Book Review: Pencil Magic

Pencil Magic:  Landscape Drawing Techniques, by Phil Metzger

My own pencil drawings [1] are somewhat modest, but I do have an occasional interest in art [2].  Given my own modest artistic talent, what I found most interesting and noteworthy about this book was the fact that it shows an admirable attention to the modest art of sketching.  The art shown here is monochromatic and doesn’t take a long time, and is the sort of art that I could imagine myself doing, not just because of the medium but also because the author focuses on realism and also on the tricks of perspective.  It is fitting that the author had a previous book called Perspective Without Pain, and given the strength of this book, the author’s other books are worth checking out for those who want to create somewhat straightforward art.  The author not only shows drawings but also shows the art of creating the scope for drawings by having a eye to what looks good.  I was reminded of why I struggle to create ideal art, but at least the author can help a reader wrestle with the concerns of realistic art that is not real, but better than real, real tending towards the ideal.

The less than 200 pages of this book include eighteen chapters.  The first part of the book is a bit more than half of the book and contains a bit less than half of the chapters, on tools and materials, basic strokes (like hatching and crosshatching), drawing styles that can help lead to quick drawings, figuring out the relative sizes of different parts of the drawing through measuring, looking at how to draw landscape elements, how to use vanishing points to draw in perspective, how to design a drawing for the best visual impact, and then how to put it together after starting with a subject.  After having given a worthwhile method for drawing, the author then looks at various different drawings like a simple still life, farm buildings, city montage, bare trees, woods and stream, old house, people, animals, open landscape, and a tree close up.  The end result is a short book that gives plenty of ideas for different types of drawings and plenty of techniques for how to make reality into a worthwhile drawing that doesn’t take too much time.  Even if I don’t plan on doing too much drawing in the near future, there are plenty of people I know who would find a great deal of interest in this book.

So, if making drawings with pencils is something you like to do already or something you want to do better, and if you do not mind in the least the sort of discussion that follows lines of Renaissance rules of perspective in order to trick the eye into seeing one’s drawings as matching the rules of acceptable and interesting appearance, then this book would be of value to you as a reader.  This is not only the sort of book one reads, but also the kind that one looks at as a guide to practice.  It is an intensely practical book, and one that does so while being modest about its aims and its achievements.  This is not the sort of book that overawes the reader with difficult and unattainable achievements, but rather one that helps one make beautiful drawings with simple media–various kinds of pencils and paper and simple techniques on how to use the one to make art on the other.  Some people may not be interested in looking at drawings or how it is that an artist conceives of beautiful and creative art, but for those who are, this is an impressive effort.


[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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One Response to Book Review: Pencil Magic

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Rustic Retreats | Edge Induced Cohesion

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