Some recommendations…

Posted by on Mar 1, 2016 | 5 Comments
Some recommendations…

Well in case you were wondering I am still here. For the last few months I’ve been working on a few jobs, enjoying a bit of a relaxy time and ultimately battling the resistance to write a new post. If you’re reading this then I won the battle and I’m back baby!

I’ve been mulling over writing a post about personal recommendations for books and other media I refer to for creativity, motivation AND productivity.

I’ll just get on with it shall I…


Anatomy & Figure Drawing: Bridgman’s Complete Guide to Drawing from Life by George B. Bridgman


Admittedly I haven’t really checked out other books on anatomy/figure drawing but then after having owned this I’ve never needed to. It was recommended to me by my animator friend years ago during art school.

His course was notoriously the best animation course in the country at the time and the lecturers there really pushed their students to hone their all-round drawing skills. This is what they recommended for anatomy.

The text is probably a bit, hmm, not relevent, and I wouldn’t follow Bridgman’s methods of using blocky shapes too strictly. What it really serves as is a great reference for every area of the human figure. He almost overexaggerates the muscles and joints of his figures which really helps emphasise the key areas, teaching you how to make them look anatomically correct.

Also, if you’re interested in getting good at comic style anatomy this baby is a gem.

Telling a story and creating emotions in an image: Picture This by Molly Bang

molly bangmolly bang1

This is such a great book for its simplicity and easy to absorb lessons. A real “bang for your buck” book (Pun intended! The author’s name is Molly BANG… Geez, tough crowd.)

Anyway, it teaches you in such a very simple yet powerful way how different elements such as character placement, colours, areas of space, and many other pictorial elements can really dictate how a reader responds emotionally to the image.

I’ve learned so much from this book. I read it over ten years ago and still recall lessons from it which I use on a daily basis in my artwork. I’d say this is essential reading if your focus is narrative style illustration (storytelling, picturebooks, comics, etc.).

Image composition: Framed Ink by Marcos Mateu-Mestre

framedinkframedink 2

I received this recommendation from Chris Oatley’s blog and refer to it time and time again when I’m trying to think of more interesting ways to lay out whole scenes.

You learn a lot about creating a real sense of depth in your images with this one and actually surprise yourself by how much you can squeeze into a frame.

Nearly all the examples show some sort of play between background and foreground elements, which really opens your eyes to new ways of arranging your characters that you may have never considered before.

You also learn how to really lead the viewer’s eye across an image. He explains this, necessarily, using black & white examples throughout the book, because if your image doesn’t work well enough in black & white then no amount of colour will save it.

Motivation and Productivity: The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod

miracle morn

My number one recommendation for people trying to sort out their lives. When I decided to go freelance full time and work from home I found out fairly quickly (when it was time to pay rent!) that you need to implement some sort of structure and discipline into your day in order to realistically get things done.

I developed a certain amount of self-discipline in my later years but learning to be your own boss and stay on top of things was not something that came naturally to me. After I read this book and actively applied its simple premise every day, it helped me to develop in all areas of my life.

The book centres around the idea of focusing the first hour of your day, right after you wake up, on getting yourself in gear physically, mentally, spiritually. You can use this hour for whatever you want to improve in your life but I personally follow what the book suggests, which is dividing the hour into segments such as meditation, exercise, reading and planning. which generally covers a lot of the things that we should be doing daily but end up neglecting and resisting as the day goes on.

After you’ve gone through that hour you feel like you’ve already accomplished so much and feel really clear headed going into the rest of your day because your your mind and body have been stimulated in a particular way.

He also has a great podcast here which I listen to regularly.


Creative Inspiration & Learning: Jake Parker’s YouTube

jake parkerboba_fett_by_jakeparker-d7fjdrn

I was referred to Jake Parker by a friend. He is an illustrator/cartoonist who is also known for starting the annual Inktober challenge, which I did last year, His channel on YouTube is filled with videos where he shares valuable advice on creativity and being an artist, often while he drawing beautiful pictures!

Particular favourites of mine are The 8 Minute Drawing Challenge, which is a great warm up exercise for drawing, and Creative Bank Account – nothing to do with money but all to do with drawing from your brain. I really recommend you check out his vids as they will almost certainly speed up your development as an artist, even if it’s only by watching the way he draws.


Inspiration & Accellerated Learning: The Tim Ferriss Show


Tim Ferriss’ podcast interviews are brilliant. Here’s what it’s about in his own words: “Each episode, I deconstruct world-class performers from eclectic areas (investing, sports, business, art, etc.) to extract the tactics and tools you can use.”

His show is as close as you’ll get to actually sitting down for coffee with a world class performer and casually asking them how they do it. What’s really great is that he tends to ask them questions that you yourself would want to ask them.

I’m still amazed at all the wonderful wisdom that is freely available in each episode. A couple of really good ones to get you started are the Jamie Foxx interview and the Robert Rodriguez interview. I usually listen to them when I’m travelling or doing something that doesn’t require a lot of attention.


Creative Insights: 99u

This offshoot of portfolio site Behance is a great online resource for creative articles and wisdom from professionals. I have 99u on my RSS feeds because they’re always posting great ideas on all areas of creativity.

Online comics: Mr. Lovenstein


I really enjoy his comics because the humour is a little weird, and I love all things weird. He so good at nailing the expressions of his characters even though their faces are so simplified.

So there are a few of my personal recommendations. I can’t say they’ll necessarily do anything for you but they have been really valuable to me and my learning. It’d be really cool to hear about any of your personal recommendations. Feel free to drop them in the comments or just say “Good/Bad job Ains!”

NEXT TIME: I’ll be doing a post on the most recent job I worked on, where I’ll share my process from beginning to end. Stay tuned!


  1. EricJuicy
    3rd July, 2018

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  2. Paul Weiner
    8th March, 2016

    Picture This and Framed Ink are two books you suggested that I am currently
    reading. I really enjoyed that Marcos mentions about creating effective
    pictures. Thanks

    • Ains
      8th March, 2016

      Awesome. Together I think they make a winning combo.
      I think there’s a bit more to take in with Framed Ink and that’s why I always come back to it.

  3. Thomas Marsh
    4th March, 2016

    Great stuff Ainsley and welcome back! There’s a lot of good suggestions here and I appreciate the variety of areas mentioned from personal, organizational and creative inspiration.
    Looking forward to your post on your project’s process as I particularly enjoy sharing my process on my Behance site. Getting ready to launch my long-overdue official site and will look to transition much of those things there.
    Keep bringing the good stuff!

    • Ains
      4th March, 2016

      Thanks Thomas. Glad you appreciated it!

      Look forward to seeing the new site. I know how long it can take to finally go live with a new site.
      I got caught up in making everything look perfect before I put up my site but then realised it’s a more of a continuously edited thing. I still find myself editing and optimising things on my site now.


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