learning to see series, Peter Jenny

Learning to See Art Books for Your Budding Artist

Drawing Books for Kids and Adults

My oldest, Grasshopper and Sensei (her latest art blog), is an artist so I asked her to review this series for me which was probably a bad move because she was slow and kept losing track of the books so this review took a very, very long time. And, after bugging her repeatedly, she crankily replied that she didn’t like this art series at all.

I have taken years and years of art classes as well so I thought I would check this series out and then I realized why it was not her cup of tea. But first a digression:

My husband is a very good golf player — good enough to win a full scholarship to the University of Hawaii but completely self-taught. I think he only had one lesson in his life and arrogantly thought his instructor had no idea what he was talking about. He also has a beautiful swing. Once, his friend, John Kennaday, now the coach at San Jose State, has taped his swing in slow motion and synched it up frame by frame against other famous golf players. His swing was very similar to his golf idol, Ben Hogan. My husband would claim otherwise, but honestly, I saw the two swings frame by frame and they were uncannily similar except at the very top of the swing.

My point is that, for those lucky enough to be blessed with talent, things come very naturally and without effort. And art for my oldest, flows out of her like lava from a volcano. Sometimes it spews. Sometimes it slides out. But there is always a cauldron of ideas brewing and boiling down deep inside.

Learning to See series is more for us mere mortals who need step by step instruction as well as ideas to guide us as we put a pencil to paper to practice. This is, in fact, a “dummies” series for all would-be artists who want to learn to draw but may not have the confidence or where with all to know how to begin.

Learning to See is actually the excruciating process of how one turns into an artist such that we see with our eyes and not with our brains. The hand bigger than the foot? The brain says no, but the eye says YES, YES, YES since the hand is nearer to us. The leg foreshortened? Just kill me now. Because the thigh is a short and the foot is HUGE. Learning to SEE. really see what is there and not what the brain THINKS is there can take a lifetime … or less if you can carefully work through this series. It is in a handy pocket-size so it’s easy to carry around with your sketchbook, your pencil and your courage.


Many people abandon drawing when their work fails to meet their expectation of realism. For most this happens between the ages of eight and twelve. (The exceptions are those who consider themselves talented.) Start the process again; try to accept “mistakes” instead of giving up completely.

If you’ve ever wanted to learn to draw, or to draw better, the Learning to See series features all you need to get started. Mixing inspiration with practical instruction, these compact, accessible books will encourage you not only to pick up a pencil and start drawing, but to unlock your visual imagination and see the world with fresh eyes.

Each book covers a different drawing technique. After a short introduction, author Peter Jenny offers twenty-two easy exercises—lasting ten minutes to an hour—guaranteed to increase your skills and confidence. These playful activities encourage you to discover the language of drawing in a spirit of experimentation, spontaneity, and freedom, and each book features a helpful appendix with suggestions for repeating, modifying, and combining the exercises as your skills grow.

The Artist’s Eye, the first book in the series, will inspire you to find art in everyday objects. Peter Jenny shows how to discover images in cloud formations, old stone walls, lettering, pieces of crumpled paper, and many other items. Based on the idea that anyone can learn to see beauty in the ordinary, these exercises will help you sharpen your observation skills and see the world like an artist.

Drawing Techniques presents a series of exercises to encourage you to think of drawing as a form of communication—one that you can confidently use to express ideas. Exercises build on ordinary actions like gesturing, touching, feeling, and moving and soon lead to drawing a variety of real and imagined objects and forms.

In the third book in the series, Figure Drawing, author Peter Jenny turns his attention to the human figure, focusing especially on symbolic and archetypal representations of people. These exercises help you practice drawing symmetrical shapes, building complex figures out of simpler blocks and lines, using fragments and repetition, and playing with size and proportion.

This is the perfect book set for any young or older budding artist, except for those who are exceptionally talented, and therefore not in need of instruction on how to see.

Drawing Techniques (Learning to See) by Peter Jenny

This series of small primers on drawing encourages readers not only to pick up a pen and start drawing, but to see the world that surrounds them with fresh eyes. Visual thinking and using one’s imagination are skills that are often neglected in today’s world. With author Peter Jenny’s help, readers will learn to perceive their environment in a new way and will soon follow his lead, discovering the joy of drawing. The three books in the series each present a short introduction by Jenny and twenty-two easy exercises, with each book focusing on a different aspect: Notes on Drawing Technique takes actions such as gesticulating, touching, feeling, doodling, and moving as the starting points for putting pen to paper.

The Artist’s Eye (Learning to See) by Peter Jenny

Figure Drawing (Learning to See) by Peter Jenny

About the Author: 
Peter Jenny is professor emeritus and chair of visual design at the ETH Zurich, Switzerland. He has published numerous books on design and visual thinking.

To view any book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book or purchase at Barnes and Noble by going here.


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By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Sara

    It is a very interesting point about that age when children abandon art mainly through a failure in confidence – when the hand fails to produce something to satisfy the eye. I’watched one son go through that and then the other sail right past it.
    Sara recently posted…Hamlet: Super Abridged VersionMy Profile

    • Hi Sara,
      It’s actually a little tragic in a way. I know so many adults who say they CAN’T draw but from my art class experiences as an adult, my teachers will insist that ANYONE can draw. Some people have more natural ability so it’s a faster process but even if you have no natural ability, you can. It just takes a little longer. If you cut art off as a creative option, I worry that it seeps into everything else … both the attitude that you can’t do it and the ability to express yourself creatively.

  2. Artchoo!

    I like that you figured out why your daughter didn’t like these books. I haven’t heard of this series, but at some point I’d love to compare art instruction books.
    Artchoo! recently posted…Let Me Introduce You to AnchalMy Profile

    • Hi Artchoo!,
      Let me know if you want a copy of these. I can send you one. I really like the small size of the books. Somehow this makes them friendlier and easier to use.

  3. Ann

    Just took a peak inside the first one on Amazon and it looks really good! You know it might be a style thing too. Some people are more intuitive with how they create and others maybe more analytic. I think I am more the second.

    Thanks for the recommendation!
    Ann recently posted…The Weed!My Profile

  4. Sara

    I agree with you. It was very sad to see my son give up on something he’d always enjoyed and realize I’d done the same.
    Sara recently posted…Hamlet: Super Abridged VersionMy Profile

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