Lesson 11. The Flat Diagram

Lesson 11. The Flat Diagram

Lesson 11 in this program will show the drawing student the purpose of maintaining proper proportion ratios, as it regards to placing the figure into perspective.  This will be a drawing lesson, so get out your sketchbooks.

 

As a preliminary exercise, set up an 8.5 head Flat Diagram Map, like this.  You can do it on a small piece of paper, which you can cut out, or on a larger page.  This is the base work for the final drawing, so I always use a separate page for the ‘working parts’.  If you are doing it on one big paper, organize your page landscape format, and draw this Diagram Map in the upper left corner- not in the middle. (since this is not the real drawing you are doing, it is the helper)  Here is the Flat Diagram Map.

Screen Shot 2020-05-26 at 9.07.03 AM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andrew Loomis is going to show us the beginning steps regarding how to ‘project’ the figure onto the ground plane.  As a good teacher does, he has isolated the figure projection to regard only the flat placement of the figure’s silhouette onto the ground.  This is the primary step for being able to draw the full 3-dimensional figure in perspective, using foreshortening.

For now, we will be working with the flat, 2-d figure like this.

Screen Shot 2020-05-26 at 9.07.43 AM

 

Go ahead and set up an 8.5 head proportion figure in silhouette.  Make sure all the anatomical parts hit where I have drawn them.  To help, I will add a drawing with the anatomy drawn in so you can properly place the parts.  It is hard to do with just an outline.  Do not try to draw the body parts though. Use my details to help you locate where your outline drawing ‘parts’ will land.  This is for reference. Screen Shot 2020-05-26 at 9.07.20 AM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again, don’t place your figure or the Flat Diagram Map smack in the centre of your paper. Put it off to one side, and in the upper corner.  We are going to be using a lot of paper real-estate for this drawing.

You do not need to draw the colours.

 

  1. Figure & horizon

Now, once you have your figure drawn, somewhere not in the centre of the drawing, establish a Horizon Line for the actual assignment of projecting the 2-D figure into perspective.  Here I have drawn the Horizon Line with a pink line.

Screen Shot 2020-05-26 at 9.09.09 AM

 

2. Pick a Vanishing Point

Next, pick a place on the line.  This will be the vanishing point.  All the straight lines will coalesce to this point.  You may choose any place on the Horizon for this point.  Mine is in red below.

Screen Shot 2020-05-26 at 9.09.41 AM

3. Cast verticals

Now, from the outer corners of your Flat Diagram Map, (in green)  project two vertical lines.  Also, add a third from the centre, all dropping down.  You may draw the line as far as you like, but each of the lines must be the exact same length. The length you draw the lines determines the steepness of the plane you are envisioning for your drawing.  The further you go, the steeper the plane will be.

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4. Cast to V.P.

Now, from the termination point of your 3 verticals, draw 3 lines, all meeting at the Vanishing Point (VP)  you drew in step 3.

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5. Set The Primary Unit

Now, at an arbitrary depth, set to your eye’s taste, the horizontal crossing point which will establish the 1st ‘head-size unit’, called the Primary Unit. The larger you make the depth of the Primary Unit, the more the figure will be stretched out.  This will describe many things which you as the artist may choose, such at the relative distance we as viewers are standing relative to the VP. For now, choose a horizontal cross point which looks good to you.  It doesn’t matter for this assignment.

Also of note, this Primary Unit you are drawing will omit the additional 1/2 of a head which is reserved for the ankle to sole of the foot measurement.  We will account for this later.

Screen Shot 2020-05-26 at 9.26.04 AM
The bottom 1/2 of a head size for the ankle to foot is left out.  We will start at the first FULL UNIT.

6. Designate the Line Names

To refer to them, we will call the 3 lines of perspective, lines a, b and c.  This is for instructional purposes, and you don’t need to label yours.

Screen Shot 2020-05-26 at 9.28.56 AM

7.  Point D

The place where your first depth horizontal line (presented in blue below),  crosses the central red line of perspective (we call this, line B) is an important new point.

