Friday, July 20, 2012

Best How-To Art Books

The poll results are now final for the crowd-sourced list of best classic art instruction books. I asked you to nominate your favorite how-to books that were older than 50 years, and then you voted in a poll.

The top three slots are occupied by Andrew Loomis (1892-1959), whose drawing is at right. Loomis attended the Art Students League in New York, where he studied under George Bridgman. (Bridgman himself has two books himself in the top ten.) Loomis did a variety of story and cover illustration, but his upbeat, glamorous style was especially well suited to advertising illustration. He taught at the American Academy of Art in Chicago.

Loomis's books are practical, encouraging, well-illustrated, and clearly written, though some people have faulted the figure drawings for a lack of ethnic diversity—there really are a lot of 1940s glamour nudes in high heels.

All of these books were huge favorites of mine when I was an art student, except Successful Drawing, which I was unaware of at the time.


128 votes (39%) Available in a facsimile edition from Titan books.

108 votes (33%) Now out of print and expensive, but soon to be republished by Titan.

71 votes (21%) Available in a facsimile edition from Titan books.

70 votes (21%)

61 votes (18%)

60 votes (18%)

52 votes (15%)

49 votes (14%) 

(tie with above) Famous Artist’s Course by various authors
49 votes (14%) 

43 votes (13%)

41 votes (12%)

I feel like I should add a couple of titles that I didn't include because they came up after the nominations closed and therefore were not part of the voting. But they're also favorite classics: The Artist's Guide to Animal Anatomy by BammesThe Artist's Guide to Human Anatomy by G. Bammes and Drawing the Head and Figure by Jack Hamm. 
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16 comments:

ARMAND CABRERA said...

Good list but I still think James Harding's Lessons on Drawing should be on the list as well as Arthur Wesley Dow's Composition.

jeffkunze said...

This is a cool list that I haven't read all of them.
A few years ago I was lucky enough to buy an original copy of Loomis' Fun with a Pencil book at a library sale for 50 cents!

eckertbrandremarkable said...

Is Loomis's book still available for free download as an Ebook?

Hey Jim I saw your art at the Allentown art museum yesterday--Congratulations by the way!--and I wanted to ask you:

When you look at the pages of the first Dinotopia book all these years later, is there anything you would change? Do you ever think about that? Is there anything you would have done differently with waterfall city or with canyon city or with the narrative or the relationship between humans and dinosaurs if you created Dinotopia today rather than two decades ago?

That's a blog post I'd love to read!

william said...

I haven't posted in awhile so I missed the original post. One really great book, especially if your going for a comic book style (Think Jim Lee or the Kubert's in style) is Burne Hogarth's Dynamic Anatomy.

Albert. S said...

James nice list. Luckily I have them all. One that I would like to mention is. Morris hunt (talks on Art). Obscure book to say the least but the wealth of info is meaningful and invigorating. Little bits here and there but they are gems. He was the one to introduce me to charcoal. I didn't understand then ..but I do now.

Katy Hargrove said...

I'd love to see a similar list of books that are friendly for parents of young children. I've been asked fairly often for such recommendations and never have a good list of go to books for families seeking to encourage art from an early age.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree on Jack Hamm's Drawing the Head and Figure. Don't get me wrong - Loomis should be in the top slots IMHO, but Hamm's book is an excellent practical resource for drawing the details of surface anatomy.

I refer to it frequently and give it as a gift to new artists (including my 70 year old mother who just took up drawing a few years ago!) The style of illustration is a little dated now, but the information is not.

Maria Pena said...

I would like to mention How to Draw Animals by Jack Hamm-- this is the one book that I have practically destroyed with use over almost 30 years of Illustrating storyboards. I don't think there is any other author who goes into this freakish level of detail and analysis on any subject. I only got his Drawing the Head and Figure fairly recently, but I certainly wish I had that when I was starting out. I also have his Drawing Landscapes and Seascapes and would recommend all of them highly.

JustinSlick said...

I was at the bookstore yesterday and saw Rendering in Pen and Ink for the first time. I feel like I learned something just by paging through for four or five minutes.

I work digital, but always thumbnail in ink, so I really can't wait to pick this one up.

Craig Wilson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Craig Wilson said...

I happen to currently have both of the books by Bammes that you mentioned out on loan from the library, and I like them quite a lot.

=shane white= said...

What's this say about artists today? I mean, are these books so timeless that they cannot be improved upon? How come most of these books are 50+ years old?

Makes me think that the disciplines forked somewhere and more people started caring about technique over technical know-how.

=s=

Casey Klahn said...

What a hoot to see the Famous courses at Amazon. I have 3 of them, if I remember right. I took the course when I was 10 or 11, but it was the "For Young People" version.

I'd love to stumble over these versions at a used book store (except one that didn't know what they had for value!)

James Gurney said...

Eckert Brand--Yours is a thoughtful question, but the answer is imponderable. I can't contemplate what I would now change about the original Dinotopia, because I was a different person when I wrote it. We are all different people separated by 20 years of experience from our former selves. It is my general belief, however, that an artist should leave an early work well enough alone and move on. Should he be lucky enough to have enduring fans and historians, they will heave a collective sigh of relief.

Katy, my favorite old book on drawing for children is Drawing Made Easy by Lutz.

Shane, there are plenty of great and classic books more recent than 50 years old, but I set that as an arbitrary line.

Ryan said...

I have a Nathan Goldstien drawing book that is wonderful. All his stuff is out of print though and hard to find at a reasonable price. (ebook please!)

Anonymous said...

What about the Bargue/Gerome drawing course? It doesnt get more classical than that.