Monday, 17 August 2009

Books You Should Have II

Drawing the Head and Figure
By Jack Hamm

This is a book I really wish I bought back when I started drawing seriously. There’s likely a great many reasons why I kept overlooking this old gem during my many, many trips browsing through the art section of every bookstore I wandered into in my teens. It might be the poorly designed brown and yellow cover or the overwhelmingly “old” feeling the book gives off or something else, but when I finally picked it up and flipped through it I felt like a moron for waiting so long.

This is probably the best all-round book for beginning imaginative figure drawing I’ve ever seen. I include Loomis’s great books; Fun With a Pencil and Figure Drawing. As valuable to the artist as all Loomis’s books are Jack Hamm covers all the basics for the young artist clearly, succinctly and affordably – I recently picked up a new copy cover-priced at 11.95 U.S.

Starting with a fine construction method for the head, Hamm emphasizes proportion throughout the book. Page 39 has a nifty illustration of the human proportions based on heads that always reminds me of something Grant Morrison could have done in his Doom patrol era.

One of the nicer aspects of this book is its section about clothing and folds. Too many aspiring comics artists just have no idea how to draw clothing on the moving figure and this would truly help them a great deal. The clothes are dated – no runners, sweats or other, more contemporary costume options are explored, but the basics are covered enough to allow the beginning artist to understand folds.

The best way to work with Hamm’s book is to copy his construction examples until you’re familiar with them, then find photos from life and extrapolate the construction on top of them. I’d suggest using tracing paper over magazine pictures or a fine permanent maker on the picture itself while having the book open to the relevant section you’re studying.

There are more thorough and more advanced imaginative drawing books out there, but I think this one is arguably the best to start with.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Richard. I've just unloaded a ton of useless instructional books at BMV, with more to follow that, while aesthetically pleasing, don't teach any skills that students can actually use. They all follow the same formula: Introduce some basic materials and techniques, and then follow with page after page of step by step tutorials, much like the format you parodied here:

Step 1: Do a line drawing
Step 2: Add some tone
Step 3: Add some more tone
Step 4: Finished!

I must have spent close to a thousand bucks on books like this over the last few years, when I was naive and didn't know what I actually needed to learn in order to draw well, and basically bought materials and books on impulse. Looking back, they were probably the worst investments I ever made. They don't teach the student anything about gesture, volume, proportion, line quality or tonal control. Granted, the illustrators are extremely talented artists, but some people just shouldn't be teaching if they come from the Bob Ross school of art.