Learn to be an Illustrator
This lens exists to help those who would like embark on a serious study of drawing and painting in styles both representational and exaggerated. The books, links, and videos recommended in this lens will develop an artist's ability to use line, value, and color in artistic compositions.
Join the Comics Experience Creator's Workshop.
I am the art moderator for the Comics Experience forums. I regularly give critiques on artwork posted.
- LINK: Comics Experience Workshop
The Comic Creators Workshop is an online community made up of people who are serious about making comic books-whether writing, penciling, inking, painting, coloring, editing-anything! By joining this community, you'll surround yourself with a group
The Benefits of Studying Illustration
The above two pictures were done by the same person, Alex Ross. Clearly Ross was not born with the ability to draw; it's something he learned through intense study. If your illustrations are closer to the drawing on the left than the painting on the right, there is no need to despair -- it means you probably have not engaged in the same intense study that Alex Ross has. If you are willing to put forth the effort, however, progress awaits.
Basic drawing and perspective
The First Book You Should Read - Part 1 of this learning lens. There are no prerequisites required.
Making good observations is an essential skill when learning to draw. Betty Edwards's book is full of great exercises to help develop one's observational acumen.
The strength of this book is also its greatest weakness. It is critical of analytical approaches like perspective and constructions. I recommend using you're whole brain for drawing, but there is nothing wrong with starting with the right side when you're learning.
This is the best place for beginners to start. This book will teach you to draw what you see.
- Assignment 1: Vases Faces and Upside Down Drawings
Read chapters 1 through 5 of "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain," and post the results from the exercises in chapter 4.
- Assignment 2: Contour Drawings
Read Chapter 6 of "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Blind contour drawings of: hand, leaf or flower, and a rock. Modified contour drawings of: hand, crumpled up piece of paper. 5 blind contour drawings of your choosing. 5 modified contour draw
- Assignment 3: Drawing and Shading Exercises
Draw the 5 pictures shown in the lens and post the results to your blog.
- Assignment 4: Cube Drawing
Draw 50 cubes from life. Multiple cubes can be in each picture.
- Assignment 5: Create View Finders
Make two view finders for upcoming lessons.
- Assignment 6: Drawing Hands Using View finder
Draw your non-drawing hand three times using the view finder.
- Assignment 7: Modified Contour Drawing Using View Finder
Use the view finder to create a pencil drawing of your hand.
- Assignment 8: Drawing Stick Figures
Learn the stick figure as a simplified construction of the human skeleton.
- Assignment 9: Cubes Revisited
Introduction to 1 and 2 point perspective as well as circles in perspective.
- Assignment 10: Drawing Spheres
Introduction to drawing spheres with circles and ellipses.
- Assignment 11: Stick Figures Revisited
Applying perspective to stick figures.
Supplies To Get Started
Here is a list of supplies that I use the most. Experiment with supplies to see what works best for you.
The Myth of Talent
Studies show it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything. That means 5 to 10 years for most people, depending on the level of immersion in the new skill to be acquired. Becoming a "talented" artist is no different. It's simply a matter of effort.
Marshall Vandruff's Perspective DVDs - This video suppports part 1 of this lens
This is a clip for a video series you can buy at draw123.com. The DVDs contain 12 hours of perspective instruction. I ordered them based on the quality of instruction in this YouTube video. Marshall Vandruff has put together first rate instruction. If you have ever struggled with perspective, Marshall Vandruff is the answer to your problems. I consider the DVDs indispensable.
Get Marshall Vandruffs Perspective DVDs
- Click here to buy Marshall Vandruff's Perspective DVDs
$129 for all 12 lectures.
Perspective Books to Support Marshall Vandruff's DVDs
During his lectures, Marshall Vandruff references the two books listed below. Both are well written and easy to understand -- especially after listening to Marshall's lectures.
This book shows you what the rules are, is simple to understand and has lots of great diagrams and pictures. If you can only get one perspective book, get this one.
Once you've learned the rules, this book will show you how to break them.
Plaster Drawing Casts: Simple Shapes
The famed anatomy teacher Robert Beverly Hale said, "You learn to draw by coming to shape conclusions." What he meant by this is that artists break down what they see into simple shape combinations based on the sphere, the cube, the cylinder and the cone. Knowing how to draw and shade these simple shapes will help you draw the human body once you realize how to construct your figures using these shapes.
