Book Review: You Can Draw in 30 Days by Mark Kistler

You Can Draw in 30 Days, subtitled The Fun, Easy Way to Master Drawing, from Figures to Landscapes, in One Month or Less, is the latest book from instructor and illustrator Mark Kistler.

The book teaches how to draw by introducing and consolidating along the lessons what the author calls the Nine Fundamental Laws of Drawing:

  1. Foreshortening: Distort an object to create the illusion that one part of it is closer to your eye.
  • Placement: Place an object lower on the surface of a picture to make it appear closer to your eye.
  • Size: Draw an object larger to make it appear closer to your eye.
  • Overlapping: Draw an object in front of another object to create the visual illusion that it is closer to your eye.
  • Shading: Draw darkness on an object opposite the positioned light source to create the illusion of depth.
  • Shadow: Draw darkness on the ground next to the object, opposite the po- sitioned light source, to create the illusion of depth.
  • Contour lines: Draw curving lines wrapping around the shape of a round object to give it volume and depth.
  • Horizon line: Draw a horizontal reference line to create the illusion that objects in the picture are varying distances from your eye.
  • Density: Create the illusion of distance by drawing objects lighter and with less detail.

In addition to these "laws", Mark Kistler also presents three principles that must be always kept in mind in order to be successful while learning how to draw. In the words of Mark, these are:

  1. Attitude: Nourishing your “I can do this" positive attitude is a crucial part of learning any new skill.
  • Bonus details: Add your own unique ideas and observations to your drawing to make it truly your own expression.
  • Constant practice: Repeated daily application of any new learned skill is absolutely necessary for successful mastery of the skill.

I bought this book more than a year ago when I decided to (re)learn how to draw. It's a beginners book featuring 30 step-by-step lessons each one ending with one or more bonus challenges. The step-by-step lessons help with the "I can do this" attitude because you'll usualy achieve results you didn't think possible when starting. Bonus challenges motivate you to go beyond simply following instructions and really stretch you capabilities.

The main criticism I have is that there should be at most 20 lessons instead of 30. Thirty lessons take too long to complete and at moments one feels little progress is being made. Repetition between lessons could be avoided by removing some of them.

So, does this book really help to "master drawing, from figures to landscapes, in one month or less" as the subtitle suggests? No, but it's a first step. It surely helped me to gain confidence and motivation to continue learning but there are lots of important topics not covered, which is kind of expected considereing the type of book it is.

Nevertheless, I highly recommend it to complete beginners that, after gaining the necessary confidence and learning the basics, can then advance to more complete books like Drawing for the Absolute and Utter Beginner, Keys to Drawing or Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain (see my list of recommended books for more).

You can see my take on the lessons of the book at the I Can Draw in 30 Days page.

You Can Draw in 30 Days is available from Amazon US | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES.