Welcome to Sketch Round-Up! This will be a place for a couple of artists to trade ideas and share them with anyone who might find that interesting.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Round-up Review: Drawing People by Joumana Medlej

Today I want to talk about another jewel in my art book collection, called Drawing People. I'm sure you've seen a title like this many times before. This time, it's a slender, spiral-bound book (a standard paperback version is also available) with a colorful cover which hints at the contents inside. But don't let the thickness of the book fool you. This is not your typical 'How to Draw' book by a long shot. Sure, it has advice on proportions for face and body, tips on how to draw muscles and many other of the tried-and-true basics most art books have, but it's the overall approach to the process which makes this book stand out from among the rest.

First of all, the author begins with some sage advice on the artistic process itself. She discusses a method for developing drawing skills and how theory and observation work together to create the finished work. The advice is definitely helpful if you want some tips on how to focus your efforts for maximum benefit.

And now, let's take a look at some of her advice on anatomy - like how to draw hands and feet. These rank among the most difficult things to draw for just about any artist, but Joumana makes it easy with a very thorough explanation of the mechanics behind these two intricate parts. She goes into great detail to describe not only how the hand works, but what happens when it does various things, like curling around an object. See the sample below:


Tell me you didn't learn at least one good tip for drawing hands just from reading this. I dare you.

For drawing feet, the details are just as involved. Clenched toes. Padding on the sole of the foot. Feet at various angles. The shape of men's feet as compared to women's. The angles of the toes for different ethnic types. It's all here.

Did you stop to look at your bare foot to see what angle your toes are at? Bet you did. I did...

Then there's a detailed discussion about the flexibility of the body. It's one thing to know that the arm is joined at the shoulder. It's another to understand its range of movement so you don't draw an unnatural pose. Joumana describes how many of the trickier poses work, like a full split or one person trapping another in an arm lock. And if you want to create a pose that's not covered in this section, you will certainly learn enough about the body's flexibility to work it out on your own.

Following this is a section on emotions and expressions. Again, Joumana doesn't disappoint with her discourse on the subject. Her emotional 'color wheel' covers an extensive array of expression, with pointers to how the features are involved.  She also touches upon additional details, such as body gesture and how it relates to facial expression. Armed with this knowledge, you can unify both to create visual impact in an image.

Then the author moves on to aspects like aging and how it affects both face and body. Attention to detail on this level can make or break an image. Your old woman isn't going to look convincing if she's carrying herself like a teenager. There are other aspects you won't find in other books, like drawing babies. There really aren't a lot of books that cover this in depth. Most have something concerning a baby's height compared to a child and an adult but not a whole lot more than that. I personally think that's why you don't see a lot of babies in illustrated works, especially comics. How many times have you seen an infant in a comic book and it just looks like a tiny adult with stubby arms and legs? The information in this section can help change all that in your own work when the subject arises.

Wait, there's still more. The Catalog of Human Features covers body types, head shapes, noses, lips, hair types, hair colors, eye colors, skin tones - everything you need to create a multitude of different looks. Here's a sampling of what's covered in this section:

And last, but not least, the section which really sets this book apart from the rest - Human Types. This section covers a broad range of ethnicity for people from around the world with each entry covering facial details, hair color, eye color and additional insights for each. I think this is what makes the book truly shine. It takes the artist beyond simply changing the color of a figure's hair, skin and eyes to create a different ethnic look.

In conclusion, if you want to draw not just people, but truly diverse people, this is the book for you. Following Joumana's advice is the difference between looking under the hood of a car and saying 'This is the engine, and the wires are here and there' and being told 'This is the fuel injector and it pumps fuel through a small nozzle under high pressure to force the fuel into the airstream.' The first statement will let you identify a car engine. The second will send you on your way to becoming a mechanic, if you're so inclined. 

Do you want to be an art mechanic? Then buy this book. It won't disappoint you. You can find it at Lulu.com. Or, to see more of the amazing Joumana at work, you can visit her site at Cedarseed.