Book Review: I Can Draw by Peng

I Can Draw by Peng. Thames & Hudson, 2021. 9780500652428. 160pp.

Peng’s book is full of smudges and weird brush strokes and scribbles and I can’t quite explain this but it feels like it’s full of smudges and fingerprints, too. Like it’s as weird and chaotic as my failed drawings, and also like it’s showing me the way forward from that. (I normally hate books on drawing — they seem to be full of nonsensical lessons that say, “Combine these two basic poorly drawn shapes and voila(!) you can draw a fully realized anatomically correct person!” BS.) Peng encourages budding artists to start with a few basic materials and just to start moving them on the page. The first two chapters, almost half the book, focus on drawing people. Later chapters are on birds and dogs and cats and other animals and then comics. It’s a very indirect cartooning course which, at just the right moments, encourages scribbling. I love it for everything it has and everything it doesn’t.

The book itself is oversized and spacious, and the words are few. It will sit on my shelf next to Linda Barry’s What It Is and Picture This, but like those books it will spend a lot of time on my desk, too.


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