The Bookshelf Academy: Part II

In a previous entry, I realized that I have an incredible resource under my nose- my own personal library of books I’ve bought over the years. My art books, in particular, are my most valued. This will be an ongoing, intermittent series of my personal favorite books culled from my personal library. Books that actually TAUGHT me something. Each upcoming entry will briefly highlight three books.

However, before we get into it, I want to outline my approach to actually USING these books. I could drone on in an intense article- but I'm doing us both a favor by simply outlining the facts.

How I self-teach using an art instruction book
  • Get to know the book:
    • Go through it, cover-to-cover.
    • Don’t be afraid to jump ahead if you feel inspired.
  • Make a concerted effort to start at the beginning and do the exercises within:
    • LABEL each art with the book and the exercise/page number! This will give you a reference as you go through your sketchbook notes.
    • If there are no exercises, try your own drawing using the presented technique.
    • Keep these in your main sketchbook- write notes on what you like and don’t like about your own work.
    • Don’t be afraid to mess up your drawings with notes- these are exercises not works of art!
  • While doing the learning exercises, if you create a sketchbook drawing that you find you really like, then it’s okay to save it—but that can be counter-productive.
    • Fear in destroying/writing over an exercise drawing drowns your confidence. Be confident-simply recreate. Use emotion to draw, but don’t become sentimental of your past sketchbook/learning work.
    • Improvement comes by pushing forward, not by resting on lucky laurels.
    • All that said, if you want to preserve a drawing but want to draw over it with notes or corrections, tape tracing paper over the work to draw on. It’s also a great way to protect your work from smearing on the opposite page.
  • Posting on Social Media:
    • This one is tricky… IF you decide to post your exercise- make sure you post credit to the book and artist you are working from. Plagiarism is a fine line, don’t cross it!
    • An old professor of mine once said, “To design is to give up a pound of flesh.” It’s blood, sweat and tears. You are allowing yourself to be vulnerable and art is subjective. Ask for friendly critique and blow off harsh or rude reviews… develop that tough skin- it will DEFINITELY help you later in your career!
    • Art is subjective. Post attention is a great way to measure your artwork's appeal. Keep in mind of the size of your audience, though.
Do you have anything to add? How do you use your Art Instruction books?