Book review: Painted pages by Sarah Ahearn

Painted pages by Sarah Ahearn
Today’s post is a book review of Sarah Ahearn’s book Painted pages – Fueling Creativity with Sketchbooks & Mixed Media, but also a reflection on pretty books.

I got Sarah’s book not because I wanted to learn something from her, or know lots about her, but simply because I knew it would be a beautiful book and I was right. It is. Every page is pretty, oh so pretty. Pretty in the way of pastel colours, vintage bird illustrations, crayon doodles and filled inspiration boards. And that’s it. There isn’t much content and if you get a spark for a great idea it’s probably your imagination flying off from the pages not the pages taking you for a ride, if you know what I mean?

I was going to rave about this book, but then I found this amazon review by Carin Winkelman (aslo known as Caatje), and I think she is making a great point about “pretty books”:

    It seems a lot of the new ones are absolutely wonderful to look at and a true feast on the eyes, but also they are seriously lacking in content. [...] when a book promises to show me how to work with sketchbooks to generate ideas and creativity I guess I expect more than content that mostly reminds me of a pretty blog.

Painted pages by Sarah Ahearn

Sarah Ahearn has a very pretty blog, indeed. If you follow it you know she is not into writing much (or at all), or sharing ideas or her process, and it makes me wonder how she got to make a book in the first place. She is an artist and she shares her finished, scanned collages and news about exhibits through her blog. Her blog works as a marketing platform and maybe the book will too, if it gets into the right hands.

I personally adore her artwork and that’s why I follow her. It reminds me of childhood summers, green grass and sunshine. An artist whose art can evoke those kind of feelings is a true artist, and well worth my time.

Painted pages by Sarah Ahern

But as I said, Caatje has a point. The book is more of a blog or a magazine sprinkled with pretty photography, and you should be aware of that before buying the book… But if you’re okay with all that, and I am at this time, you can enjoy the book with a light heart and a smile.

One of the things that I want to play with is a mini notebook. Sarah recommends it as a warm-up activity, and what you do is work in a mini “scrap book” (page 38) and make quick collages. She uses the little leftover scraps on her worktable (as is, not cutting allowed) and creates small compositions in her 10×10 cm (4×4″) square notebook. Hers is, of course, super cute, and full of story. I love working in miniature books!

Painted pages by Sarah Ahearn

I’ve written before about how publishers name books wrong so many times, and this one is clearly miss-titled! Sarah’s main expression (to me) is collage, but still the book is called Painted pages? It should be called “Sarah Ahearn’s World” or artwork or something similar, because it is a portfolio, a showcase, a gallery of her creations with a few pages from her friend’s studio/work. But, a descriptive true title might not sell as good as a title full or promise to fuel your own creativity?

Painted pages by Sarah Ahearn

I hope I haven’t been too harsh on this book, because I really enjoyed it. I read somewhere about one person who would only write about books that she could recommend 100 %! I don’t really get that. The whole point of bookreviews is to give the whole picture as you see it! In a good review you will get someones opinion and then you can weight it all in and make a decision on your own.

You don’t have to believe me
, but I appreciate you taking the time to listen to what I have to say, and I know many of you trust my opinion and get books on my recommendations! It flatters me and makes me grateful that I can help you make that kind of decision. But please, look at the product, test it out yourself, and form your own opinion as you do with everything else.

I believe in free expression
and that we should be able to talk about the good and the bad in published books, products, shops, material and current events. It might hurt someones feelings that we’re not 100 % satisfied, but should we shut up because of that? I don’t think so. If there would be silence instead of words, then what would be the point of reading blogs anyway? :-)

Have you read this (or similar books) and what did you think? I’d love to hear your opinions too.

Further information

* Painted Pages more information about the book at Amazon
* Sarah Ahearn’s Blog and more of her art in her portfolio on flickr
* More Book reviews by iHanna in the archive

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16 Responses to Book review: Painted pages by Sarah Ahearn

  1. tina says:

    Thanks for your honest opinion iHanna. I appreciate it. You do great book reviews.

  2. Marjanne says:

    I appreciate that you give your honest opinion about books, and that you explain why you think that way.

    I must say, at Amazon I especially look at the negative reviews. In general they tell me more than the raving positive ones without explanation (even more since I read somewhere that people are being paid for reviews. But I don’t know whether that is true). And then I decide if what they say is important for me or not.

  3. kelley says:

    Hannah, I own this book and I could not agree more with your review. I bought it on Amazon, so I did not know when buying it that it was mostly a gallery of the author’s work. It has lovely photography, and I like her work, so I do find the book great for visual inspiration, but I thought from the subtitle there would be more content about sketchbooks and more mixed-media instruction.

