When I worked at Michael’s, one of the best parts was walking by all of the art products.  Especially the art books. The Art of Pencil Drawing was one I had my eye on in particular. After a few weeks, I couldn’t resist any longer and picked up a copy after my shift.


Not to be confused with Ernest W. Watson’s book of the same name (although I’m interested in his as well), The Art of Pencil Drawing by Gene Franks is a beautiful insight into pencil work. All of the art is created using graphite pencils of varying hardness.

One thing is clear from the start: Franks is passionate about his craft. It’s immediate from the quality of his pencil drawings, and is heartfelt in the introduction. The back cover states that the book includes work from the publisher’s previous art books by Franks. If you already have those, then not all of the art in this next installation will be new (for you).

Regardless, the beginning gives a useful description of the tools and techniques used in the tutorials. I found it quite educational. While I already knew about pencil hardness and hand positions, the actual applications of the graphite were like little revelations. It put a name to the techniques I’ve played with over the years, and how to improve them.


As a ‘how to draw’ book, it is definitely for intermediate to advanced artists. Of course, there are many things beginners could learn from it, but the tutorials are anything but basic. In the blurb, the publisher says there are “simple, step-by-step demonstrations”. While technically true, the lessons generally have three pictures: two in-progress and one finalized.

As such, there are huge jumps in between each step, which may be overwhelming for inexperienced artists.


I’d say I’m an intermediate artist, and it sometimes took a minute to figure out what to do next. I’ve followed two of the lessons; one an easier life drawing, and the other a more complicated nature scene.

In drawing the bottles below, the leaps between steps were not really an issue. I could see where shadow was building up, and the accompanying writing was a helpful guide. In total, it took me about an hour to finish my drawing [below on the right].  As with any drawing, I’m sure mine would have been more accurate if I’d spent more time.


One thing I did differently from the lesson was using an electric eraser. In doing the finishing highlights, my normal eraser just couldn’t get them bright enough. So I broke out my Derwent electric eraser to achieve the lightest value.

Next, I wanted to do something more complex. While the tutorials about buildings and figures were equally challenging, I was intrigued with the perspective in this river scene. I also would like to improve at drawing trees with pencil, so it seemed like a good fit.


Now this is where things got tricky. It quickly became apparent that while I could emulate a similar composition, it was near impossible to copy every line and rock from the book version.  At times, it was challenging, though in a fun way, to figure out exactly how each texture was created.

In the end, the so-called ‘step by step’ part of the lesson was only slightly helpful past the initial composition. I also needed to use different pencils than the book recommended. The F and 2B pencils (I couldn’t find my B one) served alright for their purposes, but I had to go much softer than a 3B for most of the drawing.

In order to get a good contrast, I had to use the darkest pencil I have: a 9B. To be fair, Franks said to push hard with the 3B to get the darkness. But in doing so initially, I found it just pushed down the paper, creating a much sharper line than I wanted. And even then it still wasn’t dark enough. Franks suggests a maul stick to assist this, but I don’t have one. With the 9B, I felt comfortable to gradate between the pressures of its application for a range of shades, while creating smooth or sharp lines.


Over time, I looked at the book less and less, focusing more on my own artwork. I had given up on copying every single part, and started emulating the aspects instead. In total, this drawing took roughly six hours, off and on, to complete.

I found I loved not being baby-stepped through each lesson. It forced me to be more creative in replicating the techniques and finding my own way to adapt Franks’ guidance. That said, they were useful check points to see how my work-in-progress matched up with the tutorial.

Overall Impressions

Gene Franks’ The Art of Pencil Drawing shows the often understated potential of what graphite drawings can be.  Through a technique called “action lines”, they seem to come alive on the page. In his explanations throughout the book, readers can begin to understand how to create similarly successful images.

If a lover of sketches and graphite art, this is a beautiful addition to any collection. If an artist looking to improve, there is much to learn here. However, the tutorials are aimed at intermediate to advanced artists, so you may wish to consider what difficulty level you are looking for before purchasing.

All in all, this is becoming one of my favorite drawing lesson books. After following just two tutorials, I can tell I’ve already increased not just my pencil skills, but also my art in general. I’ve always loved creating graphite drawings, and with this book I’m gaining confidence in my ability to create better and better ones.

Alas, the long awaited art book for Zelda fans has arrived! The gilded details on the deep red cover are glorious, and hint at the waiting beauties inside.  Like Hyrule Historia before it, Art and Artifacts is published by Dark Horse.  Consisting of over 400 oversized pages, it’s the newest (and largest) Legend of Zelda book so far.

Art and Artifacts Cover Close-up


For clarity’s sake, I will be writing this review in sections.  These are the same sections the book itself is divided into.  Also, this is not a sponsored review—I purchased this art book with my own money.

