All design, art and crafts require a basic grasp of drawing skills, even if only to portray the desired idea, so it is useful to own a few sketching and drawing books. For example, my recent design for a Christmas table runner, based on Eastern European Folk Art and the accompanying Russian wooden spoons. While my sketch is appalling artistically, it only needed to be a rough line drawing to portray the basic design! See the sequence of photos below! My first draft: While there are many brilliant books on this subject, here are a few titles, which have helped my journey, even though I will never be totally confident about my skills! While covering similar subject matter, they vary in presentation and approach, so I am sure there will be one that appeals to you! Please note that I have divided this topic into three posts, due to its length. Today, I am discussing six Sketching and Painting Books; Part Two is on Wednesday and includes four of my favourite Art Books, specifically written for Children, while in Part Three on Thursday, I am featuring nine books on Watercolour Painting and Artists’ Journals.
A. Sketching Books
Sketching for Beginners: A Pocket How To Do It by Geoffrey Elliot 1970
My first proper sketching guide and my starter for a lifetime pursuit of improving my drawing ability, though I think that I have now accepted my limited talent in this area!
This small volume discusses:
Chapter One: Sketching Defined: This chapter looks at the different kinds of sketches and the purposes behind them: the reference sketch for supplying material for your own personal dictionary; the study sketch used for a definite purpose, whether it be a working drawing for a finished art work or sculpture or a work in itself; the practice sketch to train your observation powers and hand-eye coordination; and the statement sketch, complete as it stands, without the notes and visual shorthand aids of the reference or study sketches.
Chapter Two: Equipment and Media: I LOVE visiting art shops with all their wonderful selection of artistic mediums and tools. So inspiring and make you want to dash straight back home with your new purchases and start using them! This chapter covers the basic equipment required from pencils and erasers; watercolours and brushes; paper and sketch-books to drawing boards and easels; gummed tape; fixatives and sponges; and viewfinders and plumb lines. It discusses a wide variety of media: Pen and Ink; Charcoal; Conté; Pastels; Wax Crayons; Felt Pens; Gouache; and Acrylics.
Chapter Three: Choosing Your Subject: A few notes for beginners on keeping it simple; being kind to yourself and not too ambitious; artistic licence; being interested in your subject matter; and the rigours of prolonged concentration, thereby emphasing the importance of comfort and a fresh eye with plenty of breaks. Subjects include family and home life; still life arrangements; the garden and outdoor scenes (eg parks and beaches); and landscape scenes.
Chapter Four: Observation and Technique: Observation, from all angles and in great detail, and composition; line and tone (I think that I am quite good with line, it’s portraying the areas of light and shade, which I find difficult!); colour (colour range, blending, building up,and glazing); stretching paper for watercolour; mass and detail; texture; and observation and judgement.
Chapter Five: Using Your Sketches: Squaring up and transposing a composition; reference sketches; and framing; with suggestions for further reading and art lessons.
All in all, a good little book for beginners, though it has been superseded by some far more detailed and lavish publications.
Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain: A Course in Enhancing Creativity and Artistic Confidence by Betty Edwards 1979/ 1989
With a sub title like that, how could I resist! Or any would-be artist for that matter! Apparently, it is the best-selling drawing book in the world, having sold over 1 250 000 copies and been translated into ten languages (now seventeen!) by its second publication. I actually bought the later publication (Revised and Expanded with a New Colour Selection) after a course on ‘Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain’ and found both the course and the book to be very illuminating!The basic theory is that drawing is primarily an activity of the right brain, the hemisphere responsible for creativity and artistic ability; intuition, perception and spatial ability; and chess, music and mathematics, while the left brain specialises language (both verbal and written), symbols and abstraction; timing and sequencing; and reasoning, logic and critical analysis. I have a very well-developed critical left brain!! See the photo of her table from page 40 below: After further discussion on brain hemispheres and the crossover connections between them, as well as the development of artistic ability in children, the author provides a series of exercises to stimulate the right brain and confuse the left brain, or rather suppress its critical analysis and self-doubt talk!
A prime example is my line drawing of the lady below in glasses. We had to draw a continuous line, constantly focusing on the subject and without looking down at the paper. The minute I did so at the end of the session, my critical left brain kicked in with noticing the different shape of the lenses in the glasses, but on closer observation of the angle at which I had drawn the subject, my rendition was totally accurate!Other exercises included: Drawing upside-down; drawing the negative space; contour drawing; and using view finders and sighting techniques.
Other topics include: Perspective (always a tricky problem!); proportion; angles and composition; light and shadow; and colour.
This is a very valuable book for every would-be artist and certainly furthered my artistic ability and confidence! If you cannot find an old copy, you can read the entire book from 1999 online at: https://aimeeknight.files.wordpress.com/2016/01/edwards-the-new-drawing-on-the-right-side-of-the-brain-viny.pdf.
Start to Draw by Robert Capitolo and Ken Schwab 2006
Another small paperback guide for beginners, with similar content, but a far more up-to-date and contemporary presentation, as well as more modern materials, to my original sketching book.
