Art books, where to start..
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    Art books, where to start..

    So, a short introduction.. I'm not entirely new to drawing, but I've been pretty much inactive for past 5 years. So i figured a good start would be to brush up on the basics. I've collected a list of art books that have been referenced on this and other art websites. These are the following:

    the natural way to draw - Kimon Nicolaides
    The new drawing on the right side of the brain - Betty edwards
    Drawing for the absolute and utter beginner - Claire watson Garcia
    Pencil drawing techniques - David Lewis
    Keys to drawing - Bert Dodsen
    Succesfull drawing - Andrew Loomis

    So what I'm really hoping now is that someone could take their time and maybe share their experience with one or more of these books. Possibly with some insight on where to start, or maybe even (for good reason) what to avoid. I can imagine some of these books becoming redundant considering the amount of entrys to this list. Also, if you happen to have any suggestions that are not on this list I would happily take them in account.

    thanks in advance, and I hope I added this to the correct subforum.

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    Strike Edwards off the list, the book is useless. Insert "Art and Fear" instead if you need an ice-breaking book, otherwise ignore.

    Nicolaides and Dodsen are all right, but Dodsen is more about philosophy than technique. I am not closely familiar with Garcia or Lewis.

    Consider adding "Figure Drawing for All It's Worth" by Loomis and "Perspective Made Easy" by Norling.

    If you only want one or two books, I'd stick with Loomis.

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    Seconded, if you're not utterly new to drawing, you don't need the Betty Edwards book. It's really just a starter book and doesn't get you very far. Plus any useful content in that book would be more thoroughly covered by most of the other books on that list, and the other books have more useful content overall than the Betty Edwards book.

    I'm not familiar with Garcia or Lewis; but Loomis is always a good bet.

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    Out of curiosity, why do people hate Betty Edwards here so much?

    Though yes, Art and Fear is damn useful. Perspective Made Easy by Ernest R. Norling is also invaluable when you get to that (Loomis himself recommends it), and if you can manage to get ahold of Bridgman's Complete Guide to Drawing from Life Over, use that as well.Take some time to also look for time management books to help you find time to draw (I recommend this one for it's general tips on balancing creativity and productivity despite it being more of a book for writers).

    Last edited by ArtsySiridean; February 12th, 2013 at 03:36 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ArtsySiridean View Post
    Out of curiosity, why do people hate Betty Edwards here so much?
    It's not so much people hating it (okay, some people do, but I don't personally "hate" it, I found it useful when I was a little kid and just beginning...) It's just that it really is a very limited book and only focuses on one concept (seeing versus symbol-making.) It's fine if someone is just starting and struggling with that one concept, but beyond that it doesn't teach anything. Any other decent beginning drawing book covers everything in the Betty Edwards book PLUS a whole range of other concepts and techniques, so the Betty Edwards book is redundant if you have other books available.

    On the Bridgman: this is going to be most useful if you are already doing life drawing. Otherwise it can be confusing as heck.

    Also, in conjunction with life drawing sessions and Bridgman, a good clear anatomy reference will be helpful - Stephen Rogers Peck "Atlas of Human Anatomy for the Artist" is a great all-around reference, and cheap.

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    Quote Originally Posted by arenhaus View Post
    Strike Edwards off the list, the book is useless.
    This is, of course, untrue. Many people have found Edwards' book to have been extremely useful.

    However, I would tend to agree that it's not the best choice for someone who is not new to drawing, but who simply wishes to brush up on some of the basics. I've no doubt that some people can and have used it as a brush up course; I just don't think that that's its intended role, and frankly other books do a better job of it.

    Edwards' book is designed to take an absolute beginner - someone who can manage stick figures of people, but not much beyond that - and impart a relative handful of skills and techniques which will quickly get that absolute beginner to the point where he can draw recognizable pictures of the people and things he sees. This is a huge accomplishment for the vast majority of beginners. The book gets this job done in a fairly short time, so many of these beginners will actually stick with the program long enough to see what is to them impressive results.

    Sure, something like Nicolaides' "The Natural Way to Draw," is "better," in the sense that it's far more complete. If a beginner were to get through all of Nicolaides' book, and do all of the exercises, that beginner would likely be much better off than he would have been had he chosen to work through Edwards' book. But getting through Nicolaides' book takes so much time and effort that very few absolute beginners will get to that point. They may, however, work through all of Edwards' book. Because after a few days or a couple of weeks of working with Edwards' book, they will be drawing recognizable pictures. After a few weeks with Nicolaides' book, they'll still be doing blind contour drawing exercises.

