Having a good library of reference books for artists is essential. Art is not created in a vacuum, it is nurtured by exposure to other artists and creative output. These are books that live on the shelves in my studio that I turn to most often for inspiration. Acquire them, if you can, and refer to them often.
What do you need to learn how to draw? Forunately not a whole lot. Below is a short list of things you should have as an artist. Carry them with you everywhere.
Your sketchbook is your artistic workbench, so get a good one – no school notebooks with blue lines.
The paper in sketchbooks is higher quality and will withstand more erasing and heavier usage, plus colored and charcoal pencils, inks and pastels. Get one that is spiral bound, so it lays flat when you work in it; you don’t want to hold it open while you work. I have several sketchbooks: a primary one, a smaller travel one, and one that has extra heavy duty paper for watercolor sketches
Ditch the mechanical pencils, and the yellow #2s. This isn’t math class.
You want pencils that will give you good lines which make it easier to sketch and erase. Below is a couple of charts that illustrate the different kinds of drawing pencils. I reccommend 2B and 4B pencils for sketching, as the softer lead is easier to erase. The harder the lead, the lighter the line and the harder it is to erase – not good for sketching. The softer the leaed, the darker the line, and the easier it is to erase.
The best kind of eraser for sketching is the kneadable erasers which look like gray Silly Putty. These erasers last practically forever, are very gentle on the surface of the paper and can be shaped to erase small areas. Hard erasers will rub away the top layer of cellulose from your paper, damaging the drawing surface, and leave pink crumbs behind as well.
- Cartooning The Head And Figure by Jack Hamm – The first cartooning book I acquired, given to me in college by a friend of mine, this is a great resource for drawing all sorts of poses, faces, situations, and has tips on drawing men, women, children, you name it
- Drawing The Head And Figure by Jack Hamm – Another great resource, this one geared to more realistic figure drawing
- Drawing The Head And Hands by Andrew Loomis – Loomis was a prolific creator of illustrations for advertisements in 1940s and 1950s magazines and created the most popular drawing books of his time. They were so successful, that when they went out of print, photocopies and scans were traded and passed around. They’re back in print in beautiful hardcover, and have the best tips, examples and lessons of any art books I’ve found
- Successful Drawing by Andrew Loomis – Another great book, this one delves deeply into the many ways perspective is used, how to draw realistic shadows and figure drawing
- Working Methods by John Lowe – This book examines how comic and graphic novel artists plan and draw their pages, and the work spaces they create. A very good resource for seeing how the pros do it
- Rendering With Pen and Ink by Robert W. Gill – You may have trouble finding this one, but if you do, snag it. Published in 1974 and written for architects, it is jammed with great illustrations and examples of trees, offices, people, airplanes, cars and also has great explanations of proper perspective. I picked it up for a quarter at a yard sale and it’s one of my favorite books
- An illustrated Life by Danny Gregory – This is a fantastic book that has scans of artists’ sketchbooks, and their thoughts about how they use them and why, and how they feel about sketching in them. This will defininetly inspire you
- Drawing Words and Writing Pictures by Jessica Abel and Matt Madden – This is a fantastic book for learning how to draw comics and sequential stories, beginning with the very basics and working its way through the steps to finished product
- Making Comics by Scott McCloud – The definitive guide to sequential storytelling, in graphic novel format, McCloud covers in exhaustive detail every facet of making comics and graphic novels
- Comic Book Design by Gary Spencer Millidge – This fun book examines the techniques used by various comics and graphic novel artists; the way they render theeir characters, the types of panels and camera angles they use
- The Best Of Draw! Volume 2 and The Best Of Draw! Volume 3 – These are the best how-to articles from Draw! magazine, a collection of incredibly helpful articles about creating great layouts, designing your worlds, character design, comic book writing, sketching techniques, artist interviews and a lot more. You can learn a lot from these volumes
- How To Draw Manga – Sexy Sports Wear – This book has loads of simple line illustrations of females in various poses, a great reference for drawing the female figure, plus illustrations of how clothes interact with the human body. The illustrations are simple and easy to copy for improving your skills
- How To Draw Manga – Couples – Another great Manga book, this one has lots of examples of two people interacting with each other, providing good reference material for people sitting, hugging, lying and walking together (this book has depictions of nudity, which is why I don’t bring it to class, but it is a good reference nonetheless)