Artist Kate Wilson teaches the craft with lively handbook

Years’ worth of art classes are colorfully compacted into this beautiful and easy-to-read artist’s guide. Over 400 graphics detail the materials, methods, and media required to achieve the compositional effects often attained only by the masters.

“The Artist’s Everything Handbook” begins with the how-tos of simple pencil drawings and ends with a clear but sophisticated discussion of how artists make the move from drawing in a purely representational way to working in the abstract.

Along the way, through tutorials on ink, charcoal, and watercolors, author and artist Kate Wilson offers suggestions on technique as well as colorful artist profiles that reinforce each lesson.

For instance, in the chapter on making paint, English abstract artist Frances Hatch describes the practice as a source of inspiration: “By grubbing around for my tools and pigments I make discoveries about a place that I might otherwise have missed.”

Wilson thoughtfully includes “digital options” pros and cons boxes for artists who create on computers or tablets.

Her chapter on still life contains lessons on perspective, tone and theme. She writes: “To paint flowers in watercolor is to reference a European scientific tradition of botanical illustration, with possible allusions to sexual reproduction, decay and death.” She goes on to detail possible meanings of several common objects one might include in a piece, like letters and cleaning fluids.

Wilson delivers the message that anyone with an interest is capable of artistic expression.

And anyone who wasn’t interested will be after five minutes with her book.

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The Artist’s Everything Handbook: A New Guide to Drawing and Painting, Kate Wilson (288 pages; Harper Design; $29.99)