The Figurative Artist’s Handbook: A Contemporary Guide to Figure Drawing, Painting, and Composition
by Robert Zeller
Unlike other figure drawing instruction books, this one begins with a 67-page crash course in art history. “Figurative art always conveys a narrative, a point of view. At the present, it is considered vital for a figurative artist to have his or her own artistic voice, and to exhibit some originality. How can you hope to be original, to continue the conversation, if you do not listen to the past, to those who have come before you?”
The instructional chapters of the book are divided by pose category: Standing Figure, Front View; Standing Figure, Back View; Reclining Figure; Portrait Drawing; and Portrait Painting. Here are some of the common themes.
“Gesture is a river of movement, energy, and rhythm that flows through the figure in any given pose… Once you understand gesture you will be able to see the essential rhythm of a pose, which will allow you to properly plan your drawing. Think of gesture as a conceptual road map. Before you start drawing with your hand, first learn to draw with your eyes… Begin by scanning the entire figure for gestures that flow through the various forms, learning to see how all of the parts of the figure are connected… Learn to see this axis of energy first so that when you draw, you will be able to forge greater unity among the various parts of the figure.”
Figure Drawing For Artists: Making Every Mark Count
by Steve Huston
The two most fundamental concepts in Steve Huston’s approach to figure drawing are structure and gesture—the parts and the relationship between the parts.
“To understand and use the idea of structure well, it’s best to think like a sculptor, meaning we build our drawing and painting (as in sculpture) through a series of constructed forms… Think of it as the scaffold on which to hang your designs and rendering techniques.”
“Constructed forms automatically feel three dimensional when done well because the lines move over the form. Another way to think of it is that every mark we make, whether carefully rendered or loosely sketched, should act as a visual arrow.”
“Gesture is the connection, the relationship between the shapes… Gesture is the lifeline embedded inside any living form… This gestural idea makes your art look natural… It keeps our drawings from looking stiff, mechanical, and pieced together. It’s what gives the subject a lively and organic quality.”
Gesture is the long axis curve of the structure. “Gesture is defined by the long axis because all body parts connect end to end… Any artist who just focuses on the pieces ends up with pieced-together results. Art’s job is to orchestrate life into something powerful, effecting, and meaningful—something greater than the individual parts… Gesture is the chef’s secret sauce.”
“The longer and more graceful the gestural curve, the more smoothly the eye moves over the various forms… Always err on the side of the more dynamic. That means, if the gesture is curved, make it more curved. If the shadow is dark, make it a little darker.”
The Artist’s Complete Guide to Figure Drawing: A Contemporary Perspective on the Classical Tradition
by Anthony Ryder
Anthony Ryder presents a thorough and meticulous process for drawing the human figure. This is definitely not a quick sketch approach. “On average, I put in about twelve three-hour sessions for each finished drawing.” Ryder works with either pencil on white paper or pencil and white charcoal on toned paper.
This book starts out with a 13-page interview with Milton Glaser by Peter Mayer followed by 188 pages of Glaser’s art.
A recurring theme in the short text is ambiguity. “I have always been aware of the need to provoke the mind when communicating ideas because that is the only way that you prod someone into understanding anything. That is why ambiguity is such a useful tool… Why are we unmoved by many of the skills of academic painting? Because their information is complete and unambiguous, so you have nothing to add. The philosophy of modernism suggests that the viewer completes the work.”
Milton Glaser is best known as the graphic designer who created the I Love NY logo in 1975. He has also designed and illustrated album covers, book jackets, advertisements, posters, magazines and newspapers, and architectural interiors.
This is a highly informative book about observational drawing. One of the recurring themes is the distinction between what you see (percepts) and what you know (concepts). “There is meaningful conflict between what is perceived (convergence of parallel tracks) and our traditional rational understanding (Euclid’s theorem that parallel lines never meet)… To prevent your concepts from distorting your perceptions you must record the proportion you see, not the proportion you know.” Continue reading →
Lessons in Classical Drawing: Essential Techniques from Inside the Atelier
by Juliette Aristides
Whether you are interested in learning to draw, or are just curious about the process as an observer of art, this is an outstanding book. It is clearly written, and illustrated with elegant artwork by contemporary artists and old masters. The book includes a DVD with video demonstrations by the author.
“Every good drawing exhibits an understanding and control of tone, proportion, harmony, and composition.” Continue reading →