View Full Version : If You Could Buy Only One Drawing Book ...

11-14-2007, 04:14 PM
I'm sure this has been discussed before, although a quick search did not locate the thread.

If you could buy only one drawing book that would serve beginners through advanced artists, which book would you buy?

I'm looking for the exceptional art instruction book that hopefully covers all or most techniques in one book.


11-14-2007, 05:53 PM
OMG - you are on like the quest for the holy grail!!! : )

I teach classical drawing and I've come to the conclusion that most modern books all have their compromises in technique and style. Some will emphasize line, shape, and form and minimize perspective, or others are more descriptive and less instructive, you have to find what works best for you.

Some fundamental basics a drawing book should cover are:

Line, Shape, Form (structure), Proportion & Measuring techniques, Angles, Perspective, Values & Shadow, perhaps something on the human form and figure, gesture, composition. I may miss a few but you get the point.

For my very beginning "fundamentals" class I keep it pretty simple and have used "Drawing for the Absolute Beginner" by Willenbrink, and have got pretty good results in covering the basics. Again, this book is ok - and I'm always on the quest for something better - that is still simple at this beginning stage.

I also have my fundamentals class read "The Art and Science of Drawing" by Harold Speed. And I encourage them to try to do some sketches from his book.

Now for my more intermediate students I am currently using "Drawing from Observation" by Brian Curtis. It is much more academic and built on a more "perceptual platform" of drawing. Great book, but not for those who aren't will to put in the time and effort. I also use Aristides book "Classical Drawing Atelier" as a supplement. Not much in terms of drawing exercises like a traditional "drawing book" (there are some and very good & challenging exercises) but a great book to help come to terms with what it means to be drawing "realistically" in the 19th century atelier mode.

Another good intermediate and might I add fun book is "Draw Like da Vinci" by White. What I like about this book is that it covers the basics and then some. She encourages you to try various tools, like red chalk, silverpoint & how to make silverpoint grounds. Drawing with pen and ink & brush, pastel chalk, and much more. Fun book I highly recommend.

I have just purchased Charles Barque's book and still waiting for it. Now this book from some of the images I have seen on this website are very challenging and for the more advanced or professional seeking to hone their skills to mastery level.

I have spent hundreds if not a few thousand dollars of books, gidgets, gadgets, etc. my best suggestion is to find a local art teacher (atelier) artrenewal.org, or art association that focuses on developing drawing skills in the style you are looking for.

Good luck in your search.

11-14-2007, 06:14 PM
Everybody is going to have their favorites ... there are a couple that will repeatedly come up if you are leaning towards photorealism or just realistic drawings. One is Drawing Realistic Textures by JD Hillberry - he posts here from time to time. Another one which is my absolute favorite book is Drawing Line to Life by Mike Sibley. I've read it at least 5 times now and I continually learn more from it. JD's book can be found at Amazon ... Mike's is available directly from him at www.sibleyfineart.com. There are, of course, many others, but if you are looking for realism, you could not do better than those two.

11-14-2007, 07:16 PM
One other thing I'd mention is that we have an excellent classroom here that covers everything from beginning shapes through advanced artistic concepts ... and many are taught by world reknowned professional artists. It's definitely worth taking a look at ....

Stoy Jones
11-14-2007, 07:28 PM
I'm going to throw in a curve ball by suggesting "Harley Brown's Eternal Truths for Every Artist". It isn't strictly for drawing (although there is a chapter devoted to it), his principles are pretty concrete and nearly unavoidable if you want to produce a finished drawing.

He covers composition and design of tonal values and how to develop accurate measurements and proportion. I do admit he doesn't touch on actual technique of using graphite or other drawing tools, but I have seen very little (if any) on methods of producing an image in terms of composition the way he does. To top it off, he does it with a positive attitude. You don't have to re-read it to understand it.


