Foundations of Drawing

A Practical Guide to Art History, Tools, Techniques, and Styles

About the Book

From a leading art instructor at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, a complete survey of drawing as an art form covering its history, materials, and key techniques, alongside step-by-step demonstrations.

Foundations of Drawing is a comprehensive and authoritative overview of the history, aesthetics, methods, and materials of the drawing medium. Throughout, clearly defined demonstrations provide easy access to the practice of drawing as well as the history and development of core drawing techniques. Richly illustrated, the book contains reproductions of the finest master drawings from the fifteenth century to the present. Unlike other drawing instruction books that focus on step-by-step lessons exclusively, Foundations of Drawing provides readers with the context and background to help understand just why these materials and methods are so vital for successful drawing.

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Praise for Foundations of Drawing

Artists and Illustrators Magazine: Book of the Month

"A solid understanding of drawing is a must for artists and books introducing the basics abound, but Gury’s latest goes several steps further. In its pages you will find an overview of drawing as an art form covering its history, materials and key techniques. And, alongside step-by-step demonstrations, there are reproductions of the finest master drawings from the 15th century to the present."
Artists and Illustrators Magazine

"Al Gury has taken a lifetime of experience as an artist and teacher, and distilled it into an engaging exploration of drawing from every possible perspective. Foundations of Drawing takes the reader from the personal to the historical, from techniques to the aesthetic, and then ties it all together with in-depth drawing demonstrations. This book is the perfect companion for anyone interested in understanding drawing from A to Z."
—Ross Lance Mitchell, Director of Barnes-de Mazia Education and Outreach
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Foundations of Drawing


Foundations of Drawing is a guide for teachers, students, artists, and the general reader to the traditions and practice of drawing in Western culture. This overview of the history of drawing and of drawing materials, concepts, and techniques provides a practical look at the art of drawing and will be a useful text for anyone who is interested in learning about drawing, returning to drawing, studying drawing, or teaching drawing as well as for longtime practitioners of the art. The book takes the point of view that clear information on the history, materials, and techniques of drawing creates the ability to understand drawing, make choices, and chart one’s development in drawing with a sense of confidence.

Foundations of Drawing focuses on classic drawing mediums such as pencil and charcoal while also presenting an overview of a broad range of other materials, including chalk and oil pastels, watercolors, and acrylics. Not all materials are discussed in depth, but the essential ones are presented. Traditional materials and methods are illustrated through examples of old master and contemporary drawings as well as through demonstrations of basic concepts. The essential elements and concepts of core drawing genres—still life, interiors, portraiture, life drawing, and landscape—are presented for foundational drawing study and portfolio-making. More experienced artists can use Foundations of Drawing as a sourcebook and a point of departure for further personal growth and artistic exploration. 

Drawing is an essential part of a portfolio for art school admittance. Drawing shows whether or not the applicant has a basic ability to understand visual organization and use the formal principals of shape, form, line, light, and perspective. It also shows whether or not the applicant can visualize creative ideas and concepts. 

What Is Drawing?

For many centuries, drawing has been a practical approach to visualizing and planning everything from human figures in an oil painting to designing machine parts, buildings, and textiles. Simple materials such as graphite pencils, charcoal, and ink have been the primary means for doing the great majority of drawings.

The term drawing now encompasses a wide range of traditional and nontraditional mediums, approaches, and aesthetics. Modern technology has created new versions of old materials and has sometimes even replaced them. For example, fine-point marker pens have added to or replaced older dip pens and ink bottles for some artists. Some artists rely on and cherish traditional materials and methods, while others draw only on computer screens. And some artists draw experimentally using materials their Renaissance ancestors would think very strange: blood, tar, food, and computer drawing pads.

Also, the aesthetics of drawing, which traditionally focused on a figure, an object, or a scene, now include abstract and conceptual forms having little to do with nature and more to do with how the artist personally interprets the world. Once thought of as the province of trained artists or skilled amateurs, drawing is now recognized as part of the language of children, the mentally disabled, and self-taught or outsider artists. Prisoners and victims of social injustice draw in order to document their social and political experiences.

About the Author

Al Gury
Al Gury chairs the painting department at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, where he also teaches drawing. Gury exhibits his work at the F.A.N. Gallery and has shown at the National Academy of Design in New York, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and numerous other galleries and museums around the country. He is the author of Alla Prima: A Contemporary Guide to Traditional Direct Painting and Color for Painters: A Guide to Traditions and Practice. He lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. More by Al Gury
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