I have received this week two books that I must tell you about. Both books are beautiful to look at, to peruse at leisure or in study. Both books can be opened to any page, for a random dose of amazement or instruction. Both books are inspirational, and yet you cannot help but come away better for having seen them — better at your art, and most importantly better able to see.
Looking at Images is a 264-page distillation of some of the best work from LensWork magazine, but as astonishing as the photographs are (and many are breathtaking), the core of the book, it’s raison d’être, is the commentary on each image by Brooks Jensen, who has been thinking deeply about photography and its place in our lives for a very long time.
If you want to learn how to look at photographs — whether to learn to be a better photographer or learn to be a better viewer of photographs — you could track down Brooks and follow him around for a year or so, or you could read this book. It’s like standing with him at a gallery, or around your kitchen table, and getting his brain-dump on each image in his trademark friendly, non-academic, look-we’re-all-friends-here style.
The Adobe Illustrator Wow! Book for CS6 and CC always makes me laugh — it’s like sitting in a room full of incredibly gifted artists, watching them, listening to them, and realizing that they have each come to their tools through years of experience, but that, if you’re open to learning, they can teach many of their techniques with just a few words. This book contains over 300 full-color pages, crammed so incredibly full with useful information that it’s sometimes hard to know where to look first. Flip casually through the book, find an image that delights you, and then spend ten or twenty minutes with that single page or spread, reading, looking, contemplating. Before long, you won’t be able to resist jumping up and trying the techniques yourself.
Author and editor Sharon Steuer is an artist in her own right, and she brings her eye and attention to detail to the work, with the considerable help of the “Wow! Team,” including Jean-Claude Tremblay, Cristen Gillespie, and many others. It takes a village, as they say, and if you use Illustrator, this is a village you really want to visit.