11-14-2007, 08:16 PM
:wave: This book I like is mainly for graphite drawing but I use alot his techniques in colored pencil also. Mike Sibleys book; for the life of me I can't remember the name; Drawing line to life I believe. Diane Wright has a great book on lanscapes, I just got that one a while back. And another favorite is Claudia Nice's books. All these are for one specific media, I tend to get the books this way, as they tend to be very specific on techniques for that medium. Like I said, with Mike Sibleys book I use alot of his techniques in colored pencil and pastel pencils; not just for graphite.
Hope that helps... Take care....

11-15-2007, 02:47 AM
Wow! Thanks for all the responses.

I've taken a couple of classes here at WC and really learned a lot. Troyd, you hit the nail on the head: I'm looking for the holy grail. There are so many great books but I'd like one that covers everything (yeah I know, dream on :-) )

Again thanks for all the suggestions. I'm going to list them and start checking them all out.


11-15-2007, 09:21 AM
This is an interesting question, and one I'm a little interested in too....however, I never have used drawing books. I've been curious about trying one, but am afraid that it will only teach me to draw like someone else, and I really just want to draw like me. Advance myself?....absolutely! But I think this is what has kept me from ever trying one. Thoughts about that?? I don't mind anyone not agreeing with me, it's just how I've always seen it, but am in no way against anyone using one. ....Do they inspire you to be "your own artist?" That's what I wonder.????

11-15-2007, 10:46 AM

I just checked out your website - Wow! Very nice drawings of pets and animals! Just keep drawing. Perhaps the only thing that I could see books being of value for you would be to get some evaluations of your work from local galleries in your area, an artist or peers in your artistic community, or even from some of the established artist in the wetcanvas community. Da Vinci writes about inviting evaluation of one's work, in order to develop "good judment." Asking for a critique (not criticism - although this happens too) can be an excellent tool to guide you in your artistic development. And then possibly finding a book to help you in developing those skills from the suggestions you receive (or taking a workshop), or maybe the advice you're given will suffice, in helping you to discover a new dimension to your drawings.

I like what Virgil Elliot says in his new book "Traditional Oil Painting" about learning techniques. He says that in order to be truly "your own" (self-creative) you must learn some essential techiques that will enable or allow you to unleash the creative within you. Not having a core of techniques to glean from will only allow you as an artist to grow to the level at which your understanding and skill set will allow. So for instance, let's say in your drawings you would like to become better at establishing stronger contrasts between light and shade and you feel somewhat limited in you ability to effectively create those contrasts, you might research a book that specifically deals with that area, or again ask here in the community boards, or find a workshop ....etc.

If you are creative and inspired (and from looking at your drawings on you web page I would say you are), I don't think you will lose that element of "being your own artist", in fact quite the opposite. You will find that through the advice, teaching, and wisdom of others you will become more and more "your own."

Ken W
11-15-2007, 10:49 AM
Only one...and for beginners through advanced? For me that would be Nicolaides' "The Natural Way to Draw." It is the basis for drawing courses at several art acadamies and seems to contain the same exercises I've seen in almost every subsequent book...Lol, for a long while it actually was the only drawing book I had!

11-15-2007, 11:32 AM
I like "Drawing Problems & Solutions : A Troubleshooting Handbook" by Trudy Friend. It shows me the details I'm always missing out on.

The best all around book I have seen is Andrew Loomis "Sucessful Drawing". Very difficult to find a copy.

11-15-2007, 01:23 PM
Thank you Troyd, I very much appreciate your comments and advice. I see what you're saying and agree with you. I've always been big on art being personal, self expressed, etc....and have always made sure that comes first in everything I do with my art. Like I've said, I've never used books before, but also have never been "taught" either....However, I've enrolled into a college here in my area to earn an art degree, and will be starting in January. ....oh no!... I have no idea what to expect, am totally nervous, and have already made it clear that I want to learn to improve, BUT keep my work...MY work. I think I've always been afraid of losing my own touch, or my own feelings, if I learned from someone else. I think that is something I'll have to teach myself to open up to and just discipline myself to be able to do. It'll be a challenge for me, for sure....but I'm looking forward to it.
Critiques are incredibly helpful, not always what you want to hear, but very needed. I'm thankful when I get them and I learn a lot from them.

