Art Books: How to Draw

If you are interested in drawing and want to improve your work, or if you are a beginner on a quest to learn how to draw, in my experience as an artist the books listed below are all that you will need. They are, in my humble opinion, the very best art books available!

Drawing has always been a passion of mine ever since I was a very young, even before I became interested in puppetry. In elementary school around the age of seven I used to draw popular cartoon characters in addition to creating my own characters. Later on in high school I became more interested in superheroes and created characters such as Canadian Crusader, Moose Man and Vengeance. In my early 20's, during the mid 1990's, I studied Animation at Algonquin College. More recently, in 2014, I began drawing my own mini-comic books which I've published online.

In order to foster my interest in drawing during my childhood, my mother Peggy (herself an artist who later became a puppeteer) spoiled me with a wide range of art books. Birthdays and Christmas often meant a new art book to add to the growing collection. In addition to all of these art books, when I got into the Animation course at Algonquin College the list of art books suggested for the program was quite impressive as well.

From all of these art books I've chosen what I consider to be the most helpful to be featured on my list below. Many of these are my old favourites from when I was a kid and are the very books that helped me learn the basics of drawing. As an artist I find each of these books are invaluable and I've used them all many times over the years. I highly recommended these books, they are well worth the investment and will not simply sit on the shelf!

Mikey's Art Book List

1. Dynamic Anatomy, by Burne Hogarth
ISBN: 0-8230-1550-5
ISBN: 0-8230-1551-3 (pbk)
Watson-Guptill Publications, 1990

At the very top of my list is this amazing book showing how to draw a very stylized muscular male figure. The book presents many angles of the head, hands and body that can be very difficult to draw. My understanding of how to draw male superhero figures quadrupled after feasting my eyes on this awesome book! For some odd reason drawing muscular legs is often a challenge for me, so this book is my solution! This is one of my art bibles, I love it!

Additionally, Mr. Hogarth is one of the great art Masters of the comic book world! Most notably, he is one of the original artists for the Tarzan newspaper comic strip which began in the 1920's. In 1972, almost 20 years before Watson-Guptill published Dynamic Anatomy, the same company published Hogarth's hard cover graphic novel Tarzan of the Apes, based on the first Tarzan novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, which I have in my Tarzan collection.

Here is the Wikipedia page about Mr. Hogarth:

2. Drawing with Lee Ames, by Lee J. Ames
ISBN: 0-385-23701-4
Doubleday, 1990

What would I have done without Mr. Lee Ames!?! I basically grew up with a number of Lee Ames' books, so much so that you might say I attended the Lee Ames school of art! Three of his books are included on this list and this one, Drawing with Lee Ames, is his master work. This is a very helpful and easy to follow book. It includes a wide variety of figures and subjects and I flip through it often in order to reference the many illustrations.

Lee Ames was a very skilled artist and is very clearly one of the Masters of drawing cartoons. He worked for Walt Disney on the films Fantasia and Pinocchio. Here is his Wikipedia page:

3. Draw 50: Famous Cartoons, by Lee J. Ames
ISBN: 0-385-19521-4 (pbk)
Doubleday, 1979

This book shows simple step by step instructions for how to draw characters by breaking them down into simple basic shapes, which is essential for learning how to draw. The book is part of a series of more than 15 "Draw 50" books by Mr. Ames. If you collected all of these books you would become a genius with a pencil!!! I'm not kidding!

4. How to Draw Star Wars heroes, creatures, spaceships, and other fantastic things, by Lee J. Ames
ISBN: 0-394-86489-1 (pbk)
Random House, 1984

Another reason why Mr. Ames is so awesome. He gave the world this book! I mean, this is how to draw Star Wars! Enough said! :)

5. "How to Draw" book series, uncredited artist
Mickey Mouse and Friends: ISBN: 0-307-20153-8 (pbk)
Super Heroes: ISBN: 0-307-20154-6 (pbk)
Golden Books, 1983

These were my very first art books! Unfortunately the artist is not credited though I suspect it was Lee J. Ames as the step by step instruction style is very much the same as what was common in his books. In addition to these two books there are four others in the series: Fun Animals, Woody Woodpecker and Friends, Comic Characters, and Bugs Bunny and Friends. I've only ever had these two, shown above. The basic structures of Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Superman, Wonder Woman, etc. provide a good base to create your own characters with, so these specific two books are quite useful for learning how to draw.

