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Illustrating Nature: Right-brain Art in a Left-brain World

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Publisher: Nature Works Press
Author: Irene Brady

List Price: $25.95

Ages: 15-18 Years

Reviewed By: Robin McDonald

Teachers who enjoy Betty Edwards' Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain will appreciate Irene Brady's new book entitled Illustrating Nature: Right-brain Art in a Left-brain World.

Brady is the perfect author to assist you in teaching your homeschooled students about illustrating nature and observing with a trained eye. A college professor teaching college-level biological illustration, Brady started writing and illustrating books when she was only 19 years old. Her first book, entitled America's Horses and Ponies, was first published in 1969 by Houghton Mifflin Co.

Since that time, she has written and/or illustrated over 20 books, some of which are available on her web site. She trained as a scientific illustrator at the Museum of Comparative Zoology and the Botanical Museum at Harvard University, and later studied further at Oregon College of Art and Pacific College of Art and Design. Several of her illustrations and articles have appeared in magazines such as Audubon, Ranger Rick, Your Big Backyard, Cricket, and other nature magazines.

Illustrating Nature started out as handouts in one of Brady's classes, evolved into a textbook, and was recently compiled as a guide to assist naturalists and artists. In this way, it is a fun book that goes into much more detail about HOW to draw animals and nature, in a scientific and observant way, that I find lacking in other nature journaling books that basically teach one WHAT to draw. The educational facts included on plants and animals are very useful for scientific illustration and study.

Brady takes all of her knowledge and packs it into this 154-page book, which contains 13 chapters and three appendices, including:

Starting out with the Right Brain includes fun exercises that show you the difference in drawing on the right side of your brain.

Sketching Basics - skull drawing, foreshortened sketching. This is fundamental for anyone who loves to draw, because it helps you understand the object you are drawing.

Texture and Tone, Halftone in Perspective - cylinders, spheres, surface textures. Here you gain a good understanding of shading and shows you how important it is to understand perspective.

Texture and Tone, Line Art Techniques - pen and ink, introduces the flexible pen pointe and how it can improve your art. It also addresses the importance of detail.

Drawing Plants - botanical drawing explained. Definitely essential to all nature lovers, this chapter teaches you how to properly label a flower's parts.

Advanced Field Sketching Techniques challenges you to draw nature with accuracy, and teaches you how to have fun while doing it.

Design and Layout helps you plan and put together your scientific illustrations with simple methods that give them a professional look, from conventions to font choice.

Drawing Animals, Moving Targets shows you how to correctly draw animals, and the points here will effectively teach you how to improve any drawings you attempt.

Critiquing and Improving Your Art will help you see certain mistakes in your own drawings and how to successfully correct them.

Drawing with Microscope and Magnifying Glass teaches two methods that help you reveal details on smaller objects, or reveal close-up details on larger objects.

Putting It All Together gives you some easy and quick tips on drawing nature, and stresses how important research can be.

Computer Art and Text shows different options that you can use on your computer to augment your original drawings or initiate art electronically.

Final Rendering helps you realize mistakes in your drawings again, and how to correct them, based on a client's needs. It also gives a list of possible career choices in scientific illustration.

The Appendices include more information on projects, field sketchbooks, portfolios, and career tips, along with extra-credit projects. Each exercise and project has a number of points assigned to it (for example, skull drawing is worth 15 points) that teachers can award after students have accomplished each step. According to the book, point values are assigned according to the importance of the task. In this way, younger students in particular could be encouraged by use of a value chart, or some other type of visual measurement.

Brady notes in her book, "The exercises and projects have been tested, critiqued, enriched and polished by hundreds of eager, sharp-eyed students. Their work is found throughout the book - a distillation of what I have taught them, plus all they have taught me." She goes on to say that her students, after completing this course, used their newfound talents and skills by having their artwork published in periodicals, going into exhibit design, or just journaling, scrapbooking, and taking field notes for their own enjoyment. She does state that she believes her book is a valuable asset to the homeschool family and, as she puts it, "is a highly effective homeschool motivator."

I used this book in one of my cooperative art classes, and the students noted that their favorite chapter was actually the first chapter, because, as one student said, "It really opens your eyes to see how much of a difference there is between the left or right side of the brain ... plus, the exercises are fun!"

This book definitely helps students - and teachers - develop a better perception of nature. Anyone who loves to draw should have this book as a resource, at the very least. It is helpful to both beginners and professionals of any age, although I would say, considering the smaller type and style of writing, high school students would appreciate the content most of all, as well as teachers using this book as a resource.

Nature Works Press also has other publications that would be useful to homeschoolers, including a set of flyers entitled Campsite Critter Guides at

Be forewarned that Nature Works Press presents the theories of evolution and an old earth as fact. If you believe from a creationist standpoint, you may want to review the content more closely, and augment the lesson plans with lessons and/or books from a creationist point of view. For more information on creation, please visit Answers in Genesis at, which offers many books and videos on the subject, and Apologia Science at .
More Information
Available From: Nature Works Press
Address: PO Box 469, Talent, Oregon 97540
Other Notes: FAX: 541.535.4712

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Robin McDonald
Robin McDonald is a mom who actually does Windows, since she used to work at Microsoft! Robin resigned from her full-time writing job to homeschool her children. She freelances, and teaches art and writing classes.
Copyright © 2005 Eclectic Homeschool Association

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