Keys to Drawing is a book by Bert Dodson that aims to teach aspiring artists all the fundamental concepts needed to learn how to draw.
Bert Dodson is a children’s illustrator who’s illustrated over 70 children’s books and has worked as an animation designer for the PBS series, Intimate Strangers.
With that many books under his belt Mr. Dodson must’ve picked up a few tricks or two. Or fifty-five.
Let’s take at look at the fifty-five keys introduced in Keys to Drawing and see how they’ll help you become a great artist.
- Format: Digital, Hardcover, Paperback
- Author: Bert Dodson
- Publisher: North Light Books
- Edition: 1st Edition(Reprint)
- Year Published: 1990
- Page Number: 224 pages
- Book Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.5 x 11.0 in
- Languages: English
- ISBN-10: 0891343377
- ISBN-13: 978-0891343370
Learning to “See”
Keys to Drawing assumes that you have little-to-no experience in drawing, or that you’ve at least been out of the game for a while.
That’s why the first thing author Bert Dodson introduces in this book is the concept of “seeing”. That is, seeing objects for what they actually look like instead of what we think of when we think of that object.
For example, a person who doesn’t know how to draw might draw a circle with a stick on the top to represent an orange. That isn’t an orange, that’s a symbol for an orange!
We have a tendency as humans to simplify things and Keys to Drawing takes the time to teach readers how to turn this off when drawing.
The fifty-five “keys” introduced in this book cover everything from restating lines instead of erasing and redrawing to things like shading and negative space.
Author Bert Dodson really gives you all the tools you need to get started on your journey as an artist and everything is paced so you don’t ever get overwhelmed with information.
By the end of the book you’ll feel more confident being able to continue practicing your drawing.
I’ve seen several reviews for this book saying things about the illustrations in this book. Yes, they’re not the best but they’re really there just to serve as visual references for the concepts being talked about.
The author explains things in such a concise manner for beginners that I’m able to give the illustrations a pass.
I’ve seen some instructional books on drawing with great illustrations but confusing or hard-to-understand instructions and I always end up asking myself, “What’s the point?”.
Trust me, you’ll be able to understand every new concept introduced in this book and the illustrations will do nothing but help explain things further.
Just Start Drawing
Keys to Drawing really feels like it knew how I felt when I was just starting out drawing, and that feeling was scared.
While there were exercises in this book, it felt that the emphasis was less on the exercises themselves and more on just sitting down and drawing.
This book smacks you over the head with itself and says “Stop thinking so much! Just do it!”.
And with everything this book teaches you, it doesn’t take much to do just that.
It’s worth noting that at the end of each chapter there’s a section for you to self-critique your work on all the exercises you’ve done for that chapter.
This is a great way to self-critique yourself and Dodson actually touches on self-critiquing early on in the book so you won’t end up unfairly over or under-scoring yourself.
This isn’t a substitute for an actual critique from a trained artist but it helps you start being more honest with yourself when it comes to your drawings.
Keys to Drawing seems to tackle all the insecurities that beginner artists have and knocks them down one by one with sound advice that even the worst artist in the world could understand.
The first thing this book does is teach people to “see” what they’re drawing, not just draw symbols of what they think they’re drawing.
The fifty-five keys introduced in the book give artists all the tools they need to get started drawing without overwhelming them in the process.
The illustrations may not be the best, but Keys to Drawing makes up for this with it’s clear instructions. The illustrations are still a good visual reference when experimenting with the concepts the book introduces.
There is a section at the end of each chapter for self-critiquing the work you’ve done for that chapter. This helps you become more honest when looking at your drawings and seeing what you’ve done wrong and what you’ve got right.
While there are some exercises the book is less lesson-oriented and encourages the reader to stop overthinking things and just draw.
Keys to Drawing is not only a great book for learning the fundamentals of drawing but a great guide on how to get into the mindset of an artist.