Review by C.J. Bunce

You’ve seen the late-night art school advertisements on TV.  Have you ever tried to draw a picture but never knew where to start?  Or you tried an art textbook but never could get your pen to connect with the paper?  Maybe the last time you tried to draw anything was back in grade school.  If you have the desire, but don’t know how to get there from here, a new book from artist John Bigwood may be able to help.

How to Draw Characters for the Artistically Challenged is not the next art school textbook.  It only has one page of words, so it’s also not really going to realistically be able to teach you how to draw.  It is, however, a book for budding artists to hone their skills and learn to draw character portraits.  It includes more than forty illustrations and drawing prompts to help complete them.  But you really don’t need any skill to give it a try, and you may find it is simpler than you think to create basic cartoon characters.  All the sample works seem to be of a beginner skill set, interspersed with slightly more difficult projects, leading to a prompt to draw an image of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (with or without Gene Simmons from KISS swapping out one of The Beatles).

Each two-page spread includes a 7-inch by 7-inch square page to the left with possible finished designs, plus hand-drawn components of the drawing so you can focus on details of the drawing.  To the right is a mostly blank page with one or more colored splotches of watercolors.  It looks like a Rorschach test.  I tried it and quickly had a Marilyn Monroe-inspired picture to show for my effort followed by three more completed pieces.  These aren’t likely to result in frameable or professionally rendered works, but they do provide the spark to get the pen onto the paper.  And it is fun.

Here are a few sample pages from the book courtesy of publisher Harper Design:

Creator John Bigwood is known for artwork in books like A Million Christmas Cats coloring book, The Toilet Roll Activity Book, How the Koala Learnt to Hug, and the Sherlock Bones series.  His style here is a bit old-school newspaper comic strip, like something you’d find in The New Yorker or the classic humorous art of Rube Goldberg.  Your artwork results may or may not look like his, but the point isn’t to copy his prompts perfectly as much as have a good time doing it.  And maybe pick up or improve on some skill you might already have.

A project book for anyone of any age, How to Draw Characters for the Artistically Challenged by John Bigwood is available now from Harper Design here at Amazon.