Last minute gift idea: Art-related books

With Christmas just days away, finding the right last-minute gift for an artistic friend or family member can be daunting.

One of my favorite gift picks is an art-related book, especially since that gives me an excuse to browse in Ashland bookstores.

My frequent go-to spot is a back corner devoted to art at Bloomsbury Books, located at 290 E. Main St. downtown.

Here are some recent books on the shelves that caught my eye.

"Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits," by Linda Gordon.

This book by chronicles the life of Lange, a famous photographer whose iconic black-and-white images include worn down, worried women in poverty holding their children. Lange captured the lives of children and adults living through the Dust Bowl, the Depression and Japanese-American internment camps.

Her photographs also feature bohemian San Francisco and other scenes of American life.

More than 100 of Lange's photos are reproduced in the book.

Lange balanced her photography career with being a mother, as well as being the wife of a painter and muralist.

"Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti," by Mandy Moore and Leanne Prain.

Yarn bombing involves decorating unusual objects with knitting — often in public places. A Texas-based group called Knitta Please is often credited with starting the craze, which has now grown into an international practice.

Yarn bombers have covered everything from tree trunks and branches to chain link fences to parking meters.

The book is filled with smile-inducing, colorful photos of places that have been yarn-bombed, and even includes how-to information for would-be yarn bombers.

"Masters: Art Quilts, Vol. 2," curated by Martha Sielman.

This full-color book will change views about quilting, often considered a tradition-bound medium. Contemporary quilt master Carolyn Crump creates portrait-like quilts that resemble wood-block prints or the colorful art of Mexican painter Diego Rivera.

Quilter Mirjam Pet-Jacobs takes a different route with her quilts, which are fine art abstract pieces.

Other quilters in the book focus on optical illusion art, nudes, landscapes and other genres.

"Sketching San Francisco's Neighborhoods: A Visual Journey Through a Diverse, Unique City," by Eleanor Burke.

This book is perfect for the many Bay Area transplants who now call Ashland home, or anybody who keeps a sketchbook — or would like to keep a sketchbook.

Yes, Burke draws Victorian homes and other architectural icons of San Francisco, but she also shows how sketching a hummingbird, a fountain, a decorative street light, corner stores, artistic business signs, a garden or people can liven up a sketchbook and capture a city's spirit.

After looking through this book, I immediately wanted to grab a sketchbook and some colored pencils and begin roaming through Ashland, looking for inspiring scenes.

"Raw + Material = Art: Found, Scavenged and Upcycled," by Tristan Manco.

According to Manco, a new wave of international artists is using humble or unconventional materials to create work that is aesthetically interesting and often imbued with charm and wit.

The works featured range from tiny paper collages to large-scale public sculpture.

Creations include shipping containers and vehicles stacked together in a Piet Mondrian-style grid, a tree made of steel, a cowhide laid on a street like roadkill and a massive replica of France's Arc de Triomphe monument fashioned from cardboard boxes, glue, string and Scotch tape.

Reach reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-479-8199 or

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