21 October 2009

[art] The Best Beginner's How-To-Draw Book, Ever, By Bill Martin Jr

2238.This is, prima facie, an article about the best how-to-draw book ever made. There is a bittersweet note to it, though, which see at the end.

The Book: Artist Bill Martin, famous for incredibly detailed landscapes with a touch of whimsy and a touch of surrealism, produced a book first published in 1993, called The Joy Of Drawing. A slender book, it is nonetheless packed with great first steps. Martin's a great artist, and has a skill in communicating that is manifest here; through drawings and amazingly well-chosen words, within the first fifty pages you have a solid idea of how to draw what you see and how to look at what you see, which is skill number one for any artist.

Within those first fifty pages you also learn value, perspective, angles, proportion, how to indicate volume with blends, basic shapes which you can combine to draw basically anything. Bill Martin Jr's succinct writing style and apt illustration style ties it all together in a way that drives the point home more or less instantly. He even, in later sections of the book, show you what to look for in order to draw transparent and liquid-filled glass, two-point perspective, how to show contours using surface textures …

If I had enough money, I'd buy up every copy of this book that I could so I could give it out for free to anyone who wants to draw and doesn't think they can. This can help you out even if you just want to draw for fun, because doodling and scribbling about is fun enough, but making art works is quite liberating.

The Book is that good.

The Artist: Bill Martin, Jr, made a name for himself painting works that had great visual depth and wit, a feeling of realism and a feeling of surrealism – there is an airiness to his works that makes the paintings (many of which were painted on cirular canvases) feel at once like an Earthly landscape and also one might find on a distant planet just discovered by an Earthly explorer light-years from home. The landscapes run from the real to the fantastic. His work was known the world over and seeing what he knew about creating amazing landscapes suggest that he knew even more at understanding the real.

The Bittersweet Part: When I first discovered Bob Ross, the wet-on-wet painter to the masses, I found him ironically interesting like most people do when I started watching him in about 1998 or 1999. Little did I know, as I accidentally found out, that Bob died in 1995 at a very untimely age of lymphoma.

One can imagine how I felt when I heard that Bill Martin, Jr, died back in 2008, in his early sixties, of lymphoma. What a sad loss!

If I ever do hit the big time, you can believe that I will buy up as many copies of The Joy of Drawing as I can and give them free of charge, to anyone who asks. I'd even have another printing done.

The book is that good.

The ISBN is 0-8230-2370-2. It was publshed by Watson-Guptill back in 1993 originally.

If you find a copy, buy it and give it to someone you love who's aching to learn how to draw. You won't regret that.

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