Figure Drawing For All It’s Worth- Lesson 1

This is the first lesson on Figure Drawing, with Andrew Loomis as the guide, and myself as the facilitator.

In this lesson, there are no drawing exercises.  It is strongly suggested that you start this course out properly, with a dedicated sketch book.  When there are drawing assignments, you should date them, and in the case of today, when the assignment is reading, you should take notes on the reading for later reference.


Andrew Loomis begins each of his manuals with a short essay outlining his experiences and philosophies regarding illustration.  The book Figure Drawing For All It’s Worth is no different in this.  The opening essay begins with Loomis indicating that there has long been a need for an instructional manual written by a proper commercial illustrator, within the student sphere.  Loomis indicates that the lack of proper instructional material for the artist was a prime motivation for him to write this book.

He goes on in paragraph two, indicating that he himself was in the same position as we readers of the book are now, that is relying on half-understood ideas about art, trying to figure out technique, while at the same time feeling frustrated that our work looks poor.  He offers this statement which I would like to quote:

“I think I have lived through every minute you are now living.”

Loomis indicates that our greater chances for success in drawing lie in the mental approach to the work, rather than in instruction which pushes hard technical knowledge, tricks or those which emphasize artistic expression.   Loomis states he takes it for granted that the reader wants to improve his or her drawing abilities, and that those following the book will take the instruction he is offering seriously.

The next major point Andrew Loomis establishes is that excellent drawing is the result of effort, and not of talent.  He does not put zero stake in talent, but indicates:

“…talent means little unless coupled with an insatiable desire to give an excellent personal demonstration of ability…in company with a capacity for unlimited effort…”

He goes on to indicate that an effective artwork is an unified phenomena, in that the artist’s marks and strokes should all be in support of an overarching purpose.  Loomis states that an artist must be able to strip a subject down to its most basic and efficient essentials.  This is the primary concern when turning a subject matter into a piece of artwork- and this he states, is a mental procedure.

What Andrew Loomis means is that an effective piece of artwork is not just a pretty piece or a rendering which has verisimilitude to the subject matter.  His point is that to copy well, or to render with flourish and decoration is not art.  What Loomis is advocating, is for the artist to infuse his work with purpose, that being the expression of what the subject is essentially- what the Truth of it is.

He considers this to be mental work, not a manual or a technical one.  For instance, if we were to try to draw a coldly beautiful woman, Loomis wants us to access and acknowledge her essential internal quality- perhaps it is vanity spurred on by insecurity- and to develop a way to indicate this Truth through representation.  This is an essential skill all illustrators need to master.

Furthermore, he declares that the artist should use deliberate conscious choices in value and rendering to stress what is of greatest importance in the artwork. Inversely, we are to subordinate what is of lesser importance.  Practically speaking, this could be achieved by putting the most amount of contrast around the head of the primary character, and lesser contrast around the secondary figures.  Furthermore, when developing that primary character, the expression, pose, costume, hair and all the details, must work to underscore the all-important theme chosen for the particular artwork.  If the woman is coldly beautiful, all the elements should support this.

This is why the heavily rendered and detailed approach which I call ‘noodling’, is not the most effective way to draw. Noodling works against the principle of an artistic theme, and instead emphasizes the recording of detail, as if it were the essential Truth of the representation.  The question Loomis is impressing upon us is:

what creates the essential character in a subject matter?  

The effective artist can ascertain the essential nature of his subject matter, and he eschews the extraneous.

” In other words, he [the artist] plans and thinks, and does not passively accept simply because it [detail] exists.”

Make every element of your drawing point toward the theme


End of Lesson 1.  Review your notes, and date the lesson.

Thank you for reading.  Please comment with any questions or thoughts.  Lesson 2 continues next Monday!

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