11-15-2007, 02:19 PM
As someone who is at a beginner/intermediate stage the books I like best may not go far enough for you but if I had to choose just one it would be either "The Pencil Box" (published by North Light -it's a collection of articles, all of which I've found helpful and informative) or "The Complete Drawing Course" by Ian Simpson produced by Quantum publishing (a comprehensive guide with exercises and examples).
...oh, that's two choices. I used to be indecisive but now I'm not sure.

Stoy Jones
11-15-2007, 09:09 PM
[QUOTE=beautifulbay]......and have already made it clear that I want to learn to improve, BUT keep my work...MY work. I think I've always been afraid of losing my own touch, or my own feelings, if I learned from someone else. I think that is something I'll have to teach myself to open up to and just discipline myself to be able to do. It'll be a challenge for me, for sure....QUOTE]

Natalie, I agree with Troyd, there are some things that have to be understood if we want to improve. I look at learned techniques as a set of "tools". You want to create something and the more "tools" you have at your disposal, the more you can create. Now, which tools you prefer over others depends on your personality and how you like to work. This is where your touch or feeling comes into play.

Not all techniques we learn will be winners. In fact, you may learn things you will likely never use again. However, as time and taste change, you may rely on those other techniques should you grow bored with the way you do things now. There's no telling how things work out.


11-15-2007, 11:35 PM
So many great recommendations! I wish I could buy all of them. Hubby and I are retired and downsizing, which is why I was hoping for one book that stands out from all others.

Thanks again, everyone!

11-16-2007, 05:35 AM
Binkie, for a beginner I'd recommend Brenda Hoddinott and Lee Hammond books, both ladies have their own websites.

For the more experienced, I'd definately recommend Mike Sibley and J D Hillberry books.

11-16-2007, 07:50 AM
Binkie I'm with the others ie, Mike Sibley, Matte or JD...but my all time favour and the one who has influenced most artists at one time or another is Andrew Loomis (http://www.placidchaos.com/AM/index.php?title=andrew_loomis&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1) And they are free to download AFAIK! Trudie Friend is another very useful author as she tends to show you how to fix things...at whatever level!

WC Lee
11-16-2007, 04:58 PM
hmm two books that isn't mentioned is two of my favorites ..

"Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" and "The Natural Way to Draw"

Other books that is good and still used by many today are by Andrew Loomis which can be downloaded as PDF files for free.

11-17-2007, 04:19 PM
I've actually looked at the revised drawing on the "Right Side of the Brain" while looking in the local bookstore for another art book to buy, and having purchased the first edition some years ago I am impressed with the updated material, especially the workbook. Not a bad choice for a beginner or relatively new student to drawing. Some of the Hammond books mentioned above are not bad either.

Binky - It might be helpful to know at which level of drawing skills you are at currently. I looked back over this thread and you don't mention this. It might be of help for us and recommendations. I am assuming you are a beginner since you indicate beginner to advanced?

I know I've discovered some new books from this discussion that I plan on checking out myself...Thanks Group!

11-17-2007, 06:47 PM
Hi Troy,

I guess I consider myself an intermediate beginner. There is so much I want to learn to do correctly. Below is a sketch I'm working on for a larger drawing. There is so much wrong with it. I just eyeballed the perspective as well as everything else.:o (have already fixed the sleeve)

Also, here are a couple of links to samples of my work:



Thanks for looking!

01-26-2008, 03:08 AM
Coming from portrait and figurative background, Andrew Loomis books are must haves. They are out of print and hard to find but you can download the electronic version here free


Another favorite book of mine on figurative drawing is by Henry Yan. It may not be the end all book but to me it is inspiring.



01-26-2008, 03:15 AM
Thanks William, I'm going to use the link to go to the Loomis site now.


Andi Rebirth
01-26-2008, 05:32 AM
Binkie, I downloaded the loomis books and I highly reccomend them. It really helped me with pushing my natural abilities, I don't think it affected my own style. He was a fine illustrator. I don't think you'll be sorry, and no book to clutter up, I have sooo many. Andi

01-27-2008, 11:32 PM
Thanks again, William. And thanks for your comments Andi. I downloaded the books.