Hey All! 

I was asked to compile a list of recommended  reading for folks who want to sharpen their skills at drawing and/or  storytelling, so here's a list of good stuff. I don't expect you to rush out and  read ALL of these books, but hopefully at least a few of my reviews will pique  your interest. Most of these books are available for under $20, and many are  readily available at your local library.    (Gotta run, but I'll post a PDF version of this list for my Patrons tonight!) 


*HARLEY BROWN'S ETERNAL TRUTHS FOR EVERY ARTIST, by  Harley Brown. I initially picked this one up at the library because the title  was so self-aggrandizing that I thought it would be worth a good laugh. What I  found inside blew me away. This is among the best books on picture-making I've  ever encountered. Brown well understands how to adjust shapes and values in a  picture to make it work, and he's able to communicate that understanding far  better than most. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

*THE PRACTICE & SCIENCE OF DRAWING, by Harold Speed. This book  covers both draftsmanship and composition. Speed had an especially penetrating  understanding of how drawings are made. He wrote this in 1917, when drawing  skill was still highly prized among academics (before the 20th Century lull,  when the primacy of nonrepresentational art hampered the serious study of  draftsmanship). It's a bit dry and wordy, but this book and its companion volume  (the boringly-named but highly illuminating OIL PAINTING TECHNIQUES AND  MATERIALS) are well worth wading through for his sharp insights about the  medium. 

*PROBLEM SOLVING FOR OIL PAINTERS, by Gregg Kreutz.  This is ostensibly a book on oil painting, but many of its lessons are valuable  to anyone who makes pictures. Kreutz presents a series of flawed paintings which  he then remedies by using smart compositional techniques. Very useful for when  you've drawn a picture or panel that somehow doesn't look right and requires a  certain indefinable "something."

  *THE SIMPLE SECRET TO BETTER PAINTING, by Greg  Albert. As with the book above, don't let the word "painting" in the title repel  you! Many useful lessons are missed by cartoonists because they're hidden in  books with "painting" in the title. This book promises a simple secret that will  improve your pictures...AND IT DELIVERS! The simple secret is to vary the sizes  of the shapes in your pictures, and the distances between them. Albert devotes  most of the book to various illustrations and applications of this surprisingly  effective approach.

*PICTORIAL COMPOSITION AND THE CRITICAL JUDGMENT OF  PICTURES, by Henry Rankin Poore. Poore wrote this in 1913, so the language is  archaic, but it's rare to find such a thorough discussion of composition and how  it works. As Harold Speed did in his books, Poore is grappling here with ideas  that would lie fallow for decades -- ideas proceeding from the view that art is  not a guessing game, and can hit precise emotional notes with increasing clarity  and effectiveness. (Poore also wrote a shorter book called COMPOSITION IN ART --  which is good, too, and more accessible, but not as thorough.)

*CREATIVE ILLUSTRATION and SUCCESSFUL DRAWING, by  Andrew Loomis. Loomis is well known for his exceptional art instruction books,  and I'd say CREATIVE ILLUSTRATION is the best of the bunch. SO much great advice  about composing and executing great pictures. If you could only read one book  among all of the books on this list, this might be your best bet. HIGHLY  RECOMMENDED! Successful Drawing is also great, but focuses mainly on  perspective. An excellent collection of perspective techniques. 

CARLSON'S GUIDE TO LANDSCAPE PAINTING, by John F.  Carlson. Carlson was a great landscape painter and his book is full of sound  advice -- not just about painting landscapes, but about picture-making in  general. He writes with the comfortable grace of a teacher who's known his  subject long and well. This is among those books, like Strunk & White's  ELEMENTS OF STYLE, that you can dip into at random and always be rewarded.  Even when his advice doesn't apply to your current project, the thoughtful  authority of a master at home with his subject is always enriching.

