In the nature of "fairness" and "disclosure," I really like John Howe and his work, and because my opinion of him and his book is somewhat biased, I simply can't be impartial; but I didn't purchase it as a "Fanboy Art of," and if that's what you're looking for from it, look elsewhere because its title clearly states its purpose, "John Howe Fantasy Drawing Workshop: A Drawing Course In 10 Step-By-Step Projects. I purchased this book after I read the inside cover flap, which has John Howe's purpose statement for his writing it:
`Drawing allows you to move between two worlds, the physical and the imagined, with fantasy subjects as your stepping stones. I confess to being a serial sketcher. Without sketching, sketching and more sketching, I would not be able to create the work that I do.
`This book has been created in the hope of closing the gap between those who draw and paint professionally and those for whom it is an aspiration but perhaps not a reality... or not just yet.
`But will this book teach you to draw ten fantasy characters? Possibly, even probably, but I hope it will do much more than that. I hope simply that it will help you unlock the freedom of hand and eye that can lead you further; because with that freedom, there will not just be ten, or even ten times ten, but infinite themes and ideas that appear at the tip of your pencil.'
To me this is not a "beginner-how-to," although it would certainly do better that most if you're new to drawing/sketching; it's more for "advanced beginners" through to "professional artists" who are interested in improving their entire "drawing process." After a brief overview of sketching versus drawing ("What really differentiates drawing and sketching, then, is not so much technique as intent"), the "student" is introduced to drawing materials and techniques. Personally, I think any artist of any level can improve or refine their techniques when they study how other artists (especially accomplished artists) use their respective tools, even for such seemingly basic things as sharpening a pencil and its usage, and here John Howe does a fine job.
Notwithstanding the other outstanding elements of this book, to me its true value remains with the clearly illustrated "step-by-step" project approach that John Howe uses to teach his drawing process. You'll be familiar with it if you've ever followed and possibly completed a project through any of the more useful "how-to" special interest magazines (automotive, crochet, etc) that use large clear pictures accompanied by minimal, non-invasive, concise text where necessary and not the inverse (large blocks of text that often incongruently refer to some tiny blurry figure, picture, or graph on a separate page). In lieu of attending an actual John Howe workshop or viewing an over-the-artist's-shoulder instructional DVD, this book functions quite well as a "next best thing."