Archive for category Medium: Drawing

Portrait Drawing (Pocket Art) || Miss Led (Joanna Henly)

There’s much to like about this fresh, and refreshing, approach to drawing portraits. The author is an illustrator by profession and this shows in the often stylised form of some of her completed works. This doesn’t detract from the nature of the instruction, however and, in fact, adds to the sense of this being something a little (but not too) different.

I will always take issue with small formats in this kind of book. It’s mannered, and you really don’t need to carry a portraiture manual around with you. It’s something you’ll sit down with when you have time. Yes, I suppose you could have a quick go on the train or the bus, but the results in a moving vehicle will never be satisfactory. However, I’m going to give this a pass partly because it’s so good and partly because of the flexible cover that makes it actually possible to see the pages.

The approach is very basic and covers the shape and form of the face as well as individual features such as eyes, noses, skin tones and hair. There are relatively few words and plenty of well-executed examples that show you both what you’re trying to achieve and how to get there.

The whole thing has a clear idea of what it wants to do and fulfils its own brief nicely.

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Figure Drawing || Miss Led (Joanna Henly)

This rather slight volume is actually one of the most useful guides to figure drawing I’ve seen. The style of finished work is relaxed and casual and has a much more up-to-date feel than many other books. The author, whose background as an illustrator can be guessed from the illustrations, brings a freshness to the art that makes for figures that look like real people rather than stiffly posed models.

There is plenty on technique, but this is light on technicality. Capturing body shapes as well as features such as hands, faces and feet seems as straightforward as it’s possible to get it. You’ll also find help with expressions – where the character comes from – and clothes, this latter looking natural without getting into too much detail.

This would make a perfect introduction for the beginner, but also has much to say for the more experienced artist, who should enjoy the spontaneous approach. My only quibble is that the small page size necessitates a rather small font that makes the text a little difficult to read.

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Fabulous Figures || Jane Davenport

If fashion illustration is your thing, this is the book for you. However, I’m not reviewing for that market, so it’s a question here of looking for anything that might appeal to the general painter.

Although this isn’t a guide to figure drawing, there are some handy tips on form. While the subjects are not completely realistic, certainly not likenesses, and the clothes the main focus, these are useful. When it comes to putting clothes on the body, of course, the book shines.

Jane has a basic technique of creating figures using heart shapes and this considerably simplifies the initial sketch. She’s also sound on things like hair and posture, both important elements in fashion, but also with broader relevance.

As an adjunct to a wider study of figure drawing, this has considerable appeal.

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Drawing for the Absolute and Utter Beginner || Claire Watson Garcia

You couldn’t wish for a more user-friendly title than this, but does it live up to its claim? Well, the strapline “15th anniversary (revised) edition” suggests a consistent seller and that’s something you can’t easily achieve simply by fooling enough of the people enough of the time. I’m also always encouraged when a book’s blurb tells me that it’s based on the author’s teaching experience, because that generally means it’ll react to real-life issues and problems raised by real-life students. To survive, a teacher has to be good not merely at what they do, but at conveying it.

So, all-in-all, let’s say that this starts off more than a little encouragingly. So, how does it differ from any of the other basic drawing books? Well, if I’m honest, not a lot. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In a field that’s been well covered, a basic modus operandi has usually been established and. although there are sometimes attempts to overturn this, all they usually manage to prove is that tried and tested methods are best. So, again, full marks for pragmatism.

There’s plenty of basic information here: materials, methods, mark-making, pencil work, washes, portraiture and still life. Yes, you read that right: the subject matter is pretty much limited to objects and people. That’s fine, as both of those offer plenty of challenges in perspective, shape and tone but, if you wanted flowers or landscapes, you’d be looking in vain. The other problem I have, and this is rather a large one, is that the results look … well … frankly amateurish. The method of explaining isn’t bad, but some of the portraits look more like the before (the book) than after it.

You might, of course, think that this makes the whole thing more accessible. That the author doesn’t have such an impossibly elegant style that you’d be incapable of emulating it, and I wouldn’t argue with that. I’m a great fan of the achievable style, but I still want it to be something I can aspire to, not something I might be doing already.

Sorry, in spite of everything I said at the beginning, I just don’t think this cuts the mustard.

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Draw Your Day || Samantha Dion Baker

This is by no means the first book on keeping a sketch journal, but it is among the most attractive. The idea is simple enough: you simply draw elements of your day, journey or interests as a record, a notebook or a source of ideas for other work.

What marks this out is the sheer variety of material and the fact that the author gives every appearance of practising what she preaches. Her examples don’t have look as though they have been drawn to fill the brief and are entirely credible as actual slices of life. There’s plenty of talk about materials and techniques and the book would work well as an introduction to sketching. If you’re looking for inspiration, journaling has much to recommend it: you simply work with what you see rather than having to spend time searching for subjects and getting bogged down in what might or might not be the right one.

Samantha’s style is loose and free and she incorporates all matter of objects as well as text. Some pages are simple representations, other more complex compositions that tell a longer story.

It’s intriguing, inspiring and rather a lot of fun.

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Figure It Out! Workbook || Christopher Hart

Christopher Hart’s simplified method of drawing figures is based around simple shapes and lines that allow you to re-create any pose quickly and easily. This spiral-bound workbook provides the initial example, with a short explanation on the upper page and then a dot-grid below for you to copy it. Giving you points of reference makes sure that you retain all the proportions throughout for a perfect result every time.

The whole system is one of the best explanations of figure drawing around and should have you working with confidence in short order. This workbook is a welcome addition to the canon. It bills itself as “ a complete figure-drawing class in one simple workbook” and I wouldn’t argue with that.

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Drawing Using Grids – Portraits, Babies & Children || Giovanni Civardi

This new series from the prolific and always worthwhile Giovanni Civardi does what it says on the tin.

The use of grids vastly simplifies any composition that requires perspective or proportion and artists have been using them for centuries; it’s what the camera obscura was for. Giovanni’s method doesn’t require any equipment and he demonstrates how to draw up an 11 x 8 rectangular grid that contains your subject: in this case, just the head and neck. There are initial notes on anatomy, features and proportions, the bulk of each volume then being occupied by a series of worked examples that progress from the initial outline on the grid to Giovanni’s usual sensitive result.

With so many books to his credit, finding new approaches is getting tricky and there’s inevitably a degree of repetition to the coverage. However, Giovanni is an artist of great skill and always worth a read. In this case, the simplicity he has introduced is, I think, a welcome novelty.

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