Review of 6 creative prompt books
Can't get enough prompts? I sure can't! I have a horrible urge to buy any and all books I see that have any sort of theme related to creative prompts, and I've amassed quite the collection over the years.
Today, I'm going to review some of them!
All of the following books are meant to be drawn in directly, which (at least ideally) makes them very satisfying to leaf through once you've worked in them for a while.
I will be making a separate post showcasing how I've personally used each book and link to it here, in case any if them pique your interest and you'd like to know more (coming soon!)
Books I am reviewing:
365 days of art by Lorna Scobie (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️▪️ Four out of five stars)
642 things to draw by chronicle books (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ five out of five stars)
642 fashion things to draw by Chronicle Books (⭐️⭐️⭐️▪️▪️ Three out of five stars)
Doodle a day by Chris Riddell (⭐️⭐️⭐️▪️▪️ three out of five stars)
Hirameki: Draw what you see by Peng and Hu (⭐️⭐️▪️▪️▪️ two out of five stars)
Illistration by Jaime Zollars (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️▪️ four out of five stars)
Warning: this is a very long post
365 days of art
By Lorna Scobie
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️▪️ Four out of five stars
What I like about it:
There's a great variety of prompts in this one. The prompts are mostly simple and straightforward, with space for doing your own thing. Most of the exercises also happen to appeal to me personally.
The prompts are designed for being able to be completed quite quickly, which makes them very accessible for me, and of course, you can get more elaborate with them if you have the time and energy (I've spent the last five days adding details to fish, just because I wanted to).
The author uses the foreword to encourage you to use the book in whatever way you personally find the most fun, which I appreciate.
Most of the prompts feel like they're focusing on practice rather than results, which means it's open for all skill levels to enjoy.
While I do hold that this book can work for artists of all skill levels, it does have prompts that are meant to teach you something, and while I like some of them, there are some that feel targeted towards either less experienced artists, or artists who has, or strives towards, a similar art style to that of the author. A couple of times, I have felt that my art style did not match the exercise set up, and while I still managed to have fun with them, I did wish there were more space for (in my case) a more realistic art style.
On a similar note, there are sections geared towards calligraphy, and they start at the very basics. While I personally am a beginner, I can imagine that someone with experience would find these bits both boring and redundant.
I will also mention that the book does encourage the use of different kinds of media, so you either have to be ready to break out some different tools or bend the prompts a bit if all you have is a pencil.
Recommended for beginner and intermediate artists, people who really like prompt books. Good for a little bit of daily practice with many different styles of art. Good for people who like patterns and colours in their art.
Recommended tools: brush pen, water-based paint, coloured pencils
642 things to draw
By chronicle books
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ five out of five stars
Of all the prompt books I have, this is my favorite. Hands down.
What I like about it:
This book is just prompts. No hand-holding, no presets for what to do with it, they just give you something to draw and you go from there. All you need is a pencil and your imagination. There are both straightforward prompts (a bottle opener, a spool of thread) and more abstract ones (girlish laughter, head in the clouds) and the variety means I usually find at least one prompt I want to do on each spread.
The differing sizes dedicated to each prompt make for a really fun and pleasing result.
I also appreciate that this book is completely open to all skill levels, as long as you're willing to give a go at drawing a lot of different things.
While I personally adore the to-the-point, straightforward prompts, I do acknowledge that, unless you enjoy just drawing random objects, you're going to need to add some creativity on your own, in how you incorporate the prompts. I personally like adding either character interaction or to use the object as part of a scene, especially for the things I don't find super visually interesting on their own. I personally enjoy the level of thinking, but I'm sure there are people who don't.
I also don't know if I would have enjoyed it as much when I was just starting out. I’ve always been quite result-based with my art, and while I think using reference to draw all the different things in the book would be an amazing skill-building exercise, it also sounds like a lot of work.
There are also a handful of pop culture references and prompts for famous people, which I personally prefer to avoid, because those are often based on social knowledge and interest, of which I personally have neither.
Recommended for artists of all skill levels, people who either have a big visual library or would like to build one. Recommended for people who like to draw a lot of different things.
Recommended materials: anything! Can be used with just a pencil
642 fashion things to draw
By Chronicle Books
⭐️⭐️⭐️▪️▪️ Three out of five stars
This one was actually my first prompt book ever! The start of a hoard, one might say.
What I like about it:
This one is another one by Chronicle Books, in the same series. This one is really fun if you like drawing clothes, and/or your art is character oriented. Of all my prompt books, this one has the best potential for fanart, in my opinion. If you like drawing people and characters, this book is really fun
This one is, quite understandably, more specific. If you like drawing clothes, this one is ideal. If you don't ... don't pick this one.
I was close to giving this one four stars, but I will withdraw a star for being very specifically tailored to one subject -- this could be a five star book for some people and a one-star for others.
Another thing I want to mention is that this book gets specific. I have to look up what about a third of the prompts mean. I'm okay with that, but if you don't want to do research and don't already know what a jaquard blouse or peplum waist skirt or houndstooth is, this is not the book for you.
Lastly, it has a good handful of both pop culture references and references to different brands, which is kind of alienating to me personally. It also assumes that you yourself care about your own clothes to some extent. And that you have at least one father and one mother. Who got married at some point. And your mom wore a wedding dress. Things like that.
Also my copy is from 2013 and let's just say some of the references have aged very poorly. ("D*nald Tr*mp power suit" being a very notable example. I drew him impaled on a stick. Which was satisfying. But it was very much an act of rebellion so keep it in mind)
Recommended for anyone who likes drawing clothes and the people wearing them, who are also willing to put up with a certain amount of heteronormativity in their prompt books. Some skill level will probably make the book more enjoyable. Clothes are hard.
