What book has helped you enjoy drawing?
August 12, 2011 10:46 AM   Subscribe

You could barely draw the crudest stick figures. Then you read this amazing book. Now, you no longer cringe when looking at your work, and most importantly, drawing is something that you enjoy and look forward to and do often. What is the title of that amazing book? What made it so amazing? Share your experiences please.
posted by marsha56 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (22 answers total) 91 users marked this as a favorite
Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Required for high-school art class. Pretty good experience.
posted by procrastination at 10:56 AM on August 12, 2011 [21 favorites]

Seconding Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. It teaches you how to look at things differently, how to rely on perception rather than logic, how to see negative space, shadows... All of that made drawing a very enjoyable experience for me, with some amazing results I never would have thought myself capable of.
posted by Paris Elk at 11:08 AM on August 12, 2011

yeah, that book is seriously good, but I never got to the point that I could draw something without having a picture of it sitting there to look at.

That is, it was good for developing the skills to draw something that I could see, but it didn't really help me with doodling or drawing cartoony stuff.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 11:08 AM on August 12, 2011

I don't draw often, but when I was unemployed for a bit, I did and I used The Complete Sketching Book, which I really liked. Very calm and helpful.
posted by chiefthe at 11:08 AM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain is great but you'll just read it once and stick it in a bookcase if it's not part of a classroom experience.

Drawing classes are exciting, you can learn from other people's mistakes and get feedback on your own stuff. You'll get new ideas! Don't be afraid. I draw for a living and there are TONS of people who are better than me but I have to just accept it and soldier on. The cringing never completely goes away and it never should (IMO).
posted by bonobothegreat at 11:09 AM on August 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

I am not an artist (unless doodling counts), so I do not speak from experience here, but The Natural Way to Draw is one that gets referenced quite often in this regard.
posted by Dr. Wu at 11:15 AM on August 12, 2011

Hmmm. Well, I haven't worked actively on my drawing skills since 7th grade or so - and I prefer doodling/cartooning to realistic/from life drawing. But the following books were actually very helpful in teaching me to like drawing and to try new things with paper and pencil.

Ed Emberley's Big Green Drawing Book (and the Big Orange and Big Purple Drawing Books as well). Breaks things down into basic shapes and lines, which is great if you really have no idea where to start. Relatively simple 2-D stuff, but kooky and funAt first I just copied his process, but then I started adding to the pictures and making my own out of simple shapes and lines. Still drawing characters based on things I learned from Ed Emberley.

Mark Kistler's Draw Squad
. More advanced, but still very fun and relaxed. It helped me understand how to do shading and 3-D stuff.
posted by Knicke at 11:17 AM on August 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

This answers your question, but maybe not in the way you think: The Everyday Work of Art by Eric Booth. The summary of the book sidles dangerously close to sounding like new-age psychology, but it is a beautiful book entirely about "the work of art" as a verb. It played a very large role in understanding my evolution as an artist and the reasons for refining my skills. Practice changed from drudgery to something I could really dig into, something through which I could really shape how I dealt about the world. It made my life considerably more interesting.
Intuition is a process through which you "just know" something, without a logical basis. It is sometimes deemed to be a mysterious talent or gift: the nurse who always seems to know what to do in the tough-call situations; the mechanic who can fix the sputtering engine that baffles everyone else. But the nurse and the mechanic have been well-trained in their crafts; they have attended to their previous inquiries, and followed the impact of choices they have made and seen in the past. Intuition is not a supernatural visitation, it is a skill; one learned best in the work of art within a medium you love, be it medication or motors.

Intuation is a kind of sight. Etymologically it means "having watched over."
(Emphasis mine.) It also introduced the phrase "constructive waste" to my life, which has proved very useful. When I throw out photographs or pieces of furniture that came out all wrong (and I hate inefficiency and waste in my work!) I now know to savor them, to really learn from them, and class myself among those who "have the fortitude to be inefficient on their way to opening a new frontier."
posted by introp at 11:29 AM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

How to draw what you see. It breaks learning to draw down into basic steps and shapes and then works on teaching you how to draw those basic shapes. So one you know about to draw three dimensional boxes and cylinders and spheres, you can see those shapes everywhere, as the foundations of more complex drawings, such as the human body.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:43 AM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Draw 50 boats, ships, trucks, and trains
I was a kid when I had this book, and I lost it in 1979, and forgot what it was called, but every few years I'd remember that book, and I just figured it out just now what it was called (thanks internet). Now I have to go buy it.

