10 Art Books That Will Teach You How to Draw Like an Artist
Imagine that you have the skills to proudly put to paper anything you see.
Does that seem out of reach? It shouldn't. It is possible to learn how to draw even if you've always told yourself "oh, I just don't have that talent". It's not so much a talent as it is a skill, a skill that can be learned. In this post, I'll share with you 10 books that I believe, if approached diligently and with honest applied effort, will teach you that skill.
As a professional artist, I've been making art for quite some time, long before the advent of the internet, so a good deal of my learning initially happened through books. Yes, finger flipping, paper-cut inducing, physical books. I also have a college degree in art, but I have to say the things I learned through books before stepping foot in a classroom were the most valuable to my art education. I think the reason is that the lessons I learned through these books were at my own pace and not subject to the pressures of teacher grading and peer review. Art books introduced me to the joy of making art just because I wanted to experience the fun of creating.
(The photo above is just part of our book collection)
Book Collecting... Here a Book, There a Book, Everywhere a Book, Book.....
I have a large library of art books collected over the decades. Sadly most of them are no longer in print. We recently put bookshelves in several rooms of our house in order to organize our ginormous book collection (my husband is also a book collector, which is one of the many things I love about him). This re-organization gave me the chance to revisit some of my old book friends. So many of the books that I've obsessed over in various stages of my artistic life have suffered the indignities of dog-eared pages, coffee/ paint stains, and underlined text. Needless to say, I'm a book collector that values what's actually written on the page and not caught up in the possible pristine resale value, mostly because I know I will never be selling them (except for maybe the doubles).
Drawing, Buy the Book
I've been thinking that sharing what's in my book collection might help you in the same way that these books helped me, which is in learning how to make art and also in seeing the spiritual value of making art. It's in that light that I wrote this blog post. I culled through the piles of books and picked out 10 books that I think are valuable resources for learning how to draw. One of the criteria I also imposed is that they're all still available for purchase on Amazon so that you have the ability to access them (or else this list is of little use), so you can own them and love them the way I do.
The top ten books I've picked out are instructional and a few are also invaluable reference books. Each has its own place in your art education and bookshelf and have something useful to teach you as they did me. Please enjoy!!
My Top 10 Recommended Art Books For Learning How to Draw
These first six books deal specifically with how to approach drawing if you are a beginner and have no experience. These books will introduce you to seeing the world the way that artists see the world. Each of these books contains a series of lessons that once completed will slowly move you closer to observing the world and then portraying it through your own creativity. These books take quite some time to go through, but if you're motivated, determined and steadfast you will see an improvement in your drawing skills, artist's eye, and creative spirit.
These last four books are wonderful reference books that you will constantly find yourself going to in order to figure out how to draw something such as anatomy or perspective.
Without Further Ado, The Top 10 Drawing Books Are (drumroll)......
Note: The photo and title of each book is clickable and will take you that book on Amazon to purchase
This is the first book you should take on. The author, Betty Edwards, does a remarkable job of guiding you through a series of exercises that actually shifts how your brain sees the world, and in such a way so that you can draw it. Some of the tips and tricks she uses are like magic in getting you some quick wins in moving forward. She also delves into other aspects like debunking myths, picture composition, creating form so that objects appear three dimensional. If you only wanted to get one book, then this is the one. I can't recommend this book enough. Coupled with her other book, 'Drawing On The Artist Within' (#2), they will teach you all the basic skills you need to know to draw. (also available as a kindle book)
This book is a follow up to the book above and a perfect companion to it. In this book, the author, Betty Edwards, addresses the idea of creativity and how the language of drawing affects your brain. She shows how the features and qualities of a drawn line can convey emotion when creating art. Couple this book with Betty Edwards' other book, 'Drawing On The Right Side of The Brain' (#1), and you'll be drawing like an artist in no time. (also available as a kindle book)
This book is an oldie but a goodie. It's basically an art course on how to draw the human figure. In each chapter the author first states the lesson, then you learn the lesson via a series of timed scheduled exercises. He covers everything from how to capture the human form using contour lines and gesture drawings, all the way to creating fully shaded complete drawings. A very good book, but I would go with the Betty Edwards books first as a foundation. This book would be excellent paired with, 'An Atlas of Anatomy for Artists' (#7 on this booklist) (also available as a kindle book)
