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Drawing The Head & Hands by Andrew Loomis

01/01/2012. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Drawing The Head & Hands in the USA - or Buy Drawing The Head & Hands in the UK

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pub: Titan Books. 155 page illustrated hardback. Price: GBP29.99 (UK), $39.95 (US), $46.00 (CABN). ISBN: 978-0-85768-097-6).

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The fourth book of Andrew Loomis and the second in the first ever reprint by Titan Books of ‘Drawing The Head & Hands’ is out. Whereas ‘Figure Drawing For All It’s Worth’ focused on drawing the human body, this book, as it says in the title, makes greater emphasis on the head and hands.

This is an important aspect of an artist’s work and if you want to master portraiture is essential reading and observation. Andy Loomis explains why it’s so important to work from the skull up and although it has the same volume it can be displaced in difference ways. He also points out that so much of the face is literally skin-distance from bone with only the eyes, cheeks and mouth capable of separate movement. Point is actually a misnomer as Loomis shows this in a multitude of drawings, showing the differences between male and female and then into how the face changes from baby to teen-ager. He also comments on commercial requirements and sixty years later, I doubt if that has changed much. People always like a pretty face, especially if it’s smiling.

I only managed to get a copy of this book from my local library when I was in my teens and although I’d finally gotten away from drawing noses side on with the head straight-on by then, I learnt so much from this book in how to get truth depth with the face from this book. One thing Loomis always laid emphasis on was how to bring three-dimensions to a two-dimension surface and illustrates how to build this up without relying on naming all the bones and muscles involved as some other artbooks do, although he capably draws them. As he says, you want to be an artist not an anatomist.

Trying to pick out singular lessons I learnt from this book and still apply today is tough because I learnt so much and take for granted now. I do think too many new artists, especially in the comicbook industry, today have a tendency to jump to skin level without understanding what goes on below the surface. One of the most significant things I learnt and is illustrated on page 53 is that the eyelid creates an inner shadow along the top of the eyeball that brings an instant dimension that has a significant effect to any highlight reflected on the eye itself.

Is there anything that I’ve had to revise my thinking about after all this time. Actually yes, although I have been working on it for some time and that is on how much the mouth protrudes from the surface of the head. A lot of it is often implied by a slight shadow on the cheeks but it is often overlooked when achieving dimensions and a lot of the time in drawing, it is only a slight difference. Then again so, too, is the slight tilt of the lips between a smile and a frown.

Loomis points out that although a lot of artists work out from drawing the head as an egg or oval, that there is far more there and how things protrude. Always bear in mind that the neck is the same thickness as the head it supports. The face is more like an addition to this base. Watching Loomis show how the features develop across the face as it gets older is a real lesson in observation of how muscle and flesh sags. Reading it this time, it sank in a lot more how the ears position and growth changes and how the eyes stay the same size through the years.

It’s a shame really that all of Loomis’ work here is in black and white and reproduction at our normal 130 pixel width doesn’t do justice to such pictures, let alone to tonal levels. Having seen some of Loomis’ colour work in the Walter Foster publisher books, I can testify that what he shows here equally applied to his paintings from bringing vitality to any facial expression. I hope that if you are following these books that when ‘Fun With A Pencil’ is released, you’ll see how he uses these techniques in an exaggerated way for caricature pointing out that it is the same process throughout. If you can draw one from doing this book, then you’ll find the other relatively easy.

If you fancy yourself at being any good at portraiture, then read this book and see how much you’ve missed or still need to learn. There’s a fair bet that many comicbook artists are going to be adding this book to their collection and it’s on their required reading list as so many of the older pros cite it. If you’re just a learner, then you’ll have less to unlearn and just build up from doing the techniques correctly from the start. This book is worth every penny.

GF Willmetts

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