How-to books: benefits and tragedy

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Thread: How-to books: benefits and tragedy

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    How-to books: benefits and tragedy

    Yes those 'instructional how-to's ' ... some of you probably guessed what this is about. Those silly little flashy artsy, how-to instructional art books (especially those with the neat looking geometrical shape constructions). Many of us found them entertaining and awesome when we were younger, and some continue browsing through them today. Before going into the subject I want to make note that I've started this to share some of my opinions on these particular books, and hoping to hear some of your own. Firstly, I realize that hardly any-where on CA's forum has given mention of these type of books. It is obvious most do NOT cover (if not enough) the material they advertise. And that's something I'd like to point out; these artists who put their time into showing their examples in the pages give but so little detail and information, usually confusing some people. These artists, depending on the theme of book they're involved, are rather obvious to have had same skill training and troubles, etc. Is it the "How-To" category that tells its writers and artists to somewhat be skimpy? More bone and fat, less meat. I've browsed through many of these books in different categories and subjects and they all appear to skimp what they 'try' to share with their readers. Must be business work...
    Now, I know most are like crap and do not actually give useful information but rather sell fancy art; inspiring concepts maybe, motivations and idea jumpers, there are though in my opinion at least a few that I had come accross that both inspired and taught me at the same time. Resourceful tips if not great technique information. What really bugs me about the majority of "how-to's" is their assuring promise of "read more of our shit, and in so and so whatever, you'll be as fecking awesome as I and 'said guy' here!" which by now is funny. When skimming through one of these books and spotting a small portion of a paragraph stating something that DOESN'T refer to studying more of their comics or, continue to cross yer fingers and refer to something like Anatomy; Life; Reference; Subjects outside their STYLE I smile. Once I caught something in a book that really, really refered to practicing and exploring such subjects outside the theme of the whole so strongly I thought I jerked a tear and almost bought the thing (laughs).
    Despite the many crappy ones in the market, I always liked those that showed figure constructions with those neat geometrical shapings. If there's a book with that element and has decent or good information I might have gotten it; I love the look of those geometrical structurings. Dumb of me though, I never practiced enough of the 'geometric shape construction' in my earlier technical art training. Tried for a good while, and found most of the proceedure too stiff. At least because I always tried starting a figure fresh with stiff shapes. Moved onto more organic exercises like gesture, fluid sketching and blocking in which I prefer more until now which I've been thinking of trying out the "build a figure with freaky lookin' geometrics" method again. I'll never do one or another, I always blend and mix my methods. It makes me nice...
    So I'm going to stop rambling on this subject of nonsense, and give some air and space..for others to give opinion. Would like to see what you got to say, as I'm sure others will too.
    By the way, I'd really like to see what y'all think about the geometrical figure structuring methods; what's your opinion on that? Do you prefer it, do you not? Do you mix methods?

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    Handing a niece or nephew a "how to draw furry omganime beast of yore" book will encourage them to draw. Much rather than slapping them across the face with a 300 page anatomy book ever would.

    "Yes honey, this is the brachialis, now draw it 500 times. Just so you'll get a handle on the shape. No I don't care if your 'wist huwts' just keep fucking drawing it OKAY? No, that was a rethoric question dear."


    If they want to improve, they'll hopefully get the idea someday that anatomy and perspective and all those other neat little tricks are equally important, so they'll try and learn those too with the propper grind and books.
    But until then, it's up to them to build up a love for it all.

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    Man, that's one big, dense block o' text you've got there.


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    What was the question again?

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    I felt like writing. Please, punish me.

    If my post confused some of you I apologize. I tried cramming some of my thoughts together as orderly and 'brief' as possible. As Elwell put it, "that's one big, dense block o' text you've got there." Humm should I refine it?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Quofalcon View Post
    Humm should I refine it?
    Please do.

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    these artists who put their time into showing their examples in the pages give but so little detail and information, usually confusing some people.
    I know what you mean; although looking through the few 'how-to's that I have with a fresh eye, I notice that they do give some - or a lot of - useful basics of drawing: measurements, perspective, lighting, etc. I'd say that some do make too abrupt a transition to the artist's examples later in the book (or the 'look at me' section). The Art of Drawing books spring to mind. Besides the niggle mentioned, it was some time before I fully understood what Civardi meant by 'chiaroscuro'. (I know it's not hard to look up, but a note in the books themselves would have been nice. Anyway.)

