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Picture This: The Near-Sighted Monkey Book

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  1,597 ratings  ·  149 reviews
The creative-drawing companion to the acclaimed and bestselling What It Is

Lynda Barry single-handedly created a literary genre all her own, the graphic memoir/how-to, otherwise known as the bestselling, the acclaimed, but most important, the adored and the inspirational What It Is. The R. R. Donnelley and Eisner Award–winning book posed, explored, and answered the ques
Hardcover, 204 pages
Published November 9th 2010 by Drawn and Quarterly (first published March 3rd 2009)
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Average rating 4.29  · 
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 ·  1,597 ratings  ·  149 reviews

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Kevin Fanning
Dec 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: graphic-novel
I'll maybe write an actual review later. But basically: Lynda Barry doesn't ever use the word "religion" in this book but I think it's what she's circling around. It's a book about drawing, but it doesn't really "teach" you to draw. The idea is, and it's one that I subscribe to completely: doing creative things is very good for your soul. The trick, and the trick is the hard part, is that you can't worry about purpose. You have to be willing to spend time in Not Knowing, just creating things for ...more
Ron Tanner
Apr 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A glance at Linda Barry’s “The Near-Sighted Money Book, Picture This” would make you think that it’s a parody of a kid’s how-to-draw manual. On the cover is this pitch: “Do you wish you could draw? Take art lessons from a monkey!’ It’s the kind of nonsense we’ve come to expect from Barry, whose wacky comics have made her one of the most popular alt-illustrators of recent decades. But take a closer look at “Picture This” and you see some surprising stuff: as much quirky fun as it offers, it also ...more
Kate Merriman
Mar 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Artists, humans, near-sighted monkeys
Shelves: art-making-fave
So, I've not been doing a lot of "making images" in the last few weeks and obesssing about the fact, unsure what the hang-up was and sometimes getting to the point of feeling overwhelmed. Which is really odd for me.

Yesterday, rummaging around a pile of books, stumbled on "Picture This" by Lynda Barry, which I'd bought weeks back but never even glanced at. What a gently inspiring thing! She's created this whole complex, gorgeous work around the questions of "What makes us start drawing - and what
Another good illustrated book from Lynda Barry - this one focuses mostly on drawing.
I had a good feeling about this one. You see, I loved Lynda Barry's earlier work, "What It Is", the ground-breaking, mold-shattering, genre-defying and above all, inspiring, book about creative writing. I had a sneaking suspicion that she might have adapted the same format with visual art in mind. And I was right. "Picture This" does for art what "What It Is" did for creative writing. They encourage letting go of preconceived notions of "good" and "bad" and promote experimentation. The format is ...more
Lars Guthrie
Feb 02, 2011 rated it liked it
Even though I knew Barry has been going off in a different direction, I came in expecting the narrative force of 'Cruddy,' and looking for Marlys and Maybone. Marlys and Maybone are in 'Picture This,' but it's not an autobiographical work like, say, 'ONE! HUNDRED! DEMONS!' If you can't get over your preconceptions of what you think Lynda Barry does, or you are the linear type, this work will be difficult to take in. It's not only a primer for drawing, or a paean to the power of drawing, either, ...more
Bonnie G.
What It Is is a masterpiece of writing, cursive, battling fears and embracing them, writing excercises, childhood, etc. Picture This is more of a scrapbook showcasing Lynda Barry's portfolio, which I personally have no problem with, but she is more used to writing about writing than drawing about drawing and it shows. A beautifully produced book with the meditating monkey, the near sighted monkey, the crazy ass elephant and the terrifying stain monsters, this book is sheer delight with ruminatio ...more
Feb 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: how-to, comix, art
This is the best book about creativity I've ever read. Lynda Barry dives in and out of the dark places using her paintbrush as a life-line. It is so heartening to connect her process of grief and really see how drawing and painting saved her life. Really, there aren't words to describe how good this book is. I'd have to paint and draw and collage my review. Lynda Barry is a life-saver. She gives us all permission to draw like a kid again.
Jul 18, 2013 rated it did not like it
This book is in a genre of its own. Maybe that’s a good thing, but I found it difficult to make any sense of it at all. What was the author was trying to achieve? It seems like many of the reviewers lauded this book, but I failed to see much development or importance in the pictures or the accompanying text. Not my cup of tea.
Apr 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: graphic
I've decided I love Lynda Barry. This is a sweet, honest book that asks why we start drawing and more importantly, why we stop.

I started doodling and drawing again thanks to this book. I took a long time going through it because I wanted to savor it.
Jun 20, 2016 rated it really liked it

Yes! I like that she elevates mindless doodling to a level worthy of respect.