The subheading is, 'A Spiritual Path To Higher Creativity', and that's what it really is, a workbook on self-improvement. This book leads you through a series of exercises, such as journaling and answering self-probing questions, all designed to help you see yourself in a more nurturing way and overcome negativity in your surroundings that could block your creativity. These are very useful exercises in self-development for artists and non-artists alike. (also available as a kindle book)
My mom bought me this book when I was a teenager and I just love it!! The pages are curled from repeated, obsessive thumb-ings during many camping trips. After going through the lessons in this book you'll soon realize that by drawing what you see in nature, or even just in your own garden, you will be able to more fully appreciate and connect with your natural environment. The lessons learned from this book will add to your overall enjoyment of the outdoors, and get you super excited about going outside with a sketchpad and pencil in hand just to see what you can see. If you want to draw small animals and plants in order to create your own journal of the natural world, then this book is for you!! This book would work well alongside the 'Artist's Guide to Animal Anatomy'(#9) and 'Animals Copyright-Free Illustrations Reference' (#10) on this book list
The book is a series of twelve exercises (12 projects), one per chapter. This book concentrates on painting as well as drawing. Each chapter explains a different art concept, then has a tools & supply list with step by step instructions showing how to create an art piece utilizing that particular concept. The projects cover still life, florals, and landscapes, using a variety of mediums including, pencils, conte crayon, watercolor, pastels, and oil paint. A wonderful book with lots to teach. I would suggest that this book is perfect for an intermediate artist.
A very useful collection of anatomy studies from old masters artist like Da Vinci and Michelangelo, as well as photographs of models in various poses paired with matching musculature drawings. (Note: there are fully nude photos in this book). Also included are close-ups of eyes, hands, feet etc. A perfect resource paired with the book, 'A Natural Way to Draw' (#3) on this book list. Highly recommend for all figurative artists!!! (also available as a kindle book)
Another very useful guide for artists, especially landscape artists. This book provides lots of examples of how perspective works. It shows you how to work out the lines of perspective in a drawing so that objects appear properly and believably on the picture plane. This is the math part of art-making. Not only does the book show buildings but also how to use perspective with oddly shaped and rounded objects. A must-have reference book for any artist! Highly recommend for all landscape artists! (also available as a kindle book)
This guide for artists is geared towards larger animal anatomy, like horses, big cats, cows, dogs. Illustrations show the muscular and skeletal breakdowns of various poses. This book shows you how to approach drawing animals in three dimensions, as well as showing how animals move. Absorb this book, then do a trip to the zoo with a sketch pad. Great coupled with, 'Nature Drawing' (#5) and 'Animals Copyright-Free Illustrations Reference' (#10) in this booklist.
Such an amazingly cool book! This book contains 279 pages of detailed black & white engraved drawing reprints, depicting animals of every type, all beautifully rendered. A wonderful reference for any artist who works with wildlife. The drawings are exquisite and are a valuable study aid for new artists. I would couple this with 'Artist's Guide to Animal Anatomy' (#9), and 'Nature Drawing' (#5) also on this book list.
These ten books, when used all together, will give you a great foundation in drawing. The first couple of learn-to-draw books listed will get you going, but the next books will fine tune the basics of what you've learned.
So there you have it. Hopefully, you found some value in this 'how to draw' booklist and that it has lit a fire under you to go out and start observing and depicting the world around you. Knowing how to draw isn't just a fun artistic pastime, it's also a valuable form of communication. Armed with these art book recommendations you have all the basic reference tools to start drawing with skill. How many times have you heard the old adage 'a picture is worth a thousand words? It's true!
Not to mention, can you imagine whipping everyone's butt in Pictionary (I love doing that lol)!
The links to the books on this page are also on the FAVORITE RESOURCES page. The resource page also has links to art supplies, other books not on this list and other artist's equipment that I recommend.
A Note on Creativity...
On your path towards becoming more artistic, learning to draw is only one piece. Becoming more creative is another larger part that will help you use your new drawing skills.
Curious about how you might do that?
I've put together a downloadable PDF with 25 things you can do to get more creative. Just sign up below to have it sent directly to your email inbox.