    I don't think there's too much wrong with (semi?) geometric construction, beyond personal style and preference; but in response to Hyskoa, I'd suggest that it can be a hindrance if followed too slavishly, in the basic 'step-by-step' fashion. As Stoat concisely put it (in a way I'd been struggling to articulate) when describing the shortcomings of copying anime: they're learning to draw symbols, without much knowledge of underlying and 3D structure.
    I had a kid's How to Draw Animals book when I was... a kid. It even colour-coded the geometric shapes so you knew which ones to draw first! But at the time it never occurred to me - nor was it made plain - that I could arrange those shapes in different poses and viewpoints to the examples in the book. I was definitely in the symbol trap. On top of that, among other problems, the steps went straight from a single muddle of triangles and ovals to a detailed, realistic painting of said animal (to get back to the earlier point).

    So, yeah. I don't think 'how to' books should be dismissed out of hand and can be great for beginners, but some aren't so great, and IMO even the better ones can be frustrating in places. Looking back... well, I dunno about Hyskoa's nieces and nephews (or, er, Hyskoa's view of teaching methods), but I think I could've built up a love faster with something a bit more informative and less instructive, if you know what I mean. Not a copy of Grey's Anatomy, maybe, but not something that reads like the leaflet you get with self-assembly furniture.

    Last edited by Vermis; December 9th, 2007 at 10:23 AM.
    ...which is only my opinion.
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    How to draw books...99% of them are fairly worthless imo - however they are good for the youngest of the young if you want to inspire them to draw. (by "How to Draw" books - I'm assuming you mean the stuff like "How to draw Superheroes" that simply show a bunch of shapes, the character detail 1, then character in costume - don't really cover much else). Good for inspiring little kids to draw, but not really good for teen/young adults just getting into it.

    Teens/Preteens aren't going to usually jump into the anatomy books and such with great vigor honestly, still too young and looking at art/drawing more purely for fun (there are always exceptions, but yea, generalizing here). That's where you're gonna find some of the 1% 'good' "How to Draw" type books oriented - Glenn Fabry's Anatomy for the Fantasy Artist is a good one...there's also a manga oriented one Art of Drawing Manga by Camara. While extremely weak in comparison to Loomis or Bridgman books - they are somewhat of a middleground between the "How to Draw" and the serious art books...although there's also a Loomis book for this (Fun with a Pencil), as well as other 'serious' books that are ok middle grounds (although they do tend to aim more towards older teens, where as the 2 I linked to aim for younger teens).

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    Christ on a donkey I still use a flashy little how-to book. It's a How To Draw Anatomy in Fantasy sort of thing. It teaches you all the neat little exaggerations you can make to get your heroes to stand out beefy-like and your women to be more sexxxxxy than ever. It's not the greatest drawing reference hands down, but honestly it's got some nice tips and tricks for acrylic painting and digital painting hidden in its pages.

    So don't dismiss them entirely, just don't go "I CAN DRAW EVERY POSE AND CHARACTER TO A T IN THIS BOOK SO I AM GOD OF ART!"

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    the Burne Hogarth series were given to me as a gift many years ago and I have used that as refernce for approaching flow and tension in the figure a million times since.

    Some books are worth having; I think those are good for me because they make me want to use real figures for reference, rather than the book itself.

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    I guess it depends, in a Hale Book there is a statement I'm paraphrasing here that "beginners see details, professionals see the basic shapes/forms"

    Understanding art in the most basic shapes do help, I think though I noticed with a lot of how tos is that many lack shaping in "planes" it's not just a "Draw a circle for the chest and these lines for legs" but there is a 3 shape. A lot of them state it and don't demonstrate it well.

    That being said I still enjoy those beginner books because it is actually the first training ground to understand that drawing isn't that much of some mystery filled with voodoo dolls and stuff.

    Last edited by Arshes Nei; December 13th, 2007 at 01:00 PM.
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    Exclamation

    Big textwall is big. Seriously, try breaking that post up a bit into paragraphs.

    As for the subject? I think there are bad how to books and good how to books, but whether they're good or bad you depends on you. I have some really bad ones I've been given that taught me absolutely nothing because whoever did them didn't know how to teach, I've had some great ones that really inspired me to try new things.

    There's only what works for you really. Some of the how to books that I wouldn't touch with a bargepole other people find really helpful and vice versa.

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    Umm,
    How bout listing some books that you think are terrible?

    In this world set by God,
    Imagination is our magic...

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    I'm sorry to reply to this so late after my last post here. These past days have been bombarding me with extra work and I've hardly time to get online to check what's happening. I'm suprised at the amount of replies already in this thread, but I'm still sure some would be satisfied to have a better version of "fatass textwall", right? So if y'all can pardon my hastefulness I'm posting my older post with, as one suggested, better paragraphs.
    It's my fault if it reads hard; I've been a bit overtired lately and it's been rough to concentrate. But please try and bear with me. I wish I could've gotten this posted earlier.


    Those 'instructional how'to's '. Those silly, flashy, artsy how-to instructional art books (especially those with the neat looking Geometrical-shape constructions). Many of us found these entertaining and awesome when we were younger, and some continue browsing through them today. Before going into the subject, I want to make note that I've started this to share some of my opinions on these particular books, and hoping to hear some of your own.

