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Hands Down the Best Book for Referencing and Drawing the Human Figure in My Comic Book Work
From beginners to seasoned professionals, comic book artists worldwide have sought out valuable resources to polish their skills and bring their characters to life on the page. One such invaluable tool that has stood the test of time is Jack Hamm’s “Drawing the Head & Figure.” This iconic book has become a staple in my collection of art and reference books being the independent comic book artist that I am. I think it’s an outstanding book that serves as a comprehensive guide to mastering the crucial art of drawing human figures.
With its user-friendly approach and comprehensive content, “Drawing the Head & Figure” provides a solid foundation for aspiring comic book artists. Let’s explore some of the reasons why this book is highly recommended for both beginners and experienced comic book artists alike.
1. Comprehensive and Structured Content
“Drawing the Head & Figure” covers a wide range of topics, ensuring that artists receive a well-rounded education on character illustration. From understanding the basic proportions and anatomy of the head to capturing unique facial expressions and body language, the book offers a step-by-step approach to help artists build their skills progressively. With clear explanations and detailed illustrations, Hamm breaks down complex concepts into easily digestible parts.
From my personal experience, I can’t overemphasize how concise and extremely useful the information contained in this book is. Especially when you’re in the throes of drawing. Whenever I have been drawing (especially from imagination) and I need a quick look at something, say like the collarbone area in perspective, it’s so easy to find it in this book to help me in my drawing. Or at least get me pointed in the right direction to assist me in my drawing.
From the shape of lips, male and female heads drawn in ¾ view or other extreme perspectives, this book is a treasure-trove of such information. The fact that it’s also a lightweight paperback book makes it very flexible when flipping through pages and having to handle it while drawing either digitally or traditionally.
2. Analyzing and Understanding Facial Features
One of the key strengths of “Drawing the Head & Figure” is Hamm’s ability to teach artists how to observe and analyze facial features. By studying the basic structure of the head, including the placement of eyes, nose, mouth, and ears, artists gain a deeper understanding of the human face. This knowledge allows them to create accurate and expressive characters that resonate with readers.
There are so many areas of detail to consider when drawing the human head. Especially when it comes to perspective or different angles. For example, the book itself has a great section that details the different shapes of the forehead and nose shapes in the male head drawn from the side.
There are fantastic, simple drawings of what an ear looks like when drawn from behind. And even how hair is drawn, both in men and women. From ways of drawing dark hair to light hair, Hamm really simplifies things so you can understand and get on with drawing!
3. Mastering the Human Body
Drawing dynamic and realistic figures is an essential skill for any comic book artist. Jack Hamm’s book provides in-depth guidance on human proportions, skeleton structure, and muscle groups. By learning the foundations of body construction and movement, artists can create believable and visually captivating characters. The book also addresses foreshortening and perspective, helping artists depict characters in action and various poses convincingly. This book has proved to be helpful in helping me with my own figure drawing.
As I mentioned before, this book jam-packs a lot of information on every page. For example, there is one really insightful section about how to draw hips. But even more important, you really learn and see how the hips affect the upper and lower torso.
Many artists often say “I hate drawing hands!” Personally, because of Jack Hamm, I actually LOVE drawing hands. I find they are some of the more expressive body parts on the human figure. Another great section in this book giving plenty of detailed yet simplified explanations along with illustrations on understanding and drawing hands. The same thing goes for drawing feet. This book will show you that drawing feet can be just as awesome as drawing hands.
4. Unlocking Creative Expression
The book not only focuses on technical skills but also explores ways to infuse personality and uniqueness into each character. Hamm demonstrates how different facial expressions, body language, and clothing choices can communicate emotions, traits, and storytelling elements effectively. By emphasizing the importance of character development, Hamm encourages artists to go beyond imitation, enabling them to artistically express their own creative voice.
There is a section on drawing clothing on both the female and male forms which really helps us comic book artists. As much as we comic book artists enjoy drawing essentially nude, body painted superheroes and the like, there comes a time when figures need to get clothed.
There is also a section of the book talking about folds in clothing which will help artists who struggle with drawing the clothed figure. It is a relatively few pages within the book that covers drawing clothes, but again, there is so much information packed on each page that you will be enlightened and learn some great information.
As a comic book artist who also draws from imagination, I find this book helps me tighten up those areas of my anatomy drawing. This helps my figure drawing with accuracy to further create the illusion of a suspension of belief, creating more believable characters and sequences in my art.
5. A Timeless Resource
“Drawing the Head & Figure” has withstood the test of time due to its timeless techniques and lessons. Though originally published in 1963, the book’s core principles remain relevant today. The comprehensive nature of the content ensures that artists can refer back to it as they progress in their careers, making it a valuable resource throughout their artistic journey.
Jack Hamm’s “Drawing the Head & Figure” is a must-have book for comic book artists of all levels. Whether you’re just starting or honing your skills, this comprehensive guide offers a treasure trove of knowledge and insights. By mastering the art of drawing the human figure, you’ll be equipped to create captivating characters that bring your comic book narratives to new heights.
Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.