This is such a pleasant book to read straight through, skip around in, meditate on, and practice with. That's asking a lot from one volume, but A Life in Hand by Hannah Hinchman ticks all those boxes.
Don't be alarmed by the second part of the title: Creating the Illuminated Journal. This is not one of those ubiquitous art instruction books with glossy pages and a multitude of exercises that, to be honest, one most likely rarely attempts. (Or maybe that's just me...)
Ms. Hinchman is a fine artist who is dedicated to deeply exploring and observing the world around her, especially the wild outdoors of her home in Montana. This book was published in 1991 and I do believe I once looked at it long ago thinking it was solely about keeping a written journal and I was thrown off by the sketches that she included. Now that I have discovered sketching and watercolors and art journals and lettering, oh my, this book has proven to be quite a find.
First of all, it is the size of a 'normal' book and is easy to hold. Her sketches are rendered in pen and ink, are simple and clean, and cover subjects from a sleeping cat to a paint brush to her desk under the eaves. There are branches and birds and bugs — just everyday inspirations found outside the window or on the windowsill.
Even if you aren't interested in drawing, her thoughts on writing down what you see and feel, your memories and imaginings, are thought provoking. In just a few pages (150 to be exact), she offers instruction, advice on tools, a few exercises, and insight into the mind of an artist.
What really appeals to me is the way her drawings are presented right out of her sketchbook with no elaborate backgrounds and I find myself practicing using her examples. She also makes brief notes about what she has drawn that become part of the sketch itself. She shows the reader a non-intimidating way to capture the small details that make up a life. It is relaxing to be in her world.
the warm coat corner - HH
I have filled dozens of sketchbooks in just the few years since I took my first watercolor lessons before a trip to Paris, Florence, and Tuscany. Opening the sketchbook that I carried with me and looking at the awkward pencil drawings I made on that trip takes me right to the cafe or city street with its sounds and smells and hum of conversations. I wish now that I had spent more time recording with words what I was seeing and doing. I was so intent on not writing and just keeping a visual record of the trip that I failed to write at all.
Be that as it may, A Life in Hand is a timely reminder that keeping a journal - whether written, visual, or both - is a worthwhile endeavor.
ink bottles - HH