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Archive for the ‘What I’m Reading…’ Category

What I’m Reading…Sketch!: The Non-Artist’s Guide to Inspiration, Technique, and Drawing Daily Life by France Belleville-Van Stone

January 17th, 2015 Comments off

Sketch!: The Non-Artist’s Guide to Inspiration, Technique, and Drawing Daily Life
by France Belleville-Van Stone

Book: Sketch!: The Non-Artist's Guide to Inspiration, Technique, and Drawing Daily Life by France Belleville-Van Stone

This is the next book from my “To Read” stack, graciously provided for free from Blogging for Books. The opinions below are my own, though , and always will be. (SMILE) — Douglas

The best that can be said for any book on creativity, writing or art, is that it moves you to be creative again. That is exactly what Sketch did for me. I was once an avid sketch and watercolor artist, but this hobby gradually faded away over time as life intruded more and more. I didn’t feel I had the time or energy to engage with my art anymore. Sketch nudged me, gently, to find one of my old sketchbooks on the shelf, sharpen up my pencils and place some marks on paper — something I hadn’t done quite a long time. I hope this book has this same effect on many people — both those new to artistic pursuits and those who have drifted away from their own creativity.

Sketch artwork

This is a very personal book. Sure, there are tips and hints on how to proceed with your sketching, recommendations of pencils, pens, watercolor paints and other materials, but at its heart is the author’s voice. It is almost as if you were sitting around sketching with the artist and chatting about her personal feelings and advice about art. This isn’t some comprehensive book on the methods of sketching, but rather a conversational exploration of the author’s unique thoughts on sketching, life and art in general.

One of the most useful sections for me was “Drawing When Resources and Time Are Limited.” I think we all struggle with fitting our hobbies and creative pursuits around the realities of life. We end up with a lot of “coulda, shoulda, woulda” complaining that leaves us feeling depressed instead of stealing those precious moments to engage with our art — whatever type of art that might be. Belleville-Van Stone provides some excellent methods — and more importantly — sound advice on how to see sketching as an end in itself. The art is in the doing, the sketching, the painting, not in some misunderstood concept of “finished.” Too often, we never start our creative projects because we fear (or known) that they will be interrupted before they are “complete”. It is far better, though, to do the work using the time available and understand there is enjoyment, contentment and completion to be found there, regardless of how many minutes we might have available.

Sketch contains an excellent section on “Going Digital”, too. It seems foolish to not use the tools that many of us carry with us every day to create art. The author gives detailed examples of the pros and cons of using a computer tablet to create art as well as sharing the tools — software, tablet and stylii she uses to create her own art. I think this is something that is lacking in many other art books. Yes, fundamentals of drawing, perspective, design and painting are greatly important, but making the best use of our current digital tools can help ignite amazing new levels of creativity. We shouldn’t discount that.

Sketch is a great book to curl up with your most comfy chair — perhaps with sketchbook in hand and a nice hot cup of tea. It can help you to put pen to paper or finger to tablet again in a very personal and conversational way.

Buy your own copy today 

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What I’m Reading…The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt

July 8th, 2014 Comments off

What I'm Reading…The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt

I love history books and especially books like this which I have labelled “micro-histories.”‘these are books that seek to illuminate history through the lens of one particular object, person or place. While the focus remains on this one focus, it gives the author wide range to cover any other historical aspects of the period.

In The Swerve, Greenblatt focuses on two items, Lucretius’ ancient poem, On the Nature of Things and the “greatest book hunter of the Renaissance”, Poggio Bracciolini. This gives home free reign to cover the literature and philosophy of Ancient Greece and Rome, including Epicurus, this history of the a Church and the Papacy during the Renaissance and how the Church sought to suppress these — according to them — subversive and heretical philosophies. Suppress it as they might, On the Nature of Things survived and thrived, being copied again and again and finding its way into the personal libraries of many great thinkers, including, centuries later, our own Thomas Jefferson, who seems to reference the poem in The Declaration of Independence by called for “the pursuit of happiness” which Epicurus staged as the highest goal in life and Lucretius supported with his poem.

Greenblatt seeks to tie all of thinks together by showing that Bracciolini’s re-discovery of The Nature of Things not only fueled the Rennaisannce, but also the scientific revolution that followed.

Lucretius’ ideas were indeed subvervise for their times, not just later. Not only did they offend the pagan religions but also the naissant Christians by stating that the soul died with the body, there was no afterlife of reward or punishment and everything in the world, from the smallest to the largest was made of “atoms” which behaved according to natural laws and not the control of any gods or God.

This is one of the first books I have finished in a long time. My time is quite filled these days, but I found myself reserving lunch time and late nights for reading a chapter or two quite regularly. As a lover of history, I love to delve into areas I have not studied deeply to see what new thoughts and ideas might emerge. It might seem odd to look to the ancient past for new ideas, but that is where I often find them.

As is typical, I serendipitously found this book on the sorting shelves at my local library. Someone had recently returned it, so it seems there are others just as interested in yogis period as I am. I highly recommend this method of turning up new-to-you books.

