Pencil Workshop by Sasha Prood (book review).

The first thing I said to the publicist at Abrams when I saw this book in their catalogue was they should sell it with the stationery items that they also sell as a boxset. With the introduction showing you need to have a visit to an art shop for supplies does at least support this. Well, that is unless you have a well-stocked art-chest.

As we here at SFC support the need to point out books that might develop your or your sprogs art talents from time to time, I wanted to look at Sasha Prood’s book, ‘Pencil Workshop’. In many respects, I do think it ought to be called a ‘workbook’ because there are pages within you can practice on, although I agree that you ought to use separate drawing pads where you can get a lot more practice in. Prood herself calls it a workbook at the end, so thoughts must have been divided.

Principally, the book is to help you to learn a bit about colour mixing and tonal texture, all assets when working on your sketches. There is a tendency, even with pros, to prefer a particular pencil, pen or brush and rarely stray from it in the creation of any picture. I had to have a think here as to whether it’s us artists being lazy or being too caught up in our work and concentration to change. I’ll have to let you decide which. Here, Prood encourages you to experiment and blend whatever you’ve got which should change that habit. She doesn’t just apply this to pencil hardness but to colour medium as well. In other words, she is encouraging you to experiment.

Something I considered while reading is that the techniques used here would also be useful to apply in digital painting/drawing to improve your skills there as well. It’s all very well relying on pre-made swatches but being able to create your own raises your own skills as well.

One thing I would have thought Prood might have covered when she looked at contrast techniques is in application to rounded or spherical objects to give them depth. Indeed, the same would also apply to any solid object which would have shown the general application as used elsewhere.

Something that might be worth saying is don’t use this book merely to copy Prood’s designs but apply it to something you would want to say ‘I did that’ instead even in the learning process. It shows you’ve understood how to texture and you’ve applied your imagination to go one step further. Granted this is covered in the last section of the book but with all the practice you get from the 50 lessons here, don’t live too rigidly to it.

I should also point out that Prood has done similar books on watercolour and marker pens, so it those are your chosen mediums, might be worth looking up.

There are some useful pointers throughout this book and whether you’re developing your artistic skills or skilled, there is something to learn here, even if its breaking old habits.

GF Willmetts

February 2020

(pub: Abrams Books. 176 page illustrated square softcover. Price: £16.99 (UK), $19.99 (US), $24.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-4197-0369-0)

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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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