Drawing and Comics

By Xah Lee. Date:

Recently i had some curiosity about learning to draw.

I loved drawing when i was a teen, and drew a lot. I was quite good at it. However, i have not even doodled since after teen, for some reason. (am 38 now)

If you ask me to draw something today, i'd be absolutely embarrassed by the very act, for some reason. But nevertheless, drawing still fascinated me. Almost all kinds of drawings. From cartoons to technical drawings to caricatures to illustrations. I also like paintings, but to a lesser degree. I don't think i like photo-realistic paintings much. I absolutely and positively hate modern “abstract” art, or any of the “post-modernism” fuck.

To me, one of the most fascinating power of the ability to draw is the ability to do illustrations, broadly speaking. From drawing human figures to drawing the blueprint of mechanical devices. They say, that a picture is worth a thousand words. From this, we see that, drawing is a essential tool in human communication, even precedes writing, or even precedes developed language. For example, when you land in a foreign land, the easiest way to communicate is to draw on a piece of paper, together with gestures, if you don't speak a single of their words.

Drawings, in a sense, is a universal language. As far as metaphors go, it is more universal than the so-called Mathematics or Music, for the latter two take quite some time to develop a appreciation for. So, suppose if you are a expert illustrator, whose pen is able to lightingly create from human anatomy to facial expressions to the most intricate mechanics of a watch, that would be a expressive power no writers can ever compete.

The other type of drawing that fascinates me, is cartoons, or those seen in comic books, in particular Japanese comic books (aka magna). The fascination about cartoons is that they are able to do away with all information, and showing only pure human expression. In a few lines, the whole gamut of human expression, the pain and the happiness, the desires and wantings, can be thoroughly shown with cartoonish characters. From a mathematician's point of view, this is almost a magical compression.

Ranma Cast
Comics “Ranma 1/2”. Created by Takahashi Rumiko 高橋 留美子, born 1957. Note that how each human animal's character and mood are completely captured by such a simple, 2-dimensional, static, visual depiction.

Recently, i happened to read about who Scott McCloud is. (he is a popular comics book artist, and considered a comics scholar) I learned that he wrote a book called Understanding Comics, which details and discuss comics in a scholarly way. I went to the library and borrowed this book today. While browsing, i spend a short 15 min and picked up a few other books related to drawing. The following is a list, along with their cover and link to amazon.com. I'm adding comment as i have read them.

understanding comics scott mccloud
Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud. Buy at amazon
draw manga body
How to Draw Manga: Bodies and Anatomy by Society for the Study of Manga Techniques Buy at amazon
draw manga mech
How to Draw Manga: Mech. Drawing, by Katsuya Yamakami. This is part of the How To Draw Manga series. This book is supposed to teach you how to draw machines. However, it doesn't seems to actually teach you anything about drawing machines, but just a few tips like how to shade, what are the standard parts of a car, how car engine works. Rather silly. If i want to know the technical names of a motorcycle or airplane, or how car engine works, i can look up illustrated encyclopedia, thank you. However, the book contains lots of super well-done drawings of machines and robots. It just isn't a how-to book at all. Perhaps it is designed for those who already studied drawing for years. Nevertheless, one is amazed at how the Japanese can draw such intricate robots ( Mecha) with amazing detail and accuracy perfection. Buy at amazon
Perspective Made Easy
Perspective Made Easy, by Ernest R. Norling. 1999 Buy at amazon
drawing Gerhard Gollwitzer
Drawing Step-by-Step by Gerhard Gollwitzer. 1959. Buy at amazon
Drawing Perspective Oliver Striegel
Drawing Perspective by Oliver Striegel Buy at amazon

It turns out, they are all well rated books according to amazon.com reviews, possibly with the exception of the last two.