Today I am delighted to take on another new adventure, nonfiction! Admittedly, I am sticking with YA and graphic novels, but what better way to teach art and techniques than through an inherently artistic format? The Drawing Lesson is sure to appeal to aspiring artists of all ages, but is definitely one that I’ll be chasing down for my school library.
Title: The Drawing Lesson: A Graphic Novel The Teaches You How to Draw
Author: Mark Crilley
Publication Date: July 5, 2016
Genre: Nonfiction, Comics, Graphic Novel
Themes: Drawing, Art, Mentorship, Coming of Age
My Rating: 5/ 5
An instructional art book in narrative graphic novel form that uses the tale of one aspiring young artist and his reluctant mentor to impart easy-to-follow lessons on the fundamentals of drawing.
With over 10 million views and growing, Mark Crilley’s YouTube drawing instruction videos have an enormous worldwide legion of fans and have been featured on sites such as Yahoo News and Reddit. In addition, Crilley is an accomplished graphic novelist. Now for the first time, he pairs both strengths resulting in a one-of-a-kind art instruction experience. Through the story of aspiring, overeager young artist-in-the-making David and his helpful, but often flustered mentor, Becky, readers gain a grounding in the basics of drawing and rendering, along with a helping of laughs and poignant entertainment. Each lesson builds off the previous, with sidebars at the end of each chapter that direct readers to tackle some of the very same drawing exercises that David has just completed. The sequential art format provides the perfect vehicle for these step-by-step lessons, and the Pixar-esque approach to the surrounding characters and story ensures an enjoyable experience that readers will want to revisit again and again.
I don’t know where to begin with this book, it’s so dang good! Everything from the colour and composition, to the lessons, and the underlying storylines was absolutely outstanding. It captures a child’s passion and drive perfectly, while simultaneously embodying what it means to be a mentor and the immense power and responsibility that comes with stepping into that role.
I loved how the traditional structure of an informative text was maintained, while all of the information was translated into comics format. The sepia ton, lose pencil lines, and simple characters and compositions really allowed for the focus to remain on the concepts being conveyed. And what better way to discuss complex concepts such as composition, perspective, and blocking than to show it rather than tell it. I loved too, how it constantly encouraged openness, observant, self critique, and the willingness to make mistakes and constantly improve.
Most importantly though, I love ow it hammers home that are is an individual pursuit and not a competition. While this message might not be as important to adult readers, for younger readers this is such and important point! Given that personal pursuits such as music and art are constantly graded and ranked in school settings, having an impartial voice saying that your efforts are enough, and that your personal improvement is enough, is so essential that it hurts.
What was really cool though, was how all of the life lessons that were woven into the art instruction were brought together at the end. I loved the incorporation of healthy parameters between mentors/ mentees, and especially the moment when David becomes a mentor himself. I does a really wonderful job of speaking to the intelligence, curiosity and emotional capacity of children – and doesn’t pull any punches when some of those adult decisions and responsibilities get uncomfortable.
Finally, lets talk about those little mini lessons and activities at the end of every chapter. not only did they give a guided chance for readers to incorporate the teachings of the chapter, they are vague enough that these activities can be as simple or as complicated as each artist would like. I particularly liked the exercises on reflected light and squinting to create a composition where less is more.
Would I recommend this book? There are not enough affirmatives in my vocabulary for this one! I have already put in an order for my school library, and I am hoping to convince administration that it would be an ideal textbook for our grade 4, 5 and 6 art classes. Whether you’re an adult looking to get into art, or you’re looking for books to feed the imagination of a budding young artist, this is one is a must have.