Art Books and Terminology

As a new starter when learning to draw it’s exciting and very tempting to soak up all available sources of information.
The temptation to buy art books galore and visiting an art supplies shop without a firm budget or small shopping list is a recipe for an expensive trip.
I’d advise that you temper some of this new found enthusiasm and remember that the very best way of learning to draw is… to draw!!  Simples.
However, there are some very useful art books out there which you can learn from.  There are a few time-worn classics which repeatedly crop up on lists from “proper” artists so if you’re lucky you’ll get to hear about these first.  I’ll do a later review on my favourites from those.
For me I got caught into buying several, usually those which promised the world and probably also promised for it to be fast, and when that didn’t work I bought several more having not learnt the true lesson from my previous purchases.
There are hundreds, thousands probably, of “how to” books out there which sound all very promising.  Here’s some basic advice;

  • just because the book has made it into print does not in any way guarantee the quality of the training within, I’ve been quite surprised even when I was starting out… even more so now…
  • see what’s available for free at the library before investing a ton of money
  • is there a promise of speedily learning?  Be wary believing that promise – to learn without having a natural talent takes effort, effort takes time
  • does the book contain actual useful instruction or is it really just a collection of the artist’s own drawings – can be useful for inspiration but not necessarily for instruction
  • don’t assume an artist is an artist just because they say they are or they’ve written a book – I freely admit I am absolutely not an artist, maybe if I give it 50 years and I may get there if I really knuckle down to it and be able to claim that title.  Make up your own mind based on what you see in the book.
  • flick through the drawings in the book; do they interest you? are they good quality? is there sufficient variety of drawings in the book or are they maybe just various versions of the same thing, are they overly stylised to that particular artist?  and finally whilst they are impressive, are they massively more complex than what you’re capable of…

…which leads me to the point of this post once you’ve got home clutching your carefully selected artbook and full expect to be a fine artist within a few weeks, maybe a couple of months tops…

  • whilst the book will have lessons broken into stages there are often a lot of pictures as examples but not part of the lesson.  Copy these as well – draw every single picture in the book.  Practice is the key.
  • generally, unless you’re reading for the enjoyment of reading – don’t spend more reading the book than you do drawing on the paper.  An hour spent drawing will likely teach you more than an hour spent reading about drawing.  Practice is the key.
  • if you find that your own way of doing something works more pleasingly to you than the lesson instruction – then do what you do.  I’ve had books which essentially insist that the author’s way is the only way.  Restricting yourself to their style is exactly that – a restriction.  Work with your own ideas and intuition for more authentic results.  The is the practice.
  • don’t get hung up on the terminology.  Often authors will come with their own terminology for their “revelation”, a drawing or a style must be this or must be that.  Take it in but remember to form your own opinions and style of classification – indeed if it even needs classification.  All that really matters is the marks you make.  Practice is the key.

These drawings below I made from one of my art books when I first started out.  I would reference the book but I can’t remember the title, that’s how much of an impression it made.
They were classified as “hard line” drawings.  For several months after this I remember putting in some level of thought with everything I did, questioning if I was doing a hard-line or a soft-line drawing, as if it really mattered.  What tosh!  Totally unimportant and a waste of brain cycles, the only thing that really mattered was that it was practice.
In case I haven’t mentioned it before – PRACTICE IS THE KEY   :o)

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