One of my goals for 2020 was to draw more, and thankfully, this is one goal that has been helped rather than hindered by the COVID-19 crisis. Over the last few weeks, I have gathered up eight different how-to-draw books and had a go at using each of them. While all these books are aimed at kids, they are still great for helping us adults improve our art skills—and who would rather draw a bowl of fruit than a silly cartoon giraffe anyway?
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I Can Draw Farm Fun and I Can Draw Silly Sea Life
The first how-to-draw books I picked up were I Can Draw Farm Fun and I Can Draw Silly Sea Life. These were some of the simplest books to follow and combined both the grid method and step-by-step method. Each creature had a double-page spread with a step-by-step method layered on top of a grid on the left-hand page. On the right-hand page was a blank grid for you to practice with and a full color finished picture at the same scale, often with extra features added on such as flowers behind a bee or a pond around a frog.
I started out by drawing some of the farm animals in my sketchbook but also used these designs for another idea. By drawing some of the sea life creatures onto white card, I was able to cut them out and mail them to a family member to make them smile. I also altered the cartoon rabbit in the I Can Draw Farm Fun book so he was carrying chocolate eggs in his basket rather than carrots and sent him off in the mail for Easter.
These books contain a good selection of designs to draw with 17 subjects in each book. I Can Draw Farm Fun includes the usual animals you would expect like cows, sheep, and chickens but also more unusual ones like llamas and flamingos (no, I’ve never seen a flamingo on a farm either) and a handful of other farm-related objects like a house and a tractor. I Can Draw Silly Sea Life includes fish, seals, and dolphins but also a lot more cartoon-style designs like a surfing rabbit, a girl in a swimsuit and rubber ring, and a jellyfish wearing a snorkel.
These were some of my favorite how-to-draw books from this collection and I know I’ll be returning to them in the future. Two more books are also available in the series: I Can Draw Cute Animals and I Can Draw Things That Go.
Cats and Kittens Drawing and Activity Book
Next up was the Cats and Kittens Drawing and Activity Book. As the title suggests, this book doesn’t just feature how-to-draw guides but also activities like a maze, word search, codebreaker, and spot-the-difference. Guides for how-to-draw different cat species do form the bulk of the content, however.
The style of the art in this book is far more lifelike, encouraging kids to draw different species of cats rather than generic cartoon style ones. It uses a variety of different methods including grid, step-by-step, and also tracing using included tracing paper (as I received a digital proof copy I didn’t get to try this out).
Seventeen different cat species are featured but many only receive instructions on how to draw them using one of the three methods—the Siamese has no grid or step-by-step method and can only be traced, while the Bengal only has step-by-step instructions. There are also some big leaps between the later stages of the step-by-step drawings. Because of these issues, this wasn’t one of my favorite how-to-draw books for the drawing elements itself, although the additional activities mean that it includes a lot of value in its pages. I had a go at drawing several of the cats using the step-by-step method and found myself slowly improving as I worked through the designs.
This is a great book for cat lovers and there are also three other titles in the same series—Dogs and Puppies, Horses and Ponies, and Birds and Butterflies—for kids who love different types of animals.
Learn to Draw Marvel Avengers
Next up is the first of two franchise-based how-to-draw books. Learn to Draw Marvel Avengers is exactly what its title suggests, providing instructions to help you draw eight Marvel characters including the original MCU Avengers ensemble of Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Hulk, and Thor. Also included are a few more recent additions to the MCU: Ant-Man, Black Panther, and Captain Marvel.
As with the previous book on this list, Learn to Draw Avengers includes sheets of tracing paper so you can trace some of the designs. The first four characters in the book use the grid method, tracing method, and step-by-step method, but for some reason, this changes halfway through, and the remaining four only show the step-by-step method. Perhaps the idea here is to work through the book in order and you will have improved enough to no longer need the grids and tracing paper after a while, but most kids will leap straight to their favorite character, so I can’t see that working if it was the plan.
