Drawing Wizards, Witches and Warlocks (Sixth & Spring)

wizards-header.jpgA useful stepping-off point, this instructional art book’s important lesson is that drawing can be simpler than one might fear.



140 pgs. FC; $19.95 softcover

(W / A: Chris Hart)


Does your eight-year-old boy torture small mammals in an open field by the light of the full moon? Oh, my. Well, a little encouragement might help set him on the correct path.

Consider Drawing Witches, Wizards and Warlocks, one of the books in the Chris Hart how-to series. With a little practice, he’ll be sketching all manner of demons in his spare time, and scaring the children of those self-righteous Christians down the block well and proper, no matter what phase the moon.

The cover to Drawing Witches, Wizards and Warlocks. Click for a larger image.The guide is one of many through the generations that have utilized the tried and true "circle technique." That is, anatomy can be represented with greater ease by rendering faces and bodies as a series of overlapping circles. For instance, the body of an ogre is a wide circle to denote his barrel chest, intersecting with the smaller circle of his pelvis. His head is, of course, also a circle. Each of these circles is gradually embellished with features (ogre eye slits, fat ogre nose), clothing (a loose ogre shift, big ogre boots), and so on, and the artist begins to see how useful this shortcut is, for any and all creatures.

The many magical beings herein include such memorables as "Curious Wizard," "All-Knowing Wizard," "Cranky Wizard," "Forest Wizard," "Learned Wizard," trolls, goblins, ogres, Cyclops (what’s the plural of Cyclops, anyway?), dragons, gargoyles, manticores, griffins, unicorns, "Classic Hag," "Teen Witch" and "Phyllis Diller." (Not.)

As the jacket copy advises, "all you need is a pencil and paper." Indeed, creative kids love these sorts of books, because they make impressive drawings possible, step by step. Artists of all ages will probably find that they can surpass the novice stage with unusual speed.

Questionable, however, is the consistent cuteness of nearly all of these creations. Instructor Chris Hart’s style just happens to be heavy on the cute, so the wizards are more Disney than menacing, the stubby-nose ogres are cutely stupid, and the goblins are adorable like Beast Boy from the Teen Titans cartoon.

For young children, cute is an occupational hazard. As artists grow a bit older, though, they might want their dragons to have a little more bite, so to speak. In all fairness, the how-to instructions leave plenty of room for customizing, so artists can certainly dial down the cute if they choose.

More annoying was some didactic text that would seem to codify matters of the imagination. To wit, "warlocks never wear conical hats, or they would be mistaken for wizards." Oh, really? Well, I haven’t seen too many warlocks buying supplies at the occult bookstore, but it seems to me they might garb themselves in any number of ways. The manual is full of this mode of restrictive language. In future editions, Hart might consider changing lines like that to "warlocks sometimes wear hats, too—here are some ideas for you to consider." Think Bob Ross, not Martha Stewart.

These Chris Hart books offer a highly useful stepping-off point for young artists. I would hope that kids wouldn’t accidentally become acolytes in his church of cute, but the important lesson here is learning that drawing can be much simpler than one might fear.

Well, that, and advancing the naïve down the left-hand path, of course. A good sequel might be called Drawing Wizards, Witches, and Warlocks Up From the Black Pit of Their Demonic Netherworld Through a Wax Pentagram Portal on the Floor of Your Living Room. I understand that’s easier than it sounds, too. | Byron Kerman

Learn more at http://www.chrishartbooks.com/.

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