The Art of Ryan Francis

The art website of Ryan Francis

Ryan’s Recommended Book List for Learning the Basics of Art


Many of you are debating whether or not you’d need to go to art school to learn how to make art and my short personal answer is No.

Sure, it will be easier to have a teacher show you the ropes and speak with you about your work in person, with all the many resources available on the internet, from video tutorials, articles, blog posts, and books, it’s extremely easier to acquire art knowledge provided you are willing to put in the time and learn.

As I’ve been asked a few times about my art education, I want to do my part in helping people out on their art journey, so I made a list of books that I own or have read a bunch to help anyone else out.
Some of these books are books I studied in college to learn how to draw. Many are books I’ve picked up from my local library to preview and buy.

Good Books for Drawing in General and Learning Core Fundamentals

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards – If you have never ever drawn before in your life, this book will help you learn how to not only start but enjoy putting marks on the page.

Fun With A Pencil by Andrew Loomis – This book is great book for beginners as it can help you figure out what kind of things you like to draw. It’s also a genuinely funny book.


Keys to Drawing by Bert Dodson – This book is a great intro on how to simply put lines on the page. I actually gave away my copy to a friend so he could learn drawing so I don’t have a picture with me.

Picture This – How Pictures Work by Molly Bang – This book will demonstrate the basics of composition. Composition can truly make or break your artwork, possibly more than good anatomy or perspective.

Perspective Made Easy by Ernest R Norling – The biggest thing to learn if you want be be an artist whether professional or not is how to draw in perspective. This book will help you learn how to draw with a sense of 3D depth and space.

The Figure by Walt Reed – This book is great for learning the general structure and key points of the human body. As an artist and not a medical illustrator, you have a bit more freedom to fudge the details a bit. But this book is the best and highlighting specific landmarks of the human figure that will keep up the suspension of disbelief.

Drawing Scenery: Landscape and Seascapes by Jack Hamm – After you get a better grasp on perspective, this book with help you understand how to start creating outdoor scenery. This book isn’t a good alternative to actually going outside and drawing what you see, but it can help reduce the indecision of where to start drawing in a landscape.

The Art of Animal Drawing by Ken Hultgren – This book is a great start in helping you learn how to draw animals it even touches a bit on how to do caricatures and anthropomorphic work. I believe once you get a grasp on this you are well on your way to drawing a mass majority of mammals.

Atlas of Human Anatomy for the Artist by Stephen Rogers Peck – This book is possibly the best guide book outside of actual medical illustration books to show you anatomy in better detail. It goes more into skeletons and musculature so you can draw your bodies as well as you can.

Dynamic Wrinkles and Drapery by Burne Hogarth – You can’t really go around with naked characters now can you?

How to Render by Scott Robertson – This a good book to get yourself learning how to not only draw objects but think about how to draw objects reacting to light and shadow thus giving them form.

Imaginative Realism by James Gurney – This book is the best book about how to use references. You aren’t copying them, but getting inspiration and utilizing the world around you to create new images is easier than imagining from your head!

Color and Light by James Gurney – Just like How to Render, this book will show you things about light and color, unlike Robertson’s book in my opinion, this book is a bit harder to get into since this is more about theory than technique. You will absolutely learn more about colors, values, color palettes, and color relations though.

For Learning about Making Comics

How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way by Stan Lee and John Buscema – A great start to learning about comics, there are a few out-dated things but the core of making comics is still there to help you get started.

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud – This book is  great introduction to how comic books and sequential art works.

Framed Ink by Marcos Mateu-Mestre – A Great book on storyboarding and storytelling with pictures

Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative by Will Eisner – More about doing comics and stretching comics to it’s limits

Pen and Ink Drawing: A Simple Guide by Alphonse Dunn – Along with his videos on youtube, Alphonso Dunn is a great person to learn how to render in pen and ink.

Art of Comic Book Inking by Gary Martin – Learning to ink can be intimidating and there are billions of ways to do it as long as you are clear in your artwork. This book is a decent start in showing some ink techniques.

The DC Comics Guide to Inking Comics by Klaus Janson – This book is another of the many techniques to learn how to make comics in pen and ink.

For Learning How to Make Animation

Drawn to Life Vol 1 and 2 by Walt Stanchfield – This book actually takes you back to life drawing techniques to give you a better understanding of strong gestural drawings and exaggerating poses. These techniques will be helpful for getting into the flow of drawing quickly, simply, and importantly, consistently. These techniques aren’t only good for 2D animation, they are also great for 3D animators who want to plan out their key poses before fiddling about with their rigs.

The Animators Survival Guide by Richard Williams – This book contains the core fundamentals of animation in general! If you learn all of this book, and you’ll have learned 80% of animation knowledge.

Timing for Animation by John Halas and Harold Whitaker Timing is possibly the hardest thing the learn in animation and it’s also the most abstract concept to wrap you head around until you actively practice animation. This book will help deal with the guess work and elaborate upon it a little more than Animators Survival Guide.

Other Books for Advanced Things

Graphic Artists Guild Pricing and Ethical Guidelines – If you want to do art professionally and get paid actual money for it, BUY, READ, AND MEMORIZE THIS BOOK! Acquire this book however you can, but READ this book as early in your career as possible so you won’t be a starving artist at the beginning. Making art is great and fun, but it takes time. If you are going to be making artwork for other people, that will take up time you could be using to work on stuff you want to be doing or studying to get better. That lost time should be worth it to you. Time is money and you will never have enough of it as a budding pro.

Fashion: The Definitive History of Costume and Style by DK– A nice, large,book of the history of fashion. Inside are a whole bunch of pictures of clothing and fashion group different eras. This is a great start for a reference book for character costuming.

The Urban Sketcher by Marc Taro Holmes– This is a book for learning how to get better at seeing your environment and drawing things that you see in that environment.

Drawing Dynamic Hands by Burne Hogarth – Hands are second most expressive part of a human and a lot of people claim that they have the hardest time drawing hands, but hands are quite an important aspect of figures so it’s best that you master them. This book is the best start to betting better at drawing hands as it help break down how hands should flow and the major aspects of what people subconsciously look for when seeing hands.

Dynamic Light and Shade by Burne Hogarth – Lighting and Value are quite a big thing and the chief wayto give your art depth and dimension. This is a good book next to How to Render, for learning about how to light your figures better.

Author: mastafran42

I'm a freelance cartoonist who has been going at it for several years at this point. I mostly draw cartoons, and comics, so if you need something funny, cool, or expertly done art, I have what you need. If you have any questions, job offers, comments, concerns, complains, or simply wish to say hi, message me!

5 thoughts on “Ryan’s Recommended Book List for Learning the Basics of Art

  1. Thanks for all the great book suggestions. I’m currently working my way through Norling’s “Perspective Made Easy”. Alas! Even with his excellent advice, it’s never going to be easy for me LOL. I will say, though, that the book has been immensely helpful. I have learned a lot.


  2. It will be easier for you as drawing perspective more often and apply it to your own artwork Judith. This stuff takes a while and that’s okay.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m doing a lot better with drawing buildings now — yet painting them (oil painting) is still quite challenging. It’s going to take a lot of patience and practice.


  4. A solid tip I was given is to use artists tape as a sort of “ruler” to paint on top of. When you paint your building and remove the tape, it’ll give you a good edge to your buildings with little struggle. You’d probably need to do this in the very begining of the painting or spend time making sure everything dries first before you applied tape.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, thank you! I’ve never heard of doing this before. 🙂 I’ve actually used a rule now and then in practicing, and that has helped. I think the artist tape would be much better. I do appreciate the tip!

    Liked by 1 person

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