Archive for category Subject: Figure

Sketchits! Faces & Fashion || Christopher Hart

The always entertaining and informative Christopher Hart is back with a simple guide to drawing clothed figures. “More than 7 million books sold”, the cover proclaims and it’s not hard to see why. Christopher manages to simplify everything and to be elementary without talking down to the reader.

“Got Color? Just add lines”, the blurb tells us, adding that it’s “introducing an entirely new approach to drawing”. Well, up to a point, but the idea is ingenious – paint the basic shape, then add facial features, hair, accessories and detail such as folds and shadows. “Jump-start your creativity”.

If you want a simple guide to drawing figures, this would fit the bill nicely. If you don’t, you might find that the absence of complication encourages you to add your own simplification.

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Drawing The Male Nude/Drawing The Female Nude || Giovanni Civardi

These two, which are totally complementary, very nearly caught me out. I was initially surprised that Giovanni had come to them so late in the canon, but was impressed by the freshness and simplicity of the style, which is totally different to some of his early works, some of which have an almost antique quality to them.

They are, in fact, among his earliest productions and were originally published, possibly in a different format, in 1995. There is no clue to this in either the printing history or the advance material. This isn’t Search Press’s fault – when I asked, they had to go back to the Italian publisher to find out.

So, let’s look at what we have. The first thing to say is that this printing is a complete re-working, with a new design and layout. They look exactly like all the rest of Giovanni’s books that Search Press have been publishing in English for some years. And, as I hinted at the beginning, they’re very, very good. The economy of line, attention to detail and variety of poses are second to none and it’s easy to see how I was fooled (I only found out by accident when I was checking ISBNs).

So, on that basis, if you want just about the best primers on figure drawing around, buy these. In fact, you might even want to if you have the originals. – I suspect the format may be larger and the reproduction probably better too.

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The Complete Guide to Anatomy for Artists & Illustrators || Gottfried Bammes

This is the most substantial book I’ve seen on the subject of anatomy. Substantial, however, doesn’t mean incomprehensible and, looking into its pages, it becomes possible to believe the jacket’s claim that the original German edition is “bestselling” – even though I doubt it would have troubled the literary pages of the Frankfurter Allgemeine.

Gottfried Bammes does a remarkable job of explaining every aspect of both anatomy and the practice of drawing it in a way that simplifies without reduction to absurdity.

Anatomy, rather like perspective, is complex and comes with the additional hazard that, when writing about art, any author needs to avoid something that looks like a medical textbook. That Gottfried avoids this is, in large part, down to the quality of the drawings he uses to illustrate everything. He has a lightness of touch that, while it might be out of place in a hospital lecture theatre, is more than adequate in a drawing studio. The result is not only manageable, but looks and feels manageable. On top of this, the way the book is structured makes each section a unit in its own right; you can concentrate on the room without feeling weighed down by the rest of the building, large and ornate though it is.

I’d hesitate to recommend this as a primer but, if you’re interested in anatomy for artistic purposes, I doubt you’ll ever find a better, and certainly not a more complete, guide.

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Drawing Statues || Giovanni Civardi

Well, this is nothing if not niche! However, as Giovanni points out in his introduction, drawing statues has been part of art teaching since the sixteenth century. Originally, classical pieces were selected as examples of the highest standard of beauty, style, harmony and composition. On a practical level, they can be more accessible than a life model and have the advantage, as well as being static, of already being an interpretation that provides a clearly delineated form. Structure, anatomy and musculature have already been dealt with and it’s almost like having an outline prepared ready for you. As a first lesson in figure drawing, it’s a hard starting point to beat.

There is more of the worked demonstration here that is usual with Giovanni’s books, and it suits the subject matter well. Most of the statues include are indeed classical, but you’ll also find Degas’ Little Dancer and Rodin’s The Kiss. As ever, Giovanni’s sensitive pencil work is a joy to behold.

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Painting and Drawing the Head || Daniel Shadbolt

There’s no doubting the seriousness of this comprehensive study of portrait painting. As well as plenty of illustrations, there is a copious text that discusses just about every aspect of the subject in considerable detail – some four pages, for instance, are devoted to the process of priming canvases. This is, it should be said, a book about painting in oils and, although there is much general information that applies to any medium, it’s best studied with this in mind.

The book is constructed around the sequence of the painting process. We begin with the assembly and preparation of materials and, if you feel this goes into more detail than you perhaps need at this stage, do remember that few other books cover it quite so thoroughly and analytically, so you may not find this much information anywhere else. Lessons then move to the all-important observation and basic principles and on to composition, perspective, light and tone.

The second section is the main one and where Daniel considers the process of painting the head in detail. Style-wise, it is perhaps a shame that he tends to soften and obscure features, and this may explain the book’s title and its concentration on “the head” rather than “the portrait”. Daniel’s work also tends to be quite dark and of limited tonal range and this can make some of the illustrations hard to decipher in reproduction. You may feel, though, that the quality of the work, and the detailed discussion that surrounds it, more than make up for this and that you can add more detailed features yourself if you wish. There are, after all, other books that demonstrate this. In its own terms, though, this is something of a masterpiece.

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Figure It Out! Drawing Essential Poses || Christopher Hart

Christopher Hart is the absolute master of the simplified guide to figure drawing. In this remarkably comprehensive guide, he takes a number of typical postures and breaks them down into a series of simple shapes that make them both easy to understand and to replicate. Part of the secret of his simplicity is to deal with only one thing at a time. When, for example, figures are clothed, the clothing is simple and little more than a few lines – it doesn’t distract from or complicate the main message and won’t detain you for more than a few seconds. While you’re at it, you might want to notice that folds, creases and hangs can be delineated in just one or two marks, though.

As well as shape and proportion, Christopher hints at perspective, but without going into a great deal of detail – this isn’t a book about perspective. He does, though, look at three-quarter as well as front and back views and explains how to portray depth – his figures are always more than just two-dimensional cut-outs.

If you’re new to figure drawing, or finding yourself bogged down in self-imposed complications, this is a brilliant life-saver.

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Figure Drawing – a complete guide || Giovanni Civardi

I’m not normally a fan of reduced-format bind-ups, but this one makes pretty good sense. There are seven books here and, if they were in the original format, the 440 pages would simply be too heavy to handle easily. On top of that, Giovanni’s style is very much illustration-led, so the reduction has less effect that is often the case and there’s little or no sacrifice in usability on that score.

The selection included is well-chosen and kicks off with the excellent Drawing Techniques that was always a useful introduction. Some of the half-tones here are a little dark and it’s where the smaller page size is most felt. Even so, the important things are clear and it’s a good application of techniques to the specific field of figure drawing.

Further sections are: Understanding Human Form & Structure, The Nude, Sketching People, Heads & Faces, Drawing Hands & Feet and Clothing on Figures. It’s worth listing them simply to show how well this lives up to its own billing of being a complete guide.

To buy all these books individually would cost you over £60, so this is a bargain at £12.99. Price isn’t everything, of course, but the quality makes it an absolute steal.

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