Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Sourcebooks and their importance for artists

I want to talk about finding sources this week. Sources are important for artists and craftspeople; they spur on the creative mind and offer tools to accomplish it's vision. Therefore I think it's safe to say that searching out a good source is a worthy use of one's time, and once you've found a good one it's often a spring that can be visited again and again without running dry. One of the most valuable places to find this? A book.

A sourcebook is any book that you use in your work, whether it's as a drawing reference or for clip art in your graphics. It can also be a book that you simply find full of inspiring images. Obviously we also have the phenomenal sources that the internet brings to our fingertips, but there is wisdom in keeping close a small arsenal of books as sources. Having something immediately tangible comes in handy for an artist now and then. Join me after the jump as I catalogue a few different kinds of sourcebooks.

The first kind may be the most obvious: sourcebooks for graphic design containing high resolution clip art images. These usually will come with disks you can use to upload the images into your computer. These images are usually loyalty-free and can be used in marketing and branding. It is always good to check up on the copyright guidelines or contact the publisher if you plan on using an image for some large, public campaign. Even for you craftspeople out there who work with your hands, like me, and might be saying, "I have no need for graphics. I'm not a designer, I don't work digitally," these are good sources to have. Most of us artisans can't afford to hire a graphic designer, marketing agent, or webmaster. That leaves these jobs in your hands and sources like this make it easier to concoct an eye-catching logo or ad even with minimal computer skills. I am partial to books from Pepin Press, specifically their Agile Rabbit Editions. They come with a CD with both a high and low-res image of everything in the book. Pictured above is The Agile Rabbit Book of Historical and Curious Maps and Graphic Ornaments.
Another sourcebook is one that you can use as a reference while actually drawing, painting, or hand-creating images. For example, awhile back I noticed I was using images of birds quite a bit in my work. I stumbled across this beautiful vintage book called Birds of Town and Village in a shop one day and brought it home with me. It's beautiful bird paintings by Basil Ede have helped me time and time again as I've endeavored to draw birds and feathers. Of course with a source like this it is not suitable to copy the work as it is someone else's, and for this reason many people choose photographic sources so they may be traced and copied. Be careful never to copy another artists work, but merely to use it and others as references. I also enjoy my little pocket copy of John J. Audubon's birds for the same reasons, and picked up this large Collier's atlas at and antique shop some years ago. It's large, folio-sized pages are always helpful when I need to draw a large-scale outline of a state or country. The reference books that will work best for you will have pages filled with whatever it is that you make work about.
My final type of sourcebook are those that feature works of other artists that are merely inspiration. It's always a good idea to keep a few around that will help jog the inner creative. They don't necessarily have to represent exactly the type of work you hope to accomplish, just art that you respect and think is beautiful. For example I have pictured Fingerprint: The Art of Using Hand-Made Elements in Graphic Design and George Inness and the Visionary Landscape. I am not a graphic designer nor a landscape painter, but the combination of the graphic art and handmade elements presents an aesthetic that is exciting to me, and the paintings of George Inness evoke a beauty and awe of nature that stirs something in me. For this reason they are important to have at hand.

I hope this discussion of sourcebooks for artists helps you to start your own library or to continue to build yours. What are some indispensable sources you use in your art? -hil

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