  4. Leah says:

    I do think reviews should be honest – and actually, I don’t think this was a negative review at all, just because you pointed out some things that you didn’t love – overall, I can tell that you enjoyed the book and your review made me want to go read her blog!

  5. Great honest review, iHana….I’ve come to realize this on many other books..and it is even more upfront in my mind as we write our book. Learning about publishers and which one is affiliated with each type of book too…very interesting to me.

    That is a very pretty book though…

  6. lori vliegen says:

    i also have sarah’s book, and i couldn’t agree with you more! it’s a really pretty book, but like you, i was hoping for a little more instruction. thanks for mentioning the mini notebook…..i had forgotten i was going to start one of those!! :))

  7. Caatje says:

    How cool you were quoting me. I also loved that Sarah herself responded to my amazon review. I think that speaks for her as a person.

    I had the same double feeling you seem to have about the book. I love love love her artwork, but I was disappointed in the content. It’s really a book to look at, not a book to read or learn something from. And Sarah’s work is definitely good enough to be looked at often!

  8. linda says:

    Great review…I definitely think the point of reviews is to help others see or know better what the book is all about. I think with the online shopping, we miss out on the flipping through a book in the bookstore, to see if we really want to buy it. Reviews really help us – so don’t stop!

    About pretty books, I think they have their place… oftentimes our expectations of something alters our view of the final product. It all depends what we expected from the book to begin with! For those who are visually inspired this would be a great book. For those who want instructions for projects…maybe this is not a fitting book for them. We all work differently and have different goals, so again… depends what you are looking for. I think this book would be great to have on the coffee table or creative loungy area…would be inspirational in my mind!

  9. Hi Hanna, this book was on my amazon wishlist for some time, and then i read a couple of reviews, Caatje’s among them and decided not to get it.. i want books that give me information about techniques and fuel my creativity; though this book is beautiful, it is more a magazine as you say than a book that provides something to jump off from….

  10. Thank you for yet another wonderful book to chase after! I found a small, blank page, hardcover book at Winners recently and love the doves on the front. Thanks to you and your great information, I can start small in this art journaling adventure.
    ♥Debi

  11. Andria says:

    This was one of just four books I put on my Christmas list, and I am hoping very much to get it. I read the reviews on Amazon, including Caatje’s, so I feel like I am going into it with my eyes open. And I’m so glad they are open, because the pictures look beautiful! I think I understand what this book has to offer, as well as what I am not going to get from it, and I’m all right with that! Again, thanks for sharing your thoughts on the book.

  12. This is a great book review Hanna. I agree with Leah, above, who says “I don’t think this is a negative review at all.” Nor did I find Caatje’s review to be negative… It sounds to me like you both enjoyed the book very much. But the challenge with buying books online is that we can’t flip through them and get a true feel for what we’re getting – and that is where accurate and honest reviews come in. It’s okay to have a book that’s mostly visual inspiration (I adore Sarah’s work as well), but you need to know that’s what you’re getting BEFORE you spend your money, and I strongly agree that this book is mis-named and a bit mis-represented — but gorgeous, nevertheless!

  13. Pila says:

    Thanks for this review. I’ve been reading raves about this book. It is nice to read a balanced review that gives a realistic picture (so to speak) of what the book is about. I have a lot of cookbooks, and I try to avoid buying those that are mostly pretty pictures, however lovely and appetizing the pictures may be. There’s a place for pretty art books and pretty cook books. I prefer art books and cook books to have useful information most of the time.

    As for how the author received a book deal, I imagine that having a popular blog with beautiful artwork had a lot to do with it. In addition, she may have had friends in the publishing world or artist friends who have written books who helped her get in contact with the right people.

    Painted Pages looks lovely, but I think I’d rather read the author’s blog. :)

  14. April Cole says:

    Love this book, packed with inspiration!
    Already a part of my bookshelf collection :]

  15. Tammy says:

    Hanna, I find it interesting that the mini-collages are 4×4″ and this summer we did the 3×5″ index card challenge. It makes sense as a size for experimenting, for all of the reasons we love index cards! I love a teeny weeny canvas for drawing, painting and collage.

  16. Debra says:

    So glad you talked about how titles of books don’t necessarily match the content – it can be very misleading IF one doesn’t read any reviews.
    I like reading the negative reviews on Amazon too, as they come across as more informative (generally).
    I’m off to check out Sarah’s blog now!

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