This crossing point of red and blue lines will be labeled as Point D.  Point D is very important, because now you will know how to define all of the remaining unit horizontals, as they move away in the distance. Draw a line from Point A through Point D, terminating somewhere on line C (drawn in green). Where the new diagonal (green) line terminates on line C is our next point.Screen Shot 2020-05-26 at 9.32.27 AM

 

8. Point E

You guessed it.  The new point is called Point E. This is where you draw the second depth point of the next head unit.  The diagonal line we just drew establishes the depth of where the units in perspective will fall.  There is no other way to do this.  Learn to do this well at this stage, because it will help you immensely in the future.  Do not rely on Photoshop distortion and reshaping tools.  You can’t get it right by eye.  You must learn how to do this mathematically, in order to be convincing.

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9. Repeat for F and G

This is the process for each new unit.  Continue with points F and G (pink) , drawing diagonally (cyan) then horizontally (pink again)  I have faded the completed points and lines for clarity.

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10. Repeat until 8 units are drawn.

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11.  This is the Flat Diagram Map projected onto the ground, at the perspective you chose.  Notice that the bottom 1/2 square is not represented as we mentioned in Step 5 above. This is because we needed to project the distance of a single, full unit to start. Screen Shot 2020-05-26 at 10.03.25 AM

12.  Now we will transfer our drawing using the Flat Diagram Map.  The crosspoints will show us where the anatomy will line up.  As a fun little demonstration, I want to show how it is virtually impossible to predict the way the flat outline- the shadow more or less- will look at a given perspective.  For fun, I have placed the flat figure (not in perspective) at the foot of our projections.  Take a look, and see how you imagine the shadow of the figure would lay, with the given steepness of the plane and unit size of head.  This is to show how guessing with Photoshop distortion will not work.

Take a guess:

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13. The Flat Diagram in Perspective

This is how a 2-d cut out of a figure would appear on the given plane and unit head size choice depth we made.

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The parts of the anatomy land where the corresponding cross lines in the Flat Diagram Map in the front view shows.  It would be near-impossible to guess this.  I find it constantly surprising when I work it out.  Did you imagine it to look this way, even with the map line projected on the ground?

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Following this simple exercise, we will learn how to use the same principles to determine cast shadows, foreshortened figures and the human figure in perspective.

Thanks for reading.  I hope to see you next week.

Lesson 10: People Deny Proportion Rules

Lesson 10:  People Deny Proportion Rules

Believe it or not, the most pushback I get on Social Media is when I make a statement regarding proper drawing proportions.

Some of my detractors may be tilting at me because they are warriors for the “body positivity” movement; folks who make a show of offence at the notion of idealized figures per se.  These sorts have attacked me,  but you’d be wrong to think that they are the group most incentivized to challenge my points.

The most dedicated and tedious arguments I get are from people who identify themselves as ‘artists’, especially those who are also in the subset of ‘fan’.  The fact that they identify as artists is important to consider.  These are not people who have the professional mindset- they are not professional illustrators.  These are fan-artists mostly, and/or people who produce some paid work sporadically, but it is always done thru their fan lens.

The amateur and fan-artists seek to argue against my points, all as a result of the same phenomena :

My presentation of Andrew Loomis’ rules, challenge their own pet practices.

The attack regarding figure proportion takes on three forms generally:

  1.  The Fan Attack
  2. The Fudged Arrangement Attack
  3. The Denial Attack

 

The Fan Attack

This is the type of detractor who seeks to prove the Idealized,  Fashion or Heroic proportions are not used by a specific feted artist, one whose work they admire, and thus I (and Andrew Loomis are) wrong.   The essential point is something like the following:

Artist X used this proportion… Artist X is awesome…therefore you are wrong.

Notice there is no reason given beyond “artist x is awesome” as to why we should use the proportions which may, or may not, be attributed to that artist’s figure work.  Andrew Loomis does give us reasons why stretching the figure psychologically makes it more pleasing to look at.  He also notes that such knowledge was well-known by the artisans of old, who applied the same rules to classical sculptures.

