Book review: How to Draw by Scott Robertson and Thomas Bertling

The Year of Education

Module 1: Perspective

Book review: How to
Draw by Scott Robertson and Thomas Bertling

Last week I informed
you that I am currently working through a year of intense study that I am
calling The Year of Education. I am self-teaching the fundamentals through a
selection of books, and upon completion I will explain my process and review
each book for you. I hope that this will help you to take the next step in your
artistic journey.

About the book

The first in my art
education series is Scott Robertson and Thomas Bertlings How to Draw. At first
glance that title suggests that this is a book for those who have never drawn
before, and although it does begin with some very basic drawing techniques,
this book quickly advances into complicated perspective skills used in the
creation of vehicles, buildings and environments, focusing on the ability to
create these objects and scenes entirely from your imagination. Because of this
I would recommend this book to any skill level of artist, however the earlier
in your studies that you are the more you may find yourself struggling.

The 211 pages of this
book feature extensive, detailed, step-by-step instruction on how to level up
your techniques. It begins by outlining basic drawing materials and skills such
as how to free-hand an ellipse, draw perfectly straight lines without a ruler,
and understanding the basics of X-Y-Z coordinate systems. From there it
describes the intricacies of Perspective terminology and techniques and grids,
before finally explaining exactly how to use these techniques to create your
own vehicles and landscapes. There is a focus on man-made objects, particularly
robotic structures such as planes and cars, and the techniques in this book
lend themselves easily to these subjects. Each section builds on the past one,
so it is encouraged that you spend your time ensuring that you have mastered a
section before moving on. Due to this attention to detail I think some people
will need to dedicate more time than they would initially expect to each task.

The narrative voice is
informative, kind and down to earth, which really helps to encourage the reader
to stick with each task, rather than be overwhelmed with unnecessary technical
jargon. Additionally, there are small, red play buttons on some of the tasks to
indicate that you can view a recording of Scott Robertson performing that task
on his website. I found this incredibly helpful on some of the later tasks, as
it helped me to really understand what lines or points the writer was indicating

Approaching a task

Many people have their
own ways of studying from books, but here is an example of me tackling one of
How to Draw’s tasks:

Firstly, I would read
through the instructions, taking clear notes in my sketchbook. By translating
the written words into my own narrative voice I found that I could ensure that
I truly understood what the writer was explaining. These notes are just for me,
so I would only make shorthand notes for things I found easier, but would
create longer explanations using similes to help me understand more complicated
concepts. Once I had read through the entire instruction I would begin again,
this time fulfilling said instructions. I would carefully, and slowly, match
every word written out in the book, and if I felt that what I had made didn’t
match the book I would simply repeat the task until it did (often reviewing the
videos to help me). It also helped to look online at other artists completing
tasks from the book, that way I could compare with my own progress.

My favourite sections
of the book

Some of the most
useful techniques for me from the book were: the descriptions of how different
camera lenses effect the perspective and distortions of a scene, the basic
mirroring, multiplying and dividing techniques, and how to create your own,
accurate, perspective grids by hand. I think many people may look at some of
these tasks and find them redundant, claiming that they could simply recreate
the process 10X quicker in a digital program, however manually creating these
distortion and perspective effects has taught me so much about how and when to
use them to create interesting, believable imagery. This will allow me to use
faster digital techniques correctly, rather than through uninformed trial and

The book’s effect on

Before starting this
book I would always say that I was uncomfortable creating machines and other
man made subjects. This was most evident in my avoidance of drawing cars and
other vehicles, despite my love for them. Since completing the book I am significantly
more confident with the idea, and now find myself drawing little cars for fun.
Here are some of the cars that I have drawn since completing the book. Please excuse how messy and sketchy they are, I was simply practicing the techniques, but I hope to make some cleanly rendered examples soon.

In Summary…

Would I recommend this

Yes, definitely.

Who would I recommend
this book to?

Anyone who has a lack
of confidence in drawing vehicles or understanding various concepts in
perspective drawing. I would most likely recommend it to an intermediate artist
looking to level up their skill set. A younger artist would definitely benefit
from it, but may find they get de-motivated in the earlier tasks, skip to the
vehicle section and then struggle. It is very important that you complete each
step in its intended order.

Do I think it improved
my skills, and if so by how much?

Absolutely, and
greatly. I have a new found confidence in drawing vehicles, which I have
never had before, and hope to incorporate this skill set into my future works.

Would I purchase a
book from this author again?

Yes, I really enjoyed
the down to earth instructions, and the layout was very clear. I believe the
next book in the series is How to Render which explains the fundamentals of
light, shadow and reflectivity, with a focus on vehicles. I’m sure it would
make a great companion book to this one.

Here’s a link to the Amazon page for How to Draw.

The Year of Education

Hello everyone <3

I have decided to restart my blog so that you can all follow along with my education and artistic journey. For anyone studying art, or who wants to push their art further I really recommend you read some of this as many of what I am studying right now is what I recommend to young artists who talk to me at conventions.