Kind of limited in subject matter, and presents things in a kind of cookbook way, but practicing drawing those things, eventually I got pretty decent at being able to map a 3d object onto a flat piece of paper without it looking all weird. In that way, it's similar to the Mark Kistler stuff.

Also the "How to Draw.." sections by George Trosley in the old CARtoons magazine.
posted by smcameron at 12:01 PM on August 12, 2011

I've always really enjoyed Keys to Drawing by Bert Dodson.
posted by indognito at 12:23 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Mark Kistler used to have a show called The Secret City in which he taught you simple techniques for cartoon drawing in 3D with perspective. It's painless and entertaining. There was a companion book called "Learn to Draw with Commander Mark" which was not bad if you're bent on a book, but you probably won't find it.

He has several current books. I haven't read them myself, but if they're in line with his original work, it will be worth it.

Drawing in 3D

Imagination Station

Draw Squad

posted by plinth at 1:31 PM on August 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

Burne Hogarth books
posted by leigh1 at 1:50 PM on August 12, 2011

Lots of good advice. The key to any of these recommendations, though, is that you don't just read it. You work with it--either in a classroom setting or on your own--but what's most important is practicing the skills it imparts. You can't read any piano manual, even the best, and go from banging on the keys to playing Chopin, either.

I say this because the way you phrased your question implies that you are looking for something passive--reading a book*--to dramatically improve an active skill--drawing. It doesn't work that way.

*Yes, I know reading isn't really passive. But in this context, it's fair to call it passive.
posted by brianogilvie at 2:09 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Dan Roam's The Back of the napkin is about problem solving through visual thinking, and part of the book works through the 'but I can't draw!' objection with some exercises and explanations of communication through drawing.
posted by jacalata at 2:18 PM on August 12, 2011

In addition to all those suggestions I also recommend two books by Danny Gregory: Creative License and Everyday Matters.

No book will have the magic bullet you're looking for. The key is to sit down, focus, take time to really look at what you're drawing, and do it as often as possible. (Ideally daily!)
posted by ErikaB at 7:01 PM on August 12, 2011

When I was a kid, at some point I got my hands on my dad's copy of Cartooning the Head and Figure by Jack Hamm. It's a wonderful book because it's packed with examples, variations, and even illustrations of the principles of cartooning. It has a numbered catalog of facial expressions done in the same style to compare and contrast, or use as reference. There are sections showing how to draw folds in clothing, muscles, light and shade, etc. It's not a complete reference, but it's a book I've always found inspiring. And there's a thin line between cartooning and serious illustration.
posted by heatvision at 6:29 AM on August 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Drawing From Within was that book for me. It focuses more on the impulse to record and create and actually put your pencil on paper. Then on developing that impulse, how to draw things that mean something to you. I have tried many drawing books but they tend to encourage certain kinds of drawing exercises and (what I feel is) boring drawing.

I'd recommend getting Right Side of the Brain to do the seeing exercises (Most of the act of drawing is just seeing) and then another book that shows the joy of drawing and working on them both at the same time. Remember you should delve into drawing books, but you can skip doing things sometimes.
posted by everyday_naturalist at 9:31 AM on August 13, 2011

I'm another vote for Draw Squad.
posted by colin_l at 10:35 AM on August 13, 2011

Drawing for the Artistically Undiscovered by Quentin Blake and John Cassidy
posted by fix at 5:08 PM on August 13, 2011

You Can Draw Star Wars. I spent so much time working on my Han Solo portraits. Sure, it's a kids book, but I still enjoy it.
posted by willhopkins at 7:58 PM on August 14, 2011

Seconding Ed Emberly's Big Green Drawing Book. My son has become really into drawing, I've been wanting to get the book for him for years.
(I might be biased about him though. Ed Emberly came to our school once and I have fond memories him.)
posted by BurnChao at 11:22 PM on August 18, 2011

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