 

classical figures
Many Classical and Ancient sculptures have supra-normal proportions.  These are all 8.5 heads.

 

female with 8.5
Wounded Amazon- also females are represented this way, beyond natural proportions.

The reality is that it is irrelevant whether you believe Frank Frazetta or Mark Schultz or any other artist is awesome.  They can be very fine technicians, and also fail to represent their figures with proper proportions.  It doesn’t matter how many covers they have done, or how long they have been in the business.  The work speaks for itself, when it is observed and measured properly. This leads us to the second form of detraction, which is…

The Fudged Arrangement Attack

Amateur detractors try to quibble with assertions regarding proportion often by fudging their measurements, or using anatomical twists and/or head tilt to make the initial measuring head unit faulty.  I generally feel there is no real purpose in engaging with such detractors, since social media folks mostly have no volition to actually learn.  Instead, they are ‘beam-breaking’ (that is trying to dissemble the assertion I am publicly making) simply because they don’t like seeing certainty in other people. It challenges the insecurity within their very personal core.  Beam-breakers thrive on breaking, and seldom make anything themselves.

For the sake of this blog, I will show you the way to disprove this Fudged Arrangement Attack.  The reason why the faulty measurement and fudged unit argument is false is that simply cheating the head unit does not allow you to cheat the marker placements of the other parts.  When the ratio of 8.5 heads is applied, the anatomical parts always hit in the same place.  If you are using a false measurement, the points will fall incorrectly.

In this demonstration, I have lined up the wounded Amazon, with my drawing of 8.5 head figure and an enlarged to height 7.5 head figure, which I also drew.  The 7.5 proportion drawing has been resized to fit, but not stretched or squashed in any way.

POInts that cross with 7.5

 

This is done to prove that anatomical parts within the array of the 8.5 head figure will not line up with those of the 7.5 head figure up and down the body.

zoomedPOInts that cross with 7.5

Amateurs who fudge the measurements, and pretend the head is a different size, will be revealed when their unit markers line up consistent with one of Andrew Loomis’ displays of figure proportions (which I have copied and shown in previous lessons).  These cross points tell the story.  This is how I can tell the head-count on figures which only have certain parts of the anatomy showing, or likewise, I can tell the count if the figure has been even cropped such that no head is displayed.

The trained eye can see the relationship between shoulder, elbow, genitals knees and ankles.  You don’t need the head to be able to see this.  The greater number of head units spread this relationship out, and the fewer units squash the figure closer together.  This is why the amateur fudging of arrangement of unit size does not work.

The Denial Attack

This is the most foolish type of attack, where the detractor denies the premise entirely, or brings in false claims about Andrew Loomis’ basic assertion that slightly elongating the figure looks better.

I have been confronted with claims that the “Fashion Proportion” is intended to show-off clothing (because the word ‘fashion’ is used), and that such stretching looks wrong when the figure is unclothed.  The Classical statues presented above debunk this claim.

I have also been challenged with an attack that basically says, “Well I like it this squat way, it looks better to me!” This is pure relativism, and furthermore, it isn’t a legitimate point anyways.  This last demonstration will show you why.

Here are two examples of Conan the Avenger, by Frank Frazetta.  All of my audience should know this painting, even with the most of it masked off as it is with my black layer.

When revealed, one will be presented as Frank painted it, and the other you will see has  been altered to change its proportions.  You will immediately see how the figures compare to one another, and how altering the ratio can totally change the look.

Too Conans

 

Conan revealed

Observe how the heads are the exact same size, as shown in the masked example.  By changing the proportions, we as viewers ‘read’ a totally different figure.  The head unit as the anchor for the relationship between the points of anatomy, and the amount of these units used to describe the anatomy are the determining factors.  One looks more impressive than the other.

Conan the midget

 

You can see the figure on the right fails to meet the cross-points which describe the other figure’s proportions.  The ‘midget’ Conan has all his constituent parts closer together, giving him a squat look.

