The best drawing books are those with exemplary illustrations, which inspire students before they have even read a word. The least helpful – and probably the most prevalent, unfortunately – are ‘how to draw’ books: those which teach students to draw by some version of a ‘step by step’ method. While there are some art techniques and processes that can be learnt this way (i.e. how to use a printing press), teaching a student how to draw via this type of instruction is unhelpful. It is unhelpful, because drawing well is not the result of recalling a set of steps or committing a sequence of actions to memory. Drawing competently is about training your eye, hand and brain to work together. It is about learning to see and then understanding how to represent this on paper – to correctly gauge proportion, scale and tone. It is the result of practice and self-evaluation. It takes effort, encouragement and an understanding of proportions. It takes reminders from teachers to look – almost every second – at what is being drawn.
The drawing books that are recommended below contain excellent illustrations, produced by talented artists or designers. They have a high ratio of images to text and are useful for students studying a range of Art or Design qualifications. They are not ‘how to draw’ books: they teach by inspiration, creative exercises and exposure to new techniques and processes.
Sketching: Drawing Techniques for Product Designers by Koos Eissen and Roselien Steur
This is a beautiful book that should be a staple resource in any art department. Primarily targeted at Graphic Design students, it has a huge range of beautiful drawings and illustration techniques.
Drawing for Designers: Drawing skills, Concept sketches, Computer systems, Illustration, Tools and materials, Presentations, Production techniques by Alan Pipes
Great for students specialising in Graphic Design, Jewellery or 3D Design. Includes a range of hand drawings, digital renderings, conceptual work and refined presentation drawings.
Experimental Drawing Techniques – 30th Anniversary edition by Robert Kaupelis
Designed with a teacher in mind, this book contains a range of drawing exercises to help students become competent, creative drawers. At a first glance, the pages in this book appear a little flat and lifeless, but their magic quickly becomes apparent when you realise how easily and beautifully these photocopy. There is a wide range of excellent drawing examples, including contour drawing and speed drawing.
This article is a work in progress. I will be adding new books whenever I have time. If you have suggestions for other drawing books that you have found useful in the studying or teaching of high school Art, please leave a comment below and I will investigate adding them to this list!
Amiria has been an Art & Design teacher and a Curriculum Co-ordinator for seven years, responsible for the course design and assessment of student work in two high-achieving Auckland schools. She has a Bachelor of Architectural Studies, Bachelor of Architecture (First Class Honours) and a Graduate Diploma of Teaching. Amiria is a CIE Accredited Art & Design Coursework Assessor.