Monday, January 29, 2018

REVIEW: REDISCOVER JESUS: AN INVITATION

Though religion is not a huge part of this blog, it does have a significant spot in my life. Like many trying to live a life of faith, I often find myself stumbling along the path I'd like to walk. It's easy to forget the basics and loose perspective on the things that should matter most to me. The world is a noisy place with lots of noisy people who want to impose their values upon you which can make things hard for Christians (really people of any faith). This is why I picked up REDISCOVER JESUS: AN INVITATION by Matthew Kelly. I'm not a huge connoisseur of faith-based self-help or even theology books, but they gave free copies of this one out at church so I took the invitation.

5/5 Short, simple, and frankly, not too preachy or pretentious, this honest and earnest examination of how to reground yourself in your faith was well worth the first as well as future readthroughs.



BEST AUDIENCE(S)

This book is definitely targeted towards people who are already actively trying to live out a life of faith or at least had some introduction to Christianity at one point. That's not to say those simply curious about it can't benefit from reading this, it's just not explicitly written to sell you on why you should believe in the Christian doctrine.


THE GOOD 

Matthew Kelly addresses the many pitfalls that people tend to fall into while living out a Christian life. There are lots of little mistakes that we all make that might not be sins, but do hurt our relationship with God. He handles it all with a light hand, never seeming judgmental or self-righteous about the points he makes. A lot of this is probably because its all worded in a way makes it feel like he is speaking from experience. Each chapter is very brief and ends with an organized list of things to add to your daily prayer/reflection. There's a lot of power in how simple it all is, not only because this makes the book more accessible, but also because it often feels like things are very complex and confusing when in truth not everything has to be.

THE BAD

There's really not any drawbacks I felt this book had. I know no book is ever perfect, but honestly,this one sets a clear mission at the onset, takes  it one one step at a time, with each chapter carefully building upon the last, and accomplishes the main goal in a way that doesn't come off as pretentious. At the end of the day, I couldn't have asked anything more than that.

CONCLUSION

While most Christians probably don't feel any immediate need to revitalize their faith, I think many will find themselves surprised by how much they could be doing better. I went in hoping it would provide a host of valuable insights and found myself still surprised by just how far I have to go in my spiritual journey. There's plenty to chew on here, a couple of different ways you can consume the books contents (a chapter a day, blow through it one sitting, etc.), and the author is modest and encouraging as he breaks down the things a good Christian should do to better themselves and strengthen their beliefs.

REVIEW: THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO DRAWING COMICS

As someone who enjoys drawing a great deal, I am always looking for ways to improve my current skills as well as to pick up new ones or just expand the styles I feel comfortable working with. A good learn-to-draw book can be far more useful than any art class, but they can also be very difficult to find. Some are too fancy, others too specific, and some just don't actually contain any great step-by-step guides for how to do what you're trying to do. 

4/5 While not truly all-encompassing, and sometimes a little inconsistent in the tutorial sections, this how-to guide does cover a variety of comic book styles and serves as both a great starting point for those learning to draw cool characters, vehicles, and scenes as well as a valuable reference for those who are simply trying improve upon the skills they've already started to develop. 

BEST AUDIENCE(S)


This book can definitely service two different types of artists-in-training:

(1) Beginners

Each section contains a number of great step-by-step tutorials that walk through how to create characters, vehicles, and scenes. If you follow along from start to finish, you will gradually accumulate a basic understanding of anatomy and posing, creature design, vehicle drawing, coloring, and composition of different types of images. It's not all encompassing, and is quite light on environment/background design, but there's a lot here to get your study of comic art off the ground. 

(2) Intermediate to advanced artists

There aren't really any advanced techniques shared here or even anything all that spectacular in the way of character design. As someone who's been drawing for a while, but am by no means an expert, the real value in this book is revisiting some of the fundamentals for comic art and taking the chance to re-evaluate your artistic workflow. For me, I was most interested in the fact that this book covers five different genres/styles: Super Hero, Sci Fi, Fantasy, Manga, and Horror. I've been trying to diversify what I can do a bit, and this is serving as a great reference for me. 