8.5 heads tall revealed

Comparing the painting to my drawing of 8.5 heads, you can see the anatomical parts line up almost exactly.  If the ‘midget’ Conan were resized, constraining the dimensions so that he is exactly the same height as the 8.5 head man,  the cross-lines will not conform with the size of the head unit.  This ‘midget’ figure has too big of a head for the rest of the body.

 

The point of this section was to reveal how the argument: “Well, I like it that way!” is a false claim.  The reason detractors make this claim is because they don’t want to be wrong.  As soon as any person makes an assertion about anything, dollars to doughnuts, there will be a detractor immediately there, trying to shoot them down.  This is why the Denial Attack is the most silly.

I hope to show you the reason below.  Scroll down to see>

 

 

 

 

 

Keep going..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Too Squat

 

Conan the Midget is the real one Frazetta painted.

This is why “I like it that way!” is not only phoney as a reason it is false.

You don’t prefer squat looking figures.  Your bias is distorting your ability to see properly.

The reason you don’t see the midget quality in it as a full painting, is because your eye is not trained.  You are being effected by all of the beautiful ways Frank has handled the paint, his colours, his design choices and the subject matter.  This baffles your ability to measure.

Loomis knows what he is talking about.  A stretched out figure looks better because we want to see something idealized, something beyond the human form.  This is why the ancients made their figure proportions this way and it is why professional illustrators know this fact.

When I am talking about the rules which illustrators follow, I am considering the profession as Andrew Loomis does: that of a working tradesman who is able to deliver competent art for a variety of customers, in a variety of styles of realism.  Andrew Loomis has worked very hard to extract these rules from his professional career, drawing conclusions from clients, agencies, observation and practice.  He is candid when he says he has “made every mistake you have made, and more”.  The words Loomis puts down are deeply considered, and following a lifetime of professional illustration.  They should be heeded, if you are serious about learning the trade of professional illustration.

For an assignment, try to work 3 figures using the three proportions we have learned, the natural of 7.5 Heads, the Idealistic of 8 heads and the so-called Fashion of 8.5 heads.  The point is to hit all the anatomical parts in the correct places.  Use my samples to help you.

Thanks for reading!  See you next week.

 

Lesson 8: Opening One’s Eyes

Lesson 8: Opening One’s Eyes

Today’s lesson will concern a very important aspect of figure drawing, that is the classic layout for the Idealistic Figure proportions.

There are many, many artists who launch into their careers, and even find some success, without properly understanding this fundamental rule.  These artists (usually new youth artists) work from the principle of ‘excitement’ and (as one art instructor in my past named it) the “hot-lick” approach to drawing.  This yields very stylized art with no staying power outside of nostalgia.  It is a glam-based approach, and it appears very absurd when viewed outside of its own time, context, or by viewers not keyed into the paradigm the art participates in. No matter how popular it may be in its day, a few years in the future will show this type of ‘hot-lick’ art to look as absurd as a very dated hairstyle or a funny old fashion trend.  It is a ‘pop’ version of drawing, and it is not advised.

The proper approach is to recognize that there are eternal proportions, established both traditionally and mathematically which imbue a subject with a virtue, a quality which subconsciously works on the viewer to elicit a certain psychological response in him.  We as participants in reality, have a long-ingrained lexicon of correlating rules- contextual links which have been made between certain visual signs, and what they represent.   We have built up millions of  neurological linkages between a visual cue, and a conceptual idea.  It is how we navigate the world, by knowing this, is not that.

The phenomena is how our brain can tell the difference between a cat and a small dog. Both animals may share a size, a colour and even some habits, but we never mistake one species for the other.  This is because the brain is built to develop a series of rules which describe ‘dog-ness’ to us , yet do not correlate to the rules of ‘cat-ness’. This phenomena is clearly shown when one observes a toddler learning to speak.  That baby will often call things by wrong names, because the ‘rule’ is not established yet in the developing infant brain.  There are still ambiguities in the rule for that child to come to terms with.

