Chapter, the first
A short note about philosophy
Throughout these reviews, I will refer to a concept is called “a sense of life”. The words ‘sense of life’ stand for a suite of ideas representing a person’s outlook on existence and the forces which move the world. It is more than a point of view though, in that a sense of life unconsciously underscores and shapes the volitional essence of every choice and action one takes -in or witnesses.
A sense of life defines not only a person’s belief system, but also his character.
The reason I have started with a definition of the concept sense of life, is that Andrew Loomis was philosophical. He recognized that ideas matter and that knowledge matters. He believed in truth, and the power of man’s mind to discover that truth. Through his constant observation of reality, and because of his desire to define a method of representing that reality, Andrew Loomis naturally developed a set of philosophical and technical guidelines for illustrators to follow.
In the following sections, you will find my notes and elaborations which were composed after I had generally read Successful Drawing, and had gone back to begin actively studying the book as an instructional manual. The dates for these notes are January 5th and 6th of 2016.
The Fundamentals of Successful Drawing
The first pages of every Andrew Loomis book begin by outlining the basic principles which he keeps regarding art and drawing in particular. Loomis’ sense of life is positive; that the world is beautiful and that humans are good. In this, he is taking part in the conception of art from the Classical period.
Successful Drawing especially emphasizes Loomis’ conception of a ‘benevolent universe’, i.e. that there is no pernicious force at work which seeks to keep man down. Loomis believes that answers to problems do exist, and that they are ready to be found. Furthermore, he maintains that their discovery is a matter of careful study and a result of one’s adherence to reality.
The first paragraphs outline how successful drawing is a result of true analysis of the world, that is, what is real. One achieves this through perception. To elaborate, the concept which he is establishing shows that an artist can not represent reality if they do not know it, or do not seek to observe it. This stance puts Andrew Loomis firmly in the category of a representational artist, and eschews any discussion of non-representation in art.
He takes for granted that what an artist is doing is trying to represent what is real. Art must be recognizable so that another viewer can observe and read the work. He also believes that an artist’s job is not to merely record or report on reality, as per a journalist or a scientist. He sees the choice of what is represented as indivisible with the nature of the artwork, as well as with the nature of the artist.
It is important to recognize that Loomis implicitly believes that representational art is not to be interpreted as reality. Instead, representational art is a declaration of choice; the choosing to show a representation of one momenatry aspect of reality. It is a representation of the world as through the lens of the artist’s eyes, so that the viewer may see in proxy. Viewers of art are able to glimpse through their contemplation of a work the artist’s sense of life . Observation and recording of reality is essential, but artistic vision is what makes the product of one’s work into art, rather than journalism.
Thus, his formula is that true observation coupled with an positive artistic sense of life is what constitutes worthwhile art.