When it comes to figure drawing books there is a vast range covering various techniques with a range in quality that is just as vast. As I discovered while attempting to find a good quality figure drawing book, identifying the books that are worth spending money on is a little harder than it seems at first glance. Some books that look like they are good turn out not to be and some books that look like they are not worth reading, on closer inspection have valuable information. The list below are just a few that I think are worth purchasing.
NOTE: This list is based off of the books that I own / have read and therefore does not cover all of them. It is also based on my opinion of these books yours however may be different.
Figure drawing for all it’s worth – Andrew Loomis
This book starts with creating a manikin to use as a base for building the figure then after listing a small amount of anatomy continues into other areas, such as adding value to your figures and making them look more dynamic. At the end of the book there is extra instruction on how to draw the head, hands and feet although I would recommend using another Andrew Loomis book for this called drawing the head and hands which goes into more depth on the subject. unlike other books I have listed here this book does not slowly build up the figure by focusing on one part of the anatomy at a time but has you building the figure on top of the manikin shown at the beginning of the book. this may mean that some may struggle in the beginning but the information contained within is valuable even if you would prefer a more gradual start to figure drawing.
Figure drawing for artists – Steve Huston
This book begins by introducing you to the shapes that can be used to simplify the human body, making it both easier to visualise and to draw. It then progresses into adding gesture to this structure so your figures do not look stiff. Then after a section on value breaks down the figure into simplified structures using theses to help you construct the figure. Throughout this book are many images explaining the concepts as well as examples of these concepts used in artworks by master artists. Breaking things down like this makes concepts used in the book much easier to understand.
Figure drawing design and invention – Michael Hampton
At the beginning of the book it focuses on using gesture to depict the figure using a small number of lines then using basic shapes gives you the tools to visualise and draw the figure. After the section on gesture the figure is broken down and then focused on one part at a time. These sections are where the anatomy of the figure is explained, including the simple shapes that can be used to aid in drawing them. This section also went deeper into the anatomy of the figure than many other books on figure drawing. This book includes a steady stream of tips and examples throughout and combined with the text it makes it a valuable book to have.
Complete guide to life drawing – Gottfried Bammes
The text in this book has a straight to the point quality to it with less being said in long paragraphs and more being set out using bullet points lists and example images. The book starts out giving you various exercises to help establish proportion of the figures including at different ages and then moves on the movement of the figure, something that many figure drawing books leave until near the end. The rest of the book you spend constructing a figure from a simplified skeleton, although not as simplified as in many other books. What this book gives you is an understanding of how the human figure is constructed which would be of great help to those intending to draw from their imagination. This book also contains exercises to help your progress and encourages you to draw from reference to help you learn.
The artists guide to drawing the clothed figure – Michael Massen
This book does not focus on drawing the figure but instead on the clothing that will cover the figures you draw. The beginning of the book is focused on the different types of folds that are created by material depending on how it is falling. The book then continues into different types of clothing and how they look on the human figure. The last section is focused on how movement of the figure affects the material. There is also the occasional page where the techniques are shown using the artwork from a master artist. While it is not a book on drawing the figure itself the information contained within is of great value to anyone who wants to draw realistic clothing on their figures and that is why I have included this book here.