Should I Buy ‘How to Draw and Paint’ books?

This is a good question, I must have read hundreds of art books and magazines over the years.  I particularly used to like the ‘how to’ type of books and there is most definitely some value in these types of books.

I would say the thing that I have found most useful however is looking at the work of other artists, going to galleries in particular.  I advise all my beginner learners to take an interest in art, go to a local gallery or if you can the national ones.  Ask yourself, how did the artist use colour? Is it a good composition?  what media did they use?  How did they use the brush to get those marks? You can learn a lot by looking and questioning.

‘How to’ books have their place but some new starters in art fall into the trap of buying lots of books and reading without ‘doing’.  Art is a practical subject and the best way to learn is to do it, try it, experiment!

A few anxious learners I have taught have got so many books that they feel they can’t put pencil to paper before they have read everything.  Don’t let these books become a security blanket.  Some of these books can also make things look very easy, which can lead to frustration.

Art books are a wonderful resource but can only teach you so much.

The other potential trap with a reliance on these ‘How to’ books is they can stop you following your own inspiration.  These books tell you what to draw and how to draw it, which is their job, but there are often many ways to draw something. Being told exactly how to draw something could stop you from experimenting.

In short, books are great and buy them if you want to but always put what you read into action.

See Art Books for my ideas of the best books.

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5 thoughts on “Should I Buy ‘How to Draw and Paint’ books?

  1. Excellent advice, I just wish I’d seen something like this when starting out.

    Having bought, borrowed and read lots, there are only 5-6 books which I’d now count as being worthwhile – and most of those were written over 50-60 years ago.

    Different times, but more realistic. One of them for instance has advice along the lines of “practice this until you can do it faultlessly, this will be around a year of daily practice”. Quite different from today’s “how to learn everything in six weeks”.

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      1. For me, a self-imposed rule I’ve had for the past few years.

        I question myself, have I spent more time reading about drawing than actually drawing. If so then that’s definitely not a good idea, it’s better to learn by doing rather than reading about doing.

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