You as an adult can also experience this same phenomena of concept rule-developing , if you cold-turkey dive into a new discipline -something like mechanic work- without having any sort of background in it.  You will immediately mix up the names of parts and tools which are ridiculously easy for a shop-savvy worker to discern.  This is not because you are stupid, but because the terms of the ‘concept-rule’ which describes, for example, a solenoid has not been established yet for you.  All you may be able to hold onto at first is the name, and some inconclusive traits such as its general location in the engine, it’s shape, or even it’s colour. You will soon find, these variables are not faultless descriptors of a solenoid as every brand yields slight variations in those generic qualities.  Your concept-rule must become more elegant for you to fully grasp what a solenoid is. 

The phenomena of conceptual rules which signal to our brain different qualities within the general category, also work up and down within the hierarchies of aspect.  This produces in us, a more particular classifications such as ‘friendly dog’, or ‘sad dog’ or ‘strong dog’ or ‘vicious dog’.  These conclusions develop cognitively, as a result of our tabulating/recognizing the predictable visual-cue aspects common between all dogs which enact viciousness or friendliness with us.  The forming of such connections between visual clue and conceptual classification has been built-up meticulously in our consciousness over our own personal lives as well as over the millennia. This is how we have come to navigate the world.  In our prehistoric past it was a matter of life and death if we were unable to tell the difference between the signs of viciousness and friendliness in animals.

What has this to do with figure drawing, you may be asking yourself?  Establishing the idea of concept-rules may be the necessary groundwork needed for skeptical artists to accept this next drawing fact:

conceptual-rules also apply to the proportions of the figure

When we talk about proportion, what we are describing is the relationship between the constituent parts to the whole.  In a figure drawing, this would describe how the arm length relates to the body length, or how the chest width relates to the hip width.  Every possible relationship of one anatomical metric, to another is the domain of proportion.

As stated above, and within the opening, there are well established concept rules of body proportion concluded within us already.  As we are viewers of reality, we know how to recognize a strong man from a weak man, or a fat man from a thin man.  What Andrew Loomis sets out for us in the next section is the mathematical laws regarding proportion, working behind the conceptual rules already concluded within our brains.

There are several proportion-based concept rules which describe different qualities in the human figure.  For now, we will establish only the first of these.  This is what is called Idealized Proportion.  This proportional rule,  applied to the human anatomy is a rectangle, divided into 8  equal divisions, each being commensurate in height (but not in width) to the figure’s head.  We use the head as the unit of measure because it is the simplest and most convenient unit.  The head may have other elements such as a beard or ample hair, extra fat etc. so for the sake of clarity, I will declare here that Loomis means the skull with all the musculature upon it as the unit.  Do not count extra mass from tissue or hair as part of the divisional unit.

8 heads tall turn around
Eight Heads tall is called IDEALISTIC PROPORTION

 

For your exercise today, take any desired height which suits your paper, and represent it with a vertical line.  Divide this line into 8 equal sections.

Line divided

Measure the distance from the tip of your vertical line to where the first mark crosses it.

Ruler

Make a perfect square at this point. Make certain you use a right triangle to draw the section markers at a 90 degree angle from your first line.

rulers

Fill out the remainder of your vertical line this way, repeating the perfect square for each point.

repeat

These squares represent the size of your figure’s head.  This layout will tell you the height of the figure, and where to place the anatomical points, but we need more data to determine the proper width of your Idealized Figure.   To find the width, determine the measurement of 1/3 the unit which make up any of your perfect square’s dimensions. In this case, 1/3 of my dimension happens to be 1 inch.Screen Shot 2020-05-04 at 11.02.22 AM

Recreate this measurement adjacent to one of the sides of your layout.  This will be the centre 1/7th of your overall layout rectangle
thirdwidth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally duplicate the original 8 squares on the free side of the 1/3 spacer (in orange here) which you just made.

fini rectangle

This rectangle will show the Idealistic Proportions both height and width for the human figure.  Draw your figure in this frame after my drawing, but it is not necessary to render the anatomy correctly. idealistic proportions

