Review: Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts & Pieces of the Natural World

I’ve been a fan of Julia Rothman for the longest time ever. You might remember my review of her first book of, Farm Anatomyand so Nature Anatomy is her second visual guidebook for Storey Publishing.

It’s a beautiful book, and the fact that the entire 224 pages of it is fully illustrated makes it a treat for nature lovers, scientists and for anyone who loves reading about facts and learning something new. I can imagine this being a great book for kids as well – it’s colourful, interesting and with lots of snippets of information sandwiched between each page, is a treasure trove for inquisitive children. There’s also recipes, crafting instructions and an lesson on how to paint landscapes!

From the anatomy of flowers to beautiful barks, from the various types of water bodies to the inner workings of mountains; each of the seven chapters covered in the book is a wonderful introduction into nature and its many inhabitants. And while the book doesn’t contain the most thorough of information, it’s certainly up there as one of the most visually interesting ones I’ve seen.

 

Nature Anatomy by Julia Rothman

Nature Anatomy by Julia Rothman

 

Julia writes in the introduction:

It’s about as fair to call this a “nature book” as it is to call my little walks “nature hikes”. There is no way to include even a small portion of the enormous world around us in a book of any size. Where does it end. There is an infinite amount to learn about, from the constellations to the core of the earth. I guess I think of this project as MY nature book. It’s the information I was interested in learning about, the things I wanted to draw and paint. While it is only a teeny scratch on the surface, it has given me a chance to become acquainted with plants, animals, trees, grasses, bugs, precipitation, land masses and bodies of water that I wanted to be able to name when I walked by.

Her fried, John Nieskrasz was her companion throughout the making of the book, and was an influential green voice and tour guide in her rediscovery through nature. Overall, it’s a brilliant tour indeed of what Mother Nature has to offer (even if it’s merely a scratch on the surface!)

I’m hoping there’s a third book from Julia!

Nature Anatomy is available from Amazon.

When your strengths make you weak

Jean Jullien

It’s 2 a.m.

I was tossing on the bed, yawning till my eyes watered and yet, there I was. No closer to sleep. I opened my palms, laid straight and imagined myself relaxing one muscle at a time. The corpse position. That usually worked, and I’d wake up in the morning. It was not to be – ten minutes later, my eyes were still brighter than an owl’s.

Darn it.

Before lights out, I was doing a search on my phone for harnesses. Specifically, dog harnesses that would help Bessie (my 12-year old dog) retrain and regain the use of her back legs. Nerve damage, the vet said. Arthritis was another. She couldn’t control her left leg last Wednesday, and her right leg is stiff, so getting up was a challenge. She’s not in danger of any sort (except for wounding her backside from all the dragging around she’s doing), so that’s my consolation.

My mind spins all the time. It goes into overdrive when I need to do something. Anything. Especially when it has to do with family. And Bessie is family. Sure, she’s not dying, or in pain. But the crux of being (too) creative for my own good and taking no for an answer is at the back of my mind, there’s always a voice that says “what else can I do?”.

So my Google search history is rife with keywords like “dog”, “harness”, “back legs”, “DIY”, “nerve damage”, “how to heal” and “physiotherapy”; in multiple combinations. My mind makes a mental tally of the materials I have on hand that could be fashioned into a sling that would support her back legs while she walked. Tough cotton calico, some bag straps, or how about that unused tote bag that I could tear the sides of, so that it could support her weight and save my back at the same time? I made quite a number of iterations on the design – all of it in my head. Velcro, knots, and sewing. It felt like I watching Project Runway for canine accessories.

I was reminded of the time when Cookie was ill. I had educated myself on canine cancer so well that I could understand the vet when she voiced out medical jargon, I knew exactly what she meant, and I spoke the same lingo effortlessly.

When I woke up the next day, lethargic and dazed after not sleeping well (for the past week), I realised I have a problem.

“I might be suffering from anxiety”, I told Mr. T.

And it’s caused entirely by myself. I like things to be organised, and to me it’s because I like to have some semblance of control over what I do. The loss of it has the ability to freak me out on a subconscious level. And when I say control, I meant over myself (not other people!)