Additionally, drawing from white plaster casts with simple lighting will help you understand form, and value. This is a necessary skill to develop in order to successfully work with color.
Anatomy, construction, and proportion
Andrew Loomis and the Best Illustration Books Ever Written - Part 2 of this learning lens. The prerequisite recommended is Part 1.
The English philosopher, Fancis Bacon, once said, "Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." Andrew Loomis's books are of the kind to be chewed and digested. My approach has been to read the books all the way through to get a good understanding of Loomis's approach, then to go through them again, pencil and sketchbook in hand to commit his teachings firmly in memory.
Loomis's books, "Fun with a Pencil," Figure Drawing for All It's Worth," and "Drawing the Head and Hands" can all be understood by beginners. "Creative Illustration," and "The Eye of the Painter" should really be in Part 3 of this lens as they are best studied only after studying the other three Loomis books. I implore you to seek these wonderful books out.
This is an easy read. If you are just beginning with drawing, this is a good place to start. It will expose you to the concept of construction, which is building complex shapes out of basic shapes. Loomis does not burden the reader with precise measurements of proportion necessary in realistic work, so it is lighter in tone, while providing a solid foundation in the Loomis approach. I love this book, but it can be skipped if you have some experience drawing.
In this book, Loomis starts with construction, delves deeper into the subject by introducing concepts of proportion, planes, anatomy, and tone. These are the same concepts he uses in "Figure Drawing for All It's Worth," but the ideas are easier to digest because the subject matter is limited to just a few body parts.
This book covers a lot of the same material covered by Marshall Vandruff in the DVDs listed above. I would say this is not a good first book to get on perspective, but it's a great second one. The diagrams are hard to understand if you're just starting out in perspective. If, however, you already have a good basic understanding of perspective, this will deepen your knowledge.
Most of what needs to be committed to memory with regard to proportion and anatomy are in the first two chapters of this book. This is a book to read and reread.
This is largely considered Loomis's masterpiece. I have experimented with some of the design approaches in my own work with good success.
Loomis Method Demonstrations
Abdon J. Romero demonstrates the Loomis approach to drawing a head. In this series, you'll get an idea of basic construction -- how the head is built up from a simple sphere.
"Lack of knowledge can be greater torture than the effort of acquiring it."
— Andrew Loomis
More Anatomy and Figure Drawing Books to Study
During the early to mid 1900s, three art schools produced more than their fair share of illustration talent. The schools were the Art Students League of New York, The Chicago Art Institute, and the American Academy of Art in Chicago. Howard Pyle, the father of American Illustration, helped found the Art Students League, and helped influence the curriculum at the Chicago Art Institute through a four year correspondence with the school's administrator. He also lectured at both schools.
Andrew Loomis is special in that he attended all three schools, the Art Student's League and the Chicago Art Institute as a student, and the American Academy of Art as an instructor. During his career he was exposed to the best art instruction of that (and arguably any) era both in the schools and in the art studios that surrounded the hubs of the publishing industry in Chicago and New York. Loomis's contribution of distilling and exhaustively recording this instruction in his books is the chief reason his books are the gold standard of illustration, and the reason many artists revere him.
His anatomy instructor, George B. Bridgman, published anatomy books. After so many of his students went on to artistic immortality, his books should not be passed up. While I have no doubt of his teaching ability, I have less faith in Bridgman's writing ability. It is for this reason that the work of his student and teaching heir, Robert Beverly Hale should also be studied. I suspect that Hale's work is a more complete record of what Bridgman must have taught.
Dr. Paul Richer's book, "Artistic Anatomy" is a classic that is referenced by Hale in his own work and is also eerily similar to the anatomy instruction of Loomis. I suspect that Loomis may have been directly or indirectly influenced by Richer's work and should therefore be studied.
Andrew Loomis and Alex Ross
Alex Ross was influence by, and studied, Andrew Loomis extensively. In fact, when you look at Ross's studies of his character turn arounds (above right), you'll clearly see that he is using Loomis's methods and proportions (above left). The above left picture came from "Figure Drawing for All it's Worth," by Andrew Loomis. There are other books out there that use similar methods, usually derived from Loomis, but no one ever explained it better.
