I like children’s picture books even though I have no children of my own. I think adults without children sometime overlook the value in these books. For instance, I own several children’s books that deal with Buddhism and Hinduism. Sure, the authors simplify the religions, but also, the authors SIMPLIFY the religions. They’re a great way for learning the basics, and often times they have beautiful art work! Also, children’s picture books are children’s PICTURE books. You know, they’re filled with varied, excellent artwork. This can make them artbooks, and you can also use children’s picture books as fantastic, elaborate, greeting cards for friends and family.
All of this leads us to today’s review of “Silent Night” by Lara Hawthorne. I’m going to spoil the plot for you by telling you the text is the lyrics to the holiday classic “Silent Night” and that the very end is a brief history of the song. It’s the art that makes this book truly special.
This book would make a great gift for children, but also consider purchasing it as a truly special holiday card for a special someone. Either way, “Silent Night” by Lara Hawthorne is a classic that will be cherished for years to come.
I just read the most beautiful book, “Spiritual Places” by Sarah Baxter. Baxter is a travel journalist that has compiled an impressive list of spiritual places to visit. Some are seen as spiritual by their very nature, and other locations are spiritual because of the places of worship built there. 25 places are discussed, ranging from Easter Island to Wittenberg Castle Church. Baxter discusses the location’s history, interesting facts about, suggestions for when visiting and more!
This alone would make “Spiritual Places” a great read, but instead of stock photos for these locations someone (author, publisher, not sure who) decided to have illustrations by Harry and Zanna Goldhawk used in their place. The art is wonderful. It takes an interesting, but potentially stale, book and transports it to another level. Suddenly it feels like you’re reading a whimsical storybook or fairy tale, except the stories are true!
The writing, the art, and the hardcover format makes “Spiritual Places” an excellent gift idea for just about anyone, including yourself.
I love art books, particularly photography ones featuring people. Maybe it’s because I’m nosy by nature, but I like seeing other people and their lives. If you’re like me, keep reading because “Human Tribe” by photographer Alison Wright just released.
Wright’s career has been as a documentary photographer for National Geographic publications, and her latest book, “Human Tribe”, contains 160 portraits taken of people on every continent. Her goal was to show the diversity of life and features men, women, toddlers, essentially everyone from every walk of life.
It’s never too soon to consider the approaching holiday season, and “Human Tribe” seems like a beautiful gift.
Here in the northeast things are taking a definite fall-wards turn. However thanks to the “Botanical Inspirations” deck by Lynn Araujo I’ll be able to enjoy the delicate flowers of spring all year round.
First we have to talk about the fantastic artwork. The deck contains 44 cards featuring art by Pierre-Joseph Redoute. In Paris he did paintings of the flowers in the royal gardens. His etchings caught the eye of botanists who taught him more about plant anatomy. Redoute went on to do work for Marie Antoinette and Empress Josephine. That’s the guy whose illustrations make up this deck. Neat, right?
Deck creator Lynn Araujo dived deep into plant’s various roles as symbols throughout culture, leaning heavily on the “Secret Language of Flowers” from the Victorian Era that paired specific meanings to individual flowers. In fact, included with the deck is nice foldout sheet listing the “Secret Language of Flowers.”
Each card presents a flower with its common name, its Latin name, and a quote or key words to associate with the flower. To give you a complete experience I choose the share the Sacred Lotus card. You see “Sacred Lotus” with the alternative name “Nymphaea caerulea” directly underneath. Then there is the beautiful illustration with the word “Enlightenment” under it. It’s followed by the Thich Nhat Hanh quote, “No mud, no lotus.”
When you go to the book included with the deck, which is way more sturdy than your typical white print out style book that comes with many tarot decks, you’ll find more information about the Sacred Lotus and its “Inspirational Message”.
The lotus flower grows up out of the mud, yet each day as they unfurl and shed the droplets of water, the flower emerges perfectly pristine. For this reason, the lotus symbolizes purity and spiritual transformation. With its flower so distant from its roots below the water, the lotus also represents detachment, a necessary step for spiritual enlightenment. The golden center of the lotus is rarely shown in Zen artwork since it represents the elusive perfection of wisdom. The Egyptian sun god Ra is often depicted with a blue lotus. Because of this association with the sun, the lotus signifies rebirth.
Inspirational Message: Honor all the experiences that have brought you to this place on your path of spiritual growth but let go of the things that no longer serve you.
Araujo offers a few variations on how to use the cards in readings, but honestly, with decks like these I prefer to do a daily single card draw in the morning to offer insight into the day ahead.
“Botanical Inspirations” is a beautiful and fascinating deck that I would be hard pressed to find someone I wouldn’t recommend it to.
