Archive for Ed Emberley

The Book of Ed

This isn’t exactly about comics, but it is about art. I was thinking a while back about when I was a kid. In school, they’d make us work on art projects, and I just wasn’t that good at it. I wasn’t a bad artist for my age, but it was pretty clear I was never going to be anything more than a simple cartoonist or doodler, at best.

But what I remember was several times when the school brought in an art teacher to show us drawing techniques, and she showed us how to draw a cup. That’s all — just a cup. And I could draw a very nice cup — in charcoal, no less — and did the shading the way I was supposed to. And in fact, I can still draw a pretty good cup. But she never showed us how to draw anything but that cup.

We didn’t have anything cool in town to help us learn art techniques, like the Lubbock Sketch Club. Instead, my parents got me and my sister and brother these drawing books by a guy named Ed Emberley. They’re pretty simple books — not “Here’s how to paint like Rembrandt” but “Here’s how to draw a man running.” But they are designed for kids, and when it comes to art, it’s better to learn how to draw a man running before you learn how to paint “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee.”

Most of his books focus on drawing with colored pens, and all of them use simple diagrams with easy-to-draw shapes. There are a lot of stick figures in these books — which makes perfect sense, really. You learn how to draw a competent stick figure, and you’re on the road to being able to draw more advanced figures. You learn how to draw a simple giraffe, and you can start learning how to draw a real one. Learn how to draw a race car made of triangles and circles, and you’re learning the tools you need to draw a more realistic car.

Emberley does several different kinds of books, and we had a decent collection of them. He has some books about how to draw faces — which I enjoyed because I always liked drawing good facial expressions. He also has one about thumbprint drawings — using a thumbprint as your base image for drawing a picture. We didn’t use that one as much because we would’ve gotten ink-stained fingerprints all over the house.

Probably the most impressive book is his “Make a World” book, which packs instructions on how to draw a vast amount of people, animals, and items into a fairly thin book. It’s got everything from people of all kinds, to dogs and cats, lions and alligators, knights and dragons, cruise ships and jet planes, trains and skeletons and fire trucks and windmills and dinosaurs and igloos and skunks and on and on and on and on.

Emberley’s books are great for kids both artistic and non-artistic. It’ll give kids who are good at drawing an extra boost in learning how to draw things, and it’ll give the less arty kids some fun exercises to improve the artistic skills they need to expand.

Go pick ’em up.

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