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Lee J(udah) (Jonathan David) Ames Biography (1921-)


Lee J. Ames, author of the "Draw Fifty" series of how-to books, is one of the most prolific artists of his generation. He began his career, only months after his high school graduation, working on animated films for the Walt Disney Company. However, the native New Yorker was homesick in California, and a few months later, he returned to New York. After serving in World War II, working in advertising, and teaching art, Ames finally found the calling that he would follow for the rest of his life: illustrating books.

Ames began writing the "Draw Fifty" series at the suggestion of an editor at the Doubleday publishing company, where Ames was an in-house artist. "Lee, I have an idea," Hall said one day, as Ames recalled on the Draw Fifty Web site. "Since we've temporarily run out of artwork for you, you might fill the time writing a book … on drawing." The result was Draw Draw Draw. The book was moderately successful, but Ames returned to illustrating others' work for another decade. Not until 1974 did Ames launch the "Draw Fifty" series with Draw Fifty Animals. The book offers step-by-step sketches of how to draw various animals, from the ovals, triangles, and other random shapes that create the animal's frame to shading and other finishing touches.

Later books in the "Draw Fifty" series provide similar guides to sketching a wide variety of objects, including modes of transportation, plants, famous people, and even aliens. The series is still growing, and the "Draw Fifty" books are some of the most checked-out works in school libraries across the country. Ames was "thrilled" when he was informed of this fact, he wrote on the Draw Fifty Web site. "In this era of visual entertainment and education," he continued, "my nonthreatening, minimal text books … have brought many kids and young adults back into using the libraries and liking books."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, November 15, 1994, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Draw Fifty Flowers, Trees, and Other Plants, p. 592; January 1, 1999, Carolyn Phelan, review of Draw Fifty Aliens, UFO's Galaxy Ghouls, Milky Way Marauders, and Other Extraterrestrial Creatures, p. 858.

Publishers Weekly, January 21, 1983, review of Battle of the Dinosaurs, p. 84.

School Library Journal, March, 1981, Dana Whitney Pinizzotto, reviews of Make Twenty-five Crayon Drawings of the Circus and Make Twenty-five Felt-Tip Drawings Out West, p. 139; December, 1982, review of The Dot, Line, and Shape Connection: How to Be Driven to Abstraction, p. 69; May, 1984, Naomi J. Rhodes, review of How to Draw Star Wars Heroes, Creatures, Spaceships, and Other Fantastic Things, p. 75; February, 1985, review of Draw Fifty Horses, p. 69; February, 1986, Sandra L. Ricker, review of Draw Fifty Athletes, p. 79; September, 1986, Catherine Wood, review of Amazing Mouths and Menus, p. 116; October, 1986, Eleanor K. MacDonald, review of Draw Fifty Cars, Trucks, and Motorcycles, p. 169; January, 1987, Patricia Homer, review of Draw Fifty Cats, p. 70; January, 1988, Patricia Homer, review of Draw Fifty Holiday Decorations, p. 78; February, 1989, Patricia Homer, review of Draw Fifty Beasties and Yugglies and Turnover Uglies and Things that Go Bump In the Night, p. 77; March, 1990, Patricia Homer, review of Draw Fifty Sharks, Whales, and Other Sea Creatures, p. 222; February, 1991, Fran Powell, review of Draw Fifty Famous Caricatures, p. 84; June, 1999, Michele Snyder, review of Draw Fifty Aliens, UFO's Galaxy Ghouls, Milky Way Marauders, and Other Extraterrestrial Creatures, p. 110; November, 2003, Lynda Ritterman, review of Draw Fifty Baby Animals: The Step-by-Step Way to Draw Kittens, Lambs, Chicks, and Other Adorable Offspring, p. 122.


Draw Fifty Web site, http://www.draw50.com/ (September 24, 2003).

Lee Ames Home Page, http://www.leeames.com/ (November 20, 2001).

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: (Hugo) Alvar (Henrik) Aalto (1898–1976) Biography to Miguel Angel Asturias (1899–1974) BiographyLee J(udah) (Jonathan David) Ames (1921-) Biography - Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Writings, Sidelights