Chapter One covers Materials and Tools: Pencils; charcoal; coloured pencils and chalks; pen and ink; paper and other surfaces; erasers; fixatives and scratchboards.
Chapter Two explains the Basic Concepts:
Elements of Art (Line; colour; texture; shape and form; value; size and space);
Qualities of Shading (light and dark sides; highlights; cast shadow; reflected light; and back shading); and
Principles of Composition (Centre of Interest; balance; harmony; contrast; directional movement; and rhythm).
Chapter Three covers :
The Sketching Process: Drawing from photos and observation; and shape and form; and
Ways of Suggesting Depth: Interposition; size and spacing; foreshortening and the use of perspective: atmospheric perspective ; diminishing clarity; and linear perspective: one-point; two-point and three-point.
Various perspective terms are defined: Horizon line; eye level; station point; picture plane; line of sight; vanishing point; parallel lines; converging lines and foreshortening. There is also a simple Still-Life Activity to practice these concepts.
Chapter Four: Working with Images: Cropping and Grids, which has further activities: Making and using a viewfinder to aid composition; enlarging images using the diagonal method or by using a grid; and using the latter to also distort an image.
The next section of the book presents seven projects to develop shading abilities, an area where I require much more practice! They include:
Project One: Smudge Shading on a Contour Drawing: Includes more information about Composition;
Project Two: Ink Drawing With Hatch and Cross-Hatch Shading;
Project Three: Montage Composition with Cross-Hatch and Smudge Shading: Involves the composition of several images and practicing the gradation of values with lines;
Project Four: Random Line Shading with Gesso: Including preparation of the gesso board; transferring the preliminary drawing to the gesso board; shading the drawing; and the use of photos as a source of subject matter;
Project Five: Charcoal Portrait on Toned Paper: Including a guide to facial proportions;
Project Six: Cross-Hatching on Scratchboard; and
Project Seven: Nonobjective Design with Coloured Pencil : Including using a viewfinder; enlarging the composition; mixing colours with coloured pencils; and colour theory.
An excellent beginner’s guide to sketching!
The Complete Book of Drawing: Essential Skills for Every Artist by Barrington Barber 2006
A terrific book, which must be the ultimate guide to sketching, being a larger size and very comprehensive!
The first chapter, First Stages, is quite a lengthy chapter and covers all the Basics: Implements and materials; holding the pencil, using the paper, working at an easel and using rule of thumb to determine size and proportions; lines and circles; 3-D shapes; ellipses; groups of objects; corrections; identifying the source of light; modelling and shading; composition; simple perspective; technical aids; proportions in detail; foreshortening; aerial perspective; drawing plants and choosing landscapes, using hands or a card frame to isolate views; the effect of different eye levels; proportions of the human figure; and animals simplified.
The next chapter, Chapter Two, examines Object Drawing and Still-Life Composition, a good place to start as the subject matter doesn’t move!!! It discusses objects of different materiality; simple still-lifes and shading; exercises in looking and drawing; still-life themes; composition, angles and viewpoints; still-life in a setting; and large objects.
Chapter Three discusses the Experience of Drawing: Perspective views; irregular perspective; constructing a view along a street; areas of light and dark; angles; triangles and rectangles; human architecture; ellipses in perspective; using a common unit of measurement; perspective terminology; relationships in the picture plane; Alberti’s system; field of vision; chequerboard to create an illusion of depth; and dealing with movement.
Chapter Four concentrates on Form and Shape: Architectural forms; shape recognition; creating form; approaches to form; and exercises in simplifying and realizing form; while Chapter Five is all about Forms of Nature:
Plants: Flowers and trees; trees in the landscape and tree growth patterns and shapes; landscapes from different perspectives; experimenting with different media; depiction of earth, water and sky;
Animals: Movement; large animals; and drawing on the hoof; and
Introduction to the Human Figure: Heads; facial features and hair; perspective views; hands; musculature; composition of figures; close ups of joints; and clothing and movement.
Chapter Six enlarges on the latter subject area with Figure Drawing and Portraiture: Drawing from life; different poses; nudes; the torso; movement; proportions; closeups on legs and feet; arms and hands; mouths and eyes; and noses and ears; the head at different angles; facial expressions; juvenile features; form and clothing; expressing movement and attitudes; and spontaneous portraiture, backed up by a series of revision exercises. There is also a section on caricature: its use in satire and art; stereotyping; and modern trends in caricature.
Chapter Seven focuses on Styles and Techniques: Pencil drawing; simple outlines and precision; pen and ink and line and wash; chalk on toned paper; the use of scraperboards; different techniques, including blotting; card-edge and silver-point techniques; line versus tone and experimenting with light; action for drama; and the genius of simplicity.
Composition is the main topic of Chapter Eight: Analysis and geometry of composition; movement and abstract and naturalistic design in composition; interiors; creating and balancing a composition; emotional content; and variations on a theme.
