My 4 Favourite Figure Drawing Books – Part One

Kiel Ideas

Hi again. I’m sorry this post is so late. This weeks picture took two days longer than expected to finish, and that cut out my writing time. (It’s also not this weeks picture anymore.) I decided to break this weeks topic into two parts because it was just getting too long.

I’ve bought a lot, and I mean a lot, of art books over the years. Some of them are better than others, so I thought I’d share some of the ones I’ve found the most useful. I’m limiting this to figure drawing books, because otherwise this would be a ridiculously long post. These choices are just my opinion, of course. Everyone learns in different ways, but these are the ones that helped me the most.
I should note that these books were originally published between 1943 and 1970. As such, they tend to forget about anyone who isn’t white.

1. Cartooning the Head and Figure by Jack Hamm

Cost: Relatively cheap, the last I checked.
Aimed at: Anyone who can hold a pencil. (Seriously, you could get a lot out of this book without even knowing how to read English.)

This may seem like a strange first choice, since is doesn’t teach accurate figure drawing at all, but I wish I’d gotten this book when I was just learning to draw. One of the most important things you need to learn when it comes to drawing people is how to make them look alive. If you draw a person in a completely accurate way, they won’t look very lively. This book is all about being expressive. It’s also about having fun with art, and that’s something else that every aspiring artist needs to learn right off the bat. If you don’t, it can lead to some pretty stressful times.

This book is full of step-by-step drawings, ranging from extremely simplified, to almost realistic, so it truly works for all levels of experience. There’s no nudity in it, either, so there’s no need to worry about giving it to a child. I will say, however, that some characters are stereotyped by nationality and economic level. I don’t find it too insulting, but it is noticeable.

One of the best things about this book is the section on facial expressions. There’s even some rough anatomical sketches on how the face moves when showing different emotions. I haven’t seen any other book cover the topic as well as this one.

2. Figure Drawing For All It’s Worth by Andrew Loomis

Cost: Can be pricey.
Aimed at: Anyone who’s serious about art.

Originally published in 1943, this book was out of print for years. At that time even a beat up copy would run into the triple digit prices. Fortunately, in the last few years all of Loomis’s excellent books have been republished in facsimile editions.
This book covers just about everything you need to know to start drawing figures:

It actually covers drawing groups of people right from the start, something I’ve never seen brought up in another book.
It covers getting people to look right in perspective.
It has detailed anatomical drawings, but starts students out with simple manikins — focusing on movement and form not detail.
It has sections on light and shadow.
It even has some some photos of people walking and running. (I suspect that was a big deal when this was first published.)

However, one of the best things about his book is how Loomis draws heads. If you’ve only drawn heads based on egg shapes, it’s really worth trying out this method for drawing them on spheres (you can find videos on the Loomis method at It took me a while to get used to, but I wouldn’t go back to eggs for anything, now.

Next Week: Drawing the Head and Figure and Dynamic Figure Drawing.

This Weeks Art

This weeks art isn’t what I planned (hopefully I’ll have that next week), but I thought people might find

Kiel Ideas
Brainstorming Kiel

it interesting. It’s a scan of some brainstorming I’ve been doing for a character currently named Kiel. Kiel is a thief in a world inspired by old-fashioned Sword and Sorcery stories. You can see in the image how I’ve been experimenting with her face and eye shapes. I’ve already settled on her hair, nose and mouth. The little symbols to the side of the faces are something I picked up from the ElfQuest Gatherum by Wendy and Richard Pini. They’re a really great way to brainstorm and think about how characters differ from one another.


This weeks links are both YouTube channels.

Draw with Jazza This is a great site for learning to draw, particularly cartoons, but some of the best videos are in the Motivation, Inspiration and Advice section. The video on Practising and the one on Demoralization are great even if you’re not into visual arts — or any kind of art for that matter

Will Terrel’s channel is filled with great advice on art and life. His People Sketching videos, where he talks about various topics while showing how he draws, are particularly good.


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