I recently ordered a copy of Kyle Baker’s new book How To Draw Stupid and Other Essentials of Cartooning (Amazon.com link). For those of you who aren’t familiar with Baker’s work, he’s a prolific cartoonist with a background in comic books and animation. His work has appeared in numerous publications including BusinessWeek, Entertainment Weekly, The New York Times, MAD Magazine, and Rolling Stone. He’s written and/or illustrated at least seven graphic novels and self-published three book collections of his cartoons (Kyle Baker Cartoonist Volumes 1 & 2, and Undercover Genie). For samples of his work check out Baker’s website, kylebaker.com.
How To Draw Stupid is not your average how-to book on cartooning. Baker assumes you already knows how to draw. Instead of teaching a non-cartoonist how to become a cartoonist, his goal is to teach the cartoonist how to be a great cartoonist. He fills the pages with insights and examples that flesh out his personal approach to cartooning. Given Baker’s long and prolific career he has a great deal of valuable information to share. He offers pearls of artistic wisdom on such topics as character design, using reference material, expressive poses, acting, and communicating clearly, just to name a few.
The chapters are short, to-the-point, and richly illustrated with clear examples from Baker’s past work. The text is a bit skimpy in spots but not lacking in content. Baker has a style of writing that is low on fluff and gets straight to the point. Like many of his cartoons, Baker says a lot with a little. The entire 112-page book can be read in less than an afternoon, but there’s so much great information that you’ll want to pull it off your shelf to read again and again.
There are a few chapters where I wished Baker would have delved a bit deeper. There are times when he made a great point but left me wanting more specifics. But those were the exception, not the rule. Overall I was very happy with the book. I found myself underlining quite a few well-said statements, and by the time I finished reading I was anxious to to grab my sketchbook and start applying what I had just read. Even though I’ve been earning a living as an artist for eleven years I still learned a few things.
I’m happy to recommend Kyle Baker’s How To Draw Stupid. It’s a book that every serious cartoonist will find helpful and inspiring. Order a copy today.