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The Practice and Science of Drawing
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The Practice and Science of Drawing

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  4,775 ratings  ·  45 reviews
Much of the learning to practice as well as to appreciate art is concerned with understanding the basic principles. One of these principles is what Harold Speed calls "dither," the freedom that allows realism and the artistic vision to play against each other. Very important to any artist or work of art, this quality separates the scientifically accurate from the artistica ...more
Paperback, 3rd Edition, 296 pages
Published June 1st 1972 by Dover Publications (first published 1900)
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Average rating 4.08  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,775 ratings  ·  45 reviews

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Mar 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who think they can't draw, people interested in art history, people who draw, art students
Recommended to Sam by: A person on an art forum
Shelves: art-books
This would be the book I would choose if I had to choose one book that helped me the most with drawing (not that I ever would!) Although this book has its share of practical advice, it is not an instruction book. Speed takes a much more conversational approach than I am used to seeing in drawing books. This book changed my perception of the visual world. His advice helps me break down the world and "see" the way I could draw it. It's not the only book a person should read if they are interested ...more
Jun 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art
This was a very interesting read. It's quite old-fashioned but art instruction IMO tends to get so full of "shoulds" (this book being no different) but because the "shoulds" in this book and this viewpoint are historical, reading them is actually enormously helpful and emboldening for an artist today wanting to stand up against today's "shoulds". It shows that the "shoulds" aren't immutable (which renders them not really "shoulds" at all). Unexpectedly, he takes a stand against pure realism (min ...more
Patrick Sherriff
Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art
This is more a treatise on how the artist should approach drawing and painting than a practical guide, although there are practical points throughout. And while Speed's approach is perhaps old-fashioned -- it was published in 1913 -- it's not dated. That is to say, he approaches good art as a balance between form and line, unity and variety and technical ability and artistic expression. He argues most forcefully that the student should learn technical ability before he or she can master personal ...more
Tyler Berry
Nov 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is not a book on art instruction. This book breaks down drawing into the concepts of line vs mass, and then elaborates with the unity/variety, balance, rhythm and proportion of each concept. It's written clearly and sequentially, building off of previous ideas. The book is helpful for beginners to develop visual literacy, but is more valuable to experienced artists as a way to analyze old master works and understand both what makes paintings compositionally sound, and also drawings intentio ...more
Jul 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art
Recommended to me by a still-life artist--the vocabulary was a bit archaic but enlightening none the less. Mr. Speed has made me look at the world around me in a completely different way.
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If Speed has one fault, it’s that of being a male writer in 1917 who thinks he’s talking to an audience of other men. I wish one man in the world could ever understand how alienating that is to read as a woman. I’d live and die for edits of this kind of book with ‘he’ and ‘him’ replaced with ‘them’ and ‘theirs’.

Aside from those roadbumps, it’s an amazing book. He does have awkward moments where he’s wrestling with the conflict between traditional teaching of drawing and everything that’s rising
May 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is an amazing book. It would have gotten 5 stars if the pictures were of better quality and colour as I feel it would aid the explanations he gives. However that would make the book a lot more expensive and thus less accessible. I really recommend this book!
Brian Platz
Sep 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book gives a lot of information on classical practices from a scientific perspective, and that it is initially essential to learning. Once this is perfected it is overshadowed by the "dither". This quality that moves beyond the representation of a tree and teaches you how to see the "impression" a tree or a figure gives you. This is how you develop the 'you' in your art and is the overall focus as it should be. Very encouraging and an irreplaceable read for any artist ...more
Alaza Aj
Sep 29, 2016 is currently reading it
I've just started reading the book. I like drawing and have a number of books on the subject. From the introduction this book definately seems to offer a different approach. For me , it holds the promise of not only giving me the drawing skills ( wrt to form ) I need but further, that it will turn me into an artist. The introduction gives valuable insight into what an artist really is so I look forward to reading the rest of the book! ...more
Aug 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
for the practicing representational/traditional artist -- worth its weight in gold -- Will not gather dust on the shelves
Emile B
Dec 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
great something to keep coming back to, and realizing where importance lies. He is a great additive to painting and drawing because he can write and paint, a unique talent.
Dec 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Harold Speed, you can't help but love every word he writes. ...more
Mary Adams
Sep 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
I love this book and refer to it often, fr inspiration. this is a good book for Artists to hae.
Nov 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I think this is the great book for one who wants to start artist life seriously. Serious not only to the art technique but also to art soul.
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
One of the tips was talked about how easy and inexpensive it was to get prints of any type of material, so if you wanted to get samples of inferior art and practice copying that, gratify that urge until you get your fill; it will happen soon enough and then you will want finer things. That is this book in a nutshell.

