By Dustin Cabeal
There’s one thing that needs to be said about any “How to Draw” book; you get out of it, what you put into it. People seem to think that by going through the book they’ll suddenly be the next (Insert name of comic book artist you like, here) and that is simply not the case. With that said, how does one critic something called How To Draw Comics if it’s not by the amount of successful students that come from it? Well, How To Draw Comics by Ilya made it quite easy to do so.
Make no mistake this isn’t “How To Draw Superhero Comic Characters,” but how to draw and creator your own comics. The only thing this book is missing is a table of contents to tell you how it’s broken down… it would have been useful for this review as well since I could have just typed out their titles instead of making up my own.
The first section explains what a comic is and that seems like a duh, but Ilya takes it from the perspective of what comics can be, could be and so on. When you stare at comics as much as I do, this insight wasn’t a light bulb popping on for me, but if you never really sat down and thought about the nuts and bolts that go into comics, then it’s a great place to start. This includes how to set up panels, where to place word bubbles, how much room to leave word bubbles, the flow of action and so many other things that I bet a lot of people never took the time to even notice in their weekly books.
This is followed up with a bit of comic history, nothing too deep, but it works nicely as a segue into the tools of the trade. Frankly, when you’re not an artist, but like to draw and mess around with the possibility of just doing your own terrible comics, figuring out what tools to buy is a goddamn nightmare. Yes, my own personal goddamn nightmare, but I was ecstatic to see a “How to” book actually cover this. It covers everything from paper to pencils, to ink and brushes. How To Draw Comics instantly became the book my teenage self would have killed for but never got.
After that, the rest of the book is actually how to draw. I’m not going to bore you with the details of this if you’ve looked through books like this before then you kind of get the gist, and it’s what you put into it. I will say this though, in reading through all of it Ilya does a fantastic job of making it clear and understandable. He never overloads a page and gives plenty of examples to soak in. There’s even a section on thumbnails which has always alluded me when trying to craft my own comics in the past. Hell, as a writer, I think just understanding that section better would help me plan out a comic better for an artist. One thing to note is that there are spots for you to practice what is taught and even the recommendation to scan or copy the pages before starting to give yourself the opportunity to practice more than once.
The only section that I felt was lacking was the coloring. While it's very detailed about the different types, both hand and computer, it felt rushed compared to the rest of the book. Almost as if there was just too much to cover and that the basics would have to do. It’s a small gripe, but considering how bad a lot of coloring is in comics, it feels like it could have been bigger and better. Maybe there will be a follow-up on just this subject if so, I would love to read that as well.
No, How To Draw Comics isn’t going to turn you into an overnight sensation, but it is going to help you with a solid foundation and understanding of the basics. Perhaps you’ll even have the desire to continue your artistic education which other studies as well. At the very least, maybe you’ll just find some peace of mind in your own style and embrace it. Now, this is an easy gift for some clueless family member to give someone that “likes comics,” but it’s not for readers. It is for people that are serious about making a comic, and even though Ilya sprinkles in humor, the lessons taught are impactful and important.
How To Draw Comics
Publisher: Chicago Review Press