  *DRAWING ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE BRAIN, by Betty  Edwards. Edwards supports the view that the left and right hemispheres of the  brain are responsible for different activities, the right side being home to the  activity of making art. Whether you subscribe to that view or not, you can learn  a great deal from her instruction here (as demonstrated by the many impressive  "before & after" examples of her students' art). The gist of her teaching is  that we must learn to ignore the symbols our minds tend to assign to objects, in  order to draw them as they truly appear. This is the basis for representational  drawing, and Edwards explains it well -- both the concept and practical means of  achieving it.
*THE ARTIST'S COMPLETE GUIDE TO FIGURE DRAWING, by  Anthony Ryder. This is more about observational drawing than anatomy. Ryder  explains, better than any drawing teacher I've seen, how to faithfully observe  and record your subject. The techniques here are similar to those in Edwards's  book, but for advanced artists. If you're already a pretty good artist but  you're having trouble accurately drawing from a photo or model, this is the book  to consult. (But keep in mind that the drawings he's teaching from took 30+  hours to complete -- a luxury of time unavailable to most working  artists!)
 *DRAWING THE HEAD & FIGURE, by Jack Hamm (no  relation to me...except as a brother in Christ!). There are lots of great  anatomy books out there, but this one has my highest recommendation. It's short  but comprehensive, heavily illustrated for quick and easy reference, and  jam-packed with great tips and information about drawing figures and faces,  clothed and unclothed. His tips about proportions are especially useful for  cartoonists, who must often pose figures quickly and without reference  photos.

*PERSPECTIVE MADE EASY, by Ernest Norling. There  are more thorough and sophisticated books on perspective (see Loomis's  SUCCESSFUL DRAWING), but this small volume covers all the techniques you're  likely to need while drawing comics, and does so simply and succinctly. Easy to  read and understand, and easy to return to for a refresher.  
 *DRAWN TO LIFE vols 1 & 2, by Walt Stanchfield.  Stanfield was a mid-Century Disney animator who taught classes in life drawing  to younger Disney animators. These books are a posthumous compilation of his  class notes. His advice is wide-ranging, but the common theme is that you  must suss out the spirit of a pose, and capture THAT -- rather than record  details that reveal nothing, visible though they may be. There is,  unfortunately, a lot of redundancy here; he repeats much of the same advice over  and over. On the other hand, it's advice worth hearing over and over!  
*THE 5 CS OF CINEMATOGRAPHY, by Joseph V. Mascelli,
Cartoonists are often encouraged to make their work look more "cinematic,"  but few people seem able to define what that means. I think what it comes down  to is that films' compositions are often more effective and sophisticated than  what we see in comics. Either of these textbooks will help you close that gap in  your work. (I own and enjoy both books and don't have a preference.)
 *THE VISUAL STORY, by Bruce Block. The two books above are fairly basic;  this one is more sophisticated. It explains how to use visual elements (spatial  depth, shapes, cropping, lighting...) in a narrative to convey meaning  and influence the reader's mood. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
*CINEMATIC STORYTELLING: THE 100 MOST POWERFUL FILM CONVENTIONS EVERY  FILMMAKER MUST KNOW, by Jennifer Van Sijll. Similar to the book above, less  in-depth, but with more emphasis on illustrative examples from great films. Well  worth reading & owning.
*ON DIRECTING FILM, by David Mamet. I know it says "film," but Mamet's  focus here is on the thought process by which we pick the story beats (or one  might say "panels") that best convey the story we wish to tell. Invaluable  insights for comic book makers -- writers and/or artists.
*THE PRINCIPLES OF ART, by R.G. Collingwood. This  one is a tougher read than the others on this list (be warned!), but it's also  the best discussion of what art is (and isn't) that I've ever encountered.  Collingwood describes 5 different practices that are commonly called "art," but  which actually have very different aims and origins. Discerning those  differences is key to understanding many of the mistakes and disputes that  plague students of art, and will help you understand what it is you're trying to  do when you set out to create something. HIGHLY  RECOMMENDED!  
THE ART SPIRIT, by Robert Henri (HENrye). This is a random collection  of advice and musings from a beloved and insightful art teacher from a century  ago. Great stuff; inspiring, thought-provoking, and informative, with a lot of  wisdom you won't find elsewhere.


By becoming a patron, you'll instantly unlock access to 162 exclusive posts
By becoming a patron, you'll instantly unlock access to 162 exclusive posts