Thankfully, there was some instruction that did work for me.
1. Andrew Loomis:
|Andrew Loomis's "Successful Drawing."|
|Andrew Loomis's "Creative Illustration."|
|Andrew Loomis's "Figure Drawing for All It's Worth."|
|Andrew Loomis's "Fun with a Pencil."|
|Andrew Loomis's "Drawing the Head and Hands."|
Loomis's methods are either completely clear or they take a little bit of figuring out but they're never muddy or impossible. Even when I struggle to understand the reason for all of the lines in a diagram (see this post about Loomis's perspective instruction), it can be figured out. And when you figure out what Loomis meant, you've gained knowledge and skill. I have five of Loomis's books and I've read through all of them and learned important lessons from them all. Time spent with Loomis is value added to your drawing knowledge and skill.
The last time I checked, all of Loomis's books were available free online as pdfs. This was important because Loomis's family objected to reprinting the books due to the nudity (yeah, can you imagine!) That, however, may have recently changed and some or all of the books may now be available for purchase. I urge you to investigate this and add Loomis to your drawing instruction library.
2. Burne Hogarth:
|Burne Hogarth's "Dynamic Anatomy."|
|Burne Hogarth's "Dynamic Figure Drawing."|
|Burne Hogarth's "Dynamic Hands."|
|Burne Hogarth's "Drawing the Human Head."|
|Burne Hogarth's "Dynamic Light and Shade."|
In addition to Loomis, most of my understanding of how to draw the human head was learned from Burne Hogarth. Like Loomis, I have five Hogarth books in my collection; there was a sixth (Dynamic Wrinkles and Drapery) but I found it surprisingly unhelpful and convoluted that I got rid of it. Admittedly, I don't find the Light and Shade book helpful either and I may not keep it much longer.
Having said that, I've found the remaining four Hogarth books helpful. The common criticism of Hogarth is that his drawings show all of the muscles contracting at the same time thereby giving a distorted view of the figure. I understand that criticism but from a novice's learning perspective, seeing all of the muscles bulging can help in understanding their locations and functions, like looking at a bodybuilding magazine. In addition to his drawings and diagrams was his useful textual instruction. Hogarth explained things clearly and was essential to helping me learn the various bodily proportions.
If you want to explore Hogarth, consider the head, anatomy and figure drawing books in particular.
3. Glenn Vilppu:
Glenn Vilppu is essential for the beginner. He starts you "easy" with drawing basic forms—spheres, cubes and cylinders. I initially thought those lessons were too rudimentary and I didn't give them the proper attention. I was SO wrong! I learned that EVERYTHING we draw is essentially a sphere, cube, cylinder, cone or a combination of those forms. EVERYTHING. If you can draw those forms, you can literally draw anything.
Vilppu's drawing manual also starts with gesture drawing and explains why it's an essential skill. All of the lessons are clearly explained and accompanied with beautiful examples of his own work.
Do yourself a favor a get a copy of Vilppu's drawing manual. If you follow his instruction, you'll see an improvement in your work in a few weeks.
4. Famous Artists Course:
I pity the fool who dismisses the Famous Artists Course lessons as "old-fashioned." Drawing principles NEVER go out of style!
I discovered the FAC accidentally during a frenzied period of downloading any and every drawing instruction source I could find online. The Famous Artists School was (and is again) a correspondence course created in 1948 by a group of famous artists including Al Dorne and Norman Rockwell. The course is 24 lessons (the cartooning course is 12), designed so that you complete one lesson per week including the assignments. I got very lucky with these courses because I was able to download, for free, both the illustration and the cartooning courses in their entirety. They overlap slightly and both are jam-packed with clearly-explained, useful instruction.
It was through this course that I learned that there are standard types of folds, that they have names and occur under particular circumstances. None of that was in the Hogarth drapery book which is probably why I got rid of it. That's just one of too-many-to-name lessons in these courses.
Again, it's possible that the free downloads of these courses have been wiped from the internet because the school has become active again. But if you have a few hundred dollars and are dedicated to taking your drawing to the next level, I recommend investing in one or several of these courses. Keep in mind that I'm referring to the classic, 1950's course that was taught by some of the greatest illustrators of the day. If there's a modern course, I'd suggest reviewing it and researching the instructors before purchasing to ensure that you're getting the best quality.
5. Stan Prokopenko: Last but not by any means least…
A few years ago I was struggling to draw the head at different angles. I Googled "drawing head at angles" and the first link to come up was to Proko's (now old) site. What I discovered was THE clearest, most concise, most helpful explanation on how to draw the head at any angle THAT I HAVE EVER SEEN! EVER! THEN OR NOW! Thus began my platonic, drawing-fueled love affair with Proko.
Proko is not only an exceptional fine artist, he's a born instructor. After sampling all of his free instructional videos (which include generous amounts of humor!), I decided to pay for his figure drawing fundamentals course. It wasn't expensive and the investment paid off hugely. Every week Proko provided both standard and premium content that stepped the student from gesture to shading. Included were critiques and photo reference. Proko has the ability to distill each lesson down to the essentials in an accessible way.
So of course when Proko offered an anatomy course, I jumped on it! I was still struggling to get even the most basic handle on anatomy and I felt that if anyone could help me have a breakthrough, it'd be Proko. This course moves slower than the previous—the lessons aren't on a strict weekly schedule—but that seems necessary for the complexity of the subject and of the assignments. Now I don't feel so badly about not grasping anatomy after all of these years; it really isn't easy. I haven't been following the course as faithfully as the last since I'm working on improving other skills. But I download the lesson materials as soon as they're available and follow the activity on the Facebook group. Once the course is final, I'll dedicate time to it. From what I've seen of it so far, the modest investment I made is well worth it.
If you're struggling with ANY aspect of human figure drawing, do yourself a favor and go to Proko's site. Watch his videos and consider purchasing a course. I KNOW he'll help you draw better!
These five sources of drawing instruction, combined with daily practice (THE essential ingredient to improvement), are the reason I'm seeing an improvement in my drawing for the first time IN MY LIFE! I've been struggling FOR YEARS to gain basic skills and move to the next level. Only in the last two years have I genuinely improved and I have the instruction described above to thank for that improvement.