“Bowls of Happiness” (by Brian Tse and Alice Mak, and translated by Ben Wang) is wonderful little book that entertains with its whimsical art and story, and it also teaches about ancient Chinese bowls. The book is part of a series which aims to introduce children to Chinese culture at an early age. The publisher recommends “Bowls of Happiness” for children aged 4 and older.
First we read a story about a mother and her daughter she affectionately calls “Piggy”. Piggy’s mom decides to create a special bowl just for her, and as she works on it Piggy enters the world being painted on the bowl. Through the story we see classic Chinese porcelain bowl designs and learn their symbolism. Once the story concludes the next section shows photos of actual bowls and talks about the intricate meanings of the images and use of color. You also learn how the bowls were made. The last thing is a bowl you can decorate yourself.
Although obviously geared for children, “Bowls of Happiness” is actually a wonderful source of information for adults too. The original art is enchanting and the photos of the bowls are beautiful. “Bowls of Happiness” is a great little book for children and adults.
Let’s face it, there are hundreds, probably thousands (maybe more?), of adult coloring books at this point. I don’t want to sound all hipster, but my mom and I were coloring in coloring books as adults when all you could do was poke around the children’s book section for something to color. In fact, I have a Hello Kitty coloring book right now because if you like coloring, you never outgrow the classics. I’ve reviewed adult coloring books before now and I will again. Prepare thyself.
The Witches' Almanac Coloring Book
The latest in my growing collection of adult coloring books is “The Witches’ Almanac Coloring Book”. I have to say I’m happy to see more occult, pagan, and witch oriented coloring books popping up and “The Witches’ Almanac Coloring Book” doesn’t disappoint. It has 7 different categories, although some are larger than others: woodcuts, constellations, the planets, creatures, Egyptians, Americas, and tarot. Woodcuts features a wonderful mix of woodcut illustrations. What is nice about them, and most of the images used in this coloring book, is that that feature bold black outlines with nice spaces to color. Sometimes these adult coloring books are so fixated on having non-childlike images that they forget someone is supposed to be coloring those pictures in! Anyway, you’ve got nudity in here, doesn’t get more adult than that! That’s right, you can color Adam and Eve. In constellations you’ll find the stars in the images of their namesakes. The planets shows the mythological beings that represent them. Creatures is filled with some surprising twists. Instead of more traditional mythological creatures, you get the crazy mish mash that are creature images from the Medieval period. The Egyptians section if loaded with the traditional hieroglyphic images that are immediately recognizable and perfect for coloring. The Americas has Calaveras, Mayan images, and other south of the border pictures. Lastly tarot offers all the classic tarot cards to color. There is a blank page at the very end to test colors before using them on your chosen picture.
I colored this myself!
Each section has a brief introduction offering some information about the images and some ideas of what to contemplate upon while coloring. Just in case concentrating on staying in the lines isn’t enough for you!
“The Witches’ Almanac Coloring Book” is a wonderful addition to the adult coloring book category. It’s perfect for those looking for an eclectic coloring experience.
You can find “The Witches’ Almanac Coloring Book” here.
You may not have heard of Indra Sharma, but it is unlikely, regardless of where you live, that you haven’t seen his work. Sharma is one of India’s most well-known artists. He came from a long line of traditional painters and studied in multiple traditional painting styles. As such, his work reflects Hindu spirituality, and that is highlighted to great effect by “In a World of Gods and Goddesses: The Mystic Art of Indra Sharma” by James H. Bae.
What I was expecting was an art book; lots of pictures and a bit of text about the artist and his art. What I got was so much more! “In a World of Gods and Goddesses” is loaded with full color images of Sharma’s art, but it is also a wonderful biography of the artist. It offers a detailed explanation of traditional painting styles in India, and covers the sacred mythology of India and the stories of Hinduism’s deities. You can see why it’s a book to get excited about!
Thanks to the use of his art as posters, in calendars, and as greeting cards, Sharma’s work has made its way around the globe. I’ve personally found it in some new age/metaphysical gift shops on posters. Maybe you have too. “In a World of Gods and Goddesses” is a great way to learn about the artist, enjoy his work, and learn more about a whole artistic culture.
Yep, Hillary Clinton is running for the Democratic nomination to be candidate for President of the United States. I’m in New York so I had her as a first lady, then a senator, then primary candidate, then Secretary of State, and now this. For as polarizing as a public figure as Clinton may be on the national and international stage, you can turn that dial up to 11 in New York State. Maybe it’s different down in the city, but upstate where I am, she’s loved, she’s hated, she’s put up, even people that love her have hang ups with her, and oddly, even people that hate her, no, they pretty much just hate her. Yet all of those people can unite behind one thing, “Hillary: The Coloring Book” by Valentin Ramon and Kelly Glover.
