Born in New York in 1892, Andrew Loomis was a prolific illustrator working at his peak during the period of 1920 to the late 1940’s. His popular work consisted of elegant illustrations – typically of fashionable young women in serene settings – for commercial advertising, books and mass-market magazines. He was also a highly respected teacher and throughout his career wrote a series of instructional art books starting with Fun With A Pencil in 1939, with five more written over the following twenty years covering all facets of illustration theory and technique.
Legendary comic book artists such as Dave Stevens (The Rocketeer), Alex Ross (Superman, Batman) and Steve Rude (Nexus) cite the Andrew Loomis books as a direct influence on their work, (with Rude going so far to name a character in his Nexus Series General Loomis) which has contributed to the their enduring legacy even whilst they remained, until recently, out of print.
Thankfully Titan Books has recognised their importance for future generations and have already begun a series of well presented, hardback re-prints starting with Figure Drawing For All It’s Worth and Drawing The Heads And Hands which were released last year. Coming this April is Successful Drawing, which concentrates on the fundamentals behind perspective, light, shadow and form. Following the ‘Five P’s’ of proportion, placement, perspective, planes and pattern and the ‘Five C’s’ of conception, construction, contour, character and consistency, you are taken on an in-depth lesson that breaks down these points into a series of steadfast mathematical rules that serve as the backbone of true and convincing work. I admittedly found this to be the most complex of the three books released so far and it’s certainly aimed at more professional level, but all the lessons are written in a clear manner with accompanying diagrams and illustrations, so perseverance is key and will most certainly pay off.
Among the most complex topics are that of planes of perspective and the use of multiple vanishing points, which, when not properly planned can make a drawing appear odd even if you don’t realise it. What Loomis has achieved is a procedure for breaking down all of these elements in to basic shapes and projecting them against a horizon line. This results in a grid system that enables you to place objects or people in perfect perspective, helping to solve these problems in the early stages of drawing. Once you’ve mastered this he’ll then teach you how to render effective light and shadow to create convincing forms. Ending the book is a gallery of his own pencil drawings showing all of these principles in action.
Hat’s off to Titan for re-releasing these books. After reading interviews and recommendations from so many other artists who state the influence of Andrew Loomis, his teaching certainly feels definitive and i’m sure it would be hard to find better.