The Nature of Drawing Books

Under the Drawing and Painting section, there is an array of books teaching people how to draw a variety of objects. From human portraits to animals, these books teach you how to draw with a step-by-step method. It reminded me of my first drawing book I bought at Borders, “Drawing Monsters and Dragons”. The book had a gamut of mystical creatures. Some more complex than others but were all dissected into simple steps, aided with annotations at the sides. Starting with a contour of the dragon, its head, body, wings etc. then progressed into the finer details like the texture of the skin, the scales, pupil of the eyes, horns on the back etc.

It was fun following the steps then and seeing it build up into its final product – a magnificent fire breathing dragon. But, as I browse through these books now, I didn’t like them anymore. In fact, I find it cringe worthy that a skill has to be taught in such a formulaic and handholding way. Initially, I had many criticisms for it but after pondering over them, I realised that it all depends on what is the person’s intent when he or she picks up a drawing guidebook. To me, when someone decides to pick a book like, “Drawing Monsters and Dragons”, he or she is probably:

  1. A beginner who doesn’t really know how to draw and needs some sort of structure.
  2. Only interested in drawing dragons and monsters because these steps can’t really be applied to other objects of study or even other types of dragons outside of the book. (Although this may be debatable.)
  3. Only interested in replication and no creativity is wanted because of how end driven it is.

These might even be the intended target audiences of the book.

After all, it is not really a book on how to art. Although, if there ever was a step-by-step approach of how to art, I might actually buy it and see what insights it offers or how they use such an unorthodox method to teach art.

So, I have to look at it as a drawing guidebook, specifically for achieving realistic drawings of dragons and monsters from a particular gameplay and nothing more. Unfortunately, even as I limit my scope of how to judge it, I still find something fundamentally flawed in the drawing guidebook. Albeit the effortful interlacing of step-by-step drawings with annotations, it is ultimately up to the person’s execution of copying the image from the book to paper. It is the skills of recreating the strokes with a pencil in the hand, the control of it and the organizing of lines in the space on paper. These are skills that can’t be imparted through drawings or words and therefore, limits the help this kind of drawing guidebooks can offer.

How realistically a dragon is drawn is dependent on how much skills the person actually possess.

The skills of drawing, which is tacit knowledge, can’t be imparted easily because it is simply too difficult to even show it through any means. It is almost innate, or perhaps the correct word to use is, ‘talent’.


One thought on “The Nature of Drawing Books

  1. Talent absolutely. There are no step-by-step guides to drawing what my imagination conjures … hence poems are my outlet … another talent I suppose. Have taken drawing classes and believe given time and determination, talent develops. But to each of us some talents come naturally … or at least easily enough to fool us into thinking so. 😌

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