Travels With My Sketchbook by Michael Foreman

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Travels With My Sketchbook by Michael Foreman

Category: Art
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A very pretty, but effectively slender, portfolio of travel pictures.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 96 Date: April 2017
Publisher: Templar Publishing
ISBN: 9781783704729

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I guess the best children's literature can do away with complete veracity, as long as it has something about it that is recognisable – a little of the spirit, heart and character of the real thing, whatever it may be. And if that's the case then it definitely applies to children's literature illustrations, such as those provided close on two hundred times by Michael Foreman. This prolific artist leapt at a scholarship in the US when he'd completed his official, formal studies, and it would appear – huge credits list regardless – that he's never stopped moving since, as this book takes us to all corners of the world, and back home again.

Despite his name being forever linked with junior fiction, this is not exclusively a book for the young by any means. It's deemed, by the back cover blurb, to be his illustrated memoirs, and that's also only part of the truth (he has produced fuller autobiographical volumes before now). This is an art book pure and simple, really, but certainly no vanity project, or curtain call from an almost octogenarian. We get two styles of writing, and it took me a few too many pages to work out the italics seem to be quotes from the original sketchbooks and notebooks, while the modern, plain font is for the new writing. Memoir? There's only about 2000 words of the new stuff. And, while we start with his first published work, little in the way of chronology.

So we turn to the pictures, and they're wonderful. The format is just the right size to handle – we're certainly not in coffee-table volume here – and also to deal with the images with due respect. I loved the panorama of the Trans-Siberian Express route, which takes three full spreads to cover, varying from Paul Hogarth inkwork to pointillist colour. But I defy anyone to not fall in love with the watercolours elsewhere – especially the cover image, of a snow-clad Monument Valley, or the almost stippled sunsets in Egypt.

Snow-clad Monument Valley, you say? Yes, this man has travelled and been lucky with it – even seeing artists collaborating with fish. What effect will the enormous growth of tourism have on Bali? Hopefully less than the effect Bali has on the tourists is a quote from the books, and the story here is that Foreman clearly got to a lot of these places before they were wrecked by modernity. Beijing (or Peking as it was then) was a very low-rise city indeed. From Mexico to the Himalayas and all points in between, he's been there. In Japan, notably, he tried to present new versions of Hokusai's scenes of Mt Fuji, only to find they had never been verbatim presentations of the reality – proving my thoughts about getting the essence right to be a long-standing truth.

And the key word here is essence. This is wonderful art, at times, really getting to grips in simple line with characterful faces, but not all concerned with the immediacy some people assume is required of illustrating for the very young. But the book is also a little on the slight side, meaning you get just the essence of the creator, and his output. As far as it goes, however – ironic when you see how far he has gone – it's really quite lovely.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

If you aspire to the same, pack Practical Landscape Painting: Materials, Techniques & Projects by David Hollis.

Buy Travels With My Sketchbook by Michael Foreman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Travels With My Sketchbook by Michael Foreman at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Travels With My Sketchbook by Michael Foreman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Travels With My Sketchbook by Michael Foreman at Amazon.com.


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