Art & Artifacts Table of Contents

The Table of Contents

Masterpiece Gallery

To start, this was my favorite section- despite a few tiny flaws.  There’s some marvelous art in the beginning.  It’s fun to see iconic game art compared to preparatory sketches.  However, there are no credited artists.  Not just for these designs, but any artwork in the book.  As an artist, I wanted to know who the artists were behind these powerful images.

The double page spreads (exampled in the slider above) are stunning.  It makes it a shame, then, that there is deep crease in the middle of the image.  There’s no way to avoid it, but the size of the book makes the interruption of some pictures tragically obvious.  Still, there was a certain evocation of nostalgia and excitement through this section.  It served as a wonderful overview to the games featured in the other sections.

Character Illustrations

While not every character is included, they might as well be.  Main characters understandably are given more space, but bosses and minor characters alike are featured extensively from each game.  I appreciated learning the names of recognizable characters, like the iconic owl Kaepora Gaebora, who weren’t necessarily identified in-game.

An assortment of monsters from the first game, The Legend of Zelda

Some of the more remote games have an image or two.  Even Link’s Crossbow Training is mentioned, which is nice.  No CDi games, though (understandable, given their reputation as potentially the worst video games ever made).

For some of the more popular games, there’s a page for each that shows all of the interactive objects Link finds on his adventures.  Although initially simple for the first games, it gains fascination as an evolution from the early days of a few pieces of equipment and items to all of the masks and more in Majora’s Mask. (See the slider below.)

Perhaps my favorite page of the Character Illustrations was of Tri-Force Heroes.  I’ve yet to play the game, but seeing all of Link’s costumes was hilarious.

Art & Artifacts LInk's Costumes

Fun cosplay and goofy outfits

Temple of Time

If you love box art and vast amounts pixel art, these are the pages for you.

In a book covering the “art and artifacts” of the series, it would be lacking without this content.  Box art is a part of the real life artifacts we bring into our homes, symbolizing the start of the next adventure.  Flipping back and forth, it’s simultaneously insightful and a bit repetitive at times to see the promotional art and the game packaging.

Art & Artifacts Box Art

North America had more basic cover art at first

Art & Artifacts Pixel Art

The first of the pixel pages

As a series whose beginnings lie on the 8-bit NES, the inclusion of pixel art is also essential.  What surprised me was just how many pages of it there were.

Bonus Gallery

This mish-mashed section contains the most welcome but unexpected art.  It includes Link’s popular crossover into Mario Kart 8, as well as promotional content for social media.  The section is brief, but has some fun images.  I wish Hyrule Warriors was included.  Like Mario Kart 8 it’s not canon, and deserved a mention at least, in my opinion.

Art and Artifacts Pages 398-399

A Link Between Worlds and Mario Kart 8 art

Breath of the Wild

Sadly, there are only a few pages dedicated to the newest installation in the series.  As someone who has been following Breath of the Wild prior to its release, I was already familiar with all of the images.  A tiny disappointment, but what pictures are here are gorgeously printed.

Art & Artifacts BOTW Foldout

A breathtaking foldout of a Breath of the Wild vista

For more, it seems like you’ll have to look at the game’s official game guide.  Personally, I’m hoping for an exclusive Breath of the Wild art book, however small.  It’s such a massive world it could make for a terrific book.


Featuring a few artists from the Zelda creative team, the ending interview provides an appreciated look into the series.  It’s a stark contrast from the previous 300 pages of pictures.  But as an epilogue of sorts to the illustrations, though, it concludes the book nicely.

Overall Impressions

Art and Artifacts is a fantastic book for long-time, dedicated fans of the Legend of Zelda.  Like never before, characters, promotional materials, and more are brought together into an incredibly extensive collection.  For that’s what this art book is: a collection of previously released images.

Importantly, it never claims to be something different.  What this massive book is is a volume of beautifully printed images that gives a closer look at different elements of the series.  While some books include comments from creators throughout, Art and Artifacts refrains from such insight besides the concluding interview.

Art and Artifacts’ greatest strength and theme is evolution.  In the second volume of the series-wide collector books, we see the growth from simple yet creative pixels to sweeping landscapes, and classic characters emerge and develop through the ages.

The only things missing in this book are the various figures, statues, and amiibo.  I, and likely many collectors, would consider them to be as much ‘artifacts’ in the series as the box art, especially the amiibo.  It seems strange to include a near encyclopedia of characters and not mention the tangible artifacts produced alongside the games. For this reason, it seems like the ‘artifact’ portion is lacking.

Nevertheless, Art and Artifacts is a wonderful tribute to the art of the Legend of Zelda.  From beloved characters to iconic images, fans will have plenty to admire in this follow-up to Hyrule Historia.

If you are looking for concept art and more behind-the-scenes info, I highly recommend Hyrule Historia.