Monday, March 2, 2009

Comparing the AA4A Books 3: Calderon

Part One, Part Two.
I'll try to keep this one brief, at least compared to the previous review. This one won't be as image-heavy either. Simply put, this book may be my favorite of the three although I wouldn't use it alone.
The first thing you'll probably notice is that this book has loads and loads of text. This isn't a book for people expecting big giant scientifically-minded diagrams like we saw in Goldfinger. The entire first half is almost entirely text and it's also (to be fair, this is just me skimming so I may change my opinion if I read the whole thing) essentially a soapbox.
Calderon is a painter, but he argues at length that if you want to be any kind of successful visual artist, you must have good basic drawing skills. He also goes on about how using anything other than charcoal to draw with, or anything smaller than what can fit comfortably on your basic flatbed scanner to draw on, is madness. And he seems to think erasers are for sissies and that your initial sketch must be more accurate than humanly possible.
That aside, however, I agree with him on the drawing. If you want to create appealing, convincing animals -or anything- you need to learn how to draw from observation.

The second half of the book is what I paid for.
Here Calderon discusses anatomy, and he has a distinct advantage against Goldfinger for a number of reasons. He picks a small set number of animals to focus on (no points for guessing three of them). He includes lots of comparative anatomy studies, as in the illustration above. He discusses their internal and external anatomy. That makes a big difference. And he illustrates how the bones, muscles, skin, and even the organs work together in a living animal. That makes a huge difference.

And while the illustrations are small, they are beautiful. Like I said, I haven't read all of the text but I began to suspect that the subjects were all animals Claderon knew. There's a familiarity and a love on display here. It gives the book a very personal touch.
About the only immediate downside, and the reason why I wouldn't use this book as a reference on it's own, is that there are no full-body skeletons or muscle studies. That's where the Ellenberger comes in...

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