Friday, August 20, 2010

Book Review : The Figure: The Classic Approach to Drawing & Construction by Walt Reed

Constructive Figure Drawing : Start To Finish

This is a very easy to use, clear and practical guide to constructing the figure from imagination.

"Classic approach" here simply means the methods that have been handed down from the Masters of the renaissance, where art and science came together. For instance, ideas of perspective, which are analytical and mathematical, were applied to art to create realism.

Similarly the constructive approach is based somewhat in the lines of geometry, and attempt to reduce all objects and forms to be a composition of a few basic forms. This resulted in the usage of sphere, box, cylinder etc. to construct any three dimensional figure, including of course the human figure. There were no hard and fast rules as to what these basic forms were. Some would use cones, cuboids etc.

This book is a very clear exposition on the use of constructive approach to drawing the figure.

The Figure is analyzed using the basic forms first, to get a sense of proportion, relationships etc.

The idea of using two glasses (glasses with which we drink water etc.) as the two parts of the body: the upper torso and the pelvis, is amazingly an effective tool, in studying the relationship of these two major forms of the figure. same is done to study the upper and lower arms, upper and lower legs.

The book aids in seeing the figure as made up of these simple forms, which results in clear understanding of the underlying structure which is easy to cast into memory, and can be applied both in life drawing as well as drawing from imagination.

There are parts of the book that deals in details about the body and the movable parts. the possible movements of individual parts, in relation to the others, such as how much the arm can swing, or the degree of freedom of each part of the leg, are invaluable lessons, that are very explicitly laid down using the simplified figure.
Eventually the book takes us to an application of anatomy, though not a anatomy book, this teaches how to use a simplified skeleton to setup the figure and move towards more realism.

If we go through this book, one can be assured of getting a "solid" understanding of the figure, in very simplified terms yet powerful enough to create stunningly realistic figure from imagination.

One would learn from the book, apply this knowledge when drawing from life or photo reference, and then internalize that knowledge and start creating figures purely from imagination.

Walt Reed was part of the amazing Famous Artists School of the 50-60s. The Figure drawing lessons in those courses are pretty much what is contained in this book. I would think this book contains a bit more than those lessons, more reference images, and more instructions.

This is a must have in the figurative artist book shelf.

This is an extract from my review at, You can find more of my reviews here.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Osamu Tezuka : Buddha

Osamu Tezuka, famously known as the God of Manga, has created a masterpiece in this monumental series of 8 volumes on Buddha.

The epic series captures the sum and substance of the life and times and the philosophy of Buddha, in simple beautiful and elegant graphic style of Manga.

The Eight volumes are,

1. Kapilavastu
2. The Four Encounters
3. Devadatta
4. The Forest of Uruvela
5. Deer Park
6. Ananda
7. Ajatasattu
8. Jetavana

The story is an adaptation where Tezuka takes certain liberties with respect to characters, storyline and time lines. This results in a rather refreshing retelling of one of the most important stories of all time.

This is a great set of books to read for the story and the philosophy and the beautiful art of Tezuka. Also, this is a great master class on the art and science of Manga! What better way to learn to create Graphic novels?

There are of course several editions, and translations of the original Japanese version. Also to make it easy to read and make life easy for the translation process, the original book was simply mirror imaged! to enable English readers go from left to right. Not sure if that's a great idea though.

There are at least three different English editions, one the nice and seductive hardcover, with beautiful white dust covers and the three Buddhas shining on the spines. the other is the paperback version of the same, and there is one more paperback edition made using pulp like economical paper available in India and south east Asia.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Pacific Comics Club : Golden Age Reprints Phantom, Mandrake and More

There was a Golden age for everything. The early twentieth century was the golden age of various things. Aviation, Science, and among other things the golden age of newspaper comic strips.

For several decades beginning the 30s various strips came into existence, and had a wonderful run, with readership running into the millions.

The great art work of masters such as Alex Raymond, Ray Moore, Wilson McCoy, Sy Barry, Dan Barry, Phil Davis, Leonard Starr, Milton Caniff, Gene Byrnes, Hal Foster entertained newspaper readers all over the world. Some of the stories that came from their pens and brushes were The Phantom, Mandrake the Magician, Steve Canyon, On Stage, Reglar Fellers, Prince Valiant to name a few. The Golden era slowly got forgotten and gave way to other forms of entertainment. Though he American public had largely forgotten this era, these strips were extremely popular around the world, with reprints in the form of collections, coming up from various publishers.

A few years back, when I finally got time to get back in touch with these beautiful stories and artwork, and was disappointed with the absence of popularity in the United States, I discovered a wonderful source for these golden era reprints.

It is Tony Raiola's Pacific Comics Club. The online store has a treasure chest of the golden age goodies. Tony is a passionate comic strip fan/collector/publisher who has been running this since the 60s in France, Italy and later in the United States. Several popular strips have been published by Pacific Comics in wonderful format, very carefully reproduced, highlighting the clear artwork of the masters. They also carry similar reprints of hard to find strips from other publishers.

I asked Tony for his thoughts and he opines..."American newspaper strips were more popular in Europe than here in the States , just like western movies. What happened is that European made compilations and books from the strips, instead the American had a few reprints in Famous Funnies, etc. In Europe Flash Gordon ,the Phantom , Mandrake were very popular .The fact is that after the '50s the American concentrated their efforts on comic book business forgetting the strips and creating superheroes."

I agree with him and made me think about the huge popularity of Phantom, Mandrake, Flash Gordon and the likes in India. Where there was a large fan base and Indarjal Comics had a fantastic run.

I wish Tony the best and continue to offer several of the long forgotten Golden era comic strip master pieces.