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“Stars in My Eyes” by Don Bachardy

April 20, 2011

See the full post for my book review.

I'm still trying to whittle down that pile of books I want to tell you about. Here's another one that I think you'll enjoy:

Stars in My Eyes, by Don Bachardy, 2010, University of WI Press; ISBN-13: 978-029916743-9

Quite awhile ago (so long ago I couldn't find the email relating to it) a reader alerted me to the fact that Don Bachardy—the life partner of Christopher Isherwood—had published a number of books of drawings of people from life. I had actually forgotten all about this note, and my subsequent attempts to get one of his books, until a month or so ago when  a box came from Amazon (they had kept trying all these months!).

I have not read the entire book yet, but the pile of books is so tall, and it is getting buried again. Before it disappears from sight again I wanted to give you a heads up about it. If you are interested in drawing portraits from life you need to get this book. The fact that these are celebrity life-portraits is really secondary (though if you enjoy behind-the-scenes peeks at celebrities then this book will give you a bit of that as well).

The reason I say the book is about drawing portraits from life, rather than celebrity, is that Bachardy's focus is really from the artist's point of view. There just happened to be a lot of celebrities in his life.

To read Bachardy writing about how the sittings went, how the time pressure built, how some celebrities were difficult to please, is an interesting view into the artistic process. He worked directly with no preliminary drawings.

Bachardy also writes about his evolution of style through changing media. Over the course of the book you see this reflected in his work.

And he talks candidly about his eye-to-eye confrontation with the icons of his movie-watching childhood. (He's not avoiding the celebrity issue.)

In many ways this book is an early "portrait party" with Bachardy as the working artist, going from guest to guest and working furiously. These are interesting, engaging portraits which tell us about the artist, as well as the sitter.

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