Friday, November 23, 2007

'How to' render realistic textures in pencil

Drawing Realistic Testures in Pencil does exactly what it says - and no more.

JD Hillberry specialises in hyper realistic techniques for rendering textures in pencil. You can see a mini-tutorial of the sort found in the book on his website here.

The book provides:
  • an overview of materials - this is good but not comprehensive. He covers pencils, erasers, blending tools, paper (I was interested to find he works on the back of Arches HP) and miscellaneous tools.
  • a range of tips and techniques - many of which are useful and are generally not seen in other books about drawing. Sections which are particularly thorough include
    • blending materials and techniques
    • how to blend/layer graphite and charcoal
    • how to indent
    • how to mask with frisket
  • detailed explanations of how to produce specific textures and surfaces - from eyes, skin and hair to wood, metal and shiny surfaces etc. Personally I find his inanimate textures to be more persuasive than those relating to people or animals.
  • very detailed demonstrations with annotated illustrations of how these techniques and surfaces can be incorporated into specific finished drawings. These are very clear in terms of what they choose to cover.
All it takes to draw is a pencil and a piece of paper.
JD Hillberry
My main issue with this book is that I think some people may think it will teach them 'how to draw' - as opposed to 'how to render'. The book certainly doesn't claim to teach people about drawing per se but in places it does seem to suggest it is in fact a 'how to draw' book. The synopsis on the back cover suggests that anyone can master the techniques to produce incredible drawings while ignoring there might be a bit more to producing such drawings than just these techniques! I think this may lead some people to think that being able to achieve a superior skills in rendering is really all they need to know in order to draw. However drawing is about an awful lot more than just technique.

What the book doesn't do is cover basic skills (eg drawing volumes and shapes). Nor does it explore the variety of marks which can be made with the various media one can draw with or the more advanced skills required for finished drawings (such as an understanding of different approaches to composition) or any notion (as indicated in yesterday's review) that drawing might be about "making marks with meaning".

The lack of any acknowledgement that there might be a bit more to drawing than 'how to render' concerns me. I'd have been a lot happier with something in the book that recognises the scope for learning which fits around this quite narrow subject of rendering realistic textures. Maybe some pointers to the scope of drawing and what else might be involved or a bibliography of other recommended books which take people beyond the techniques set out in this book?

In conclusion, the book is excellent at precisely what it sets out to do - drawing realistic textures in pencil. For those who enjoy and/or want to achieve this sort of rendering of surfaces and textures then this book provides a lot of helpful information and support which is clearly set out and explained.

However it is not a 'learn how to draw' book as such. For those who want to learn how to draw at either a basic or advanced level there are other more helpful books which provide a more rounded perspective on drawing - and its scope and practice. I'd award it a 4 pencils rating in relation to its coverage of rendering texture only.

You can read Laurel Neustadter's (An Artist's Journey) review of this book here. There are also a number of reviews on the Amazon link below.

If you are interested in learning more about this type of rendering then you can participate in the Charcoal and Pencils Drawings Forum at the ArtPapa Forum website, which is moderated by JD Hillberry. The board is described as being dedicated to artists who are interested in producing drawings as finished artwork rather than using it as a preparatory medium.


1 comment:

  1. Yes, you're correct that this is definitely not a book for a beginner to learn basic 'how to draw' techniques.

    Hillberry is sharing his techniques that he has developed through trial and error, and he's completely self taught. I have taught myself using books and experimentation, and it was this book that made me aware of the usefulness of chamois for blending skin tones.

    Even if that was the only useful thing I learned from this book (it wasn't though...) it would be well worth the purchase price. This is one of my favorite drawing books.

    Your overview and assessment of the book is right on target.


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