Movement & Form: The Youssef Drawing Syllabus Book Review

Movement and Form cover

When I decided to embark upon my Artistic Journey last year my first and biggest emphasis was on figure and life drawing. I spent the first half of 2015 using YouTube videos for figure reference (there are plenty of great ones like Croquis Cafe and New Masters Academy) and then in the second half of the year I began to regularly go to life studio sessions for the first time in well over a decade. While my figure drawing improved with time, I still felt a little lost. Then I heard about the book Movement & Form by Samantha Youssef. Youssef has amazingly beautiful drawings and years of experience teaching figure drawing. It did not take me long to make up my mind in that I needed to own this book.

I received my copy of the book at the end of December and have since read it cover to cover. Twice actually. Almost instantly I began to work the lessons from the book into my studies. The sessons here require a radical shift in thinking about the way I go about drafting my drawings, but I believe my drawings are starting to have a stronger foundation. I’m finding myself to have a greater understanding of how the body works, where the pieces fit together, and ultimately adding weight and believably to my work. This is of course a work in progress and without having a mentor telling me exactly where and how things work, my improvement comes down to me and my ability to recognize my mistakes.

Example of my figure drawing work from my first attempt at the start of 2015 up through December 2015 before getting Movement & Form.

There have been a handful of people that asked me if this book was worth it and how it works. As you can tell already, I believe it to be worth it. Essentially the bulk of this book is about the first minute of a figure drawing and capturing all of the information that we can about the figure in that time span. I would say that roughly 75% of this book boils down to the first 30 seconds of a drawing. It is a book with a huge focus on construction and finding accuracy with speed.

The book goes through a step by step process called the Progressive Drawing Method. This process is made very clear and precise throughout. There are hundreds of drawings and samples of both how we should and shouldn’t approach a subject. Reading this book from front to back and thinking you’re going to come out of it being a better artist is not how it works. You need to work with the book and put the time in. Something that I’m in the middle of doing myself. In being honest with myself, I don’t even fully expect to see the full benefits of this book for another few months, possibly longer.

The way I approached this book was to read a handful of chapters and immediately work on what I learned and only what I learned to that point. I spent several nights just trying to nail down those initial 30 seconds (which you too can do by making images rotate at 30 second intervals here) in order to force myself to learn how to find the flow and energy of a pose. As I progress through the book, I began to add in what I learned next into my drawings. My second time through the book was more of a refresher while I put the ideas from my first go through into practice. From this point, I will keep the book by my side to reference when I feel the need for a refresher.

Example of my figure drawing progress from the first time I tried to implement the progressive drawing method in January of this year, until today.

What I really like about this book is that it cuts out lots of the technical mumbo jumbo that we’re always taught when it comes to accurately drawing from life. I never liked the idea of holding my hand out in front of me gripping a pencil while squinting one eye to measure the subject. When I draw characters from my imagination, there is nothing to hold my pencil out to in order to make a measurement. It must be intuitive, and when it comes to animating, it must be intuitive and quick. I always saw measuring like that as a crutch for artists, and I was happy to see this book say that it’s okay to forgo these methods. The idea is for the techniques of this book to become second nature, so that we’re not thinking about them and just doing them.

As I stated, I think my life and figure drawing has improved, but in addition to that I already see improvements in the way I handle characters from imagination. This book has quickly become one of my favorites, and I can easily recommend it to any artist. I’m eager to see how I improve over the coming months using what I’ve learned from this book. I also can’t wait for Samantha’s second and third books. Hopefully I don’t have to wait too long. In the meantime, I still have a long way to go on becoming better using what I’ve learned from this book.

Purchase a copy of Movement & Form from Samatha Youssef’s site.

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