A Few Favorite Resources
I spent a long spring break weekend working and re-working a few pages from my dummy book, some of which involved strange perspectives or figures in difficult positions. They were the kind of scenes that eventually make my brain feel like it’s starting to melt. “If the character is standing there,” I think to myself, “and he’s 12 years old, and we’re nearly above him so that we see a fish-eye five-point perspective view, how tall would his 5-year-old sister be next to him? How big would a rabbit be if it were on the other side of the page, and it were slightly raised up on a hill? And how would that foreshortened arm look? What would the light from a flashlight look like, if it were reflecting against that rock? Why am I doing this instead of relaxing outside on a sunny spring weekend?”
In such situations, I turn to the bookshelf beside my desk where I’ve collected a variety of illustration resources over the years, to go back to the basics. My little library is far from complete (I’d still like a good solid resource on complex perspective, but I have yet to find the right book) but here are three of my favorites. Eventually I’ll add more to this list, but if there’s something you’d recommend feel free to add your favorite resources in the comments.
1. Figure Drawing for All it’s Worth, by Andrew Loomis
This is the book I turn to most often and I think it’s safe to say the best resource on my shelf. I have had a .pdf version of this classic for years, since the book was no longer in print, but it was recently republished by the heroic Titan Books in hardcover, and I jumped at the opportunity to buy it. The physical book makes it much easier to flip through and mark pages, and I can see the drawings with much better detail. This is a phenomenal book for learning to draw the figure accurately in all different positions and from different perspectives. Loomis breaks down figure drawing into its simplest building blocks and then adds detail from there. The text is cheery and encouraging, if a little dated (it’s old, so what do you expect?) If you draw the human figure, you should get this book, period.
2. The Artist’s Complete Guide to Facial Expressions, by Gary Faigin
This is a relatively new addition to my shelf. When it arrived I spent the next few days rhapsodizing to anyone who would listen about the incredible mechanics of facial expression, which garnered me some quizzical facial expressions in itself. The book first goes into the facial structure and muscles, then the basics of the six basic human facial expressions (sadness, joy, fear, anger, disgust and surprise.) I found the complex emotions (combinations of the six above) to be particularly interesting. This book is simply great, and I highly recommend it.
3. Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn’t Exist, by James Gurney
I loved the Dinotopia books as a kid (and adult, let’s face it) and figured that this book by James Gurney *had* to be good. Indeed, this book is a great place to start for anyone who, like me, has had plenty of experience drawing and painting from life but isn’t sure how to go about making a convincing painting from the imagination. As an added bonus, it’s full of gorgeous sketches and illustrations. Gurney also has a fantastic blog worth reading, Gurney Journey, with helpful tips and plenty of quick sketches and studies that will make you feel very