"[B]ad drawing springs from basic faults as surely as good drawing springs from basic merits."
– Andrew Loomis
Master the Above Skills
Good drawing is the basis for illustration. Once you have mastered the fundamentals of drawing, adding color is not a difficult transition. The transition from line to tone is much harder, in my opinion, than the transition from tone to color. The reason for this is because, as a watercolorist I once knew explained, value is what makes a picture read.
If you still have doubts consider this fact: Leonardo Da Vinci produced over 15,000 notebook pages littered with drawings in his lifetime, but left behind less than 20 paintings. He could paint well, because he could draw well.
Likewise, Vincent Van Gogh insisted on focusing on drawing fundamentals for two years before he put oil to canvas. He struggled mightily to improve his drawing skills, often working through intense frustration. When he finally did start painting, it came more easily to him because of his efforts to learn perspective and anatomy.
Mastery of the fundamentals is more important than any advanced technique. Once you have mastered drawing, the world of art will open up to you.
Included below are some suggested resources and reading to push you in the right direction. It is by no means exhaustive. I've included books from both Alex Ross and Steve Rude, both disciples of Andrew Loomis through his books, and are the two artists today who are more responsible than any other for keeping Loomis's methods alive. I've also linked to other lenses that you will be able to make use of after you have mastered drawing.
It will take years to master the above skills, but take heart - it takes every artist years to master drawing. I'm still working at it too.
Part 3 and Part 3 (alternate):
Color, composition, and various techniques
Watercolor Books and DVDs - Part 3 of this learning lens. The prerequisites recommended are Parts 1 and 2.
The following books and DVDs will help you get acquainted with watercolor. The second book, on watercolor composition, can be useful even if you work in another medium. I would recommend it even if you never plan to paint in watercolor.
This is one of the best beginning books for aspiring watercolorists. Don't skip the easy exercises. Pay close attention to becoming familiar with your paints and it will pay dividends in the long run.
The emphasis on this book is COMPOSITION and encourages artistic license. It will help you interpret and edit what you see to make your compositions more appealing.
This isn't on Amazon last I checked, but look for it and other DVDs by Jan Kunz on the web. In addition to reading books, watching skilled artists work is both highly inspiring and instructional.
Comic Book and Cartooning Art Instruction - Part 3 (alternate) of this learning lens. The prerequisites recommended are Parts 1 and 2.
Comic book art is worth studying because comic book artists must be able to draw ANYTHING--and do so while telling a story. For this reason (and maybe a little bias) I've included the following resources for your consideration.
This book will teach artists about the tools and techniques of working in ink.
Alex Ross is the pop culture Norman Rockwell. In addition to being an inspiring book, there is a tutorial at the end about his process of working with photographs.
This book is very simply put together but is a gem. The supplies aren't that great but the insights into the process of planning a comic book are invaluable.
I recently discovered this book. Unlike most cartooning books which only give "recipes" for characters, this book will give you the underlying approach to create your own characters.
This book is not intended to be instructional with relation to method like the Loomis books are, yet the book gives clear insight into what it takes to achieve artistic excellence.
Comic Book Artist, Alex Ross
This is a short video, but you get a quick look at how Alex Ross works.
1. Thumbnail sketch
2. Photo reference
3. Final painting
Alex Ross studied the Andrew Loomis's methods extensively and is considered one of the most talented artists in the field.
POST YOUR ARTWORK!!! - Here are some collaborative learning environments for ALL PARTS of this lens.
I can't stress enough how important it is to get involved in artistic communities. You'll get exposed to many other ideas and get feedback from talented artists from around the world.
- The Comics Experience
The participants of this art community range from beginners to working professionals. Not only is the art on this site great, the community support and assistance is some of the best I've seen on the web. It's a paid forum, but the monthly fee is sma
This is another great art community. The sketchbooks in the forum section are particularly wonderful. Take note of how those who post the most, improve the most. Hmmmmmmmn.
Shopping for Supplies
Most of the books will recommend various art supplies. If you can't find what you need at your local art store, go to Cheap Joe's.
- Cheap Joes Art Supplies
Almost every serious artist I've run into swears by Cheap Joe's. They also have a print catalog you can order from.