A little backstory

2016 was a hard year, both world wide and personally, and I found myself in a place of uncertainty at the end of the year. However, as you all know, I am not one to buckle under pressure. Often it is the times where I am beaten to the ground, that the greatest opportunities will present themselves. I have worked every day since 2010 building my art and business up to where it is today, and so I have a strong platform beneath me to propel me into future endeavours.

In 2016 I completed my manga graphic novel series, The Chronicles of Gyzra. I started that project around the age of 13, and it would take 10 years before I could see the trilogy stand completed on a shelf. The experience of completing TCoG is something I will cherish for the rest of my life, and I am so honoured to have travelled on that journey with all of you. But having had some time to reflect on the project has left me with a gap in my life, a craving for a new dream or, perhaps, an old dream.

Whenever I am not drawing there is only one thing that I am doing: gaming. I love video games, they are an integral part of my soul, and all my life I have pined at the idea of working in the games industry. At some point in my teenage years I decided I would never be good enough, but I have decided that I was wrong. I am going to work in the games industry, and more than that, I am going to become a concept artist. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, “but concept art is the most competitive part of the industry, and the job you ned the widest range of skills to be even looked at!?” Yes, I am aware that I have chosen a hard path, but if there is one thing I have learned from completing my graphic novel series it is that if I am determined enough, and committed enough to do something, I will succeed. 

What is the year of education?

So I have designated 2017 as being my “Year of Education”. It is the year that I will focus the majority of my time on studying my art and honing my craft, with the aim of entering the games industry in the next couple of years.

After evaluating my work I have decided that there are two main areas I wish to focus on: The Fundamentals of Art, and digital painting techniques. Because of this I have a two pronged approach to my studies. The first is that I have enrolled in The Oatley Academy’s Magic Box Program, which focuses on teaching digital painting techniques inspired by classical art techniques used by artists like Rembrandt, Sargent, Monet and The Hudson River Painters. The second is my own personal curriculum that I have designed based on my own knowledge of the fundamentals and recommended books.

The fundamentals of art

For those who don’t know, the fundamentals of art are the fundamental, basic building blocks of techniques that an artist must study, regardless of their future disciplines. By studying these techniques they build an incredibly skilled baseline to then adapt and evolve into their own style. Some teachers define the fundamentals differently but I class them under the following titles:

Proportion and Placement: The ability to draw something in the right proportion and in the right place.

Form and Construction: The ability to break something down into its basic shapes or start from shapes and build up.

Perspective: The ability to move something freely in 3D space

Anatomy: To have a high understanding of human and animal anatomy. This covers bone structure, muscles and skin movement.

Gesture: The ability to bring life into your characters through the use of subtle and dynamic movements and exaggerations.

Composition: The ability to place objects in a scene in an interesting and dynamic way.

Values: The understanding of relative light and darkness of a colour. The ability to define form and separate objects in space.

Colour Theory: To Understand the visual effects of different colour combinations and use them effectively.

Light and Shadow: The ability to control a light source and understand how it will effect the scene and subjects.

Many of the fundamentals tie into each other, and so I have made the following curriculum for study. Feel free to use it for your own studies.

My curriculum

Module 1: Proportion, Placement and Perspective. Reading material: Charles Bargue Drawing Course, Scott Robertson’s How to Draw, John Rayne’s The Complete Guide to Perspective.

Module 2: Anatomy and Gesture. Read Winslow’s Classic Human Anatomy. Draw from life where possible and complete timed gesture drawings using sites such as line-of-action and quickposes.

Module 3: Value and Colour Theory. Reading material: James Gurney’s Color and Light, Richard Schmidt’s Alla Prima. Study techniques: charcoal/pencil still life drawings, black and white photo studies, greyscale portraits.

Module 4: Invention and Character Design. Read 3D Total’s The beginner’s Guide to Digital Painting: Characters, Master of Anatomy’s Character Design Masterclass and watch Cubebrush’s Guide to becoming a concept artist.

I will also be doing master studies throughout. This is certainly not an exhaustive collection of books or studies, one could spend a lifetime studying the fundamentals, but it is my sort of “masterclass” course in pushing my techniques far further than they are now. 

Using techniques from The Oatley Academy’s Magic Box program to paint this portrait.

A 3 point perspective study of a cathedral roof.

A 3 point study of a bridge over water.

3 mini master studies of various artists.

It’s already working!

I started these studies in January and have seen amazing improvements in my work already. I will go into more detail on the first module in my next post, but for now please check out my instagram to see a lot of my studies so far. I scattered a few of them throughout this post so if you want to see more of those, please go check them out.

If you have any questions, would like some advice, or there is something you would like me to explain in more detail in a future post please let me know on any social media or my email. Thank you for reading. <3 Instagram @Gyzra Twitter @Gyzra

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