Friday, November 16, 2007

The Drawing Book - Materials and Techniques

I have a book about drawing by Richard McDaniel which I very much like. However the reason "The Drawing Book - Materials and Techniques for Today's Artist" hasn't been featured before now in the The Big Drawing Book Review is that it was published by Watson Guptill in 1995 and is no longer being printed although in 2001, a paperback version was published and copies of both are still available.

Which means that its basic premise about materials - 'for today's artists' as indicated in its title - has of course been overtaken somewhat by changes associated with time passing and the changes brought about by technology and the impact of that on digital art and the art economy associated with art supplies and their producers/retailers (which is a whole other topic).

Watson Guptill Publications publish an impressive range of books about art techniques - but this book isn't currently one of them. On the other hand it's clear that it can still be bought as googling its title brought up a number of suppliers who are still listing it - which suggests to me that its overall topic and content continues to be of considerable interest and value to artists.

This definitive reference provides a complete catalog of materials, from the traditional to the most recently developed products on the market, plus an in-depth exploration of drawing techniques, both basic and experimental. Wonderfully written and richly illustrated in color, with 20 step-by-step demonstrations, this book is a much needed resource that will benefit beginner and professional alike.

176 pp. 8 1/2 x 10 1/2, 266 full color illus. 94 B&W illus. Hardcover, Watson-Guptill Publications, New York. ISBN: 0-8230-1392-8.
Richard McDaniel website (has an ordering facility)

McDaniel's assertion that there are an extraordinary assortment of possibilities for drawing materials leads to a comprehensive review of art materials for drawing at the beginning of this book. You can see the Table of Contents covering materials, courtesy of Amazon, here which for obvious reasons I'm not going to try and repeat. I've not seen a better review of drawing materials before or since. It's obviously written by somebody who knows and loves his drawing materials. His section on drawing tools and supplies is also excellent. This is the book which opened my eyes to what was available and kept me looking for certain items for years!

However, having said that, it is very much geared up to the American reader and information or commentary on how supplies are available on a global are very limited - however this is as much a function of the age of the book as anything else.


McDaniel covers techniques for drawing in different ways - including drawing using line and tone and drawing with colour. This includes
  • discussions of both line and value
  • demonstrations of:
    • how to achieve tonal effects using pencil using different marks and tools;
    • how to hatch and cross-hatch using pencil - his drawings of trees using this method are particularly effective. Examples of the types of landscape drawings and drawings of trees featured in the book can be seen here.
    • a dry wash technique
    • how to draw using an eraser (a much under-used technique)
    • how to achieve dark tones using graphite and the use of a kneaded eraser for modulations
    • working with wet pencils and the use of solvent
    • tonal effects using charcoal
    • tonal effects using ink - and the impact of patterns when mark-making or stippling or hatching using ink
    • the subtlety which can be achieved using a ballpoint pen
    • color basics
    • working with wax crayons such as Neocolor II
    • monochrome colour: neutral colours and black and white on a neutral ground
    • use of a litho crayon and china marker
    • building colour using pastel pencils
    • use of coloured pencils - wet and dry
    • stippling with coloured markers
    • drawing with oil sticks, oil pastels
  • Drawing in relation to painting - to help with composition and value analysis and to resolve painting issues.
All of the techniques he describes are developed in more detail in other books but few have the range of techniques and materials covered by this book. It's a great introduction to different approaches to drawing from a craft perspective.

What I particularly like is that he focuses on the paper or support which facilitates a technique as much as he does on the drawing implement. So often instruction books focus on one and omit the other - which can often lead to students wondering why they can't achieve a specific effect!

What the book does less well is demonstrate different styles of drawing used by different artists. All the images are drawings by McDaniel. Personally, I think that books are only excellent if they display various drawing styles. It also doesn't try to place 'drawing' as a form of artistic expression within the context of art history or art movements or any conceptual approaches to art - it's very much a materials, craft and technique focused book.

Pencil rating

It's very difficult to know how to rate this book. On the one hand, it's absolutely the best book I know for looking at drawing materials. Its descriptions and images used to make me salivate and want to try new drawing media and supports. On the other hand, the hardback edition has not been updated or revised for the changes which will have taken place since 1995 when it was first published and I've no idea how many of the (mainly US) materials listed are still available. I've not seen the paperback edition which was published in 2001 and I'm not sure how thorough the revisions were.

I can also understand why having materials as a major topic area for this book makes it something of a hostage to fortune in terms of longevity from the publishers' perspective. Such a pity as I'd buy it again if it was brought up to date!


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this one, K. I've never heard of this book, and it sounds like a great, broad overview. I'll be googling it later today.


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