I have generally struggled with drawing people, so this book was always going to be a challenge. That meant it was a pleasant surprise to see how well my first attempts came out. I doubt Marvel will be calling to offer me a job any time soon, but I at least found that my characters were coming out fairly recognizable, which was more than I’ve managed in the past!
This will be a fantastic book for Marvel fans and the different styles of instructions will allow all ages to have a go at recreating some of their favorite characters.
Learn to Draw Star Wars Volume 2
The second and final franchise-based book, Learn to Draw Star Wars Volume 2, was one of my least favorite titles from this collection, despite it helping me to draw one of my best pictures so far.
As should be obvious from the title, this book is a sequel and it contains mostly characters from the sequel trilogy. Nine characters are included and there is a good mix of humans, droids, and even aliens thanks to Maz Kanata. As with the Marvel book, tracing paper is included for some (but not all) of the characters, and the others use a combination of grid method and step-by-step method, with the latter available for all.
My problem with this book was the step-by-step instructions which included huge leaps between each step and complex shapes that you were expected to draw freehand rather than adapting them from more basic shapes. Although I was able to get a great Kylo Ren out of this book, this felt like more of a fluke resulting from luck and having spent much of the week practicing drawing, and my earlier attempt at Rey wasn’t nearly as good.
Learn to Draw Star Wars Volume 2 will be great for more experienced artists, but beginners and children will most likely find it frustrating.
A Kid’s Guide to Drawing Cartoon Animals
Going back to animals for a moment, A Kid’s Guide to Drawing Cartoon Animals almost immediately became one of my favorite how-to-draw books. This book contains guides to drawing 28 different animals, making it one of the most densely packed of them all.
Included are a wide variety of different animals from domestic pets like dogs and cats, wild animals like lions and elephants, sea creatures like sharks and sea otters, to creepy critters including a snake and a tarantula. All are highly stylized but realistic—there are no sunglasses or handbags on these friendly faces. At the back of the book is a number of blank animal heads with examples of different expressions so you can practice giving your animals even more personality.
A Kid’s Guide to Drawing Cartoon Animals only uses the step-by-step method but these steps are highly detailed with only small jumps between each one, making them some of the easiest to follow. I felt as if I got some of my best results from this book. Each animal gets a full double-page spread with space on the right-hand side for you to practice.
If I could only pick one book to buy from this collection, it would be this one because it offers the widest variety of animals and the clearest step-by-step guides. My ten-year-old also felt that this was by far the easiest book to use and the most fun as well. For those looking to use other drawing methods, however, it’s best avoided.
You Can Draw Manga Chibi Characters, Critters & Scenes and You Can Draw Manga Chibis
The final two how-to-draw books ended up being by far my least favorite of the bunch. You Can Draw Manga Chibi Characters, Critters & Scenes and You Can Draw Manga Chibis are guides to drawing manga-style cartoon characters and creatures, but they are not traditional how-to-draw books in the way the others are. There are no real guides to be found here, no grids, tracing paper, or even step by step guides. Instead, you are given a few very basic images of figures with some initial guiding lines left in and not much more.
The books are filled with reference images to copy that include clothes, hairstyles, and facial expressions. The You Can Draw Manga Chibi Characters, Critters & Scenes book focuses on humans while the Chibis book includes various animals both real and imaginary, plus a section on objects such as chibi-style food and furniture. It’s all adorable, but there are no instructions on how to actually draw these things yourself, so you’re expected to simply copy.
I used these books to draw a few chibi-fied characters of my own, attempting to base them on Mulder and Scully, and while the results were OK, I felt that they could have been much better with some improved guidance.
The one big plus to these two books is that they’re available as ebooks on the Amazon Kindle store, so you won’t need to wait for delivery before you get started. If you already have some confidence in drawing then these could help you start learning a new style, but I wouldn’t recommend them for beginners.
GeekMom received a copy of this item for review purposes.