When “Expressive Drawing” came out in 2009 I didn’t think much of it. It didn’t speak to me for some reason. I was hesitant to purchase it but eventually I did, a good number of years later. Now that I read it I wish I had purchased it immediately upon release. It’s that good. It immediately became one of the essentials in my library and there is not a whole lot of books that made it there.
The book is so basic and so simple in its concept that it may easily get overlooked. Despite its title, “Expressive Drawing” goes far beyond drawing and it goes far beyond the usual lessons on expression. Expression is not something you learn as much through definitions but rather something you acquire through work. The book almost overlooks skill as a basic requirement for making art and so literally everyone can experience the process of making art, going their own way, at their own pace to their own destination, making expressive drawings in their own “style”.
The book teaches the most essential principles of art. It teaches one to design. It teaches one to work with the elements of art. It teaches one to listen to their own self when working. It teaches how to do strong work. It teaches how to do the most personal and unique work. It teaches one to think like an artist. And it doesn’t force on the reader any definitions, rules and diagrams. It does the exact opposite. It brings you in and puts you right up to the paper with a brush in your hand. This completely hands-on approach makes the learning much more effective and fun.
It’s worth mentioning that this is not a book on drawing technique that deals with the technical aspects of drawing such as proportions and likeness, eye-hand coordination, etc. as is elementary in representational drawing. No, ‘Expressive Drawing’ (finally!) takes you a far different route as it focuses on the bigger picture – the concept. It takes you in deep, to the roots of drawing, to the roots of visual art and helps you understand and exercise these raw qualities. From this aspect the book may be a bit scary for beginning artists who like to work entirely on the representational side of things and fear to reach into the darkness. The book accesses what art is all about through abstract handling of the elements of art, teaches you to feel your way, to listen to yourself and base your creative actions on the impulses inherent to your own personality.
The exercises are intuitive and fun. Liberating and free. Easy and rewarding. They reveal as much about yourself as they do about your drawing. Isn’t that what expression in art is? And so I consider this to be one of the best books on drawing I’ve read. Is this also one of the best books on art-making that I’ve read in general? Quite possibly. Be it as it may, this is definitely one of very few books on art I’ve read that makes absolute sense and teaches what others neglect, withhold or simply omit. Pick it up, read it, work with it, enjoy it and let me know how you liked it.