When did you stop drawing?

As a professional artist I am often asked: When did I begin to draw? Or in other words, how long have I been drawing. I have tried to answer this question, but the truth is that I'm not exactly sure. I do know that I have drawn as long as I can remember. Most children enjoy drawing as one of their games. I guess I just never stopped.

I had the great fortune to be born into a family sensitive to the visual arts: My mother was a professional ceramist before marrying my father. My father had an advertising agency and his best friend (and his agency's principal illustrator) was the acclaimed painter Ezequiel Lopez. It seems perfectly natural to me that in addition to myself, two of my four siblings are professional artists.

Growing up in Spain, I remember my mother always encouraging our artistic and cultural interests, taking us to visit museums and galleries and keeping us well stocked with art supplies. You see, when she was a little girl, Spain was going through the period in its history known as "post-guerra," the decade which followed the Spanish Civil War. Art supplies were a luxury at that time. My mother remembers wanting to draw as a little girl and, having no pencil or paper, scratching the white stucco walls of her house with coins to create gray marks, crating a kind of rustic silver-point graffiti that understandably drove my grandparents nuts. So as a parent, my mother made certain that her children always had arts and crafts materials available for play.

When I was about ten years old, my mother took up painting as a hobby. She armed herself with all the proper tools for making art, including an encyclopedia on how-to-draw-and-paint. I remember the first time I set eyes on the black cloth hardbound cover of its first volume. Printed across its austere cover in bold white letters was "Drawing is Easy" ("Dibujar es fácil"). I opened the book and discovered step by step methods for creating images that, until that moment, had seemed impossible to put down on paper: portraits, landscapes, figures, and animals. I was amazed! From that point on, I devoured the information in that encyclopedia, completing most of the assignments that the books proposed just for my own enjoyment. As the years passed, I received extensive training in art: As a teenager I enrolled in a private academy that taught traditional drawing and painting. Later, I attended the University of Madrid, the Maryland Institute College of Art and Towson University. I have been teaching college courses in art for the past fifteen years. Thirty years later, the lessons I learned in that encyclopedia are still present in my mind. I use them in my own work as well as my instruction of others.

Which brings me to The Complete Idiot's Guide to Drawing. Don't let the funny title fool you. This book is a serious and practical introduction for those interested in learning the basic aspects of drawing. Its tone is casual and friendly. It assumes that you don't know anything about art, but are serious and willing to learn. Its contents are approximately those of a basic comprehensive course in studio drawing at a first rate art college. In other words, it is light years beyond my beloved "Drawing is Easy," which, since it was printed in 1968, is by now quite limited and dated. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Drawing, on the other hand, incorporates all the current ideas on how to learn to draw. Despite the humorous name, this is not a book full of "tricks" that would show you how to draw flashy pictures if you can do certain effects. You won't find a single recipe inside on how to draw a "happy cloud," like you would in those misleading "learn to paint" television programs. This is the real thing. What you get from this book are the basic concepts for serious art making. You will learn to see like an artist, to choose a subject, to compose a picture, and to bring it to completion. And of course, you'll learn how much fun this all can be.

Drawing is the basis for all forms of visual fine arts. Painting, printmaking, sculpture, illustration, photography, mixed media, graphic design, fibers and digital art all rely on ideas that are generally explored by first learning to draw. Whatever you will eventually do artistically, whatever medium or style, you will benefit greatly from being exposed to The Complete Idiot's Guide to Drawing. So don't waste another precious minute—let's get started! What are you waiting for?

José Villarrubia, MFA, is a painter, photographer and digital artist, born in Madrid, Spain, but residing in Baltimore for the past twenty years. Since 1986, he has been included in over ninety international solo and group exhibitions in the United States, Europe, and Latin America. His work is in the permanent collections of the Baltimore museum of Art and the Inter-American Development Bank. He is a full time faculty member at the Maryland Institute College of Art, where he has been teaching drawing and digital art for the past four years. He taught for twelve years in the art department of Towson University, and has taught at the Walters Art Gallery and for the Bright Starts Program. His numerous lectures include those at the Johns Hopkins University and the College Art Association. Entertainment Weekly has called his work "Groundbreaking, a treat for the eyes!"

Since 1992 Mr. Villarrubia has been the art reviewer for the literary magazine Lambda Book Report. He is currently writing Koan, a book about the paintings of Jon J. Muth and Kent Williams to be published later this year by Allen Spiegel Fine Arts.

Pencil Drawing Beginners Guide

Pencil Drawing Beginners Guide

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