Wednesday, 3 July 2013


It is often said that sound drawing is the basis of all good painting. I don't think many will dispute this and certainly my advice to anyone starting young would be to spend the first two years just learning to draw properly. Workshop teachers will tell you that one of the problems they have is that students - particularly those who have taken up painting late in life - want to start  painting immediately without getting too involved in the basics. I have made sporadic attempts to improve my drawing and it is certainly better. One of my problems is that I don't have the steadiest of hands, a reason why I was attracted to the Charles Reid method of modified contour drawing. I don't pretend I can do it as well as him, but even Charles has been heard to say some people think he can't draw a straight line. During my association with various local art groups, and on some workshops, one comes across quite a few people who have had occupations that involved precise drawing. Many want to `loosen up' but find it very difficult to use this kind of drawing skill to produce good paintings. This is a general comment  and there are always exceptions to the rule. 

There are hundreds of books on drawing, all claiming to be the best in various ways, and it is difficult to choose from such a variety. Some cover drawing from the basics to the pinnacle, while others cover specific subjects. I have accumulated quite a number but don't pretend I have studied them cover to cover.

This is the classic work by John Ruskin, first published in 1857 and remains: "one of the most sensible and useful, both for the amateur and the professional artist.

Originally published a century or more ago this is another classic full of sound advice. It isn't just a how to book but covers every angle ..."brings to the beginner a clear statement of the principles that he will have to develop and their importance in creating a work of art"...

If you wish to go the Atelier route then this book by Juliette Aristides is a good starting point together with her previous works `Classical Drawing Atelier' and `Classical Painting Atelier'. This type of drawing is enjoying a revival with a number of `Atelier' schools having been set up fairly recently. Probably best for the young, dedicated art student just starting up. It comes with a DVD and I shamefully confess I haven't viewed it - yet.

I'm not going to mention all the books I have just a few I particularly like.

This is my favourite recommended by Charles Reid, who considers it the best book on drawing. I like it a lot and  believe it would help most of us who wish to improve our drawing skills. Dodson wrote a second book but I didn't like it nearly so much.

This is written by the Bristol artist John Palmer in the Ron Ranson `Painting School' series. John has an idiosyncratic style that might put off many but is highly individualistic and exciting. Not for everyone. His pencil work is astonishing.

This is just one in a whole series written by Barrington Barber, a British artist and teacher. They are basic, inexpensive primers full of sound advice.

I have several others including the Betty Edwards `Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain', a seminal book which has sold in huge quantities and several editions. I've never really got into this one I have to confess. As an amateur `dabbler' I don't pretend to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of  drawing books and no doubt there are many other choices of equally valuable books. I once started a thread on Wetcanvas, actually as research for this post, asking for members views on the very best books but all I got  was the usual litany of advice about which or what one I ought to get, most missing the point completely. 

All the above were obtained from either Amazon or Abebooks. The only one that proved difficult to obtain, eventually from Abebooks, was John Palmer, which was also the most expensive. Prices on all the others were very reasonable.


Maike Bohlen said...

The most interesting book i ever stumbled upon is: the natural way to draw by Kimon Nicolaides. ( It is mainly about contour drawing.) The best way to learn drawing is to take ( how to say it in english?) nude drawing classes, especially with a sculptor. Once you can draw that you´ll manage everything.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for comments Maike. I'm sure life drawing can be a great help.

Oscar Solis said...

I've seen many of the books here and I agree that the Bert Dodson book is terrific. I also enjoy John Palmer's book although it had to grow on me. I have to say that Charles Reid's method is great. It's simple, direct and forces one to see just what needs to be seen.

Having had, as an illustrator, to draw tight for too many years than I care to remember, I offer the following advice to anyone who wishes to stop this nasty habit :) :Cut the time to which you devote to a project. Instead of spending five hours, cut the time in half. Many people realize that most of the time is spent on details that can be eliminated or merely suggested quickly. But they must make a conscious effort to do this. Like anything it takes practice.

Not surprised about Wetcanvas. While great advice can be found there, I've found it's best to steer clear. Very dogmatic and very quick to put you "right", which can kill creativity and experimentation and plus, it seems at times, that there is a lot of dipping into the same well, same artists, etc. I always feel bad for the newbies who just want a simple question answered. Just my opinion. Can you imagine what they would say if I posted that I love painting watercolors on acid free index card stock (it's all in how you handle it).

Another excellent post.

Oscar Solis said...

" seems at times, that there is a lot of dipping into the same well, same artists, etc."

I want to clarify what I wrote. I did not mean the people who post on Wetcanvas. I meant that the same professional watercolorists are mentioned time and time again. Nothing wrong with that, but now and then I'd bring up a guy like, for example, Robert Andrew Parker and get barely a ripple, if any (Parker is one of Reid's favorite artists).

I suppose in the end it's all about a comfort zone.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for your perceptive comments Oscar - always welcome.

L.W.Roth, said...

Drawing books and drawing daily from life and books is absolutely fundamental to painting. At the same time though it's a good idea to paint. Where drawing is wonderful for training the eye for line densities, shapes and values, painting has a lot to do with developing color sensititvity and the power of dots, dashes,dabs and edges. I would encourage the beginner to do both.

