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Staff Picks #1 – Art Tutorial Books

Teacher Artwork by Krist Miha

While having a good mentor is always the best way to learn art, sometimes that’s just not in the cards.  Classes and mentorships can be very expensive but you will certainly see a big improvement.  When that’s not an option, there are of course plenty of free learning opportunities available online.  

However, we all learn differently and some of us learn well from books.  Or maybe we are just tired of being told to “like and subscribe.”  In any case, the ambitious student will seek out more, like an apprentice wizard studying from a mystical tome.  In this blog article, you’ll get to hear from the team at Syn Studio, most of whom are artists themselves, and find out which books they recommend to help you improve your art skills.

Clement – School Director

Selection: How to Draw by Scott Robertson

“This book is intense but it’s one of the best.  You’ll learn a very technical way of drawing but you’ll learn how to draw anything from imagination, starting from more simple things to even the most complex designs.  Scott Robertson was a consultant when we first designed our AEC Program (NTL.1V) and we offer the book to those students for free.  How to Render is a great companion book too.”

Arun – Marketing Director 

Selection: Color and Light by James Gurney

“I don’t really consider myself an artist.  I like art and I’ve taken Foundations of Drawing but I have other passions.  You’d think that would mean that wouldn’t have a suggestion but there is one book I hear nearly every artist recommend: Color and Light by James Gurney.  I met James Gurney when he came for the Gathering of Masters and he’s a great teacher.  This book acts as a superb guide to understand how light interacts with our perception of the world.”

Eli – Studies Assistant / Media Coordinator

Selections: The Anti-Planner by Dani Donovan and The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman

“Can I cheat and recommend a book that isn’t about art per se?  Actually I have two really good choices.”

[Editor’s Note: Eli can in fact cheat because his choices are brilliant.]

“I don’t know a single artist that isn’t on some level, constantly struggling with creating-on-command. Be it from a neurological challenge, or the nature of chaotic “hard to define” creative work that relies on sharing yourself in a very direct way. My first book suggestion is “The Anti-Planner” by Dani Donovan, an ADHD-tailored book for procrastinators of all kinds. It’s incredibly well designed, with clear tabs, strategies in sections, and provides explanations as to why you might be procrastinating or “stuck” on a task, project, or goal. Learning to work with your rhythms and not in spite of it is what probably saves a lot of folks from true burnout.”

“My second recommendation is The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman.  This one actually comes with a free online class program if they want to get more in depth; but it talks about strategies to think about when designing an object, a setting, basically anything.  Can your audience figure out how to activate your sci-fi “intuitive” flying motorcycle within three seconds, or would they end up needing a manual? Is your protagonist keeping their legendary blade sheathed by their hip or their back, and can they actually pull their weapon out without decapitating themselves? These are the sort of logistic-pragmatic questions that I wish a lot of creatives would delve into, in order to build a much richer setting. Physical and intuitive constraints can also provide fascinating solutions — or even support storytelling through implication. By looking at the design of a city, for example, one can quickly assess who the city is designed for (shorter humanoids, blind creatures that rely on sound, quadrupedal beasts in a society) and who or what they exclude in each design choice. It’s far too easy to take for granted what we as humans assume to be evident; as Good Design ends up being invisible design.”

Bilal – Web Dev

Selection: Movement and Form by Samantha Youssef

“We’ve had Samantha give workshops to our students in the past and she’s such a delightful person.  Her book, Movement and Form, is an excellent guide into gestural drawing and offers a lot of advice on how to capture the essence of your subject.  It’s really a great read for anyone who struggles with figure drawing.  Unfortunately, I know that this book has become rather hard to find.  Hopefully there will be another printing soon.”

Ajo – Social Media Assistant

Selection: How To Draw What You See by Rudy De Reyna

“I’m just starting to explore drawing and at the moment I’m a bit too busy to take Foundations of Drawing.  I came across How To Draw What You See and it’s been helping me a lot.  Reyna really explains things in a very clear and simple way.  I think this book also covers all of the basics.  There were times when a question would come to mind and it would be answered on the next page.”

Mike – Marketing Assistant

Selection: Draw and Paint Better with Krita by Wes Gardener

“This book was written by my friend Wes.  He designed this book to be an introduction to digital art.  Not only does he cover the technical aspects of digital painting but he discusses a lot of basic art theory.  It’s a great primer for anyone who is new to digital art.  Best of all, the book is designed around Krita, a free digital art program which makes it much more affordable.  Although the lessons still easily apply to other programs.”

Kirsty – Director of Studies

Selection: Artists Master Series: Color & Light by various authors including Charlie Pickard, Djamila Knopf, Guweiz and Nathan Fowkes

“This book covers essential concepts such as color theory, lighting techniques, and atmospheric effects, illustrated with beautiful examples. It’s an invaluable resource for artists aiming to master the use of color and light to create compelling and realistic artwork.”

More to come

We’d love to hear your recommendations for art tutorial books, so send us a message on social media with your favourites and what you love about them.  We will have more Staff Picks coming to you soon but it would be fun to have your suggestions featured in a Community Picks series as well!


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