This is a fun activity/coloring book that profiles Hillary Clinton’s life and career. It starts with her birth and childhood. Yes, you can color a little Hillary Clinton in her Girl Scout uniform. The book was published before everyone 100% knew she was going to make a go of running for President again so it ends with you helping to design her potential 2016 campaign poster. An example of what you’ll do is this:
I have a limited supply of colors to draw from so my choices for skin tone were alabaster vampire or a weird orange/George Hamilton hybrid. I opted for vampire. Insert vampire politician joke here. Also, in looking at the choices I made for the jacket and blouse for what we all know is a pant suit, I realized I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Clinton in that soft of tones. We’ll call this my idealized Hillary. To be honest, my idealized Hillary is Bernie Sanders. And my idealized Bernie Sanders is Dennis Kucinich. I’m going to be one sad young lady on November 5, 2016. Where the hell was I?
Ah ha! The text that goes with my idealized Clinton coloring is:
As early as 2002, Hillary had hinted that she might soon run for president. Speculation grew over the years and came to a head on January 20, 2007, when Hillary formed an “exploratory committee.” She made the announcement in no uncertain terms on her official website with the simple statement, “I’m in. And I’m in to win.” Her story was irresistible; Hillary was the 25th woman to run for president and the first former First Lady make a run at returning to the White House as the president herself.
She received more media attention than any other candidate in the 2008 Democratic primaries, which included a host of male candidates, including Barack Obama, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, and Bill Richardson. As the primary election went on, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, a young senator from Illinois, quickly became the clear front-runners, with many of the other candidates withdrawing within the first few weeks.
“Hillary” is a fun, kitschy, and informative and perfectly priced at a suggested retail of $10.00. Give it to a big Hillary fan for them to have fun with. Give it to children, especially girls, as an educational gift. Give it to your favorite Hillary hater for them to deface! I told you at the beginning, “Hillary: The Coloring Book” is perfect for everyone!
Something pretty special is happening at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC right now. For the first time in more than 130 years three paintings of the Magi, or the wise men, by Peter Paul Rubens are reunited for the public. These paintings remained together in the city of Antwerp until around 1876, after which they made their way to Paris where they were sold separately in 1881. They now reside in three different museums: the Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp, Belgium, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and the Museo de Arte de Ponce near San Juan, Puerto Rico. The National Gallery’s painting was given to the Gallery in 1943 as part of the Chester Dale Collection and it was stipulated that it cannot travel by the bequest. That means, who knows when the Magi will be reunited again!
However, it’s not just the once-in-a-lifetime-ness of the exhibition that makes it noteworthy in my mind, it’s the story of the art itself. (Before you think I’m some art history bad ass, the National Gallery passed this awesome info onto me.) This is also about the relationship between the artist and Balthasar Moretus the Elder, head of Plantin Press, the largest publishing house in 16th and 17th century Europe.
Balthasar, a close childhood friend of Rubens, commissioned the paintings around 1618. Balthasar and his two brothers were named after the Three Magi (Balthasar, Melchior, and Gaspar), so these paintings had a special personal meaning for both the artist and the patron. Earl Powell III, director of the National Gallery of Art says, “At the time, the Adoration of the Magi was a common subject in art, but these intimate paintings take the kings out of their usual narrative setting. Rubens conjured them as tangible flesh and blood believers.”
Originally I had wanted to review this before the holidays, in the thought that people would want to give it as a Christmas gift, but things sometimes don’t work out as planned. However it isn’t that big of a deal because it turns out the “Well Seasoned: Savoring Life’s Lessons” by Rebecca Webb Wilson is the perfect gift for all seasons. So stay tuned as I clue you in on a great book for you, and probably for lots of people you know.
Rebecca Webb Wilson is a professional nature photographer who has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, the Swiss Alps part of the Haute Route, and the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. She began her professional career as a Pan American World Airways stewardess, did a brief stint as a realtor, then went to law school eventually serving several years as an Assistant United States Attorney. The point I’m trying to make here is that Wilson is a creative, intelligent woman who has, and is still, living an amazing life. That life translates to “Well Seasoned”.
The book is divided into four seasons. Surprising, I know. Wilson discusses how we often draw parallels between the seasons of our environment and the cycles of our life. Traditionally we view spring with birth and childhood, summer with adulthood, fall with maturity, and then winter with decline of the elderly. But she comments that this isn’t necessarily based in reality. That for many, the later years of life are a time of rebirth thanks to retirement. New careers are started. Educations are continued. New passions are discovered, or old passions are pursued once again. That could make those years spring time. Suddenly the seasonal metaphor is all kinds of exciting and up for grabs.
With that in mind, Wilson starts us off at summer and childhood. From there it’s autumn, winter, and spring. Each chapter shares her personal insights, reflective poetry, and the lessons learned in each season. And of course, beautiful photos.
Rebecca Webb Wilson has crafted a book of wisdom that can speak to new parents, recent retirees, graduates, and anyone else looking for a different perspective on a new phase of their life.