engaging and I'm sure his own experiences as an amateur artist (such as his struggle with perspective in Venice) will inspire others who often feel thwarted by their frustrations. Reading about the role of drawing as his therapy post-stroke was incredibly poignant, and just goes to show how drawing/painting/sketching can be approached by so many people in so many different ways.
A Short Book about Drawing
By Andrew Marr
I realised that this book was something special as soon as I picked it up. It is tactile with the texture of fabric and before I opened it I knew it would fulfil my expectations.
Andrew Marr obviously used his drawing skills from an early age to express his feelings and to depict what he saw. His recovery from a massive stroke was tempered with the fact that he did not lose his skills of drawing and painting but that he used it as a form of healing, therapy and at times dealing with loneliness when away from home.
Andrew associates happiness with his drawing and painting shown in the way he writes about his work, often linking to historical, philosophical ideals and influences by other artists.
This is a book worth reading as it shows the personal side of a man who is clever but humble.
As one who can barely draw a straight line or a curve without some assistance, I have respect for those with an ability to draw or paint. I had been taught the basics of several very different crafting techniques including glass work, engaving and potting but drawing and painting skills always eluded me. Having later worked with artists and designers in professional studios but not in the art department and having friends and relatives with considerable artistic skills, I know that some have been taught many of their practised techniques and others appear to have been born with them. Andrew Marr appears to be one of the latter and claims never to have benefitted from specialist tuition.
Known as and working as a journalist and in TV, his drawing and painting were a means to occupy himself during those lax hours whilst travelling, waiting for interviews and other odd moments that can occur although he was doing similar as a child. Having also benefitted from being able to travel to many locations, some well-known and others less obvious, in the course of his work there had been many such opportunities to put something other than words on paper. Offered similar situations and opportunities and if they lacked any ability to draw, others might well choose a camera.
The book's title is slightly misleading in that it contains relatively few drawings but rather more sketches or paintings, mostly using limited colour palettes and sometimes as few as three or four main colours plus the odd touch of black or grey for emphasis, shadows etc. Some drawings are caricutures whilst others are almost classical in concept. Not all involve 'scenes' such as landscapes and quite a few are of people at work, travelling or at rest. The skills shown are quite considerable, although the author prefers to deprecate them, and the textual contents benefit from the author's long service as a journalist.
It is unfortunate that, soon after completion of the book, the author suffered a major stroke which has left him partially paralysed and less able to work his skills as he once did. Although a few of the illustrations used are labelled as 'oil paintings' many offer no indication of the medium used although some were stated to being created on an iPad, and in his Introduction, Mr Marr tells how his abilities to work with traditional media had been affected by his stroke and its after-effects to be replaced with electronic methods.
The book may be considered as an autobiography that is limited to a single aspect of the author's life, one relating to his art, but it is not a 'how to' book and may therefore disappoint those who thought otherwise. Taken as is, it offers a considerable insight into one man's previously private and little-known skills. I know of few books that could equal it.
Andrew Marr's book is a total delight from start to finish. I particularly enjoyed it because I have just been reading Matthew Crawford's 'The Case for Working with your Hands' which Marr refers to in his book. Like Crawford, Marr sets out a case for using our hands, eyes and brain together to work on an engaging activity - whether it is for enjoyment, employment or edification - as a life-enhancing, or even a life-giving necessity.
Marr looks at historical aspects of drawing, particularly in European culture, and at how we categorise different types of drawing and art, and illustrates much of the book with his own art.
It should appeal to anyone who draws, or who would like to, or who is interested in drawing as art, as an integral part of human culture, or who is interested in reading about Andrew Marr's beliefs - I loved the book.
I like this little book. As usual Marr does not waste words in relating his experiences and how his life has centred around his desire to draw. It is not a manual on how to draw, far from it, more an enjoyment of what he draws and why. All the pictures in the book were created by him, and they all have an impact even if one would not call them high art.
