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Summer Reading - books for all ages.
Featured Resource

Keys to Drawing


Keys to Drawing

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Publisher: North Light Books

Author: Bert Dodson

List Price: $22.99

Ages: 15-18 Years

Reviewed By: Tammy Cardwell


Let's get one thing out of the way first; there are a few nude drawings in this book. If you feel you cannot work around them and should look in another direction for your art instruction that is quite understandable. If, on the other hand, you are willing to make a few adjustments if it means using one of the best drawing books I've seen, keep reading.

This is not the sort of book that leaps at you from the bookshelf. At 9x11, it's pretty much the standard size. Its 224 pages come to you in paperback. Its cover is sort of a tan/gold and is about as basic as covers come. When I opened the pages and started reading, however, my reaction was, "Yes!"

The version I have is a fifteenth anniversary reprint; the original copyright was in 1985. Artist/author Bert Dodson did such a good job on this book that it is no surprise that it still serves artists-in-training today.

Dodson does give you the rules of art, teaching you how to both use and break them, but he does something else that I consider more important, more foundational - he teaches you how to have the eyes of an artist. I have said before that my artistic breakthrough came when I finally learned to see, how to truly look at things as an artist looks at them, and I feel I cannot stress this one point enough. It was this that first impressed me in Keys to Drawing. The author, while giving you your very first lessons in transferring what you are looking at to paper, is teaching you how to really see what lies before you. He proceeds from there to teach all of the things that every good drawing book teaches, and a few more besides.

He also makes you think. It's easy to have a somewhat narrow view of what constitutes good art. It is also easy to fall into only drawing in one theme or style. Dodson challenges your ideas on both. My goal, for instance, has been photorealistic portraits. After seeing some of the techniques demonstrated here, however, I've been spurred to branch out, to try other things.

I especially appreciate chapter two, The Artist's Handwriting. It is, put simply, an exploration into personal style. Dodson walks you through what he calls the handwriting - those definitive elements that make each man's art his own - of several famous artists. As you explore these styles you also first copy and then emulate them. This is an excellent way to experience several different techniques as you progress towards finding your own, the handwriting that makes a drawing clearly your work.

You will do drawing projects throughout the chapters. Then, when you reach the end of each, you will use a self-critique list to evaluate your drawings. This is a particularly helpful form that I have not found in any other book. In giving you clear-cut guidelines and questions with yes/no answers, Dodson makes it easy to test yourself and determine where you need to improve.

I may already be drawing, but I plan to take the time to work through these pages. Keys to Drawing has launched itself right to the top of the stack where it rests with my other favorites.

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Tammy Cardwell
Tammy Cardwell may be retired from homeschooling, but not from the homeschool arena. She is here at EHO to stay and actively serves her readers through and her publishing company, CJ Press, as well as her blog, From a Cluttered Desk.
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