Art Instruction Roundup 08.11

Looking to learn the finer points of drawing shoujo characters or cute n’ cuddly animals? Christopher Hart offers up a pair of instructional manuals to help your cause.


Manga for the Beginner: Shoujo (Watson-Guptill)
192 pgs., color; $21.99
(W / A: Christopher Hart)
Cartoon Cute Animals: How to Draw the Most Irresistible Creatures on the Planet (Watson-Guptill)
160 pgs., color; $21.99
(W / A: Christopher Hart)
If book sales are any indication, Christopher Hart must be one of the most famous art teachers in the world. By his own account, his books have been translated into over 20 languages and have sold over 3 million copies worldwide. You might say he’s the Mel Bay of the cartooning world and that’s a high compliment: you always know what you’ll be getting with a Chris Hart book, whether you want to learn to draw goofy animals or big-eyed shoujo characters, and his step-by-step method makes it possible for anyone to learn the basics of the style covered in the volume. They’re also totally kid-safe, which no doubt helps sales to schools and parents: even Hart’s dragons and goth girls are more cute than threatening. Of course his particular style doesn’t suit everyone, but given his consistency, it’s pretty easy to determine whether one of his books will answer your needs or not. Even if you don’t have aspirations as an artist, if you are interested in how drawing works it’s worth taking a look at a few of Hart’s books because they are so good at demonstrating, in the most concrete manner, how subtle changes in the marks on the page (which is what drawing really comes down to, right?) can translate into huge changes in perceived character, mood and action.
Manga for the Beginner: Shoujo is a solid entry from Hart. It begins with a discussion of the conventions for drawing the face in different manga styles, followed by examples including hair, eyes, hats, and expressions. Later chapters take up female bodies in motion, male and female types (cat girl, magic girl, etc.), drawing characters in different postures (standing, sitting, etc.) and putting it all together to make a scene. The great strength of this volume, as of Hart’s other books, is his method of breaking down a drawing into a series of increasing complex sketches (shown in black and white and thus excellent for tracing) that finally end in a completed character in full color. If you have some of his other books about drawing manga, you may find quite a bit of overlap with this one (not necessarily a bad thing but something to consider) while if you’re just starting out this book will give you an excellent start.
The subject matter of Cartoon Cute Animals: How to Draw the Most Irresistible Creatures on the Planet is also right in Hart’s wheelhouse. He begins with a chapter aptly named "Getting Cute: The Essentials" that covers everything from facial proportions to body shape, then covers animal types by category, with chapters covering dogs and cats, bears, woodland creatures, animals of the jungles and plains, birds, and sea life and reptiles. Some fairly exotic animals such as the meerkat are included, but maybe given that creature’s starring role in The Lion King it’s now mainstream in the world of kids. The emphasis is on pencil drawings (no full-color painted images), and the finished drawings are much less detailed than those in the manga volume, making this one a particularly good pick for kids. | Sarah Boslaugh
Want your own copy of Cartoon Cute Animals: How to Draw the Most Irresistible Creatures on the Planet? Send an email to with your name and address before August 20th for your chance to win! US residents only, please.

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