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The Natural Way to Draw: A Working Plan for Art Study Paperback – February 1, 1990

4.5 out of 5 stars 179 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"...not only the best how-to book on drawing, it is the best how-to book we've seen on any subject." Whole Earth Review

About the Author

Kimon Nicolaides was born in Washington D.C., in 1891. His first contact with art was a subconscious familiarity with the oriental objects imported by his father. He decided early that he wished to paint, but he had to run away from home to study art because his parents were unsympathetic to the idea. He supported himself in New York by whatever came to hand - framing pictures, writing for a newspaper, even acting the part of an art student as a movie extra. His father was finally won over by his obvious seriouness and financed his instruction at the Art Students' League - under Bridgman, Miller, and Sloan. When the United States entered the first World War, Nicolaides volunteered in the Camouflage Corps and served in France for over a year, receiving a citation. One of his assignments, involving the study of geographical contour maps, first opened up for him the conception of "contour" which constitutes Exercise One in this book. After a period of work in Paris (1922-23), he was given his first one-man show by the famous Bernheim Jeune gallery there. Back in New York, he held his first exhibit at the Old Whitney Studio Club, now the museum, and settled down to painting and teaching. As a painter, choosing to work painstakingly and exhibit seldom, he became known to the critics gradually but unmistakably for "the range of his work," "originality of technical approach," "richness of mental concepts" and his "eager, restless pursuit of new aesthetic experience." As a teacher, during the next fifteen years, he became, as the Art Digest put it, "second father" to hundreds of students who passed through his classes at the Art Students' League of New York. Scrupulously honest and high-principled, endowed with humor, richness and warmth of personality, sanity and balance, his extraordinary talent for human relationships grew with his wide contact with increasing numbers of students. Although he died in 1938, at a tragically early age, he left behind a tremendously devoted following of brilliant young artists, as well as the unique and concrete system of art teaching presented in this book.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; unknown edition (February 1, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395530075
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395530078
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 7 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (179 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #67,705 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In order to help you decide whether or not to buy this book, I will try to make clear what the conflicting reviews mean. Actually, they are all right (in my opinion). Which side you take depends on the method of learning you prefer.
If you want a quick, "no brainer crash course" that will get you up and drawing ASAP, then use first "The (New) Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" by Betty Edwards. The exercises in that book can be completed in less than a week; by then, you should be able to draw impressive lifelike portraits.
Now, let me warn you: Ms. Edwards' book teaches you how to COPY (draw) WHAT YOU SEE just as your eyes see it. You won't learn to draw from nothing; you will need a photograph or model to work from. Simply put: you will learn to copy whatever you look at.
Now, if after that, you find yourself wanting for more-- that is, you want to learn and do more -- then get this book by Nicolaides. This is a serious instruction manual that requires a lot of your time and energy. Using it is just like being in art class. You have to follow 25 schedules amounting to 15 hours of drawing each, and in all you will use more than 60 exercises. Each chapter builds on the previous ones, so it is necessary to do all of them in order, for as long as directed. This will take 6-24 months to "finish", assuming the student draws 1-6 hours a day.
Does that sound too much for you? If so, don't feel bad. This book turned me off, too, when I first opened it. It does take a lot of work; I understand why some people are disappointed by it. But if you keep up with it, you will definitely see the results at around Schedule 13.
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I reviewed this book earlier, after only a month into working with it. Now I've been at it about 7 months, which, for me, means I'm a little over 1/2 way through. I'm so thankful to have found this book at the beginning of my learning to draw. I also take a drawing class where there are live models to work from. In truth, I only take to class for the opportunity to work from a living form, because this book is my true instructor. And it is the best instruction in the art of seeing and learning that can be imagined. I compare my work with others in my class who have been working far longer and I feel sorry for them. I feel like working this book has got me moving at warp speed. I showed it to another class member and he said, "you're serious about this, aren't you?" If you really want to learn how to see and how to draw, use this book and stick to it. It will pay off. I can see a face now and truly draw it. And I can draw it almost as well if I use what I've learned from the memory exercises and draw it tommorrow.
UPDATE: 12 years later: While I have not tried to make a living with artwork, my first oil painting was accepted in a gallery show and sold. I'm still enjoying my work and am now working on a watercolor portrait series as time permits. And while I don't have alot of time for my artwork, I actually have two apprentices I'm working with and they are both doing their initial study with this book. Can't recommend it enough. Through following the work in the book, you, like me, will find your "voice" in artwork, and each time create quality, if not brilliance.
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Format: Paperback
The book was published posthumously in 1941 by Nicolaides' students. Their fervor for their late revered teacher is evident in the manner in which the book is written. They developed a rigorous lesson schedule which demands consistent attention of the artist.

I first read The Natural Way to Draw in 1983. In January of 1985 I began a self study course using this book as my guide. I followed every lesson plan and read and re-read until I could recite the book by heart. Too broke to afford a nude model for the lesson plans, I drew my neighbors chickens, cows, horses and sheep, supplementing those subjects with weekly attendance at a drawing group and borrowing the local science teachers human skeleton. Whatever the subject matter, Niccolaides taught me to understand the essence of gesture. A little over a year and a half later, I finished the book. I went on to earn a college degree (BFA)in Painting and to become a professional artist. When I look back at the past 18 years of my life as an artist,this book had the most influence of any that I have ever read or worked with. I highly recommend not just reading this book, but studying it. Devote a year of your life to studying this book and you will be a better artist.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Anyone preparing to undertake this book should be aware it is tremendously demanding of your time and energies. There is a minimum expectation that you will draw for three hours a day for a one year period. I have never completed the whole course but undertook it several times and managed make it through three or four months of the program with some success. This book was held in tremendous esteem by a lot of students who swore by it when I attended Cal Arts. This is in part because Cal Arts is an animation school. A lead animator needs to capture weight and gesture in a very quickly done drawing. The book teaches you to actually feel as if you are touching the object with your pencil and feel its weight and volume by means of various excercises.
Later in my drawing career I found a school that taught foundational classic illustration techniques that have been passed down for ages. We were taught life drawing techniques using the four basic tones, proportions, light and form shadow, line quality quick sketch etc. One day my teacher who is an esteemed fine artist who has also created many well known movie posters you would recognize, noticed one of the students had a copy of "The Natural Way to Draw" on her drawing bench. He picked it up and asked all the students to take a look at the book. He opened it up high and actually began mocking it. My mouth was wide open as I assumed that this book was unquestioned in the art world. As he made his way through the book showing samples of the illustrations especially in the advanced stages, many in the class were laughing out loud at the pictures. I must admit at that moment they suddenly looked rather poor to me as well. I asked him isn't there anything in this book's teaching methods you feel is worthwhile? So many people follow it.
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