Andrew Loomis preface

The books Andrew Loomis wrote are wonderful summations of his knowledge and his ideas.  They are also the preeminent folios of his beautiful drawings.  To hear my assessment of these collections, one might wonder why there is a need to author a blog entitled “Understanding Loomis”.  Let it be said then, that as an advocate for clear thinking and clear instruction, I believe that despite the quality of his books there still is room to finesse Andrew Loomis’ pedagogical methods.  Perhaps I am more slow-witted than others, but in several cases within the breadth of reading his writing, I was only able to grasp his point by carefully reading the text, drawing the exercise/example, then reading his text again.  The point being that reading his words and observing the pictures only constituted a very cursory understanding of his theory for me; I needed to break it down further to integrate the truth he is expressing.  To explain the theory and technique in written form for a third party helps clarify Loomis’ thoughts even more in my mind.  This then is the continued reason behind the project and my desire for fully “Understanding Loomis”.  In addition, I hope to illuminate my readers to the beauty of his reasoning mind, and the technical solutions he has outlined to achieve Successful Drawing.

Theory of Perspective, pages 20-29

(notes were originally taken by myself on Jan 7th, 2016)

The first major idea that Andrew Loomis covers is the common idea that everything we see and seek to draw can be broken down into geometric shapes; the block, the cone, the pyramid, the cylinder, the sphere and the torus.

(for those unfamiliar with the final shape called the torus, here is an image of one)


He further expands this point by showing how the various and complicated forms  in nature are really only elaborations of the overarching basic shape, the block.  It is important to recognize that Loomis does not call the primary shape the cube -his term ‘block’ constitutes cubes as well as rectangular prisms of all shapes; it is a more basal term.  He adds that a block is to be considered the main shape because even a perfect sphere fits within a cubular block, thus the block form can be used as a shorthand for all the others.  He states: ” The cube or block may be thought of as the box that will fit around anything in the universe.”

This is where Loomis really gets cooking.  Following this point, he goes on to aim at the heart of one of the most trouble-inducing elements of drawing,  figure ground relationship with relative proportion.

Loomis confidently states that the challenge is actually one which is easily met, even though many experienced illustrators and artists fail to achieve it.  Furthermore, when one considers Loomis’ theory of “Intelligent Perception”, the fact that everyman can plainly see an error in figure/ground relationship, a need to sort this problem out shows as a paramount concern.

Following this he indicates that using the geometric shape as a starting point is more than a method of establishing form, it is also an essential way to comprehend how light and shadow effects form. Using geometric shapes establishes an understandable mass to the subject in our mind, so we are commonly able to visualize the back and the sides of the subject which are hidden from view.

The way which light falls on the geometric shapes is predictable and simple to memorize.  There is a Truth in the correct modelling of light and shadow on a shape which ‘Intelligent Perception’ knows.  The modelling reenforces the form, as each are interchangeable partners; form and modelling, modelling and form.

On the other hand, the absence of correct modelling (and therefore the absence of correct form) presents a problem so profound that no amount of technical panache or random hatching and texturing can correct it.  In this Loomis is in agreement with another favourite illustrator of mine, John Buscema.

I have read somewhere Buscema stating that other comic artists who added unnecessary lines and creases on a face were in fact attempting to make up for an incorrect placement of the features, a basic mistake which they couldn’t recognize.  In your own personal study of art, and especially drawing, I encourage you to look out for this.  When your ‘Intelligent Perception’ alarm is going off, take a quick look to see if the drawing is overly cluttered with detail.  An ‘open’ drawing has nothing to hide behind, and when the artist simply places the features correctly, the viewer will be satisfied.






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