Also check out What It Is, which is about writing.
Janina Schnitzer
Feb 02, 2014 rated it liked it
“Picture This” shapes concepts into images, using comics, scribbles, dots, smears, cut outs and torn paper pasted onto pages, lines, colors, brushes, ink, paint, food coloring, and words which are “pictures” painted with a brush. This activity book provides an insight into the author’s mind and experiences. The Near-Sighted Monkey is Lynda Barry’s persona – and she enjoys art, watching a frustrated ballerina show, smoking Don’t (a cigarette brand for imaginary friends), bananas, her pet chicken, ...more
Apr 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is less theory/reflection, more practice than What It Is. Not that What It Is was lacking in practical, either, but the path to action this book shows are, I feel, a lot shorter from the idea to the doing than in What It Is. But drawing versus writing is like that; the barrier to entry is much lower. In the absence of don't, you can just do.
Sassafras Lowrey
Oct 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really liked this one - Lynda Barry has such beautiful thoughts on creativity and about artistic practice and self censorship. it's a beautiful book and a thoughtful book - and a great reminder to push myself to doodle and draw more in my daily and my creative life
Apr 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
releasing this book into the world was a great act of kindness & care. thank god for lynda barry. ...more
Feb 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Lyda Barry messes with our expectations in this fun and funky coloring, craft and do-a-lot book that confuses genre and drags the reader into a strange world where monkeys smoke, little girls do not grow up to be princesses (okay, that bits real) and two creatures called Beak and Trunk have intense conversations, transcribes through morsels that run through the pages like a crazy herd of elephants.
It’s hard to pick a favorite theme in this book (follow the white rabbit?) but there’s plenty here
Bella Brody
Linda Barry invites the reader into a world of playfulness and delicious rule-breaking in Picture This, with the quirky Near-sighted Monkey as her herald. Just as the reader begins to discover the strange hodge-podge of narratives and interactive art of Picture This, sisters Arna and Marlys stumble across the book themselves. Through this double narrative, Picture This encourages the reader to question their perceptions of art, beauty, time, and social norms.
Stylistically, Picture This resides
Victoria Walton
Feb 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Lynda Barry's Picture This: The Near-Sighted Monkey Book is an exploration, an "Amazing New Scientific Breakthrough", into the role that drawing, doodling, and ultimately art, plays in the importance of children and adults' lives. A chain-smoking female monkey wearing glasses and a bandana guides us through a memoir-like storybook of images that tell about Marlys and Arna's childhoods. The narrative voice that emerges seems to be Barry's own, as the author and creator, and she examines how over ...more
Josephine L.
Feb 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Upon opening Lynda Barry’s Picture This: The Near-sighted Monkey Book, the reader is bombarded with colors, images, instructions on drawing, and questions about the choices made throughout one’s life. We follow the stories of Marlys and Arna, the Near-sighted Monkey simultaneously, and occasionally tidbits from minor characters like Mr. Trunk and Mr. Beak. The book is a conglomerate of doodles, comics, and paintings paratactically mixed with several questions concerning why we as adults can no l ...more
Mar 30, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2011
i really have no idea what to think of this book. it was nice to look at. i liked all the marlys in it, & i really liked all the bats. especially marlys hanging out with a bat, & a bat attacking a ballet dancer. but collage & drawings is pretty much all this book is. what "substance" there is in terms of thoughts about drawing is mostly very vague & impressionistic. i didn't dislike it...but it's not really the kind of thing that gets me going. it is very much like what it is, another collage-he ...more
Emily Dings
Sep 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wishlist
I could not love Lynda Barry more. This book is mesmerizing. She talks (and draws!) about the barriers to creativity in the most generous, inspiring, clever way possible. Nothing I've ever read has made me so motivated to create.
Jan 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is the most amazing memoir / art how-to I have ever encountered. I had to stop several times while reading it to make comics. For anyone who is struggling with creativity, who has anxiety about making things, or who just feels like they're not creative, this book is for you.
Heather (DeathByBook)
Nov 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone!
Genius. Great. Lynda Barry is the best. A book for getting unstuck or finding a new way, or re-finding an old way of looking at things.
First Second Books
I feel like I’ve just read a how-to book that was haunted by Edward Gorey’s The Doubtful Guest. And he brought bunnies. . . .
Nov 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Went to the library for Ursula K. Le Guin's Tehanu, found this instead. Win.

Lynda! Barry! Rocks!
Jul 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing

What is here is not so much about being instructed how to draw, but how to be visited by images.

There was a metaphor that came to me that described this work so well, but I wasn't in a position to write it down and now it has escaped me. That is fitting, given the "Remember to Forget to Remember" mantra of this book.

There is a kind of drawing instruction present here, and a kind of memoir, but these things are not central; instead the central action of the book is that the creatures of the back
Jeff Lewonczyk
Nov 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
When Lynda Barry published the story that led to her first memoir-cum-meditation-on-creativity, What It Is, in the McSweeney's comic issue 15 years ago, it blew my mind. In examining why and how her own creative juices seemed to dry up the more accomplished she became, and how she fought against that, I felt like she was talking to ME. When I finally read the book-length version, it seemed to end more or less where the essay did, with an exhortation to embrace the unknown and trust your own mind ...more
May 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: art, graphic-novel
I was directed to this book by an author of another graphic novel who mentioned that she was inspired by this author/artist. This is mesmerizing. I loved the idea that she uses used paper to paint over. Must try that with some kids. It would help not seeing a blank piece of paper. I also never met anyone who revealed that they see images and monsters in water stains and shadows. I always thought I was weird. I love to look at patterns and see images and when you glance back you see a completely ...more
Bryan Whitehead
Apr 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012
Were I a drawing teacher, I would assign this to my students as a text. Lynda Barry avoids the standard “learn to draw by sketching squares and circles and then combining them,” opting instead for something far more fundamental. Her observations cut to the core of why many artists draw alike and why many people abandon art altogether at an early age. She teaches ways to draw like ourselves rather than drawing in some standard pattern. And though some of it is devoted to her personal techniques, ...more
I've had this on my shelf for years and finally read it. I love Lynda Barry's approach. This entire book is a reminder to play, to make art without purpose, and to use what you have -- no fancy supplies necessary. Making up stories & images from the stains on the ceiling made me smile. This is one of Leonardo da Vinci's tips as well: "If you look upon an old wall covered with dirt, or the odd appearance of some streaked stones, you may discover several things like landscapes, battles, clouds, un ...more
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Lynda Barry is an American cartoonist and author, perhaps best known for her weekly comic strip Ernie Pook's Comeek.

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