I'd like to start by pointing out some general things about "how to draw"
books. Personally, I've never really found them as useful as they claim to
be. And I can tie this in to some of my thesis research, oddly enough. :)
In the language of problem solving research, a problem is something you don't
yet know how to do, and an exercise is something you do know how to do and
just have to work through. In solving a problem, you often make false
starts, go off in directions that don't work, and generally bang your head
against the wall a lot. In working an exercise, you go from beginning to end
in a pretty linear fashion, knowing where you need to go next at every step.
Things that are problems for novices are often exercises for experts.
Most "how to draw" books treat art as an exercise. Follow this procedure and
you'll get a finished product. This is the way professionals do it
(leaving out high art vs low art arguments, please). When the guys in PLEX
draw a new robot, they lay out the blocks and rods and stuff, sketch in
details, erase the old lines, add more details, etc. But a novice trying to
follow this method will often be limited to just reproducing the pictures in
the book, it doesn't really help you learn to draw. I can copy stuff
and have it look far better than my own work. It's a lot harder to
incorporate lessons into my own style. In an average art instruction book, I
might manage to absorb one or two lessons from it after some work, but
otherwise just use the book for inspiration.
So, in the long run, the most useful parts of any "how to draw robots" book
On the other hand, certain things tend to show up in lots of How To Draw
books like the proverbial Fox Terrier
of Gould's essay, and they're usually (if not always) wasted space.
- Parts that show the very basics of design elements (how to put together
body parts) and posing. Even experienced amateur artists often need help
- Catalogues of design elements that can be adapted (like a bunch of hands,
or heads, or guns). Again, good for teaching the new artist, but also useful
for experienced artists to raid for ideas.
- Complete robots that are representative of various styles or a complete
look at a single style (for books sold as "how to draw property X"), so you
can see what sort of thing you need to shoot for or have examples to work
from. (For non-robot books, insert "shoujo girls" or "manga heroes" or
"still life fruits" in place of robots as relevant.) As an aside, if the
book is focused on a particular distinctive style, it helps to say so on the
cover. I might not be interested in learning how to draw Star Wars droids,
for instance, and if that's all the book covers I'd rather not waste my
time or money.
- The obligatory two page spread of "the tools of the trade". In addition
to being pretty useless at the best of times, they're rapidly becoming
obsolete as even beginners will be grabbing tablets and doing everything on
- Sections on "advanced techniques". These tend to be way above the heads
of most of the target market, but old hat for any experienced artists picking
up the book. They're always too short to cover enough to be worthwhile.
- "The exciting new world of computer art!" These are common in the more
recent books, but given the rate at which computer tools change, it's pretty
pointless to put this sort of stuff in a paper and ink book that may be on
shelves for years.