Welcome back. In this lesson, we will be moving out of the introduction, and into the body of writing which begins Andrew Loomis’s general instructions. Please prepare your note book, and take down some of the points Andrew Loomis is making.
He opens with an essay describing his approach to the teaching of figure drawing. After establishing that the artist who is trained in proper figure drawing will be the one most likely to find gainful employment in the world of illustration, Loomis then moves onto a short treatise on the necessity of having keen observational powers. He indicates that artists need to become very meticulous in the manner with which we watch people. We must begin taking note of the small details which are on the peripheral of how a person presents themselves. We need to start regarding the small, but significant details which are a present in every human interaction; the peripheral details which can be learned and made into rules.
For example, Loomis asks if we are familiar with how the folds of a dress break at the floor? Or what makes a woman’s carriage look different while she wears slacks as opposed to how she wears shorts? He encourages us to watch for emotional gestures, such as how a girl expresses joy with her hands, or what her feet do when she slumps into a chair saying, ” Gosh, I’m tired!” Loomis is advocating for using every opportunity you have to watch and memorize the information reality is giving you. You can do this while going on a stroll, while in conversation with a friend or stranger or even while watching a movie. Look at the peripheral phenomena, and try to learn the rule it is expressing.
Following this, Andrew Loomis begins to make the main point of this section in the book. He starts by enumerating a list of famous illustrators, and pointing out their particular speciality. For instance, he comments on how Norman Rockwell shows a great interest in character, and how this passion brings him again and again to portraying details such as a gnarled hand which has done a lifetime of work, or a beaten leather shoe which has seen better days. Loomis does this with almost ten separate artists, noting their particular sphere of interest, and how each of them execute their work with great ability.
He then goes onto say that artists who spend their time repeatedly going back to the same themes on account of personal interest is a potentially limiting thing. Notwithstanding that each of our own personal interests and experiences are information well worth using, Loomis sombrely states that artists must be prepared to handle any sort of subject matter on demand.
This is where the break between having an artistic ‘speciality’ and being a slave to one’s interests becomes clear. Loomis is careful to indicate that artists who find a subject matter they like, and repeatedly express that theme do not grow in the areas where their interests aren’t bringing them to examine. These artists tend to not really understand the general basic art skillset including the principles of technical proportion, colour rules, the principles of light and the many laws of anatomy and perspective. If an artist’s practice continually is in a single or a few themes, they will find professional commissions soon turning into major failures. Consider this quote:
It means learning broad drawing principles…so that you will not be floored by commissions that may call for a bit of still life, a landscape, an animal, or a particular texture such as satin or knitted wool.
Avoiding this pitfall is the purpose of the book, and fortunately, Andrew Loomis will continue to show us the path. Please record your notes, along with the date for this lesson. I look forward to seeing you again next week.