Rediscovering Ed Emberley

Rediscovering Ed Emberley

Ben Partridge
Feb 2, 2011

Iconic illustrator Ed Emberley (who nowadays describes himself as "an old grandpa kind of guy") has inspired millions of kids to draw with his step-by-step drawing schematics. I was one of those kids. And I'd nearly forgotten about Emberley's instructional drawing books until a recent trip to our public library when we wandered into the children's art section.

As soon as I saw Ed Emberley's Drawing Book: Make A World, recognition set in. I grabbed every book on the shelf. Initially I snapped them up out of a pure sense of giddy nostalgia. But once we hunkered down with them at home, the whole family fell in love. There's a reason the bulk of Emberley's drawing books have remained in print for nearly forty years. These books are true classics, depictions of midcentury design in its most charming and simplified form (ideal art work for a nursery wall), and an excellent aid for building a child's confidence with a pencil.

The heart of Ed Emberley's books are the same: if you can draw just a handful of basic shapes, letters, and a few squiggly lines, you can draw almost anything.

At first I was concerned that my three year old would become disheartened if his drawings didn't turn out exactly as the ones that appeared in the book, but happily he was thrilled by almost everything he ended up with, and ultimately he's added a whole slew of techniques to his doodling repertoire.

If you're going to seek out just one of Emberley's books, his Make A World is by far my favorite, crammed full of instructions on how to draw over 400 different things, from goats to anteaters, blimps to gondolas, pirate cannons, lighthouses, not to mention scores of little people, trees, and tiny furniture. Or, like me, if you've already got a huge soft spot for Emberley, here's the complete list of his books available for purchase.

Did you learn to draw the Ed Emberley way?

(Images: Ben Partridge)

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