Drawing Basics: The Best Drawing Art Books

Plate VIII, Study for a Picture, chalk and pastel drawing. From The Practice and Science of Drawing by Harold Speed.
Plate VIII, Study for a Picture, chalk and
pastel drawing. From
The Practice and Science
of Drawing
by Harold Speed.

I was just telling a friend of mine that artists love books. That surprises some people, but it is totally true, especially if you love flipping through great books for drawing ideas, like I do.

Drawing art books are my favorite probably because I feel like the works are close enough to the originals that I can get a sense of them, as opposed to a life-size painting or bronze sculpture.

And there are so many areas of drawing to cover; a library of books really comes in handy. I have books of drawing basics and books of the works from my favorite artists, with post-its sticking out all over the place where I’ve marked the best drawing that illustrates a technique I want to explore further or something that just really caught my eye.

Plate XVIII, Study Illustrating Method of Drawing. From The Practice and Science of Drawing by Harold Speed.
Plate XVIII, Study Illustrating Method
of Drawing
. From The Practice and Science
of Drawing
by Harold Speed.

There are anatomy books, which don’t get pulled out as often as I should. I have shelves of books of drawing exercises, and even books on simple drawing tips from when I was a kid. I am a book hoarder; don’t let it surprise you to know that I my collection goes back to childhood. I have the first book I ever read, the first series I ever read, and even books I can’t remember reading but just can’t bear to part with.

But there are a few books that just stand out above the rest, so here’s a list of drawing books to add to your collection.

The Practice and Science of Drawing by Harold Speed: And how sweet is this? You can download the book for free.

Human Anatomy for Artists: The Elements of Form by Eliot Goldfinger (Oxford University Press, New York, New York)

Figure Drawing for All It’s Worth by Andrew Loomis (Viking, New York, New York)

Drawing the Living Figure by Joseph Sheppard (Dover Publications, Mineola, New York)

A Handbook of Anatomy for Art Students by Arthur Thomson (Dover Publications, Mineola, New York)

And if you want to take a break from the books, definitely give Mark Menendez’s Basic Drawing Techniques DVD due consideration. You’ll find enhanced explanations and straightforward instruction on the elements of drawing. Enjoy!


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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

7 thoughts on “Drawing Basics: The Best Drawing Art Books

  1. it seems that we are soul sisters…i love books too and curse amazon.com for making it so cheap and easy for me to keep up my addiction to art books!!

  2. HI friends myself Ashok kumar from india
    drawing means a man thoughts its shows trues about dream life
    what we can’t do in real life but we can do in dream when we drawing the picture

    ” what you think you can try do well ” by ashokjeeve

  3. I have all those except the Arthur Thomson. You hope to glean a little something unique from each one (that’s why you need hundreds of them!) In the Harold Speed book, it was the concept of “dither”…loose tolerances between moving parts in a machine that permit the machine to work…and its relationship to drawing. All of Joseph Sheppard’s books are good. I like his “Anatomy” for its clarity and simplicity, and its good organization. All of the origins and insertions of muscles are in one table, for example. The Robert Beverly Hale books are great, “Drawing Lessons from the Great Masters,” and others. Nathan Goldstein’s books on drawing are wonderful, though a bit involved (they were written as college textbooks). Still, I wouldn’t part with them. Goldstein’s “Responsive Drawing” was Dave Millard’s favorite drawing book, so he told us.
    I said that you need hundreds of books, but you really don’t. Probably a couple of dozen. I do feel that it’s important to read the text, rather than look only at the pictures, the way we all usually do.

  4. Courtney—

    Excellent article. Most of us became interested in art because of an early interest in drawing. This is all about getting back to basics. Drawing is a continual learning process.