Artist, author and fellow New Yorker Melanie Testa has recently released her second book: Dreaming From the Journal Page: Transforming the Sketchbook to Art. At my request, the folks at North Light Books provided me with a review copy. From the little bit I had seen online, I had a feeling that this was going to be a wonderful book. Now that I have read it cover to cover, I can say that my first impression was correct. Dreaming from the Journal Page is a keeper.
It states on the back page "Inside you will find all the techniques and inspiration you need to bring your dreams alive inside your art journal." While many of the projects inside the book are shown as part of Melanie's journals, just about everything you find in this book can be applied to projects outside the journal too. In fact, Melanie focuses not only on working on paper but on fabric as well.
Like many how-to books, this one starts with the requisite section on supplies. I often find this section in books to be a very basic and cursory review. However, I found myself fascinated by all the details and tips that Melanie provided. She included genuinely useful and instructive information that I think would benefit both beginner and advanced artists. And I have to say that section one set the tone for the whole book in terms of being rich in content and filled with those extra tidbits that make a book special.
Eighteen pages are spent on color theory and in this section Melanie also provides useful info about color mixing, creating your own color wheel, and more. The bulk of the book presents a series of exercises that go beyond the common techniques that are found in many books. As examples, Melanie introduces exercises focused on exploring watercolor, dyeing fabrics, creating resists using liquid frisket, acrylic mediums and soy wax, making transfers using tracing paper and Saral paper, hand carving stamps, and hand making stencils using both plastic and frisket paper.
There is a separate section presenting simple tips and exercises to help you learn the basics of drawing. And all the instructional sections are followed by throw down challenges where multiple techniques from the book are combined. The artwork from the book is all from Melanie and is rich in color, depth, and complexity.
The book is even more impressive to me given that it was written while Melanie was undergoing treatment for breast cancer, a fact that is given the briefest of mentions in her Acknowledgments. For me, this just adds to the inspiration I felt when reading this book. My sense is that this will become a reference that I will revisit many times in the future.