Overall Score: 93/100 (9.3 out of 10)
Book Score: 90/100 (9.0 out of 10)
Art Score: 90 to 96/100 (9.0 to 9.6 out of 10)
50 Paintings for 50 Coworkers is an outstanding collection of art that Steve Offord created for coworkers over the course of 12 months. Some of the pieces of art are jaw-dropping, mindboggling, and awe inspiring!
This book began with a rocky start. The forward is unnecessary and, honestly, quite hard to read due to the font the author chose to use. Thankfully, it's rather short. Also, the first pieces of art (featuring acrylic paint, pencils, and papers) seem relatively simple and straightforward. It was clear that the author/illustrator was just warming up and practicing with these first pieces of art. The art for Cathy on page 5 even admits that “practice makes perfect.” This tells us that the illustrator was dipping their feet in the water for the early parts of this process.
There is a painting of a field of flowers illuminated down the middle (but dimmer and darker on the outside) that may hold greater meaning, perhaps a sentimental one between the illustrator and recipient.
This isn't a best foot forward sort of deal. With that said, these early works are still better than about 95% of the art we normally see.
Thankfully, you can gradually see the art quality and WOW factor grow throughout the course of this collection.
Far and away our favorite piece of art in this collection is titled “Tonya Harding” on page 9. It's not the painting quality itself that's so magnificent, but it's the concept and execution of what appears to be the cracked/shattered plate that it was painted on. This perfectly reflects Tonya Harding's person, career, and life.
We also loved how the illustrator was able to make the gold pattern on her outfit glimmer and pop. The only real issue with this work are the brown spots around the front, back, and sides of the legs. This just seems unnecessary and perhaps like an accident, although you could argue that these are bruises or scars.
The next works that impressed us were a couple of the paintings that were made on wooden fencing: the dog on page 10 and the woman on page 12. Both of these appear to POP out of the page, displaying a layered, 3D-like, depth effect. It's especially impressive considering that these were painted on two separate pieces of wood spaced slightly apart, providing a greater challenge.
After that, the next works of art that wowed us were the ones painted on sheets of metal, especially: the rhino on page 18 and the elephant on page 37. What's most impressive about these is that they are painted on sheets of metal that appear to have peaks and valleys, providing an additional challenge for the illustrator. Our one complaint is that the rhino's right-foot looks like it wasn't finished or painted with the same amount of love and care that the rest of it was. Perhaps that's symbolic for a right-foot injury the recipient was experiencing? We don't know.
The jaguar painting on page 20 rivals the Tonya Harding painting as one of the greatest and most impressive works in the whole collection. The colors are the best in the collection. Furthermore, it's impressive that the illustrator was able to align the jaguar's eyes perfectly with the holes and sports in the metal grate.
The art on page 39 has a particular WOW factor because it was painted using wood from an actual house fire! The painting features a figure skater being illuminated by light from the ashy/charcoaled parts of the wood, perhaps serving as curtains or dark clouds.
The art on page 50 appears to be of Big Boss from the Metal Gear series (perhaps the recipient is a Metal Gear fan), and is magnificently and impressively painted onto a metal grate.
Lastly, and perhaps the most impressive work of art of all, is the reflection of the woman on page 53. Apparently, this was painted using only a glass table and PIGEON DROPPINGS! However, the effect is cool, eerie, creepy, mysterious, captivating, jarring, and strangely beautiful! The woman herself is beautiful, but her hand reaching out like some sort of vengeful spirit adds a horror element to this work.
What's striking is that her hand is the only major light/white spot in the vicinity surrounded by darkness, almost making it appear like it's coming out of nowhere—out of another realm or dimension. We marveled at this work!
Steve Offord is clearly a brilliant, extremely talented, and insanely creative human being. He is also a physician! We somewhat wondered how we would feel receiving one of these works of art with the cryptic, mysterious messages. For example, could you imagine if someone just sent you a broken tailpipe with a painting on it? Or wood from a house fire? Could you imagine if a coworker handed you a note that said, “i could end up alone?” or “i could end up in big big trouble!” Wouldn't that be a little alarming? Like, wouldn't you worry that they may be up to something? Well, thankfully, it seems like the author/illustrator has a good/great relationship with his coworkers and that's not so big of a concern.
Also, the subtitle seems unnecessary and superfluous given that the author doesn't really describe what they learned along the way. You could argue, however, that their art improved and their creativity increased throughout the experience.
The art itself is magnificent!
You can see Dr. Offord's spot for the Art Show Movie here!