‘Zen of Drawing’ Book Review

My local library service holds a fantastic collection of art and craft books, and I’m often borrowing them in the hope of finding a nugget of new advice to help improve my skills and creative confidence. You’ll often find me browsing art and craft books in charity shops, and bargain book shops, too for the same reason.

So, rather than keep this all to myself, today I’m launching my new feature: ‘Blunt’ Reviews. Every few weeks I’ll write a review of a book, online course or instruction that I’ve sought out to guide me along in some way, and share my own, impartial opinion. We’ll kick off with a book I have just borrowed from my local library…

Peter Parr, Zen of Drawing: Drawing What You See (Batsford, 2015)


The Basic Premise

The following statement was taken from the back cover:

“Peter advocates a fresh way of looking closely at your subject and enlisting an emotional response, in order to fully appreciate the nature of what you’re about to draw.”

My ‘Blunt’ Review

I was quite excited by this book when I saw the cover image and strapline. I was looking for a new approach to drawing, and this book seemed to offer that. In this book, Peter Parr shares his “stimulating new approach to drawing”. He invites us to…

“try to experience the sensual lines and textures of my drawings and then imagine how I ‘felt’ the marks physically and mentally as I drew them”

… and there are many examples of his work within this book to illustrate his technique.

Following a brief introduction, the book is divided into eight chapters.  I particularly liked Chapter Four – Tools, as he demonstrates the potential of an extensive range of media or “tools of the trade” with his own drawings, rather than including photos of the materials themselves.  Some more unusual media mentioned are chinagraph pencils, oil pastels, and an iPad.

Many of his drawings are finished artworks rather than quick sketches, and he is obviously comfortable with a wide range of media (and advocates carrying a large selection with you when you go out to draw), and this put me off. I’m not a beginner, and I know that taking time to ‘understand’ a view before you try to draw it will achieve a better result, having practised life-drawing at college. Yet, I often rush into a drawing without much thought, working quickly in the false belief that my energetic technique will somehow result in an exciting drawing.

Even with my experience, I would have liked a couple of examples comparing Peter’s emotional approach with a less meditative one so I could appreciate the difference. I would have also enjoyed a couple of practical exercises, such as a still life and a landscape, which talked you through how to apply Peter’s technique to your own work. But this book feels more like an artist monograph than a guiding hand.

Perhaps this book would suit someone who is looking for inspiration to broaden their own mark-making practise, but it wasn’t for me. So, I’m sorry but I won’t be borrowing this one again.

I’d love to know what you thought of this book; please leave me a comment below.

The post ‘Zen of Drawing’ Book Review first appeared on Filbert & Smudge.


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