Drawing Hands & Feet || Eddie Armer

There’s more, of course, to figure drawing than just the extremities, but hands and feet are notoriously difficult to get right and errors here can mar an otherwise successful piece of work.

Eddie’s method is to proceed by way of examples and exercises, with plenty of diagrams and blocking outlines along the way. Instead of contemplating what appears to be a mountain – the sheer complexity of digitation, for instance – you start with simple shapes and work from there. Breaking the problem down to a series of what become much simpler stages suddenly makes it manageable and the possibility of understanding it more reasonable.

A lot of books on figure drawing include what amounts to a basic anatomy course. While this is undoubtedly useful, it can be daunting and, if this is something you feel you don’t need, the lack of it here should give your heart an immediate lift. This is art, not physiology. There’s plenty of guidance on perspective, which is most definitely something you need to get to grips with, as well as hands and feet from different angles and in different poses.

At 96 pages, this is a concise guide, but there’s no sense of anything lacking or of corners being cut and it should provide all the information you need.

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Drawing: a complete guide || Stephen C P Gardner

This very thorough book really does live up to its title. The range of styles and subjects covered and the progression of the chapters provides a complete course. As a professor and administrator, Stephen Gardner has not only personal teaching experience, but also the opportunity to watch others at work and learn from their methods and (perhaps) mis-steps. It’s also worth saying that the very soft binding means that the book (it’s a substantial paperback) falls open easily and doesn’t have to be manhandled if you have both hands occupied trying to follow the exercises. Small things like that can make a big difference and, if that much thought has gone into the detail, the substance is likely to be good as well.

This isn’t, as you may have gathered, a book to dip into, try a few things and then zone out. The organisation, which is clear and structured, does mean that you can concentrate on one topic – mark-making, line, form, values, shape etc – at a time, but do expect a chapter to occupy most of a day, or maybe even a week, allowing for practice, studio exercises and a bit of revision.

Substantial in every way, this is essential reading for anyone who’s serious about drawing.

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Draw People Every Day || Kagan McLeod

The subtitle, short lessons in portrait and figure drawing using ink and color, sums this up perfectly. Whether it appeals to you will depend on whether you like the author’s loose, yet rather blocky style. Even if it’s not entirely for you, there’s no denying the sheer variety of types, shapes, poses and situations illustrated.

As the subtitle hints, this isn’t so much a book to read or work through as one to dip into for ideas and inspiration. Maybe you’ll want a reference for a seated figure, or to practise dynamic movement or the fall of clothing. If it’s hair you’re getting stuck on, you’ll like long, short, straight or curled here. There’s plenty of advice, too, on composition and mark-making and this is a very comprehensive guide that’s fun and really rather refreshing.

The author’s style isn’t, as it happens, particularly to my taste, but I still like the book a lot.

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Beginner’s Guide to Life Drawing || Eddie Armer

This began life in the Masterclass series in 2013. The title page says “this edition published 2019”, which implies that there might have been some re-working of the original material, but I am unable to verify this possibility. It is certainly passing strange that a book originally intended for the more advanced worker can reappear as one for the beginner and I’m not sure that any amount of editing could effect that much of a change.

You can read the original review here.

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Artist Toolbox: Tools & Materials/Surfaces & Supports

This handy little series offers a lot more than appears at first sight. You would be forgiven for thinking that it was something aimed at the complete beginner and maybe even for the buying-it-for-someone-else market.

Although it is both of these – if you know someone who’s expressed an interest in art, these are a good starting point – there’s also information that will provide a handy resumé for the more experienced worker. The contents are much more than just a list of what’s available with the sort of description that leaves you muttering, “well, I could have worked that out for myself”.

What separates these books from the crowd is the amount of information (packed into a very small space) about what to do with the equipment you’ve just bought. Oils, watercolours, acrylics and ink are there, of course, but also glass, plastic and even stone. Technical information runs to shading, perspective and composition as well as the more expected methods of application. Within that limited space, don’t expect a full-on course, but do be amazed by the amount of depth achieved in only a page or two.

These are genuinely useful books that have been well thought out and are very much more than just the shelf-fillers that this sort of thing so often is.

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Acrylic Painting Step-by-Step || Wendy Jelbert, Carole Massey, David Hyde

A reissue of an earlier compilation. You can read the original review here. There doesn’t appear to be any re-origination and the image quality isn’t really up to modern standards, however.

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Urban Sketching Step by Step || Klaus Meier-Pauken

I can’t help thinking that the popularity of urban sketching is going to wane at some point. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with it – far from it – but simply that, having been extensively served with books covering every imaginable aspect (and some which, frankly, stretch the point), the world is eventually going to move on.

Many books on the subject mimic their subject by being busy, brash and complex. A vibrant city will be cacophonous and confusing. Capturing that requires a special way of working that uses quickly-drawn lines and bright colours. Results are impressionistic and suggest movement and crowds, even in what at least purport to be quiet corners. It can be quite an assault on the senses and many authors feel the need to reflect that.

So, what have we here? Well, a rather different take on the subject. Klaus, whose Quick & Lively Urban Sketching appeared a few years ago, has pared the instruction down. The format here is larger than is usual in this field and there’s more white space on the pages, which are generally less frenetic. The pace is much less “do this and this and this and this” and more a series of conventional exercises and short demonstrations that work at a slower pace and allow you to catch your breath. The subtitle is “Techniques for creating quick and lively urban scenes” and that word ‘techniques’ is important. Yes, the quick and lively – the soul of urban sketching – is here, but this is about how you do it and is something to practise with before you venture out into the field, sketchbook on your knee and pencil poised.

No one seems to have thought to do this before and it could breathe new life into the topic.

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