When I was growing up, I used to enjoy reading Lynda Barry’s Marlys comic strip in The Village Voice. Then years later as a librarian I encountered several books of hers that were tangentially related to those old comic strips but harder to categorize — What it Is and Picture This.
When I share Picture This with classes, I mark off several pages showing different artistic styles and techniques with sticky notes before I start, and then as I talk about the book I hold up those pages for the class to see. I think what I like the most about this book is that it’s inspiring without being intimidating, so that even those of us who can’t draw much more than stick figures can still use it for good advice.
Picture This by Lynda Barry is a book by an artist who’s been drawing cartoons for years. It’s a book about the creative process, and it’s also a very UNUSUAL book, so I’m going to show you some of the pages so you can see just how unusual it is. Picture This is a book about drawing, and painting, and cartooning. Parts of this book are told as a story, about a girl who wants to be an artist and a near-sighted monkey who is going to inspire her. It’s about making art in different ways, like drawing or painting or making cut-paper mosaics. Or creating pictures using dots. Or scribbling. Or using brushes to paint. Or making collages out of old photographs. Or experimenting with how to create portraits. Or creating a story with characters who seem so real that it’s almost like they created themselves. Or re-using different kinds of paper to create new kinds of art.
If you’re an artist, if you think you might like to be an artist, or you’ve always wondered how we draw, WHAT we draw, and WHY we draw, then Picture This is definitely worth checking out.