    Hey, I appreciate the value of such exercises, but I also know that in the real world, most beginners want meaningful results in a hurry. If they don't get quick results, they will lose patience and drop the whole thing.

    Ideally, some of the absolute beginners who complete Edwards' book will be sufficiently excited about their new found artistic abilities that they'll choose to build on their newly acquired artistic skills (comparatively modest skills to some, but likely representing an improvement which thrills the beginner). And this follow-up work can be somewhat less of a "crash course," and focus on filling in much that Edwards' left out in the interest of initial rapidity of improvement.

    Think of Edwards' book as one of those "Learn Guitar in 72 Hours!" courses, where an absolute beginner learns tab notation and a half dozen chords, and in short order can strum along to some classic rock or folk tunes. As opposed to more formal musical education (reading music, learning scales, honing technique, etc.). But approaches have their place. Both have benefited plenty of people. And some folks who start out with the "Learn Guitar in 72 Hours!" course will even follow it up with more traditional musical education. But even if one doesn't choose to follow it up with more traditional musical education, going from not being able to do anything with a guitar, to being able to strum along to "Hey Jude," or "House of the Rising Sun," genuinely is a real gain, and enough to leave many people happy. Denying this strikes me as elitist, at best.

    Admittedly, I do find much of Edwards' right brain/left brain prattle to be somewhere between irrelevant and nonsensical. Although I'll allow as how when "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" was first written, much of what we know know to be incorrect about her treatment of the whole right brain/left brain thing was not yet disproven. (Leave out all the right brain/left brain talk, and Edwards' book turns into a slim volume explaining a few basic basic drawing exercises and techniques. But that's not the sort of thing that becomes an international best seller, now is it?)
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    Quote Originally Posted by ArtsySiridean View Post
    Out of curiosity, why do people hate Betty Edwards here so much?
    Because it is 1) not very useful and 2) overhyped beyond all belief and 3) uses instant-gratification quackery instead of a good drawing method which will make future progress easier.

    It is, essentially, a fake drawing book that is aimed at making you feel good about your improvement without giving you any actual way to improve.

    So, while some people do recommend it as an ice breaker book (useful to persuade a person that he can draw), I don't think its benefits overcome its drawbacks.

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    the extent of information people post in their replies and general helpfulness never seizes to amaze me on these forums. So thanks everyone for taking your time to answer an artist in need! Now then, Drawing on the right side of the brain is without a question going to the 'no go' pile. As are the book from Garcia and lewis (They just don't seem to cover any crucial information). Instead I've looked at Art and fear and this actually seems interesting enough for a read trough even if it's not going to teach me any essential drawing skills. On bridgeman and loomis; I am in possession of these printed books already so I'll no doubt take them in consideration. I've also noted that loomis has a book called 'fun with a pencil'. Is this something to consider if I want to hone my skills or is this more or less devoted to motivating those unfamiliar with drawing? Perspective made easy also seems like a very good read, and considering the positive reviews this book gets I've decided to purchase it. So taking all that in consideration I'm still left with 2 books: Bert Dodsen's - Key to drawing; and Nicolaides - The natural way to draw. Are these still viable options or should I just stick with Loomis, perspective made easy and eventually Bridgeman?

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    Quote Originally Posted by 123Michael321 View Post
    This is, of course, untrue. Many people have found Edwards' book to have been extremely useful.
    Many people have found cigarettes extremely useful. Nicotine improves your alertness, right?

    However, I would tend to agree that it's not the best choice for someone who is not new to drawing, but who simply wishes to brush up on some of the basics. I've no doubt that some people can and have used it as a brush up course; I just don't think that that's its intended role, and frankly other books do a better job of it.
    It does not contain any really useful basics. It contains some exercises aimed at removing the symbolic drawing that impedes 99% of untrained people (which is good), a ton of pseudoscientific babble based on debunked and flawed old neuroscience (which is useless), some exercises on copying the visual field (can produce instant illusion of improvement but does not provide any solid foundation for real systematic drawing) and a lot of motivational fluff that makes you feel good about your progress while you aren't making any real progress (which is a memetic trick that improves sales but does not help the user at all).

    What it doesn't contain is any real drawing fundamentals that would form a base for future improvement. The book is, essentially, a great tool for selling itself and Edwards' drawing course. It is not so concerned with imparting skill. There is no connecting path between Edwards' method and, say, Loomis method.

