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As someone who never went to art school, this slim out-of-print volume is probably the most informative book I’ve ever seen for learning how to sketch the human body. At only 120 pages, it contains hundreds of illustrations and easy-to-follow text that deliver tips, hints, and techniques designed to improve your presentation of the human form that will be helpful for the weekend sketcher or the professional artist.

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Jack B. Hamm (1916 – 1966) was an American artist from the Midwest who made his name as an editorial cartoonist and minister who produced religious artwork and illustrations of Bible stories. This makes him an unlikely author of a ‘how-to’ book that includes pictures of naked men and women, but he does an amazing job of it. 

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The book is organized by body parts from head to toes. Along the way there are pages on human expressions, hair, the aging face, and the figure – both clothed and unclothed. There is an amazing chapter at the end that goes over clothing, including fabric folds and how to make clothing look natural on the human form. The presentation of men’s and women’s fashions and hairstyles from the 50’s and 60’s adds to the book’s appeal. 

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With amazing ease, Jack presents simple formulas for rendering facial features and the human body accurately in any position, with accurate and detailed correlations with human anatomy. For example, he sketches bones and muscles important to surface anatomy, naming each structure with descriptions of how the anatomy impacts your drawing. 

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The author shows the immense variety of human features. For example there are at least 3 pages on the nose and 9 pages on the hand. There are sections on un-glorious body parts that include the elbow and knee, all of which help understand how to improve your drawing. The author also renders the figure in different media including pencil and pen-and-ink. 

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Jack Hamm states in the preface, “…the human body is not static like a rock or simple like an apple,” and he delivers on its complexity. This book has so much information that you cannot digest it in one sitting. Instead, I advise referencing it when you get puzzled when drawing an eye or other human feature.


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Drawing the Head & Figure is concisely written and expertly drawn and I highly recommend this volume for any artist or sketcher’s library. 

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Drawing the Head and Figure, by Jack Hamm, was published by Grosset & Dunlap in New York, 1963 and is currently out-of-print.

For samples of Jack Hamm’s religious art click here.

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