the Figurative Artist's Handbook



"At the risk of seeming over the top, it is safe to say that this book is a milestone. Obviously a labor of love, it also marks the opening of the next chapter in the rebirth of figuration in America today."

Peter Trippi
Editor, Fine Art Connoisseur Magazine

"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
Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Art History and Philosophy, State University of New York at Stony Broo

"Rob Zeller’s debut book on drawing and painting the human figure promises to be the most definitive on the subject in decades. Simultaneously classical and contemporary in scope, it contains roughly 300 images, how-to diagrams, and information about figurative art movements of the past as well as profiles of some of the greatest practitioners working today... featuring examples of Zeller’s own work and also some of his best contemporary peers, who collectively bring the figurative tradition forward into a new era."  

David Molesky
Juxtapoz Magazine

"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


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An Authoritative, Comprehensive Guide for Contemporary Figurative Artists

At a time when renewed interest in figurative art is surging throughout the art world, author Robert Zeller and the Monacelli Press present The Figurative Artist’s Handbook—the first comprehensive guide to figure drawing, painting and composition to appear in decades.
Illustrated with Zeller’s own exquisite drawings and paintings as well as works by nearly 100 historical and contemporary figurative art masters, the book includes some of the finest figurative art of the past and the present day. Some of those 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 others

Colleen Barry, Deposition of Christ, 2012, brown pencil on toned paper, 11 x 17 inches (27.9 x 43.2 cm)

Colleen Barry, Deposition of Christ, 2012, brown pencil on toned paper, 11 x 17 inches (27.9 x 43.2 cm)

Original and thoroughly modern in approach, Zeller’s method of teaching synthesizes three styles of figure-drawing long thought to be at odds with each other.  All three methods underlie contemporary fine-arts practice and education. Zeller combines them into one system to offer a cohesive and complete understanding of the human figure.

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-bystep instruction and—rare among figure-drawing books—features sections on composition, portraiture,studio practice, 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. Also included is an extensive section highlighting the great movements in figurative art throughout history—from ancient Egypt and Greece to the present.

Andrew Wyeth, Study for Barracoon,1976, watercolor on paper, 193⁄4 x 251⁄8 inches (50.2 x 63.9 cm), copyright © Pacific Sun TradingCompany,

Andrew Wyeth, Study for Barracoon,1976, watercolor on paper, 193⁄4 x 251⁄8 inches (50.2 x 63.9 cm), copyright © Pacific Sun TradingCompany,

Featuring lessons in

• figure drawing and painting

• portrait drawing and painting

• keeping a sketchbook

• the creative and compositional processes of contemporary artists, both blue chip and up-and-coming.

• the great movements in figurative art history from the Egyptians to the present day.

Below, a selection of images from artists in the book (But not the ones we actually used in the book. That would be telling.)

If you'd like to see more images of the artists in this book, follow the book's Instagram page here. 

An alphabetical list of artists included in the book:

Steven Assael * Craig Banholzer * Colleen Barry * Bo Bartlett * David Bell * George Bellows * Kent Bellows * Thomas Hart Benton * Candice Bohannon * François Boucher * George Bridgman * Pieter Brueghel the Elder * Noah Buchanan * Michelangelo Buonarroti * Sherry Camhy * Caravaggio * Aleah Chapin * Gustave Courbet * Lucas Cranach the Elder * John Currin * Jacques-Louis David * George Dawnay * Edgar Degas * Eugène Delacroix * Edwin Dickinson * Carl Dobsky * Michele Doll * Hollis Dunlap * Albrecht Dürer * Randall Exon * Eric Fischl * Zoey Frank * Frank Frazetta * Lucian Freud * Michael Fusco * Ann Gale * David Gluck * Susan Hauptman * Hans Holbein the Younger * Edward Hopper * Sabin Howard * Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres * Christian Johnson * Alexander Kanevsky * David Kassan * Kurt Kauper * Evan Kitson * Gustav Klimt * Käthe Kollwitz * Maria Kreyn * Kristin Künc *Brad Kunkle * Leonardo da Vinci * J. C. Leyendecker * Andrew Loomis * Daniel Maidman * Simone Martini * Masaccio * Master of Guillebert de Mets * Lippo Memmi * Adam Miller * Alyssa Monks * Jenny Morgan * Odd Nerdrum * Ashley Oubré * Guno Park * Maxfield Parrish * Polykleitos * Jacopo Pontormo * Christopher Pugliese * Rembrandt * Julio Reyes * Norman Rockwell * Auguste Rodin * Matt Rota * Peter Paul Rubens * Camie Davis Salaz * David Salle * Egon Schiele * Nelson Shanks * John Sloan * Daniel Sprick * Sharon Sprung * Dan Thompson * Dorian Vallejo * Nicola Verlato * John William Waterhouse * Patricia Watwood * Antoine Watteau * Andrew Wyeth * Jason Bard Yarmosky * Elizabeth Zanzinger * Rob Zeller