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Successful Drawing by Andrew Loomis

01/06/2012. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Successful Drawing in the USA - or Buy Successful Drawing in the UK

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pub: Titan Books. 160 page illustrated hardback. Price: GBP29.99 (UK), $39.95 (US), $46.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-85768-761-6.

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Of all of Andrew Loomis’ artbooks, ‘ Successful Drawing’, his third in the series, is to my mind, the most important. You might have the innate artistic ability but this book supplies the technical knowledge that will ensure you avoid the most simple of mistakes in scenic composition. If you are merely a technical artist then the lessons in perspective here will ensure that your art will always have a rightness about it. For me when I was a youngster, page 77 was the most important lesson in that chest height is true whether it’s close up or at a distance and had to get it right. Visually, Loomis shows what might look right is wrong because the closest figure to the person is actually standing in a hole and then demonstrated in pictures. You might want your characters in a hole but most of the time, you’re standing on the ground and you don’t want to get that wrong. As Loomis points out, not everyone has artistic talent but everyone has an innate feel for when something doesn’t look right and you need to use that. As an artist, you not only have to understand this but make sure you get it right yourself.

Re-reading this book again after all these years, the lessons and practice I got on perspective flooded back as I read and realised how much I now take as second nature. Perspective is used for everything and with more adult and applied artistic eyes, re-affirms its need through the rest of the book with the likes of how shadows fall and even more importantly with mirror reflections in water and glass. Andy Loomis not only explains but he demonstrates that there is no easier lesson than practice, practice, practice. He explains so well that your grasp of how it can be done will make you eager to try it out.

I loved his line on page 69, ‘ Perspective will not teach you how to draw the figure, but you can never draw it without perspective!’ If you’ve ever wondered why comicbook artists ever needed to have knowledge that makes many regarded as expert draughtsmen then this chapter will enlighten you to its worth in learning and why many of them cite this book as a must-have. I should point out that once you get the lessons, you won’t have to put in all the lines each time but you will know what to pay attention to with building up a scene on paper. If all else fails, then out with the rules and a few gentle lines to go with the horizontal line and definitely have ‘ Successful Drawing’ open by your side to make sure you haven’t forgotten placing all the right vanishing points.

Just in case you think this book is all about perspective, there is an examination of the three levels of shadow and Loomis skilfully shows how just using these alone can bring a face to life. Although it’s not pointed out in this book, if you ever want to distinguish between the three shade levels, squint at the subject matter, be it real or photograph, and any secondary shadows fade into insignificance and become less of a distraction.

The final section looks at applying all of these lessons to figure drawing and here Andy Loomis depends more on showing by example and how often the simplest of lines and shadows is enough to bring a person to life on the page.

Loomis’ book originally came out in 1951 and is still some sixty-one years later still the bees’ knees when it comes to explaining art in a language everyone can understand. This book is obviously more technical than his other works but it is also one of the most essential artbooks that you will ever want in your collection if you are an artist, let alone a student mastering your skills. You are also far more likely to refer to it time after time because there is always some new to learn from it. This book is a legacy that I’m sure Andy Loomis would be proud to know is still held in high regard today.

GF Willmetts

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