From an early age, when others wanted toys, he would ask for pencils and paper. When he suffered a nearly fatal stroke his first real interest was again in drawing, and this therapy was what helped him in his recovery. It might seem a simple thing, but as he said "Try drawing with just one hand." You need the other hand even if just to hold the paper or steady yourself.
The book is an easy read and one can finish it in a relaxed evening, but recently, almost a month after my first sight of it, I have found myself dipping into it again to re-read snippets and have another look at some of his art. Bits of it have stayed in my memory, which cannot be a bad thing.
I have to to say I'm not really a fan of Mr Marr but found this book full of charm.
It has history, excellent references and makes a good case for drawing as therapy.
I think we all enjoyed drawing or colouring as children.
Then it's simply something that many rarely do.
It certainly rejuvenated my interest in drawing and I am less stressed as a consequence.
A lovely looking book too, and in my opinion Mr Marr has a talent for drawing.
A recommended gift.
As an art tutor I`m all in favour of a book - or anything else - that gets people drawing.
Andrew Marr has put together what is really just a series of ruminations on the practice of drawing based around a collection of his own work. I assume the book is aimed at the hobbyist market and he draws really quite well - which may, actually - undermine his intentions a little.
This isn't a how-to book - please be clear about that.
In chapter 4 he considers the difference between drawing and painting, rightly identifying that drawing offers no short-cut in the description of the subject - that the skill of the hand, rather than the illusion of paint is there for all to see. Marr finds this exhilarating - as do I - but perhaps inadvertently, he has hit upon the main reason people DON`T draw; I find that students are afraid that drawing will betray their lack of skill and assiduously avoid doing it, believing that brushwork and colour will hide any failings (sadly, it doesn't!).
Marr`s fairly well-executed examples provide a yardstick measure that some may feel they could never aspire to; the fundamental difficulty here is that this normal guy off the telly that people identify with seems to be very talented; well, yes he is, but anyone with a willingness to persevere can draw with competence and achieve a good standard - Marr indicates this himself.
Of course, there are those who WILL be inspired - "if he can do it, so can I" - and I certainly hope that's the case - it`s definitely the right attitude.
I have no problem with the substance of his text; it`s just a personal meditation on drawing and art in general.
This is a nicely presented compact hardback with about 60 illustrations, many in colour; quite a few are done using an iPad - a really good innovation in my view (wish I owned one).
The book can be found for a reasonable price, a fairly interesting volume for what it is; I wouldn't advise this for anyone just beginning to draw but the experienced amateur - or the curious non-participant - may find it worth a look.
on 2 November 2013
I think this is a fantastic book. The reading is very interesting and the drawing makes you want a go
on 17 December 2013
As someone who loves drawing and looking at drawings I really enjoyed it. Andrew Marr's own journey is worth the read, but the real value of the book to me was in how it made me think about how and why I draw, what drawings mean, what drawings are for.
Just in case anyone isn't entirely clear about it from reading the many other reviews, this isn't a tutorial on how to draw. Nor is it an autobiography of Andrew Marr, although it doesn't give considerable insight into his inner life.
What we have is a large selection of drawings by Marr, with a few by other artists where they are referred to in the text. He uses different media for this, including the Brushes app for iPad - and his iPad sketches are intriguingly reminiscent of those by his friend David Hockney, who also uses Brushes on iPad.
Marr had some art education, but (probably fairly) claims not to be a good artist. The text itself wanders around, touching on some detail from art history, exploring the author's motivations, trying to find a way of describing to us, the readers, why he should be so personally rewarded by the creation of mediocre art. In a way, this is an interesting reflection on the culture that requires us all to "succeed", and to be better than the average in whatever we do (a logical conundrum).
If you are considering buying this book, then most likely you are already a big fan of Andrew Marr - in which case, buy it, you won't regret it. If you have arrived here with some other motivation, then sure, it's a book about art (but not a tutorial), but there are many, many others that are more complete or have more general insight: but it still has value.