Book review: Action Cartooning! & Fantasy Cartooning!

August 6, 2011 at 15:57 (Books) (, , , , , )

Until now I’ve only been showing off my own work. Well, legally speaking that IS the only thing I’m allowed to show off. But I thought it high time that I started to write a little about where I draw my inspiration from.

Almost two years ago I bought a couple of books from Amazon  that I ended up completely in love with. The books Action Cartooning! and Fantasy Cartooning! by Ben Caldwell caught ny eye and I ended up buying them purely because of the style he draws in. I’m reviewing them both at the same time since they are basically one book split in two.

Action Cartooning! takes you first through the basics of proportion of faces, showing you a vide variety of facial features and faces, explaining how each face is built up, the reasoning behing doing it, and how it’s exagerated from the norm.
It then follows into a chapter on the body, showing you various ways to design characters that are unique by changing small features. It goes a little into the anatomy of the body, showing you proportions of arms and legs, hands and feet, and various ways to draw them.
The final chapter is about action poses, and is just that; How various poses have been constructed from stickfigures up to fully fleshed characters by using what you’ve already seen in the book.

Fantasy Cartooning! does much the same as the latter part of the first book did, but with an emphasis on fantasy characters. The first chapter, called Heroes & Villains, is a collection of characters that might fit into any fantasy subgenre, be that warriors, wizards, pirates, japansese fishmongers, princesses, mongol warlords or anything inbetween.
Next up is a chapter on the Fair Folk (fairy, Daoine Sidhe, or whatever you want to call them). This is the chapter I like the leaset since the majority of it is a rehash of what you’ve already see, just with pointy ears instead. The part about goblins is marvelous, though.
The end of the book, and sadly the shortest part, shows you how to draw animals, both the small and cute kind and the ferocious beasts you don’t want to meet after dark. Four pages have been dedicated to horses, a creature you often see in fantasy settings. Finally you have a section on dragons in various forms. This final part of the book is truly magnificent!

Here’s a video where you can take a quick look and see the layout and style of the book.

The drawings in the book are all penciled in and unrefined, and seems to work very well. They never lack for detail, but neither do they get so cluttered that you can’t figure out what’s what. And unless many step-by-step books you can easily see how each character is drawn and refined from the last one. I’ve seen too many such guides where you see a simple step-by-step of a character where it suddenly goes from wireframe into fully fleshed figure with no steps inbetween, abd Caldwell manages to avoid that pitfall.

As  “how to draw” books they fall a little short.  All pages show step-by-step guides on how to draw anything from superheroes and warriors to wizards and dragons, but they don’t really teach you HOW to draw. I’d say these books are more for people that have a little basic experience with the pencil and want inspiration for how to draw exagerated, cartoony creatures.
Still, I highly recommend them for anyone interrested in drawing cartoons/comics. They are full on inspiration and ideas, and truly fun to read.

If you want to see more of Ben Caldwell’s work, be sure to visit his site at where you can see new projects and tutorials, and that has a friendly and helpful forum.


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