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Drawing the Head and Figure by Jack Hamm

Drawing the Head and Figure (1963)

by Jack Hamm

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It's been a long while, but I remember being rather unimpressed with this book. I suppose that I feel that way about a lot of self-help drawing books. I think that may have to do with my own development as an artist, which has been through diligence and practice. I also have not enjoyed drawing classes, so this just may not be my thing. ( )
  WildcatJF | Jul 3, 2013 |
A truly brilliant book which offers so much information in how to draw the head and body. Simple instruction with a sense of real achievement as you progress through the book. Definitely recommended for those new to drawing or those returning. ( )
1 vote soliloquies | Sep 9, 2010 |
here is no book I have recommended more on this site. I really believe this is the ultimate book to learn to draw the human figure, completely unsurpassed in clarity and quality of information, not to mention a price that makes it affordable by all. I used several how-to-draw-anatomy books when I was beginning, but it's when I chanced upon this one that the quality of my drawing suddenly leaped and anatomy became relatively easy for me.

The secret is in not telling readers what to do, but explaining how and why body parts fit together the way they do. Hamm doesn't just show, he explains every detail of the human anatomy, empowering the reader to later on draw without aid. The abundant text is merely a support for the even more abundant illustrations, which suggest different ways of thinking of, and constructing, each part of the body. Beginning with the head and the proportions of facial features, we are given detailed pointers to draw the eyes, mouth, ear and nose (male and female), men and women's hair. Foreshortening the head from the side is covered, as are profiles – also male and female. Actually all the material considers both genders and points out the differences between them. Children's heads and elderly faces are brought up briefly (perhaps too briefly, but one is quite able to make do with this plus personal observation). We then move on to the figure, with many different approaches. Arms and legs are examined separately, as well as how they join the torso, but there are also sections on the pelvic region, the back, the neck, shoulders, how bones and muscles show on the surface, how hips and shoulders cooperate... The hands and feet are detailed and there are even a few pages on women's and men's shoes, and clothing folds.

Hamm's style is very "americana" – after all the book was first published in 1963. In no way is this a problem, however. The approach used is quite independent from style – in 10 years of referring to this book my style has never tended to Hamm's. It's one thing that sets the book apart from many drawing books oriented towards, for instance, manga or Marvel-style characters. Anybody can use it and clothe the theory in the style(s) of his/her choice.

There is of course room for nitpicking. The abundance of material makes its organisation less than linear, so Hamm's pearls of wisdom are scattered all over, making it useful to read the book cover to cover a few times to grasp it all (there's a table of contents but no index). The muscles could have taken some elaboration, especially in a figure in action; he does favour static poses or light action, nothing dramatic. Finally the figures and faces are exclusively those of fit, generic Caucasian men and women, something for which Hamm can't really be blamed since that was all commercial illustrators were asked to draw at the time. The material here is still a necessary basis, but artists will need to look elsewhere for multicultural references once they are familiar with generic anatomy.

To reiterate, however: this is an indispensable book for illustrators of all levels.

[Considering a purchase? Please use this URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ISBN=0399507914/thequillandthebrA/ ] ( )
1 vote joumanamedlej | Sep 17, 2007 |
A much underestimated instruction book. As valuable as Loomis' Figure Drawing for All It's Worth. ( )
  arthurfrayn | May 3, 2007 |
A very good primer for figure drawing. Nothing is really as helpful as drawing from life, but this book gives some good tips. ( )
  EvilJohn | Sep 28, 2006 |
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