Recommended materials: Anything! You can use this one with just a pencil
Doodle a day
By Chris Riddell
⭐️⭐️⭐️▪️▪️ three out of five stars
(Note: I own a translated version of the book; this is the danish cover)
Before we start, I would like to note that this book's target demographic is children. I’m not a children, I just thought it looked fun. And I was right! But do keep it in mind.
What I like about it:
This one doesn't take itself too seriously. Which means that in places, it gets wacky. And I appreciate that. It expects a child's untamed creativity and wish to go along with whatever.
A lot of the prompts are really fun and inspiring for me as an adult. There are a lot of "complete this drawing" sort of things that get me to draw things I don't usually draw.
It's nice to see a book geared towards children that dares to have a very detailed and complex art style. Whether you personally like Chris Riddell's art style is very subjective, but he's good at what he does.
You have to enjoy drawing along with what the author enjoys. We're talking robots and fairy tales and dancing bears. This book has less room for letting you steer the prompts in a direction that you personally like, which is good if you like to be told exactly what to draw. It is less good if, like me, you prefer your prompt-based art to have space for a lot of your own creativity and preferences.
I've personally marked down the prompts I want to do with tape, and I'm planning to just plain skip the rest. This means about two thirds of the book that I'm just not planning on using. I'm okay with this! But I want to mention it.
The book also contains quite a lot of 'free days', which I always find disappointing. I came here specifically because I didn't want to make up my own stuff. Please. Tell me what to do, I beg of you.
I will also note that this book assumes that you have some sort of family that are present in your life to the point that you want to include them in your drawings, and that you have at least one friend who wants to partake in certain of the prompts.
It also assumes cultural Christianity, having prompts for easter and christmas and halloween and so forth, with no other holidays mentioned. It's a little uncomfortable.
Recommended for people who like silly prompts and are very adaptable in their art. Probably really good for younger kids? I was a weird child, so my point of view might be skewed. Decide for yourself if this book is worth getting for you or someone you know!
Recommended materials: something to draw with, and something to colour with.
Hirameki: Draw what you see
By Peng and Hu
⭐️⭐️▪️▪️▪️ two out of five stars
The classic exercise of using vague blobs and turning them into drawings
What's I like about it:
The concept is really good. The idea of having a whole book of printed blobs to turn into drawings is so fun and appealing to me, as someone who loves having things in books.
I really like that they have certain categories and themes, to make things a little different. I love the idea of having a theme for a whole page of blobs (turning everything on one page into birds, for example), and what made me get the book was specifically that they have pages with just the same blob ten times over, and the challenge is then to make them all into different things.
This book is the marketable brand flavor of prompt books, trying to be what mindful colouring books did, but with another concept, preferably in a way they can copyright.
They're clearly trying to make pattern-making into a marketable invention rather than something that has been around since, like, literal prehistoric times. This would be little more than annoying and could probably be ignored, if it wasn't for the fact that the blobs aren't even ... random.
The creativity is killed, because these blobs are clearly made to look like certain things. Which is the opposite of the point, of the shapes-in-randomness exercise. They don't do this with every page, but it is, like. More than half. The page dedicated to faces have defined noses and necks. There’s a beach themed spread and the crabs have defined pincers.
I had the most fun on the intro pages, where there were no prompts, because that was the place where the blobs were truly random. These were not meant to be drawn on! They were decorations! I just did it anyway!
This is branded to be something that will allow you to be creative, but in reality, it is actually just a different way of playing connect-the-dots. And there's nothing wrong with connect-the-dots, but I was advertised something else and I'm disappointed.
Also, this is personal pettiness, but if you're going to make a gimmick out of every prompt rhyming, you have to actually know how to rhyme. "Gadget" and "uplug it" do not rhyme! Not even by a stretch!
I cannot recommend this book. The idea is good, and some of the pages I did enjoy filling out, but I would have gotten more out of just grabbing a blank sketchbook and adding some ink blots to every page, then started from one end.
Recommended materials: They specifically say that you have to use a pen that’s either blue or black. I used a bright red one just to be a contrarian.
By Jaime Zollars
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️▪️ four out of five stars
This one is a little different -- it is essentially a make-your-own-prompts book!
What I like about it:
This book appeals right to my need to be part of the process, even when drawing for prompts. Basically, this book is all about producing creative lists of things to draw, and then illustrating your favorites.
I love how the author talks you through their process of creating each individual list to suit their own preferences, and encourages you to do the same, to create prompts that appeal directly to you.
I also really appreciate that this book fully assumes that the reader is just as capable as the author. It wants to teach you something, sure, but it doesn't outright assume that you've got more or less experience than the author. They're teaching you one specific way of generating ideas and that's what matters. The author is confident, but humble. I like that.
Honestly, this is a wonderful book. I wouldn't change anything about it. The only reason I subtracted a star is because it falls a little bit outside the category of a prompt book. It's a five-star book for what it is, but if you're just here to be told what to draw without having to make stuff up on your own, this one is not for you.
I can't just pull this one out, open it up and start drawing -- using this book is a project. I have to do at least half of the work myself, if not more. And I personally have fun with that, but it has to be noted.
Recommended for artists of any skill level, who like to generate their own unique ideas. This is the one I would be most likely to recommend to a dedicated artist, or a professional.
Recommended materials: whatever you prefer to draw with, and something to write with.
Thank you for reading!
If you found this review helpful and want to fund me and my constant purchasing of prompt books, you can tip me on TheNearsightedMicroraptor on Ko-fi!
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