    Edwards' book is designed to take an absolute beginner - someone who can manage stick figures of people, but not much beyond that - and impart a relative handful of skills and techniques which will quickly get that absolute beginner to the point where he can draw recognizable pictures of the people and things he sees. This is a huge accomplishment for the vast majority of beginners. The book gets this job done in a fairly short time, so many of these beginners will actually stick with the program long enough to see what is to them impressive results.
    The key phrase is "to them". Their results are not really impressive, and not far beyond the stick figures. The method is just designed to produce results that seem impressive to a newbie, because he doesn't understand any better. Great selling schtick, I agree.

    Sure, something like Nicolaides' "The Natural Way to Draw," is "better," in the sense that it's far more complete. If a beginner were to get through all of Nicolaides' book, and do all of the exercises, that beginner would likely be much better off than he would have been had he chosen to work through Edwards' book. But getting through Nicolaides' book takes so much time and effort that very few absolute beginners will get to that point. They may, however, work through all of Edwards' book. Because after a few days or a couple of weeks of working with Edwards' book, they will be drawing recognizable pictures.
    ... and? Their pictures are still bad. It's just a different sort of bad.

    After a few weeks with Nicolaides' book, they'll still be doing blind contour drawing exercises.
    Which is why, you might notice, I don't recommend Nikolaides either. I am not a fan of copying the visual field in general; it takes too long and does not help to understand what you are doing. Nikolaides will produce results for a particular type of rote learner; but if you have even a tad of analytical mind, Loomis will speed you along the way much faster.

    Hey, I appreciate the value of such exercises, but I also know that in the real world, most beginners want meaningful results in a hurry. If they don't get quick results, they will lose patience and drop the whole thing.
    So let them drop it. Does the world need so many bad artists?

    There are no shortcuts into skill. Skill in any area requires practice, dedication, time, and ability to overcome obstacles. You can't get anywhere without walking all the way.

    Ideally, some of the absolute beginners who complete Edwards' book will be sufficiently excited about their new found artistic abilities that they'll choose to build on their newly acquired artistic skills (comparatively modest skills to some, but likely representing an improvement which thrills the beginner). And this follow-up work can be somewhat less of a "crash course," and focus on filling in much that Edwards' left out in the interest of initial rapidity of improvement.
    What is more likely they'll discover that the rate of even perceived improvement drops off sharply, and lose interest anyway.

    Think of Edwards' book as one of those "Learn Guitar in 72 Hours!" courses, where an absolute beginner learns tab notation and a half dozen chords, and in short order can strum along to some classic rock or folk tunes.
    Bad example. These courses teach REAL chords, and a subset of REAL method. Not like Edwards which teaches something mostly unrelated to drawing. (As a reminder: drawing and brainless copying are not the same thing.) And they don't load you with pointless pseudoscience and instant-gratification tricks that have no bearing on what you are going to be doing next.

    Anyway, all this makes me think that a better ice-breaker beginner book is called for. Something that can replace Edwards as a clear recommendation to an utter newbie.

    Loomis, unfortunately, is not the best choice. His books are more for a serious beginner, and are quite technical. He was great at explaining the method, but he had enough of it internalized that his "beginner" book, "Fun with a Pencil", requires an already present skill to follow. It can feel quite like that "1. Draw some circles. 2. Draw the rest of the f*cking owl" parody. The rest of the books are even more technical.

    "Art and Fear" is, again, not quite for the beginner; more for a procrastinating artist.

    Nikolaides is viable, but he places too much focus on copying, and too little on structure and understanding. Not for everyone, and certainly not for a concept artist. Fine artist, yes, or an illustrator, but not someone who needs imaginative drawing.

    Same with Ryder.

    Gurney does not have a beginner drawing book, though both his books are great for more advanced artists.

    Preston Blair's "Cartoon animation" contains excellent tips on structural drawing which can be translated into realistic drawing without being too challenging at first. But most of it is focused on, well, animation and not on what the beginner needs.

    The "FORCE" books are great for developing solid dynamic drawing, but they are quite reliant on being able to do life drawing in a studio, and their gestural approach to drawing takes skill to even appreciate. A newbie might not even recognize the excellence.

    Tiner's "Figure Drawing Without a Model" is close, but it does not have any beginner exercises.

    Somewhat ironically, Jack Keely's "Starting out in Cartooning" brochure in the Walter Foster series might be a good choice: it's short, shows some really useful skills, is accessible and even has a section on breaking out of symbolic drawing.

    Is anyone closely familiar with other books that have or lack useful features for an utter beginner?

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    nicolaides is good as long as you use other books as well to learn from, I wouldn't recommend only studying from it. Also, try halving the times of the exercises in the book, as long as you have a good understanding of why you're doing the exercise you don't need to spend an hour on a blind contour drawing.

