The Figurative Artist’s Handbook


A Contemporary Guide to Figure Drawing, Painting, and Composition

By Rob Zeller
Director of The Teaching Studios of Art
Signed copies available for purchase below


About the book

The Figurative Artist’s Handbook is an educational tool for artists and enthusiasts who have an interest in the human figure in art and would like to learn about the subject more deeply. The book is illustrated with Zeller’s own exquisite drawings and paintings as well as works by 100 historical and contemporary figurative art masters.

Included are Michelangelo, Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Peter Paul Rubens, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Gustav Klimt, Edward Hopper, Andrew Loomis, Andrew Wyeth, Lucian Freud, Odd Nerdrum, Eric Fischl, Bo Bartlett, Steven Assael, John Currin, and many, many others.

The book is divided into three major sections: a history chapter that covers figurative art from the Egyptians to the present day, with context provided for each of the major movements in art relating to the figure, 4 chapters that are how-to guides (in terms of figure drawing), and finally a survey of the working methods of contemporary figurative artists.

Covering all the basics as well as many advanced techniques, The Figurative Artist’s Handbook is aimed at both students and experienced artists. A practical, how-to guide, it provides in-depth step-by-step instruction and—rare among figure-drawing books—features sections on composition, portraiture, and painting. Chapters on creativity and on using a sketchbook help readers hone their artistic vision and evolve ideas from the initial inspiration to the fully developed work.


Some reviews of the book

“Robert Zeller’s book is a welcome reminder of the ongoing importance of figurative art, and the many masterful figurative artists working today.  It is at once a comprehensive, practical guide to the construction of the human body—male or female, standing or reclining, viewed from the front or the back, self-absorbed or expressively gesturing—down to the last anatomical and aesthetic detail, and an informative, incisive, critical account of the history of figurative art, a sort of grand tour of the seemingly infinite variety of modes of representation of the figure.  Beginning with the treatment of the figure in ancient Egypt and ending with its treatment in the 21st century, Zeller makes it stunningly clear that the representation of the figure, in whatever stylistic mode, is the bedrock of visual art.  The book has encyclopedic breadth and analytic depth, and is beautifully illustrated with drawings and paintings, all presenting the body in one or another of many possible positions and situations, all suggesting that we need the mirror of art to insightfully attune to our own bodies.”
—Donald Kuspit , Art Critic, Historian and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Art History and Philosophy, State University of New York at Stony Brook


“The Figurative Artist’s Handbook… is a very beautiful book to look through, so it may be challenging for those who use it as a handbook to let it get dirty and dog-eared, just like the previous generation did with their [Andrew] Loomis books. But used as intended — both for reference and for inspiration — it will achieve its purpose. As its gorgeous plates tell us, there is a rising group of figurative artists who know the importance of learning “the rules” before they break them, which is precisely the opportunity this book intends to offer its most ambitious readers.”
—John Seed, Hyperallergic


“Rob Zeller’s debut book on drawing and painting the human figure promises to be one of the most definitive on the subject in decades. Classical, as well as contemporary in scope, it contains images, how-to diagrams, and information about figurative art movements of the past, in addition to profiles of some of the greatest practitioners working today…. The book concludes with a section on artists’ painting processes, featuring examples of Zeller’s own work, along with some of the best of his peers, who collectively usher the figurative tradition forward into a new era.”
—David Molesky, Juxtapoz

To purchase an autographed copy of the book:
In the US:
$30 + $5 domestic shipping

If you want to ship international, please email us here, and provide a shipping address. We'll send a shipping quote back to you, and a payment option.

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