The final chapter looks at the Drawings of the Great Masters: Ancient Greeks; Leonardo da Vinci; Raphael; Michelangelo; Rubens; Holbein the Younger; Rembrandt; Tiepolo; Watteau; Ingres; Delacroix; Turner; Degas; Renoir; Seurat; Cézanne; Matisse; Picasso; and Henry Carr. By acute observation of their works, techniques and methods and economy of effort and by practicing their style, the sketching student can learn so much and can further develop their own abilities.
2. General Guides to Drawing and Painting
Sketching and Painting: A Step by Step Introduction by FC Johnston 1976
Probably more an introductory book about painting, this publication was my husband’s first sketching book. Like me, he too yearned to become a better sketcher, but unlike me, he continues to practice, and is hence better at it! There are six parts to this book:
Part One: Preparation for Painting: The artist’s eye; basic equipment; working outdoors; the selection and arrangement of subjects; and composition and perspective.
Part Two: Painting in Watercolour: Paints, brushes and paper; paper preparation and laying down a wash; monochrome and colour paintings; mixing colours; and trees, foliage and grass.
Part Three: Painting in Oils: Equipment and basic techniques; monochrome and colour painting; colour mixing; trees; and further techniques and painting surfaces.
Part Four: Painting with Acrylic Colours: Acrylic paints; opaque qualities and texture; transparent washes; and knife painting.
Part Five: The Art of Sketching: Using a pencil; studies in pen and ink; pens without nibs; and sketching with charcoal and conté crayon.
Part Six: Mounting, Framing and General Advice: Mounting and framing oils and acrylics, watercolours and sketches; and final random thoughts and advice.
How To Paint and Draw: A Complete Course on Practical and Creative Techniques by Hazel Harrison 1994
Another excellent guide to painting and drawing, which is the equivalent of Barrington Barber’s book in its comprehensive and thorough coverage of drawing, watercolour, oil, acrylics and pastels. It is hard to believe that there would be any neglected facet of this vast subject area!The book begins appropriately with Part One: Drawing, as basic drawing ability is an essential foundation to painting.
It begins with Monochromatic Materials (pencils, conté crayon, charcoal, pen, inks and brushes ; and papers) and techniques for use with each different medium, including:
Pencil: Line and tone; and frottage;
Charcoal: Erasing techniques;
Conté crayon: Paper texture; and working with three colours;
Pen and ink: Scribble drawing; hatching and cross-hatching; line and wash; and brush drawing.
The book progresses to Colour Drawing Materials: Coloured pencils; pastels; inks and markers; and papers, and again, various techniques are discussed for each different medium:
Coloured pencil: Colour mixing; burnishing; and impressing;
Pastels: Mark making; oil pastels; and papers;
Inks and markers: Drawing with coloured inks and markers; textured papers; and wax resist.
The Mechanics of Drawing is then discussed, including the concepts of accuracy; proportions and size; drawing shapes and forms; negative shapes; line, lost and found edges and contours; sketching; subject material; figure drawing; animals; buildings; and perspective, scale and proportion.
Part Two: Watercolor:
Includes: Paints, brushes and papers; advice on mixing colours; colour theory; laying washes (flat, gradated and variegated) and dealing with edges; underdrawings; squaring up; working wet-on-dry or wet-into-wet; brushwork; lifting out; masking; using opaque paint; texturing methods (dry brush; toothbrush or paintbrush spatter and salt spatter); wax resist; line and wash; backruns; paint additives (gum arabic; ox gall; soap; and turpentine); and two special sections, focusing on landscapes and flowers.
I found this section to be particularly useful, as I love the effect of watercolours, but it is quite a difficult medium technically.
Part Three: Oils and Acrylics:
Discusses: Paints, brushes and mediums; palettes and painting surfaces; primary and secondary colours; using a restricted palette; colour relationships; painting white; working alla prima (wet-into-wet) and underpainting; working on a tinted ground; brushwork; impasto; knife painting; glazing; broken colour; removing paint (scraping back; sgraffito and tonking); and special sections, which focus on still-lifes; landscapes; and figures and portraits.
Part Four: Pastel Painting:
Focuses on: Types of pastels (hard, soft, oil), pastel pencils and papers; line strokes; mixing pastels and building up pastels; experimenting with different papers; tinting papers; wet brushing; underpainting; charcoal and pastel; laying a textured ground; and sgraffito– such a great word (!), it refers to the scratching or scraping of the top layer of colour to reveal another colour below; with special sections on using pastels to portray landscapes, flowers, and faces and figures.
I would love to be better with pastels, but I find it a very messy medium with which to work and often end up smudging unwanted colour with the bottom edge of my hand in the wrong spots!
Each part gives examples of work done in each medium at the start of each section; practical demonstrations of techniques in each medium; and comparative demonstrations to show the different approaches and effects. In the back, there is a list of stockists and suppliers for Australia and New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
Next week, I shall be discussing some of my favourite Art Books for Children.