The Artist’s Complete Guide to Figure Drawing, by Anthony Ryder


The Artist’s Complete Guide to Figure Drawing: A Contemporary Perspective on the Classical Tradition, by Anthony Ryder. New York: Watson-Guptill, 1999. 160 pp. $24.99 (paperback).

In the Fall 2014 issue of The Objective Standard, I said (and did my best to show) that The Dictionary of Human Form by Ted Seth Jacobs was “one of the greatest books on art instruction ever written.” However, given that the book costs more than $150 and has more than eight hundred pages of detailed instruction, aspiring artists may find the book too daunting as an introductory text. For anyone wanting a less costly and more accessible book on drawing, I recommend The Artist’s Complete Guide to Figure Drawing: A Contemporary Perspective on the Classical Tradition by Anthony Ryder.

To begin with, Ryder is a superb artist. His figure drawings highlight the nobility of the human form and the beautiful subtleties of its structure. They capture with reverence important details such as the light that washes over a figure, and they portray not just a conceptualized figure but a unique and animated individual.

Ryder does not, as some do, wait for inspiration to strike and then work in an impassioned blitz. On the contrary, he produces a figure drawing in “about twelve three hour sessions” and works “at an even tempo,” as if he is “building a piece of furniture, carefully crafting, shaping, and polishing each part” (p. 12). He can do this to great effect because he has a deep understanding of the human form and the action of light, as well as a step-by-step process for translating both onto paper. This is what he shares in The Artist’s Complete Guide to Figure Drawing.

Everything a beginner needs to know is in this book, right down to the natures of different kinds of paper and the effects of different kinds of pencils on them. . . .

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