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Figure Drawing For All It's Worth by Andrew Loomis

01/08/2011. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Figure Drawing For All It’s Worth in the USA - or Buy Figure Drawing For All It’s Worth in the UK

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pub: Titan Books. 204 page illustrated hardback. Price: GBP24.99 (UK), $39.95 (US), $46.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-85768-098-3.

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If I was ever asked which out-of-print books deserved to be back in print, I would be saying the art teaching books by Andrew Loomis. Of these, ‘Figure Drawing For All It’s Worth’ is the third, contrary to the blurb because ‘Fun With A Pencil’ and ‘Successful Drawing’ were first.

Back in the 60s, there weren’t that many artbooks explaining technique around. Those that were, like Byrne Hogarth’s, were far too technical and you’d all end up drawing like him if you copied his technique. Then, in the library, I came across Andy Loomis’ ‘Fun With A Pencil’ which explained the basics and then how to do caricature and cartooning. Hooked, I rapidly worked my way through his other books which became more technical but made it easy to follow because he drew everything. I certainly learnt how to apply all the basics and I can still draw the human figure upside down to myself when showing someone else how to draw someone their right way up from what I learnt about shapes from him. The biggest problem is that the books weren’t available to be bought and so I treasured the time I borrowed them from the library.

‘Successful Drawing’ covered the basics for everything related to composing a picture but ‘Figure Drawing For All It’s Worth’ went to town in showing how to draw humans, proving no organic life has a straight line and understanding what is under the skin reflects on the surface. Loomis does superb anatomy lessons and at the same time brings the muscle groups into basic shapes so you don’t have to go down to every sinew once you know what to apply. He also explains applying perspective and how people related to the vanishing point of the background in a graphic manner by illustrating the mistakes. That was and is still a telling lesson in my formative years. His understanding of the differences in build for male and female anatomy looks so obvious when he shows them but equally fascinating is how to draw children and I’ve never seen a book show how this applies to babies before or since.

Reading the book again now and I find I’m still finding things I’d forgotten from the years ago as well as how much I learnt from the first time. You never stop learning and how many artbooks can you go over time after time and gain different insight? It is an uncanny book first released form 1943 and references to the book even came up in John Buscema’s ‘How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way’ in the 70s, not to mention the likes of artist Alex Ross and several other comicbook artists along the way as being a major influence on how they learnt how to draw. Loomis taught grace and movement, all the kinds of things he needed as a commercial artist himself.

Loomis’ dissection of how light plays off shapes shows what you need to know with how it tones and dimensionalises the body. If you ever wondered why painting or drawing from photos and you have to compensate for odd distortions will be happy to know this was still a problem seventy years ago. Loomis also encouraged artists to learn to use a camera because you couldn’t get models to pose for extended periods. I wonder what he would have made of digital cameras? He also makes a telling remark that artists depend more on shadows than photographers and have different needs in the photos they might use.

Seeing Loomis applying his techniques, he shows you in his examples still leaves me open-mouthed at his skill. It goes without saying that you have to practice and more practice to develop your own skills to a similar standard but knowing what to do right makes this a telling book to own.

With the high prices for second-hand copies of Loomis’ original books, it’s hardly surprising to hear this edition of ‘Figure Drawing For All It’s Worth’ is rapidly selling out and Titan Books have indicated that they are gearing up for a second printing already. They are also planning to print Loomis’ other books, which I am also over-joyed about. If you think yourself an artist or want to learn how to do improve your skills, you can’t afford to miss this book. I suspect it is the pros who are already buying out copies of this book already, so don’t miss out. An unreserved recommendation.

GF Willmetts

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