6. How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, by Stan Lee and John Buscema
ISBN: 0-671-22548-0
ISBN: 0- 671-53077-1 (pbk)
Fireside / Simon & Shuster Inc., 1978, 1984

This list wouldn't be complete without this popular book! It explains all aspects of how to create your own comics. Any serious comic book artist needs this book. It is the bible of the comic book world!

7. Manga Mania: How to Draw Japanese Comics, by Christopher Hart
ISBN: 0-8230-3035-0 (pbk)
Watson-Guptill Publications, 2001

An excellent and inspiring book with a very wide range of characters and ideas including male heroes, youth heroes, robots, and a section on "Drop-Dead-Gorgeous Manga Babes" (though I bought this book for the gorgeous long-haired Manga dudes!). It even has a section about how to become a cartoonist!

8. The Official Marvel Try-Out Book, by Marvel Comics Group
ISBN: 0- 939766-76-0 (pbk)
Marvel Comics Group, 1983

Measuring 11 X 17 inches, this awesome and highly sought after book presents more of the same from "How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way" only this time with full sized tear-out artist pages to try your hand at drawing and inking an actual Marvel comic. An address was even included on the back cover for those who wanted to submit their artwork in hopes of landing a job with Marvel! Very cool! If you can find it, it's a very helpful and informative instruction book to own. If the previous instructional book from Marvel is the bible of comic art books, this one is the mecca!

9. How to Animate Film Cartoons, by Preston Blair
10. Animals are for Fun, by Ed Nofziger
(No ISBN numbers)
Published by Walter Foster

Here's another two from my childhood! These books, especially the one on the left by Preston Blair, are must haves for learning cartoon drawing and animation. This type of large instructional art book was a staple in art supply stores for decades. Measuring 10 X 13.5 inches, they are basically a large magazine with a Bristol board cover. There are about 200 titles for these art books which covered a wide range of topics such as oil painting, portraits, flowers, and so on. However, the books that stand out from the series were those about animation and cartoon illustration. How to Animate Film Cartoons, by Preston Blair, was republished in the mid 1990's, though I'm unaware if it has since been published. My copies of these books, shown here, are the original ones which don't have ISBN numbers. You can likely find more recent copies on Amazon. If you want to learn how to draw, you need these!

12. How to Draw Animals, by Jack Hamm
ISBN: 0-399-50802-3 (pbk)
Pedigree Books, 1969, 1982

This is a very detailed book about drawing animals which goes beyond just showing a static pose. It is a study on how animals move, including how to draw those pesky horse legs in action! There is also great attention to detail with a close look at noses, ears etc., and a comparison of different types of animals from the same species and how they are different from each other. Essentially, this is the "drawing animals" bible!

13. How to Draw Animals, by Famous Artists School
ISBN: 0-8327-0900-X
ISBN: 0-06-464068-X
Cortina Learning International, 1983

Another excellent and detailed book about drawing various animals. It doesn't have as much info as the above book of the same name (by Jack Hamm) but is still exceptional as an art book and well worth adding to your art book collection. It's basically more of the same, but with some different angles or views that come in handy.

Just for Fun

How to Draw Disney's Tarzan
ISBN: 1-56010-449-X
Published by Walter Foster, 1999

This is a large book in the same style of the Walter Foster cartoon art books (number 9 and 10 above). It shows how to draw Tarzan from the animated Disney film, which I'm a huge fan of. Although the book shows step by step instructions, it's a bit advanced as some of the characters are tricky to draw. For that reason I'm not including it on my list of recommended books (beginners might get too frustrated with it and give up on their quest to learn how to draw, so it's best to start with simpler shapes and characters.) None the less, this is a very cool "how to draw" book, and worth the challenge once you have a good understanding of drawing and how to structure figures. Below is a look inside the book.

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Text and photos copyright Mikey Artelle, 2017

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