Waiting, to me is painful. Because I can’t just sit there and fidget. I need to do something. Anything, that can help the situation. Don’t even get me started on my optimism, which I’ve heard from some people can be too infectious for my own good. And so I look at things from every conceivable angle – down to the downright silly. I formulate a Plan A, B, and C. I come up with plans and explanations for myself as a coping mechanism when things go wrong. And always, always a backup plan. There’s no such thing as not trying in my vocabulary.

This skill that I’m good at – thinking and creating solutions to problems – has been the bedrock of what I do. I love to analyze, think and contemplate. I love to measure and experiment. It’s made me sharper; as teacher and student. I can parse information and data to arrive at a hypothesis. I can see (and prove) if they’re true, through many different ways.

But when it comes to matters of the heart, this skill of mine, has turned me into a ball of mess inside. I feel like throwing up randomly. When I stop what I’m doing. While lying in bed. It manifested in me getting massive motion sickness at a movie. Bessie isn’t data nor information. She’s furry, black and brown. She doesn’t like hugs. She’s my first dog. She’s seen me as a university student, struggling to finish my final project – and stayed up with me. She’s the first to greet our family in the morning and when we come home from work. And I’ve short-circuited myself by thinking too much. The equation that I’m seeking can never be found; it can never add up to an equal or finite amount, because it’s not tangible.

So my new plan is to just do everything I can, and hope for the best. It’s also time to exercise more as well, as it usually helps disperse my worry-wart tendencies and calms me down. It’s easier for me to focus on other things instead of myself (I bet it’s the same for a lot of you out there), so I need to remind myself every now and then that it’s okay to slow down and take a breath. Optimism is totally fine, except when it’s bordering on denial.

I’ve learned that my ability to rein myself in emotionally is merely an illusion, especially when it comes to furry folk, family and friends. And maybe that’s okay. For everything else though, it’s game on.

SHARE WITH ME:

What about you? Do you have a strength that can also be your weakness? What’s your paradox? Share with me your stories (so I won’t feel so alone!)

[Illustration: Dog by Jean Jullien]

Review: Unlearning to Draw & The Kitchen Art Studio

 

When I reviewed three of Peter Jenny’s books in the Learning to See collection 3 years ago, the books offered great tips for beginners and also serves as great refresher material for more experienced artists.

Three years on, Jenny – professor emeritus and chair of visual design at the ETH Zurich, Switzerland – has come up with another two books to add to the collection: Unlearning to Draw and The Kitchen Art Studio, published by Princeton Architectural Press. 

 

UnlearningtoDraw_cover

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In Unlearning to Draw, the author encourages the use of family photos as the basis for creating new works, as looking at other people’s pictures may be uncomfortable. Through his exercises, he pushes artists to set aside the personal meaning behind these personal photos and find your own meaning behind them instead.

What caught my eye was this quote in the section on “Defamiliarizing the familiar”:

When we blink, what changes is not the distant, but the nearby. Television would have us stop blinking altogether, encouraging us to rely on someone else’s view of the world; but when you take a closer look at your own photos, you will continue to form your own pictures.

Using your own family photographs enables you to experience an added dimension to art-making, as can be seen in the various exercises within the book (22 in all). The idea behind using personal mementos is at once intriguing and haunting – especially when it involves the various emotional memories past. The thought of digging out photographs of my grandparents still make my heart ache, so I’d say this would be a challenge for me (a good one, nonetheless!)

KitchenArtStudio_cover

 

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In The Kitchen Art StudioJenny turns to the kitchen for new materials; playing with ingredients and opening one’s eyes to the many textures, smells, colours and form that food offers. Much like cooking, art is a process of transformation through experimentation.

The book welcomes the participation of entire senses: eyes, nose, ears, hands and mouths to create new works of art through unexpected, and yet familiar materials. The images within the book is beautiful – an invitation to look closer at our larder (and fridge!) for a universe that exists outside our own.

These two books are excellent addition to the previous three books in the Learning to See series: The Artist’s Eye, Drawing Techniques and Figure Drawing, and are available for purchase via Amazon.

Happy weekend folks!

[Flipthrough of the books by yours truly; the rest of the images are courtesy of Peter Jenny]
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