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Drawing from Observation: An Introduction to Perceptual Drawing 2nd Edition

4.8 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0077356279
ISBN-10: 0077356276
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Brian Curtis joined the art department at The University of Miami in 1985. He is a representational painter whose current series of psycho-mythological narratives explores those transitional, tentative moments that occur between times of purposeful activity. In an age that is often categorized as being in a perpetual state of crisis he seeks, by monumentalizing the ordinary, to reinforce the shared human core that is embedded in everyday experience.

Brian completed a five-year project of writing, illustrating, and designing an introductory perceptual drawing text, Drawing from Observation, which McGraw-Hill published in 2002. This book contains over two hundred drawings from Miami students. Brian spent 2001 in his studio preparing for a solo exhibition of his narrative paintings, charcoal drawings, and digitally manipulated images installed at the Lowe Art Museum. In February of 2002 Brian presented a paper at the 90th Annual College Art Association conference in Philadelphia. His paper, titled "Preserving the Post-Medieval Mindset" was part of a session on Perceptual Drawing in Higher Education.

In the spring of 1999 Brian was awarded the Dean's Excellence in Teaching award and was also a finalist for the Excellence in Teaching Award for the University of Miami for both 1999 and 2000.

Brian is the head of Miami's drawing program and works with students in painting and printmaking programs.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Education; 2nd edition (May 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0077356276
  • ISBN-13: 978-0077356279
  • Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #88,256 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
After owning more than 50 art books in drawing alone, I found this book at a white elephant sale and picked it up for $3.00 (2002 edition). After thumbing through the book, I immediately knew that this is a BASIC DRAWING BIBLE. To this day, I still go through and practice drawing using this book. As a reference, if I'm stuck drawing something, going back and practicing the relevant exercises always helped.

I have since sold the 30+ drawing books that didn't teach me anything on drawing and have kept this one, dog-eared and thoroughly used. Once you've learned this book thoroughly, drawing and constructing the human figure and animals become so much easier. I do a lot of life drawings and drawings in general, as that is the important skill even in video games.

This updated edition has a new chapter on composition - can't wait to get my new book!
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Format: Paperback
This is the most important book in my collection. If you want to be a professional artist this book is the first step. This book improved my drawing style by the end of the first chapter. It teaches the most basic to highly advanced skills, from training your eye, making a good composition and perspective. If you only buy one drawing book ever, this is the one to buy.
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not a single introductory to drawing book has ever informed me so much as this book done in the first 100 pages, i totally recommend it to who ever want to learn how drawing is about and how to.
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As a professional artist I have many, many art books. This one is unique because it offers really practical techniques for creating effective drawings. It is a well written and well researched book that offers great advice. I have referred it often and I highly recommend this book to anyone from beginner to advanced artist.
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Format: Paperback
This is a highly informative book about observational drawing. One of the recurring themes is the distinction between what you see (percepts) and what you know (concepts). “There is meaningful conflict between what is perceived (convergence of parallel tracks) and our traditional rational understanding (Euclid’s theorem that parallel lines never meet)… To prevent your concepts from distorting your perceptions you must record the proportion you see, not the proportion you know.”

The initial step is called intuitive gesture, “a quick, all-encompassing, simultaneous overview of the wholeness of forms and their relationship in space. It is energetic, flexible, nonlinear, nonspecific, intuitive, and constantly open to adjustment… An intuitive gesture is a progressive process of perception, evaluation, correction, and reevaluation. You must be prepared to continuously make adjustments to your gesture drawing. You need to stay ‘loose’ and resist the tendency to define emerging shapes and to fixate on details at the beginning stages. When you start with a recognizable shape of an object, it is most frequently based more on what you think than on what you see.”

The author explains a method to check the accuracy of a drawing by imagining a grid in front of the picture plane. By holding up a straight edge, you can compare the placement of objects with the x,y coordinates of the Mondrian grid lines. “Intuitive gesture first. Mondrian second.”

Another clever technique is to use an imaginary clock to measure angles. If you observe a receding edge lining up with 2 o’clock, you then draw a line consistent with that angle.

It’s easy to understand that if the subject moves, it will throw off the drawing.
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I got this book as a requirement for my drawing class in my sophomore year of college. I took the class because I had to (my major is computer science). This book really helped me to improve my limited drawing skills and if nothing else taught me a new way of thinking so to speak. I would highly recommend this book to anyone, who like me, is left-brained.
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It reads like a "light" textbook on drawing. Good lessons and a reasonable pace for a working adult who is also taking night classes. I really like this book so far!
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I have many, many drawing books. I like this one because it works very hard to separate perceptual drawing from conceptual drawing. The author approaches drawing from the basic tenant that we tend to draw what we think we see rather than what we actually see. This book strives to get our logically-thinking brain out of the way so that our eyes can help our hands record what it is we are actually perceiving. It offers several useful tools that can be applied immediately to help create better drawings.

I don't completely love the format of the book. In general there is informative text on the far left and far right columns of the opposing pages and figures on the inside columns of each page spread which makes it a bit choppy to read but does work to force the reader to look at the illustrations relating to the content being presented. The main points being made and the illustration references are presented in bold text making it fairly easy to get the gist of the pertinent concepts rapidly if you are not one to sit and thoroughly read a text. The book is completely black and white which helps to eliminate the confounding elements of color.

I am a very logical thinker so that makes drawing hard for me and this is a good book to learn to stop thinking too hard and to trust what your eyes are telling you.
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