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What I’m Reading…Mary Colter: Builder Upon the Red Earth (Grand Canyon Association)

April 28th, 2014 Comments off

Mary Colter: Builder Upon the Red Earth (Grand Canyon Association)

I have always been fascinated with the various buildings at the Grand Canyon and now I know much more about their designer, Mary Colter. If you have ever visited the Canyon, you cannot help but see her work as it spans the park from Hopi Tower at Desert View on the east side to Hermit’s Rest on the west. Colter also created many other buildings throughout the Southwest for the Harvey Company.

Video: Book Reading: “Hollywood Digs: An Archaeology of Shadows” with author Ken LaZebnik

April 1st, 2014 Comments off

Our friend, Ken LaZebnik, held a book reading and signing at Diesel Bookstore, Malibu for his latest book, Hollywood Digs: An Archaeology of Shadows. He was joined by Kathy Kohner Zuckerman, whose childhood journals led her father, Frederick Kohner, to create the book and film character Gidget.

Hollywood digs thumb

In Hollywood Digs, veteran film and television writer Ken LaZebnik unearths shards of film history that have rarely seen the light of day. Here is the romantic and tragic saga of Jock Mahoney, legendary stuntman and Hollywood’s thirteenth Tarzan; F. Scott Fitzgerald, toward the end of his life, living in a cottage on the Encino estate of film butler Edward Everett Horton; Micky Moore, who spent eighty-four years in the industry, first as a child actor with Mary Pickford and later as the fabled second-unit director of Raiders of the Lost Ark. More than sixty duotone photographs include two large galleries by Hollywood master Leigh Wiener. They accompany the author’s deft and idiosyncratic portraits of Hollywood luminaries including Paul Newman, Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Stewart, Judy Garland, Al Jolson, Milton Berle, George Burns, and Harpo Marx. Ken LaZebnik gives readers an insider’s look at how Hollywood works, sharing his own experience of success and failure. He excavates hidden histories of the famous and near-famous. Told with wit and compassion, Hollywood Digs finds treasures amid the dust.


What I’m reading…The Dangerous Book for Boys by Gonn Iggulden

January 20th, 2014 Comments off

Dangerous book for boys

The Dangerous Book for Boys by Gonn Iggulden

I heard about this book on a podcast, I believe, and immediately requested it from the library. There are sections on building your own go-cart, identifying insects, dinosaurs, history, first aid, poems every boy should know and more ideas that have slowly faded our of most children’s lives. My 9-year-old was fascinated for quite a while as he flipped from section to section.

Having grown up in a small town in Ohio, I had a 1950’s upbringing in the 1970’s. so much of what is in the book is familiar to me, but I know that raising a child in Los Angeles can often make them feel cocooned from the world we once knew as kids. I think there are several activities in the book that we will do to try and reconnect a bit.


The bestselling book for every boy from eight to eighty, covering essential boyhood skills such as building tree houses*, learning how to fish, finding true north, and even answering the age old question of what the big deal with girls is.

In this digital age there is still a place for knots, skimming stones and stories of incredible courage. This book recaptures Sunday afternoons, stimulates curiosity, and makes for great father-son activities. The brothers Conn and Hal have put together a wonderful collection of all things that make being young or young at heart fun—building go-carts and electromagnets, identifying insects and spiders, and flying the world’s best paper airplanes.

Previously in What I’m Reading…


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What I’m Reading…Wikipatterns

January 18th, 2014 Comments off


I had seen mention of this book online and requested it from my local library. It is an interesting look at how you can drive and manage the use of a wiki in your company or group. The author has obviously been around the block in getting wikis accepted inside of companies and offers up Wikipatterns, or scenarios about the type of users and uses you will see in a typical wiki project.

Additionally, I wanted to read this book to see how these patterns also might be used to understand and manage the dynamics behind forming groups, both online and face to face.


  • This book provides practical, proven advice for encouraging adoption of your wiki project and growing it into a useful collaboration tool or vibrant online community
  • Gives wiki users a toolbox of thriving wiki patterns, which enable newcomers to avoid making common mistakes or fumbling around for the solutions to the same problems as their predecessors
  • Explains the major stages of wiki adoption and explores patterns that apply to each stage
  • Presents concrete, proven examples of techniques that have helped people grow vibrant collaborative communities and change the way they work for the better
  • Reviews the overall process, including setting up initial content, encouraging people to contribute, dealing with disruptive elements, fixing typos and broken links, making sure pages are in their correct categories, and more

Previously in What I’m Reading…



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What I’m Reading…Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters by David Hockney

January 17th, 2014 Comments off

Secretknowledge hockney cover

Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters by David Hockney

This excellent book is exceeding large, but chock full of great information. Hockney has taken on a remarkable review of art history in an effort to locate if and how master painters of old utilized the “high-tech” of their time (camera obscura, camera lucida, lenses and mirrors) to produce their work.

The book is divided into 3 sections, The Visual Evidence, using numerous pieces of art to demonstrate how using the technologies effected painting as a whole; The Textual Evidence, which details contemporary written observations about the technologies and their use; and The Correspondence, which details Hockney’s letters with other artists about his findings.


