Monday, February 19, 2007

Hitting the Books

For me, classroom learning was not enough. In fact, I often tell people that my figure drawing skills didn't really began to accelerate until after I graduated college.

And what was the "magic formula" that got me on the right track? It's pretty simple, really, (and it's not a "magic formula"). I hit the books!

Now before I go any further, I want to say that there are a lot of books about figure drawing out there on the market. And I don't think there's any one book that is the one, be-all and end-all figure drawing book that you need to purchase. Even in the books I do recommend, I can find faults and things lacking. However, I've chosen 6 of what I believe are the best, most useful books to get you on the right track. (They certainly helped me).

Before I tell you about my 6 recommendations, though, I want to talk a little about books that I don't recommend. I don't mean to be callous, but, I think many of the so-called "learn to figure draw" books fall into one of the following categories:

  • The "Medical Anatomy Textbook" type: These books contain pages and pages of medical terminology, detailed visuals of body parts as if dissected by surgery, and not much helpful info for the artist trying to capture the figure on paper.
  • The "Look at My Pretty Drawings" type: These books feature page after page of the author's own gorgeous artwork, with little or no actual instructional material. It's as if the author is saying, "look at my artwork, and good luck trying to match this".
  • The "Wow, How Did This Person Get a Book Deal?" type: This is the sort of book where you look at the artwork and think to yourself, "why would I want to learn from a person whose artwork makes me uncomfortable?".
As I said, even in the books I do approve of, I don't think any one, alone, has everything you need to learn. But if you combine what you learn in all of these books, it's a good foundation to get your technique on track. Also, the books can only teach you just so much; you need to be drawing, drawing, drawing on your own, to improve your skills and develop confidence.

With all of that said, here are the 6 books I recommend, with a little review of the first one, and in the weeks and months to come, I'll give detailed reviews of each of the other 5 books in separate posts, as well as include any new books that come to my attention that I find to be worthy.

Figure Drawing Step-By-Step by Wendon Blake: This is a very solid, learn-to-draw-the- figure-for-beginners-type-book, (and could probably be of use to some intermediates, too). Blake shows a straighforward, sensible approach to capturing the figure, and I kind of wish I had this book around when I was first starting out. I'm not crazy about his rendering of the figure, which is done in a somewhat heavy-handed charcoal style, but he's got all the basics right here to get you started on the road to mastery.

Dynamic Figure Drawing by Burne Hogarth

Drawing the Male Nude by Giovanni Civardi

Drawing the Head & Figure by Jack Hamm

Realistic Figure Drawing by Joseph Sheppard

How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way by Stan Lee and John Buscema (this one probably has some folks scratching their heads, but...I'll explain in a future post).

1 comment:

steven said...

What about the Bridgeman series of anatomy books? Aren't they classics in the field?