    I have read and completed 'drawing on the right side of the brain' and I can't say that it improved things much, but it may have been a help to other people- it might be worth getting a copy from a library and just trying a few exercises out, see if it works for you.

    I haven't read the three in the middle, so I can't comment on those.

    Successful drawing is mostly about perspective, at times quite advanced perspective. As others have posted, Norling's book is probably a better place to start.

    With Loomis, I'd say get fun with a pencil or figure drawing for all it's worth. fun with a pencil is just that, it is fun to do some of the exercises.

    Some other ones worth considering:

    'Practice and Science of Drawing' Harold Speed
    'perspective for comic book artists' David Chelsea
    'drawing essentials' Deborah Rockman
    'lessons in classical drawing' Juliette Aristides

    It all really depends on what you want to achieve, what do you want to do exactly? You've got to remember that learning technique is a means to an end- essential but not the end goal. It's worth thinking about what direction you want to go in.

    Last edited by Mana16; February 13th, 2013 at 06:49 AM.
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    Eh, sorry I opened up a can of worms with my question and veering us off topic. As someone who tries to 'use every resource that's available' I just find it odd that people are overtly dismissive of something that is genuinely useful for some folk. I can understand the stigma (any time I open up a copy I find at the local library has a bookmark just after brain part, since that section is full of "that is not how neuroscience works") but there is something I do notice about the book itself. Edwards comes off as more of a teacher than an artist, which is why the book is so 'effective' yet so simple.

    But still, agreeing (somewhat) with what Arenhaus said: There probably isn't a perfect 'ice breaker' book right now that is perfect, but there are a large variety enough variety to the point where you have options.

    Bert Dodsen's - Key to drawing Nicolaides - The natural way to draw. Are these still viable options or should I just stick with Loomis, perspective made easy and eventually Bridgeman?
    I'm not familiar with Bert Dodson, but concerning Nicolaides: Get all of them, since they're all useful. Nicolaides's book is reprinted to so much you can probably find one being thrown out/donated at a college campus like I did.

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    Black-swan: Thanks for all the tips. To be completely honest i haven't really set out a goal for myself. Presumably what I'm hoping for is to pick up a book and from there decide what I believe to be crucial to my development. Really I'm just at a point now that I think any sort of information considering drawing could be useful to me. Having been inactive for such a long time I just feel extremely insecure in even the most basic of drawing principles.

    Also in response to Artsy aswell; I've looked into reviews and such for nicolaides and apparently the man likes giving excessive amounts of homework to the point where it would probably take me a whole year to complete the whole book lol.. could i still learn a decent amount of things if I were to skip about 75% of the assignments?

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    Quote Originally Posted by arenhaus View Post
    Nikolaides is viable, but he places too much focus on copying, and too little on structure and understanding. Not for everyone, and certainly not for a concept artist. Fine artist, yes, or an illustrator, but not someone who needs imaginative drawing.
    Excuse me...? Illustrators don't need "imaginative drawing"? Excuse me?

    Illustration IS imaginative drawing, yo.

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    Quote Originally Posted by QueenGwenevere View Post
    Excuse me...? Illustrators don't need "imaginative drawing"? Excuse me?

    Illustration IS imaginative drawing, yo.
    A lot of modern print illustration doesn't rely on the same kind of base that Loomis uses, and focuses on pure intuitive drawing instead. There are some illustrators whose work could be mistaken for exercises from Nikolaides.

    Probably an unfortunate turn of phrase that made you think I meant "all illustration" where I had said "an illustrator".

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    Ahaha, I guess that means I probably should stop going through Edwards's book. I bought Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain a couple years ago. I found the approach a bit slow so I kind of put it off and did other things for a while. I recently came back to it and I've gone through the first chapter so far, but now I realize I'm not exactly a beginner anymore so I guess I better spend my time on other books.

    But OP, if you want another book that I've found pretty useful for supplementing figure drawing is "Figure Drawing, Design and Invention" by Michael Hampton. It's a pretty recent publication (2011 I think?), but it's really useful in simplifying anatomy and I keep going back to it whenever I hit a rut with figure drawing. It's basically just figure drawing and suggesting form with lines, so the approach is a bit more specific. Useful nevertheless. It's about 34 bucks and I don't think many stores carry it so I guess you'll have to order online if you want it.

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    Drawing on the right side of the brain is useful to very beginners and people who say they can't draw because they don't have talent (seriously, it works). Considering your sketchbook, I think you are past that.

    Also, James Gurney's books are great. They don't just address color and light, they address references, studies, drawing from life, process.

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