Beginner drawing books:
A Guide to Drawing
The absolute best introduction to learning draftsmanship for the serious student. It’s a systematic drawing course, taking you through all the classic subjects and mediums.
Figure drawing books
Where you copy the masters drawings one by one, time consuming stuff – but then I do enjoy practicing.
These books teach you how to draw the figure in the classical style:
Bridgman’s complete guide to Drawing from Life
The First, the Best. An introduction, or lifetime study, on figure drawing.
And then you have the gang Anatomy Lessons from the Great Masters and Drawing Lessons from the Great Masters. Providing endless insights and entertainment.
Anatomy Drawing School will take your cross hatching to another level. If you want to become a classical painter this would not be the best introductory anatomy book as it is more scientific in its line-work and not at all Rembrandtesque. It contains a massive collection of human, animal and comparative anatomy studies. Its a stunning book, and your studies from it will be equally stunning.
Getting a life model is great. And by copying Bridgman you will be able to do quick studies in public. I used to draw people in bars and parks using colorful markers – drawing from life creates spirited artwork that surpasses art made from photo references.. But for most of us photo references is a must. While there are many online sources, Anatomy for the Artist is both systematic and beautiful, and includes both photo references & drawn anatomy lessons.
Books that drastically improved my draftsmanship:
The artist’s complete guide to Drawing the Head is superb if you want to learn how to draw using values rather than line – a must if you ever want to paint.
The Atelier books…. well, they are sort of silly as they take themselves so serious, and think of themselves as the end all of classical style while their artistic expression is rather modern (compared to the Rembrandt’s, the Rafael’s, the Dürer’s.) But they are informative, and I will not deny Classical Drawing Atelier has helped me on my way.
A case for the not-so-good drawing books
In the beginning years you will be dispirited by your failure to (surprise!) draw like Michelangelo. It will suck. So go to the library and borrow books like “Draw Realistic Pets” and those “How to Draw and Paint Vampires/Witches/Gothic/Comics/etc”. These shitty books are published for pure capitalistic reasons, but if it keeps you practicing and keeps your spirit up it is definitely worth it. As long as you know its shit, that is.