What is most important is that you begin your cognitive journey establishing this relationship as a conceptual rule.  I have repeated this process so many times, I can set-up the relationship of Idealistic Proportion on an invented figure, without relying on the measured mechanical divisions. Furthermore, I can see instantly when another artist does not know this rule, and presents figures which do not meet this proportional standard.  This will happen for you as well, but not unless you execute the drawing reps of setting up the frame, and fitting the figure standing within it.  Learn to hit the appropriate places where the anatomy lines up with the division lines.  Here are some sign-posts:

  • the space between the nipples is one head’s width
  • the waist is a little wider than one head unit
  • the wrist drops just below the crotch
  • the elbows are about on a line with the navel
  • the knees are just above the lower quarter of the figure
  • the shoulders are 1/6th of the way down

This is a matter of training your eye to see the proportions. Many consumers of art, and fans are impressed with design and style in a drawing.  They express their adoration for meticulous rendering or verisimilitude.  These fans are indiscriminate to the set-up of the fundamental proportions of the figure because their eyes have not been not opened.  When they lavish accolades over a finessed figure drawing, which is not set-up properly proportionately, it is like praising meat masked with excesses of salt to baffle the recognition that it has actually gone rancid.

Things are good and right when they are consistent up and down its own hierarchies, like a properly built house.  Such a work is efficacious through its fundamentals, its structure, its details and finishing.  To understand Figure Drawing For All It’s Worth, we as artists will do well to start with integrity at the fundamental stage of proportion.

Next week I will show you the female figure, as well as some other standard proportions.  This will help you understand why the natural proportions found in day-to-day life are not acceptable in an illustration, and how more extreme proportions may be suitable for certain applications in figure drawing.  Thank you for reading!

 

Lesson 6: The Interrupted Contour

Lesson 6: The Interrupted Contour

There will be more notes for this lesson, so take down what you consider to be valuable.  In addition, this lesson will introduce your first drawing assignment, so get your sketchbook out, and your pencil sharpened. Let us commence.

The sixth part of this lesson breakdown is regarding the use of the nude human form as the basis for figure study.  Loomis again underscores that knowledge of the muscles, bones and flesh on the nude figure will inform the artist’s approach to drawing the clothed figure.  He states:

It is impossible to draw the clothed or draped figure without a knowledge of the structure and form of the figure underneath.  The artist who cannot put the figure together properly does not have one chance in a thousand of success-either as a figure draftsman or as a painter.

Loomis now makes a point which I have used in several instances regarding those who associate artistry with some sort of magical talent which is bestowed from above.  Loomis states that nobody would accept a person’s claim to being a surgeon, if they also admitted to have never studied anatomy.  Likewise, we will reject a man’s offer to tinker on our automobiles, if he has no knowledge of mechanics.  We don’t accept the idea that someone could be imbued with a natural, unstudied skill of surgery or mechanics, because the end results of such uninformed work is disastrous – even fatal!  The producing of good art is not a life & death matter, but it should be regarded as important on principle for the sake of elevating quality over mediocrity.  To regard the production of art as something without the need for legitimate, specific study is to lower the standard of the medium, which (at the very least) promulgates the ugly.

Next, Andrew Loomis tells us that having a squeamish reaction to the nude human form will bar you from being an artist.  He states:

If you are offended by the sight of the body the Almighty gave us to live in, then put this book aside at once and likewise give up all thought of a career in art.

He goes on to indicate that any informed person who has technical knowledge of anatomic detail understands that the male and female forms differ radically in their construction.  Loomis advocates that the study of the nude form is indispensable to any career in art associated with figure drawing.  Again, he associates a career in art with a career in any of the vocational trades by stating that coursework in a practical trade eschewing  the study of the basic terms of that trade is a deplorable waste of time.  The terms of the vocation of illustration is the human figure, and we are to study it with the assiduity of a technician.  Consider this quote:

…a woman in slacks is not a man in pants, even when she has a short haircut

What Loomis means is that the dressings of femininity do not make womanhood.  There are many anatomical and skeletal differences- structural differences, all of which must be acknowledged and precisely understood by the artist, lest his representation fails to be convincing.

