Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Pacific Northwest Coast Art Books

Pacific Northwest Coast Native Art Books - remember how I said I locally ordered those three books, one called "Learning by Doing" and the other two called "Learning by Designing", volumes 1 & 2? Well, they are fantastic books.

Looking at Indian Art of the Northwest Coast
Learning by Doing Northwest Coast Native Indian Art
Learning by Designing Pacific Northwest Coast Native Indian Art, vol.1
Learning by Designing Pacific Northwest Coast Native Indian Art, Vol.2

"...Doing" is literally a classroom in a book - it's for teachers to Xerox into handouts for students for learning basic forms. I am a little beyond it but it has good "how to learn" info and has good practice for basic forms, which I'm still a little sloppy at. It's like drawing circles - it's hard to make them symmetrical and 'perfect' looking but if you practice long enough they become more natural. Same idea.

"...Designing", vol 1. is my favorite by far. It goes into all the basic forms (ovoids, U-forms, S-forms, eyes, salmon-trout heads) and how those make up basic parts (heads, arms, feet, bodies, faces, ears, etc) and what characteristics make up the major animals (Raven, Bear, Wolf, Orca, Eagle, etc.) and has dissective how-to's for how to go about designing a salmon-trout head, an orca head, etc. VERY useful to know what order to draw each thing in so that you can begin inventing your own designs. What's more, it chops up the entire Pacific Northwest Coast into four quadrants of art style - because there are HUGE differences in all of them (Tlingit, the furthest north, looks NOTHING like Salish, which is the furthest south). And through every single excercise and element the book constantly shows how a north coast element is different from a mid coast, west coast, and south coast element.

The second volume gets really technical and has lots of interviews with artists and things. It doesnt have much in the way of lessons or how-to's except for one big "how-to" for a generic Wolf, Orca, Thunderbird, Raven, etc. I think it will be more useful later on. Right now I've been practicing basic forms and find it to be calming and meditative. :)

Another good book is Northwest Coast Indian Art: An Analysis of Form by Bill Holm was extremely helpful. This book does not go into detail about meanings of the designs or even how to do them - it explains the 'rules' of how NWC is put together - the principles of design, figured out by years and years worth of reverse-engineering by comparing hundreds of examples of NWC art and seeing what is done and what is not done.

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