THE GOOD 

I've already mentioned this a couple of times, but the best thing about this book really is that it covers so many styles and comic art concepts. It also does a fantastic job of ordering it all in such a way that covering so much ground doesn't feel overwhelming. The basics of anatomy and posing along with line work, coloring, and shading are introduced in the Super Hero section. It wraps up with showing how you can compose a basic action scene. These concepts are continually reinforced throughout the book, but each section introduces a few new ones. The Sci Fi section brings in more complicated costume design, vehicles, aliens, and machines along with a tutorial for creating a comic book cover. Fantasy incorporates weapons and the importance of how those influence posing. It also details how to handle different types of non-human anatomy and pulls in some special effects as well as some perspective work. Manga shows off the more stylized and brightly colored art form that comes from Japan. This section retreads some of what's already been covered, but from a different lens. The Horror section covers more of what you might think of when it comes to actually composing a comic book. Visual storytelling, heavier lighting, and a greater emphasis on facial expression. By the end of it all, you'd have to basically be a comics veteran not to have picked up something new for your artist toolbox and if your coming in brand new, you would have learned to draw lots of different characters, pose them, compose them into a scene, color it, and light it to your needs. You'll have just about everything you need to create a simple comic of your own or just create some neat stills. Another great thing is that the artists featured didn't really demo anything too extravagant. Most of the art looks pretty simple and I don't mean that in a condescending way at all, it's actually very positive. All of it looks professionally done, but it's not so good that it's discouraging to look at while you're following along - I've had this issue with other learn-to draw-books. I think this was a smart publishing decision that will probably just make this that much more valuable of a purchase for those looking to learn from it.

THE BAD

While the tutorials are all very accessible to follow along with regardless of your skill level, there are some inconsistencies between steps in some of the more complicated walkthroughs that anyone will probably find confusing/distracting/annoying. There's nothing so drastic that it will ruin the whole experience of that exercise, but it happens at least three times which just feels a little sloppy and the text never calls out the design changes which feels like a missed opportunity to explain how your vision for a piece can change over time. The writing also indicates that all of the inking and coloring is done via physical medium, but I felt like most of that was actually done digitally. It's all just a little too clean unless they are using some high-end supplies and even if they really were just using markers and pens, it would have been nice to have them call out exactly what their process was for those later stages in the tutorials. 

CONCLUSION

This isn't a perfect production, but it's by far one of the most helpful learn-to-draw books I've ever picked up in spite of some of it's shortcomings. The annotations are generally very helpful and the tutorials are handled well enough that most will be able to create something pretty close to what the artists have demoed. Going forward, I will continue to use it as a reference for different things and there are some posing and workflow tricks I will be using in my future work. Whether you're looking to get started in the world of comic art, hoping to sharpen your current skills, or just add some new artistic tools to your toolbox, this one is definitely worth picking up.

UPDATE: SELF-HELP JANUARY

Depending on how you look at it, January is either famous or infamous for being a month in which everyone wants to set a resolution to do something they are not doing today. While I don't want to put that down, I usually prefer to simply improve upon something that I am already doing or get back into something I've been away from for a little while. This reflects itself in my reading choices for January, which hone in on two very different areas of self-improvement. 

The first is THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO DRAWING COMICS which I picked up because I can never really get enough drawing resources. 


The second is Matthew Kelly's REDISCOVER JESUS: AN INVITATION which was given out as a gift to anyone interested at the church I go to. It was an invitation that I didn't intend to pass up on. 


The selection may seem a bizzarely random, but my faith and my artistry are two things I take very seriously, yet somehow don't give as much attention to as I should. Perhaps I stick to changing that in the new year, but if not, I think I am still better for having read these books.