Welcome back to my continued review of Andrew Loomis’ book Figure Drawing For All It’s Worth. Please get out your notebook and take down some key notes regarding the information Loomis is sharing in this lesson.
Loomis begins this new section of the Opening Chat by stating flat out that salable figure drawing must be good drawing. What he means by ‘good drawing’ is that the figure-work presented must be both convincing and appealing at the same time. Loomis is quick to establish that the artistic choice to represent something must be done through the filter of the idealistic, rather than the literal. This overarching philosophical stance is integral to grasp; it must be integrated into our practice before any other particular lesson is worth exploring.
To expand on the idea further, when we artists seek to represent something within an illustration, we must suppress the desire to record with meticulous and slavish detail all that there is to see present within a reference. Furthermore, an informed ability to edit the subject matter, such that it corresponds to the desired artistic effect is literally the purpose of illustration. To choose to translate an image of reality into an illustrative representational form means to bring out the most idealized elements, such that the viewer can ‘read’ the image, and understand what the artist is trying to display.
The particulars of ‘good drawing’ are then outlined by Loomis in a short list. He names the following:
- Drawing must be related to a perspective
- Anatomy must be correct, whether exposed to the eye, or concealed beneath drapery
- Light and Shadow must be handled so as to impart a living quality
- Action, gesture, drama, expression and emotion must be convincing
These points all must serve the overarching consideration that the drawing is aimed at representing the ideal, rather than the literal. Literalism is a dead end in art, as it is neither appropriate, nor is it efficient; photography excels in this domain already.
Andrew Loomis next articulates that ‘good drawing’ is not the product of luck nor is it the result of inspired Muses guiding the artist’s hand. Instead, he states that ‘good drawing’ is actually an co-ordination of many different factors working in tandem with one another, similar to how the sound of a wonderful orchestra is the sum of each instrumentalist. To overlook one of the fundamental factors diminishes the whole.
With this in mind, Loomis concludes that a drawing course or manual must seek to co-ordinate all the basic factors upon which drawing depends. This is to go well-beyond the typical “how-to” publications and courses which are ends driven rather than means driven. Ends driven lessons are akin to painting by numbers, in that the lesson creates a concrete-bound set of procedures for the learner to execute. This procedure will yield, say, a drawing of a dog, or a lake, but the learner actually has gained very little knowledge for himself to apply to a different illustration context. He may even come to be able to draw the exact same dog by memory, but this is merely the gimmick of a street-performer. Such instruction is not at all suitable for building the groundworks needed to work as an illustrator.
Loomis believes that any macro skill is the end result of a network of micro abilities which work simultaneously within the professional’s craft. This includes aesthetics, sales possibilities as well as the technical rendering. He indicates very clearly that the hierarchy of ability is directly related to earnings. Consider this quotation:
Whenever you achieve sufficient technical ability, there will be an income waiting for you. From that point on your earnings will increase in ratio to your improvement. In the fields of practical art the ranks thin out at the top, just as they do everywhere else.
What he is saying is that the people at the top have few peers because they are the best. This is an expression of humility, and it is also an acknowledgement of the competence hierarchies which exist in the professional world. Loomis points out that when doors to income are closed for an illustrator, it is because of mediocrity. Real ability which is functioning at a professional level has a market, and the publishers, ad agencies, litho houses and dealers will gladly engage such an artist. The unfortunate thing is that most people begin the journey as mediocrities, and few have the courage to try to move beyond their default aptitude with art. This may yield a dabbler and a hobbyist, but not a professional.
Andrew Loomis will show you the proficiencies needed to become a professional illustrator.
This is the end of Lesson 4. Please record your notes with the date beside, and we will continue next week. Thanks for reading.