I’m sharing my favorite drawing books and reviewing them over the next few weeks for you guys. I used these books myself and they are the ones that helped me the most in learning how to draw. I haven’t done a book report since grade school so this is kind of fun.

Today I am reviewing a great drawing book called,  The Artist’s Complete Guide to Drawing the Head by William L. Maughan, 2004 printing. I enjoyed this book greatly and it helped me when I was still learning to draw solely through books. The book is broken down into six well written and thought-out chapters.

Chapter 1 begins with explaining something called Chiaroscuro.

The word comes from an Italian term meaning light and dark, chiaro and oscuro. The gist is Chiaroscuro is the method of drawing something with value (ex. shadow-shapes) rather than line.

The author feels students should not be taught to draw in line but rather in shadow shapes. I disagree with this as I think having both skills of drawing in line and chiaroscuro gives you a powerful ability to communicate to the viewer as you wish. But don’t throw out the baby with the bath water. This book does a great job in teaching chiaroscuro.

Supply List: 

Stabilo CarbOthello Pastel Pencils Individual No. 100 – Titanium White

Stabilo CarbOthello Pastel Pencils Individual No. 645 – Caput Mortuum Red

Strathmore 500 Charcoal Paper 25 Sheets Paper 19×25″ – Velvet Gray

The author does a fabulous job as describing in detail what value and form are and how to use shadow shapes and manipulate their edges to create a three dimensional drawing. This information is awesome for the newbie in mass drawing or anyone who is just starting out and is very difficult to find in other drawing books.
Chapter 2, Principles of Drawing the Head, teaches more about shadow shapes and how light falls over the head creating a sense of form. The author also talks about perspective considerations specific to the three-quarter view of the head which is done far better than most drawing books out there.

He only lightly touches on the planes of the head which you may know I am a huge fan. Next the author steps lightly into structure of the head and back again into value patterns.

Chapter 3, The Drawing Process, Step-By-Step. This chapter was the biggest help to me when I was just learning how to draw a realistic face. I think the most important page in this book is on page 60. There the author describes very clearly in a drawing and text the proportions of the face and using this knowledge alone put my drawing skill up a couple of levels instantly.

It was at this one point that the book became one of the must have drawing books for beginning artist and struggling portrait artists from my point of view. The next 35 pages of this chapter are great tips on how to draw the different features of the head like ears, mouth, nose and eyes. Very good information and helps make this one of the better drawing books.

(The video above is a Time-laspe Drawing I did using some of the Techniques from this book)

Chapter 4, Putting It All Together. Reviews the 5 “essential” drawing steps such as gesture, proportions, shadow-shapes, edge control and detail. It is a great review to really drive it home for the reader.

The author has put together several impressive drawings that are shown at each step as they progress to a finish.This was a major help to me to see how each stage looks.

Chapter 5, Drawing From Multiple Sources. Turning the page to chapter five may get your a heart jumping (scary monster drawing) but the creativity is refreshing and shows how this simple idea of Chiaroscuro, or shadow-shape, can be used to pull great emotion from the viewer. The drawings in this chapter are monsters and creative creatures.

Chapter 6, Working with Color. The final chapter is a brief introduction to color. Most drawing books don’t touch on this topic and it was a nice touch to see because it acts as a little extra reference you will go to later.

The author does great work to describe the color wheel and the use of temperature of color to turn form which makes a drawing or painting look three dimensional.

The book finishes with pastel painting and talks about the tools you will need. There are several great example works in pastel by the author and they are wonderful.

Drawing Books | Final Thoughts on Maughan’s Book

I really liked William L. Maughan’s book, The Artist’s Complete Guide to Drawing the Head, because it taught me several basic core fundamental drawing techniques in a clear manner with lots of photos. Did I say lots? Really it had a ton of demonstration drawings showing the progression and work up to the finished drawing. Most drawing books lack these types of photo references.

From time-to-time I still use the same drawing tools used in this book. I find it a great training tool and go back to it when other training methods get a little stale.

If you are struggling at drawing realistic faces or somewhere along your training at portrait drawing, give this book a shot. Buy it and try using the CarbOthello pencils and Velvet Gray Strathmore paper.

I have perchased many drawing books and many are not helpful so when there is a good one I want to share it. This is a great drawing book and teaches the fundamentals to draw sound and solid portraits in little time.

It is so fun. Your skill will improve. Make this book a regular training exercise in tonal drawing, like I did,  and you will thank Mr. Maughan for creating this book. Thank you Mr. Maughan you helped a struggling artist struggle a lot less!


Bradwynn Jones
Welcome to my blog on drawing techniques I am learning in art school. By focusing on the core attributes of drawing, there is enough time in your day and it's NEVER too late in life. Visit me on https://www.instagram.com/bradolani/
  • Sam

    I just bought this book, and in literally ten minutes I had the best looking eye I’ve ever done. By far.

    Thanks f

    August 12th, 2014 18:59
    • Bradwynn Jones

      Great Sam! I only recommend what had worked for me and glad it worked for you too! very cool.

      August 13th, 2014 7:09
  • Vamshi parankusham

    Hi Bradwyn,
    I have been looking for a book to follow to learn drawing portraits as I am bit struggling now to make my drawings to look more realistic and I am not sure which one to follow. Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts on this book. I have read few pages and I have to agree with you , this book is brilliant. This is a great help for all who loves drawing.

    October 17th, 2015 22:41

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