I am an armchair artist. Since my teen years I have dreamed of keeping a sketchbook journal. My cousin fills little purse-sized sketchbooks with exquisite drawings of her everyday life and travels. Oh, how I wish I could do that! And I have a daughter who is a budding artist. How can I help nurture her talent and feed my own desire to draw better? Enter The Drawing Breakthrough Book by John Hastings.

This is a very different drawing instruction book. As a frustrated art student, the author came up with his own method of drawing by breaking down the process into small steps. The book focuses on the accurate line drawing of objects–no shading. It is divided into three parts: Starting to Draw, Mastering the Building-Block Lines, and Expanding Your Drawing Skills. Each section consists of two or three instructional chapters with practice exercises. The book is motivating. At the beginning of Part One is a list of ten reasons to learn to draw, many of which I hadn’t thought of before–for example “to study more effectively by adding visual notes.” At the beginning of Part Three is a list of ten ways to draw better, again many of which were new to me. Author John Hastings encourages the reader to pick drawing subjects of personal interest, which aids motivation. The introductory chapter, “Getting Organized to Draw,” has some great suggestions for starting your drawing sessions.

Part One discusses how to see your subject clearly, which is key to accurate, realistic drawing. There is a lot of attention given to creating points of reference and guidelines in your drawings with angles, points, lines, and shapes. This is followed by advice on how to actually start a drawing and how to keep the elements in proportion with what the author terms cornerstone points and shapes.

Part Two concentrates on drawing straight, circular, and elliptical lines. This is given very thorough treatment.

The last section has a chapter on the subject of composition. There are many clear illustrations and explanations of how to arrange the elements of a drawing in a pleasing way. The last chapter takes you beyond the basic building block lines.

Nowhere does the book provide a suggested age range. I think it is written for teens and adults, but an adult could certainly use the principles in the book to teach younger children. Nor does the author specify the intended educational audience. It would be appropriate for anyone old enough to self-teach or anyone interested in teaching others how to line draw.

I really like the format of the book. Every page of instruction and exercise has two or three simple steps accompanied by a picture to illustrate the step. The black-and-white photos and illustrations are simple, clear, and to the point. The breakdown of steps makes the task of learning to draw undaunting and doable. You can sit down in the evening and work on an aspect of drawing. The exercises use everyday objects (bottles, containers, balls, tools) as subject matter. You could use this book and improve your drawing ability anytime and anywhere, using whatever is at hand.

The Drawing Breakthrough Book is a gem. In working with the book, I can already see an improvement in my drawing skills. I’m putting a couple of sketchbooks in my backpack for my daughter and me, because I now have hope that the aforementioned dream can come true. If you want to learn to draw or want to improve your drawing ability, this book will be a great help!



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