    Firstly, I realize that hardly any-where on CA's forum has given mention of these type of books. It is obvious most do NOT cover (if not enough) the material they advertise. And that's something I'd like to point out: these artists who put their time into showing their examples in these pages give but so little detail and information, usually confusing some people. These artists, depending on the theme of book they're involved, are rather obvious to have had some same skill training and troubles, etc. as any of us. Is it the "How-To" category that tells its writers and artists to somewhat be skimpy? More bone and fat, less meat. I've browsed through many of these books in different categories and subjects and they all appear to skimp what they 'try to share' with their readers.

    Now, I know most are like crap and do not actually give useful (needed) information, but rather sell fancyful art; inspiring concepts maybe, motivations and idea jumpers. There are though in my opinion at least a few that I had come accross that both inspired and taught me at the same time. Resourceful tips if not great technique information.What really bugs me about the majority of "how-to's" is their assuring promise of "read more of our shit, and in so and so whatever, you'll be as fecking awesome as I and 'said guy' here!" which by now is funny, and irritating.

    When skimming through one of these books, and spotting a small portion of a paragraph stating something that DOES NOT refer to studying more of their comics or, continue to cross yer fingers and instead refer to something like Anatomy; Life-reality; Reference; Subjects outside their STYLE, I smile. There's not much of those, and when there are, they usually still refer those very important subjects to their own work. 1-2-3, you're Picaso, man!

    Despite the many crappy ones in the market, I always liked those that showed Thoroughly Defined figure constructions with those neat geometrical shapings. If there's a book with that element and had decent or good information I might have gotten it; I love the look of those geometrical structurings. Dumb of me though, I never practiced enough of the 'geometric shape construction' in my earlier technical art training. Tried for a good while, and found most of the proceedure too stiff. At least because I always tried starting a figure fresh with stiff shapes, from scratch (using 3D geometrics as a base-sketch starter). Moved onto more organic exercises like gesture, fluid sketching and blocking-in which I prefer more, until now which I've been thinking of trying out the "build a figure with freaky lookin' geometrics" method again. Not as a base-sketch though. Baby touched that fire, baby says it hurt.
    Methods, I'll never do one or another, I always blend and mix my methods. It makes me nice...
    So I'm going to stop rambling on this subject of nonsense, and give some air and space..for others to give opinion. Would like to see what you got to say, as I'm sure others will too.

    By the way, I'd really like to see what y'all think about the geometrical figure structuring methods; what's your opinion on that? Do you prefer it, do you not? Do you mix methods?


    Again, this is a Re-post of my original. Hope that cleared the messup for some. Have a good day y'all!

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    LOL, thanks Quo.

    I see those kiddie art-books on the same level as recipes. As my cooking hero Alton Brown says, following a recipe is like using a set of directions to get you to a destination in an unknown city. They’re fine to get you exactly where you want to be, but if you take a wrong turn you are going to find yourself lost and clueless, because what you really need is a map.

    I can’t get angry about such art books for the same reason I can’t get mad at most cookbooks: they aren’t about teaching someone to be an artist or a chef. They are about achieving one specific goal right then and there. I had some fun following those books when I was young, and the realization that there was more to art just came along naturally for me, just as with cooking.

    Ye gods, I do love cooking. Good Eats FTW!

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    I have nothing against How-to books, they can be inspiring for beginner and all sorts.

    What I find ridiculous is some (surprisingly a large portion of) "How To Draw Anime for Beginner" type of books that the author is obviously beginners themselves.

    I suppose they are following some sort of teaching technique that says "Only beginners can understand beginners" or something.

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    The "Art of Drawing Manga" one by Camara is honestly the only halfway-decent anime/manga oriented "how to" (or hell, instructional at all) book that I've ever come across (personally I like well executed anime/manga - but have yet to run into an anime/manga oriented instruction book that I felt deserved more than a mediocre rating - same can be said about almost any 'style' book).

    I'm wagering it'd be hard, if not near impossible, to make an instruction book that was worthwhile if you had to pigeonhole into a specific style honestly. I don't want to say 'completely impossible' though...

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    I agree with alzorath. I've always had the idea that the way to teach how to draw manga or how to draw marvel or how to draw X style would be just learn the basics anywhere else, and then get a "stylebook" containing works from masters of that particular style with explanations and pointers like look at how the lineweight is handled here, or how the eyes are drawn there, or the amount of detail there, or the cuteness of the character here.

    Adapting to one style is just a matter of knowing that particular style: people who draw good manga usually have read a lot of manga, the same for people who draw good comics. So the best way to teach a certain style would be just show great works of masters of that style and tell the beginner: look for this in this picture.

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