Monday, August 8, 2016

More of What I'm Reading

My most recent book acquisitions,

.. And my Kindle list from Amazon. The Kindle is the plain black book on top of the stack.

I already mentioned some of these in a recent post, just wanted to get them all up in picture form. Of all of these, the only one so far I haven't cared much for is Key Writers on Art From Antiquity to the 19th Century, and that mainly because it's just a series of too-short blurb style quotations and paraphrasings, many of which would doubtless be much better presented in full or in longer excerpts. It came across like Readers' Digest; MTV-Style Sound-Byte Edition - Presented by Short Attention Span Theater.

I have yet to start in on The Brandywine Tradition, which covers Howard Pyle's illustration school and its many famous students like N C Wyeth, Frank Schoonover, Harvey Dunn, Violet Oakley, Elizabeth Shippen Green and on and on. That same material is covered in the big orange Howard Pyle book, and from the quick scan I did through the Tradition book, in much the same wording. I suspect one is pretty much lifted from the other.

I'm taking a special interest in Pyle and his teachings since he was the father of American Illustration and launched pretty much the whole shebang. As a committed Romantic he advocated imagination in illustration work, as opposed to strict representationalism - in fact he told his students they should 'live in the picture'.

The Visual Language of Drawing is a series of interviews with some of the excellent instructors at the Art Students League of New York. It emphasizes much the same approach as the Robert Fawcett book I talked about a few posts back, about learning to see by drawing from life and from memory a lot. I love all these books I'm finding lately that de-emphasize the mechanical concept of form - the human body presented as a mannequin, and instead emphasize it as a vital and expressive living thing. Also emphasis on the intuitive development of form sense that happens with a lot of drawing from life, and can't be developed any other way.

Looking at the list of Kindle books, you can see I've been leaning toward what in the past was referred to as an education in the liberal arts. The term still exists today, but it means something quite different - much fuzzier and vaguer, with the most vital aspect removed. Just as a teaser, here's part of a comment for The Trivium:

"To know what you know, and to know what you do not know. That is true knowledge."
Logic was invented in ancient Greece circa 300 B.C. as a systematic method by which free Greeks could identify deliberate deception and/or errors in reasoning. Neither the Greeks nor, later, the Romans considered it wise to teach logic to common slaves, for obvious reasons. The teaching of classical logic was removed from the US public school system over 150 years ago, and has been systematically suppressed by the media, for exactly the same reasons.
The Trivium is the Latin term for the 3 R's of the ancient Liberal Education - Reading, (w)riting and Reckoning (or Reasoning). Note - not 'Rithmetic. The Trivium consists of Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric. Taken together as a whole, they allow a person to read and write clearly, analyze ideas, reason correctly, and present arguments logically without committing the common logical fallacies that distort the thoughts of most people (and that are committed deliberately by sophists and con artists). A few of these fallacies are:
  • Ad Hoc attacks - insulting the other party rather than engaging with their arguments
  • Appeal to Authority - citing "experts" without checking the validity of their ideas
  • Straw Man argument - creating an oversimplified and incorrect idea of the opponent's actual point and then attacking that, rather like burning an idea in effigy
All of this taken in toto, as a functioning whole, renders a person capable of evaluating ideas on their own terms and discerning truth from falsehood (AKA critical thinking skills). In other words, it's a unified system of education designed to create intelligent self-sufficient individuals who are then capable of continuing their own self-education thanks to the system of reasoning they've developed.

My favorite of the whole bunch is The Search for Form in Art and Architecture. 


  1. Well, when you want to turn a population/culture back into slaves from free men what better method than removing logic skills from education? Some say it's all quite deliberate and sinister.

    Fantastic, in depth, education you are pursuing, Mike!

  2. Haha - man, it's crazy when I think about it - who knew I would start looking into art and illustration and end up studying Classical Aristotelian Logic??!! I don't really have the time or energy to go into it full tilt - it's a complete course of education that I think was intended to take years. But I plan to at least try to get the basics. Gotta overcome the state sponsored slave programming somehow, right?