Award-winning Taupō author Donovan Bixley is set to release his 121st book titled Draw Some Awesome for budding and accomplished artists.
More than just a 'how to' guide, Donovan says the book is for both beginner and experienced artists who want to find their own drawing style.
"I don't want you to draw like me. I want to teach you how to draw like you," said Donovan.
The book is full of tips, tricks, techniques and helpful advice Donovan has picked up over the years by studying artistic luminaries such as Leonardo da Vinci, Edgar Degas and our own Murray Ball.
Chapters contain information about warm-up exercises, mark-making, sketchbooks, imagination exercises, inspirational shapes, drawing animals, faces, character creation, detail, copying, perspective, thumbnails, shading, shadows, composition, making an illustration and even drawing a unicorn.
Donovan says he was always a prolific drawer, with a photo of a three-year-old Donovan drawing a dinosaur on a blackboard easel a gift from his parents.
"I used to draw pictures and then I'd write stories to go with them, making little books out of scrap paper about dinosaurs or space missions or undersea adventures."
His artistic skills came in handy when it came to dealing with the school bully.
"Drawing trucks was a great way to get the school bully on side. It was probably the reason I really hate drawing trucks now."
He says he learned an important life lesson after he left school and went to study at art school at the Auckland University of Technology. Initially he felt overwhelmed by the apparent confidence and superior ability of the other students.
"These days, when I visit schools, I tell students that success often comes from being more stubborn than brilliant."
Donovan says it is important that tamariki learn to draw because drawing and art can be a gateway to something they're really passionate about. Now more than ever, he says there is a huge amount of visual media in our lives.
"You know, when you get obsessed with something it really starts firing all your other brain cells too.
"Our culture of Kiwi ingenuity needs creative people. And most of those great Kiwi ideas begin life as a drawing."
He says he still enjoys drawing, even though it's his job, but admits there were times when he felt like a conveyor belt artist. He says there are some really difficult mental struggles to face when your work is so directly related to you as a person.
" You're putting it out there for people to judge, and a lot of that success or failure rests on you alone."
Over the years there have been times when he's had to make a conscious effort to remember to enjoy making art.
"Many of my most successful books have been created because I was just doodling away and then decided to write a book to go with my pictures. Just like when I was a kid."
With over 100 picture books published, Donovan says it's a really powerful skill for his drawings to tell a story so that the readers have to 'read' the pictures as much as the words.
"The best picture books are where you tell your story and communicate your ideas with images."
Visiting thousands of students and conducting workshops at schools across Aotearoa has helped him to frame the book. He says teaching students has taught him how to present some complex ideas in really simple ways. He says the main thing with Draw Some Awesome was he wanted to convey skills to help the reader find their own artistic voice.
"I didn't want one of those books that teach kids to conform to my way of drawing.
"It's always a great opportunity to be someone budding artists can look to for skills and advice."
When he's looking for inspiration Donovan says he looks to the classics like Leonardo da Vinci and Edgar Degas. He also draws inspiration from storytellers like Dr Seuss and Murray Ball.
"There are a lot of highs and lows being a self-employed artist. It's so great when you see, wow, Leonardo da Vinci had the same problems I do.
"That helps you feel like you're not on your own and that you're probably on the right track."