Mick Carney said...

I'm also keen on the Dodson but have found the following of some use: Experimental Drawing and Learning to Draw - a creative approach, both by Robert Kaupelis; Art of Responsive Drawing by Nathan Goldstein; The FIgure - classic approach to Drawing and Construction by Walt Reed; Drawing - Seeing and Observation by Ian Simpson.

I believe that most of us require some guidance in drawing the human. It is no surprise that traditional art courses placed great emphasis on figure drawing, for me there is no better discipline.

Peter Ward said...

Welcome back Linda. Missed you for a while. I'm sure you are right about also painting.

Peter Ward said...

I don't know any of those Mick but as I've said there are hundreds on drawing (watercolour also). Individually we can only scratch the surface.

Oscar Solis said...

I went back to wetcanvas (I know, I know...) and found your post about the drawing books. I noticed I posted too (it's the last post). I hope I wasn't one of those who went off the rails.

I did recommend books by Andrew Loomis and I stand by those, in particular "Figure Drawing For What It's Worth". They are excellent and cover a wide range of subjects, but most importantly, the information is clear.

I've been dipping into the late Rowland Wilson's "Trade Secrets". The book isn't about learning the basics. It's about taking drawings to the next step. It's a difficult book to get through, but it's also rewarding. As such, it's not your typical how to book. It is, however, a worthy addition to any library, but I warn everyone that it's pretty dense. Luckily the illustrations are fun. While he was a cartoonist, illustrator and animator and not a "fine" artist, Wilson was highly accomplished and knew what he was talking about. Highly recommended and available from Amazon.

Sorry for the long comment.

Peter Ward said...

I must have missed your comment Oscar giving up after the first few replies(!). Yours was the sort of response I was after - but mostly didn't get.

Irena said...

One I bought a long time ago is Draw: How to Master the Art by Jeffrey Camp. It shows ths the way various artists tackled their subjects with many different ways of mark making.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for comments Irena.With the hundreds of books available I'm sure there are lots of different views on which are good or the best. I've not heard of this one I confess but who could possibly cover all of them.

donjusko said...

Hi Peter,
I'm Don Jusko,
The new pigment PV55 was brought to my attention.

This site is getting better each year,

For a limited you can get a free tube of Daniel Smith Quinacridone Purple (PV 55) with the purchase of their Quinacridone Watercolor Set.

Claimed to be superior to Quinacridone Violet PV 19 (Ref Coating Tech June 2010, pg 48);

Organic; A "solid solution" formed from the mixing of 2,9-dimethoxyquinacridone and 2,9-dichloroquinacridone resulting in a unique crystal form. (Ref);The hue is said to be closer to carbazole violet (PV 23) than PV 19 and PV 29 (Ref)

Well, since PV19 won't make a good blue because it's on the red side and PR122 will make a decent red and blue. Perhaps this PV55 will split the difference. I want some dry to do the comparison my self. I'm sending this email because it will make it to the blog plus I get a copy sent to my own email.
Later, Don
Golden has a draw-down of the color and it looks good. (PV19)

I like the w/c PV55 on D.S. site too. It does split the difference between PR122 and PV19

I noticed all the sites now calling PV19 permanent, the pigment hasn't changed, the sites changed their info. (No one is testing)
This guy Peter did a good job of testing and showing his results too. I wish he had used PY100 instead of orange to get his reds.

In this image it looks like PV55 is too purple to be primary but the painting shows a good tinted magenta color. He didn't say how it was made. I guess I have to test them myself, or see your tests.

donjusko said...

Hi Peter, my last post doesn't make complete sense unless you know it was part of a post sent to an artist in Europe, Adrien Lucca. It included images. We are working on color like your are.

Oscar Solis said...

I've gone back to reread/enjoy John Palmer's book. It's just a beautiful. The thing I like about it is that he seems to have thrown away his eraser and allowed his work to be what it is. He trusts what he does. I get the same feeling from Robert Andrew Parker's work. One can only imagine how many drawings they had to do in order to gain that confidence.

I have to admit that in my own work, I used to live by that pencil, making sure everything was there. Working that way inspired absolutely no confidence (I liken it to driving off on vacation and hoping you didn't leave all the lights on). Good Lord, I could feel myself tightening my grip on the damned implement. When I made a conscious effort to cut my time down and draw just the barest guidelines and have a damn the torpedoes approach to my work, in other word's, have fun, it was the difference between night and day. However, while It may have been strenuous earlier, I do appreciate the time I put into the learning.

There's a belief that one has to put in 10,000 hours to get any good at something. Between drawing commercially, practicing I'd say I've done it and then some. I'm finally having fun and trusting what I do.

Just thought I'd share that, even if If I went off subject ;)

Peter Ward said...

Hello Donjusko. Interesting stuff but not sure why it is on this post. It should have been on one of the posts about pigmenst

Peter Ward said...

Thanks again Oscar. I must admit my drawings are now more minimal but I also admire very intricate drawings like the Leonardo Da Vinci examples. Dodson's book has some good examples and so have some of the others I listed.
I love John Palmers work. He uses a cheap disposable propelling pencil with a thin HB lead.