Reading an art guide front to back is an arduous task. Not that it’s boring or something I’d rather avoid, but because every bit of information sparks an idea to draw or paint and I must strain against my impulse to commit to my reading time. My experience with Foundations of Drawing by Al Gury is no exception. If I wasn’t aching to try out a style or tool mentioned in the text, I was inspired by one of the many illustrations inside.

Foundations of Drawing: A practical guide to art history, tools, techniques, and styles is exactly what the title suggests. Al Gury provides us with a brief overview of each of these items in the subtitle in a concise an organized way. History lessons are the bane of my existence, and I was relieved to find the art history chapter to be fluid and to the point, although still dull. The artwork that’s shown alongside the text helped keep my interest thankfully. This section could have been better written, considering how fun it was to read the art styles section. Learning how culture and style influenced each other and tied together overtime is much more engaging than a recollection of “this happened then that happened”.

Art materials are a riveting subject, and Gury certainly did the subject justice. Not only does he talk about each medium on their own, but the mixed media possibilities. I was particularly drawn to the overviews of sanguine, graphite, silverpoint, and paper. Especially paper. There are 6 whole pages (not counting the drawing on page 76) devoted to paper, and now with many pen marks underlining information I found useful. It’s arguably the most important section in the Essential Drawing Materials chapter, between paper being the basis of traditional drawing and the information provided along with it like what paper is best for what medium. Why use acid free paper, what does the paper’s weight have to do with anything, how is it made, what’s the difference between laid and woven paper?

This portion Foundations of Drawings represents Al Gury’s strength and focus in writing it: answering questions you may or may not have, and making common and/or mundane things into something special – to be respected and treated with care. He provides us with knowledge to aid us on our artistic journeys whether we have been drawing all our lives or just picked up a pencil and drew a crappy house with the sun in the corner yesterday. It’s because of how fluid and eye opening this book is that made me take forever to read it; because every page made me want to draw something new, try something different! Even the chapter called Demonstrations that I found quite lacking inspired me to go out and create.

Speaking of Demonstrations; I expected more from the chapter than what I got. There’s no issue with the tutorials described. Anyone can follow along with them, and provide tasks that will improve your work no matter your skill level. Anyone who has taken a basic art class has done the exercises described, and the chapter is an excellent reminder to keep at ‘em when you want to up your art game.

However, the passage introduction the chapter promised that “All of the essential concepts, methods, materials, aesthetics, and history described in earlier sections of Foundations of Drawing bear fruit in this chapter.” The description would be far more fitting for a book just about drawing tutorials instead of 50 pages with illustrations. What’s actually covered in Demonstrations includes additional history information and techniques. This strategy is the downfall of the section because it leaves less room for teaching someone how to draw.

Overall, even with my complaint about the Demonstrations chapter, I found this book to be just as essential as the title suggests. It’s suitable for analytical and intuitive creatives, beginners and experienced artists alike because of its simplicity and allowance for freedom. One learns by doing, not by reading hundreds of pages of tutorial after tutorial. Foundations of Drawing provides the tools to create your own path towards being a better artist, and as a self-taught hobbyist, that’s all I could ever ask for.

**I received this book from Blogging for Books for my honest review.

Read more about Foundations of Drawing: A practical guide to art history, tools, techniques, and styles here

Read a brief bio about Al Gury here and ­find out more on his website here