The next section provides an overview regarding the two types of drawing; these being the Linear Approach and the Solid Approach.  Loomis goes on to articulate the differences in these types.

LINEAR APPROACH:

  • embraces design or scale, for example a floor plan of a house
  • no consideration of light and shadow

SOLID APPROACH

  • attempts to render bulk or three-dimensions on a flat ground
  • consideration of light and shadow is central

It is important that Loomis is not separating line drawing from rendered drawing.  He indicates that drawing with expressive line work in order to describe 3-D form is also part of the Solid Approach.  He acknowledges that an outline truly belongs in the category of flat rendering- the Linear Approach, but he makes the distinction between a contour and a line.  Loomis associates a line with a piece of wire, unexpressive, regular in dimension and even.  A contour is an edge, which may be a sharp limitation to the form of a subject (such as in the edges of a cube) or a rounded a vanishing limitation (such as the contours of a sphere)

The difference is that in the Solid Approach, the line-like contours pass in front of one another, whereas an outline done in the Linear Approach does not do this.  A simple way to think of this is to imagine a naive drawing of hills.  The undulating lines interrupt one another to create the illusion of depth, even in children’s drawings.  This is still the Solid Approach, even though it consists of only contours.

iu-2
A naive drawing of hills even acknowledges that the interruption of contour creates a sense of depth, as if one hill stands before the other one.

 

The key element Loomis is implying here is that a convincing contour drawing of the human form  will also account for depth in anatomy by the use of interruption.  To help visualize what he means, Andrew Loomis asks us to imagine a piece of wire, meticulously bent in a continuous outline of a human being.  Even if the wire accounted for every hair, bump and point on a body, the continuous nature of the wire would never convince us that the representation of a human had any depth to it.  It would read as an outline.  This phenomena is not because of the lack of internal details, or because of the line-like form of the wire.  It is because there is no interruption in the line.   The recording of detail comes off as elements of design rather than information about mass or form.  Without interruption of line, we as viewers are given no clues about the three-dimensionality of the figure.  For all it’s worth, the representation could be a silhouette.

I have drawn a nude figure using the Solid Approach Loomis calls the contour drawing.  There is very sparse use of feathering and hatching.  To draw a contour drawing with convincing sense of mass means you need to understand anatomy very well, and know where to apply subtle variations in the line weight as well as to use the principle of interruption. Here is my drawing.  I want you to try and find places where I interrupted the contour line, in order to show the viewer that certain parts of the anatomy are more forward in the illusion of depth described by my line-work.  Take a look.

 

nude
There are several examples of contour interruption in this drawing I have done.

Now, I am going to show you two major ones, which to me stand out the most.

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Are those locations which you noted as examples of contour interruption?  Where a woman’s hip bones curve out from the anatomy, show the prominence by interrupting the curvature of her side with that of the buttocks. There are several more in the drawing.  For a final example, I’d like to direct your attention to her arms.  Take a look, and see if you can spot some more contour interruptions there.  I will show the answer below.

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There are many more places where the contour interrupts in my drawing.  Study the full picture, and try to observe how the masses appear to be describing depth, simply by having one contour line cross over the other.

This will conclude lesson five.  Please take the time to copy your notes, and as your first assignment, take a section of this woman’s anatomy which features interrupted contour, and recreate it in your sketch book.  It may be worth while to try several parts of the anatomy, or even the entire drawing for more advanced students.

Thank you for reading.  I look forward to seeing  you next week.

 

 

 

 

Lesson 5: “Artistic Observation”

Lesson 5: “Artistic Observation”

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.

 

Lesson 4: What is “Good Drawing”

Lesson 4: What is “Good Drawing”

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:

  1. Drawing must be related to a perspective
  2. Anatomy must be correct, whether exposed to the eye, or concealed beneath drapery
  3. Light and Shadow must be handled so as to impart a living quality
  4. 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.