“Recently, David Hockney, often described as the “world’s most popular artist,” has made headlines not with his own work but with his sensational and controversial theories about how some of Western art’s famous masterpieces—paintings by artists such as da Vinci, Caravaggio, Velázquez, and Van Eyck—were actually created. A chance observation of a drawing in London’s National Gallery led Hockney to ask, “How was this done?”

His answer led to fascinating insights into the history of art: that many of the world’s most revered artists used mirrors and various optical devices—such as the camera obscura—to project images onto their canvasses and then “traced” the scenes. Hockney’s radical speculations have prompted both astonishment and outrage from prominent art historians and museum directors worldwide. The debate aside, Secret Knowledge offers readers the exhilarating opportunity to see the Old Masters afresh—through the eyes of a living master.

In Secret Knowledge, hundreds of paintings are reproduced in stunning color plates, and many are discussed in close and accessible detail. Hockney’s own drawings and photographs illustrate how artists would have used the technology available to them in rendering their subjects. Extracts from historical and modern documents provide further evidence while correspondence between Hockney and an impressive array of international art historians, curators, and scientists details both the evolution of his theory and the furor that has erupted over it.”

Previously in What I’m Reading…



What I’m Reading…Brush up Your Shakespeare by Michael Macrone

January 16th, 2014 Comments off

Brush up Your Shakespeare by Michael Macrone

Delve into the wealth of words and sayings that Shakespeare brought to the English language for the first time. You might be surprised at the original meaning of many phrases we now take for granted.


The San Francisco Chronicle called this entertaining and informative guide to the Bard’s most famous and quotable expressions “delightful…a gem.” From “salad days” to “strange bedfellows,” the remarkable legacy of William Shakespeare lives on in our everyday vocabulary. Each entry includes the original meaning of the word or expression, the play or poem in which it appears, which character spoke it, and how it is used today. Cross-referenced for easy use; black-and-white line drawings by Tom Lulevitch.

Previously in What I’m Reading…

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What I’m Reading…The Mark of Athena and The House of Hades by Rick Riordan

January 14th, 2014 Comments off

My son, Joseph got me interested in the Rick Riordan series, Percy Jackson and Olympians/The Heros of Olympus back with the first Percy Jackson book, The Lightning Thief. Together we have read through the entire series. I had a bit of catching up to do, so I just finished The Mark of Athena and headed right into the latest book, The House of Hades. This is not deep literature, but a fun romp that weaves together Greek and Roman myths with the present day. Although most would classify these as “kids” books, I quite enjoy them. I like a break away from my more serious reading and these provide an enjoyable read for pleasure.

Mark of athena cover House of hades us cover

If you haven’t checked out the series, I highly recommend it. We weren’t that pleased with the first Percy Jackson movie, as they changed the story and tone a lot from the books. If you have only seen the movie, check out the books. I think you might enjoy them even more. We picked our copies up at our local library and you probably can, too! Now, get reading!

See what I mentioned previously in the What I’m Reading… series


Earlier book in The Heroes of Olympus series:

Percy Jackson and The Olympians Series:


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What I’m Reading…Give and Take by Adam Grant

July 30th, 2013 Comments off

I picked this up at the library yesterday and I am already well into Chapter 1. As someone Grant would describe as a “giver”, I am looking for ways to make that giving work the best for me, while also helping others.

Giveandtake cover

Give and Take by Adam Grant

Give and Take Web Site


A groundbreaking New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller that is captivating readers of Malcolm Gladwell, Daniel Pink, The Power of Habit, and Quiet

For generations, we have focused on the individual drivers of success: passion, hard work, talent, and luck. But today, success is increasingly dependent on how we interact with others. It turns out that at work, most people operate as either takers, matchers, or givers. Whereas takers strive to get as much as possible from others and matchers aim to trade evenly, givers are the rare breed of people who contribute to others without expecting anything in return.

Using his own pioneering research as Wharton’s youngest tenured professor, Grant shows that these styles have a surprising impact on success. Although some givers get exploited and burn out, the rest achieve extraordinary results across a wide range of industries. Combining cutting-edge evidence with captivating stories, this landmark book shows how one of America’s best networkers developed his connections, why the creative genius behind one of the most popular shows in television history toiled for years in anonymity, how a basketball executive responsible for multiple draft busts transformed his franchise into a winner, and how we could have anticipated Enron’s demise four years before the company collapsed–without ever looking at a single number.

Praised by bestselling authors such as Dan Pink, Tony Hsieh, Dan Ariely, Susan Cain, Dan Gilbert, Gretchen Rubin, Bob Sutton, David Allen, Robert Cialdini, and Seth Godin–as well as senior leaders from Google, McKinsey, Merck, Estée Lauder, Nike, and NASA–Give and Take highlights what effective networking, collaboration, influence, negotiation, and leadership skills have in common. This landmark book opens up an approach to success that has the power to transform not just individuals and groups, but entire organizations and communities.

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