First, having originally been published around the beginning of the 20th century, technology affects the materials available, and how cities look post industrialization, and photogra
Jennifer Jang
Jan 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most important books on the craft of art and drawing. I look forward to reading Speed's other book, which is on oil painting. I only paint in Gouache, but the general principles should apply. I look forward to the day I retire and own a studio in which to paint with oils.

Some other indispensable books/resources are:
- Alla Prima / Richard Schmid
- Color and Light / James Gurney
- James Gurney's blog:
- Bridgeman and Loomis on anatomy and dr
Feb 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
A great book to read for the theory of drawing. Made me highlight a lot of sentences, which everyone has probably thought of in some way, but never in such a structured and clear manner. As George Orwell said: "The best books, are those that tell you what you know already."
But, for anyone looking for a technical practice of drawing, this is not the right book. I bought this book online waiting for something else, but I am not mad at it for what it gave me. And for what's more important, I now b
Jul 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I put this book off for so long. I was pleasantly diverted every time I thought the book was getting dry and academic. I have actually read some of these concepts before, but simplified and separated from the philosophy at their core. I have understood the "rules" of good drawing for decades, but never read a better explanation of *why* certain exercises work or concepts are true. I kind of think that Harold Speed must have been a genius of either drawing or communication. Maybe both. ...more
Armel Gaulme
Jul 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of the most essential, yet simple (and cheap!), book about draughtsmanship. Harold Speed was a terrific teacher and it shows with his ability to mingle technical approach, step-by-step demos, tips, with many philosophical views on art and drawing. Never boring, illustrated with lots of B&W pictures.
Oct 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Doing my yearly review of resources for art classes I teach.
Alia Bosh
Oct 29, 2018 rated it liked it
last chapters were what i was searching for so ....
John Clement Sr
No Illustrations

I have been looking for a book that has illustrations. This book has none that could have been useful to me.
Laura E. Mackey
Joan Rausch
Not what I was looking for
Lisa Dunne
Just bought this book, but the Paperback, 142 pages
Published 2014, has no plates, ie illustrations of artworks being described.
Jul 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art
A lot of excellent techniques that I am able to use. Improved my ability to sketch at a faster rate. I guess you could say it got me in a dither.
Andrew James
Aug 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Excellent. Speed describes things that I wouldn't have guessed could be described. ...more
May 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
See introduction for excellent discussion on what art is.

Speed's Definition of Art:
Art is the Rhythmic Expression of Feeling


If he fails from lack of skill to make his representation convincing to reasonable people, no matter how sublime has been his artistic intention, he will probably have landed in the ridiculous. And yet, so great is the power of direction exercised by the emotions on the artist that it is seldom his work fails to convey something, when gen
Feb 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wonderfully useful to any artist.

While written quite some time ago, and including some negative criticism of what was then new styles of artistic expression, this work is as valuable to the modern artist as it ever was.

While the title would lead one to expect it to be mostly useful to illustrators, print makers, or other artists who predominantly "draw" rather than other media, the author spends as much time on painting technique as he does drafting, and his commentary on composition, line, and
Aug 14, 2012 rated it it was ok
Very old-fashioned, and narrow-minded. Not much help to me as I develop my drawing skills. I could perhaps imagine a decent book being made from it, though, if it were cut in half by a skilled editor, and then only to give a glimpse into the mind of a very particular kind of artist in the early 20th century.
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“The search for this inner truth is the search for beauty. People whose vision does not penetrate beyond the narrow limits of the commonplace, and to whom a cabbage is but a vulgar vegetable, are surprised if they see a beautiful picture painted of one, and say that the artist has idealised it, meaning that he has consciously altered its appearance on some idealistic formula; whereas he has probably only honestly given expression to a truer, deeper vision than they had been aware of. The commonplace is not the true, but only the shallow, view of things.
Our moments of peace are, I think, always associated with some form of beauty, of this spark of harmony within corresponding with some infinite source without. [...]. In moments of beauty (for beauty is, strictly speaking, a state of mind rather than an attribute of certain objects [...]) we seem to get a glimpse of this deeper truth behind the things of sense. And who can say but that this sense, dull enough in most of us, is not an echo of a greater harmony existing somewhere the other side of things, that we dimly feel through them, evasive though it is”
“It is this perfect accuracy, this lack of play, of variety, that makes the machine-made article so lifeless. Wherever there is life there is variety, and the substitution of the machine-made for the hand-made article has impoverished the world to a greater extent than we are probably yet aware of. Whereas formerly, before the advent of machinery, the commonest article you could pick up had a life and warmth which gave it individual interest, now everything is turned out to such a perfection of deadness that one is driven to pick up and collect, in sheer desperation, the commonest rubbish still surviving from the earlier period.” 1 likes
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