Christopher Hart,
Drawing Dragons & Those Who Hunt Them
(Watson-Guptill, 2007)

No doubt the most eloquent review for a drawing book would be a drawing. But we here at Rambles.NET don't necessarily believe a picture is worth a thousand words -- and at any rate, Christopher Hart's latest is primarily a Really Cool Dragon Book, and only secondarily an art how-to book.

The book opens with a number of warnings, most of them about dragons. Let me add one more: purchasing this book may not enable you to draw dragons.

As long as you're a dragon fan who loves colourful, well-illustrated books, or a modestly skilled artist interested in drawing dragons, you'll probably find Drawing Dragons & Those Who Hunt Them to be a breezy, entertaining and creative book with lots of scaly beasts, a few muscle-bound warriors and even a sexy barbarian princess or two. Perks include full-colour gatefolds, vividly imagined dragons and chapters on dragon anatomy, different species, hunters and more.

But beginners who expect this book to bring out latent artistic abilities are in for a disappointment. Although the book is lavishly illustrated, relatively little time is spent covering the basics of drawing dragons (or humans) -- foundational shapes, centers of gravity, proportion, etc. Hart often skips early stages even in his pencil sketches, and important techniques like shading are reduced to almost incidental reminders.

What Drawing Dragons ends up being is a beautiful, glossy book of Hart's fluid comic-book style dragons and his comprehensive theories about them and their world. Hart's approach to dragon anatomy is especially thorough (dragon skulls and internal organs are adapted for fire-breathing), and his dragon skeleton is likely to be tremendously useful for any artist who a) adopts Hart's vision of dragons and b) already has a good understanding of how bones and muscles look in action.

These predatory and menacing dragons won't thrill Pern fans, and it would be all too easy to go on about the objectification of women (see cover), but for what it is, Drawing Dragons is a nifty and attractive book that should please the Dragonology fans in your life.

Whether it will teach them to draw dragons is probably another matter.

review by
Jennifer Mo

19 April 2008

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