 

 

 

 

 

Lesson 2- Character not details

Lesson 2- Character not details

Greetings, Lesson Two of Figure Drawing for All It’s Worth will continue with a summary of Andrew Loomis’ Opening Chat.   Taking personal notes on the ideas which Loomis is expressing will greatly enhance your ability to synthesize the later lessons which are actual drawing exercises.

The ideas he states inform his practice.

Loomis begins the next section by expressing that verisimilitude, (having the quality of seeming reality) is not enough for an illustrator to trade in.  He states that such a practice in art,  (i.e. photo-realism) may have at one time inspired awe in viewers, but since the invention of the photograph, such a pursuit is not sufficient for an illustration to be a quality piece.  An actual photograph records realism with unsurpassed efficiency and transfer,  such that the artist on these terms will always be outdone by the photo shutter and film.  Artists must therefore capture qualities in the subject which are beyond the obvious facts; those properties which Loomis calls “Pertinent Facts”.

“Pertinent Facts” are the less obvious qualities such as character, emotion and drama which clothe all subject matter, and are observed by viewers who have the care to look deeper than the surface.  This particular consideration is one of the hazards which many amateur and fannish devotées of fantasy and comic art will trip on. Devotées to particular Intellectual Properties love to see their favourite characters -a character such as Red Sonja- merely represented on canvas.  Such fans are quick to call a well-done painting in this category a “masterwork’, where the trained eye will see the work for what it is,  a well-done reproduction.  Paintings of this sort are done from reference; often a photo of a model dressed up as Red Sonja, standing in a relaxed or semi-active pose with a colour-field background of swirling mist behind.

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Red Sonja by Alex Horley, model Stacy E. Walker
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Stacy E. Walker is often used for such paintings.

The informed eye sees such a painting (which are legion) as literally being a work not particularly different than the actual reference photo which the artist has painted from.  Some artists even go so far as to use theatrical lighting and various props, along with the paid model to develop his painting, leaving almost nothing left to his artistic memory or invention.  In such a case, we need to ask why a professionally shot photo is not instead presented as the final artwork?  What qualities have been brought with the image being mirrored painstakingly in paint?

That’s just copying.

Andrew Loomis asks us to use the key ability which an artist alone can bring when making an image; the ability to edit, simplify and subordinate the detail. This is a quality which a photographer and the fannish artist has trouble incorporating.

By selecting which aspects in a subject matter we would like to emphasize, downplay, exaggerate, or abstract, we as artists work to bring out the character of a subject matter. In laying plain these subtle aspects for the less-astute viewer to see,  the artist thereby can articulate a quality particular to the subject matter beyond the surface detail- the character.  Furthermore, this approach allows the artist to work in a different sphere than the photographer is able to.  The greatness in a painting or a piece of art is the capturing of the less-obvious qualities found within a subject, rather than in the recording of intricate details.   Loomis articulates this point with the following quote:

“It is ten per cent how you draw, and ninety per cent what you draw.”

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Mona Lisa,  Da Vinci- seek to capture the character, not the details of your subject

He elaborates by articulating that when an artist equally defines everything within in a picture area, equally treating the value, edge and detail with the same approach-absolute fidelity- he will add nothing more than is achieved in a photo.    Loomis indicates that subordination of detail may be achieved in many ways, such as diffusion, closeness of colour/ value to the surrounding areas, by simplification of shape and insistent detail and by outright omission.  Accentuation is achieved by the inverse of each of these, that is sharpness in detail, high contrast or added texture.

To paint or draw the “Pertinent Facts” and by applying both subordination and accentuation to the image is also more similar to how humans experience reality.  When we look at a vista, or at a scene, our eyes focus on the elements which we find most attractive or those that seem to be infused with meaning.  The other areas, though still present, stand in less focus and garner a lesser regard.  Our interest maximizes the accentuation of what we see, and all else is subordinated.  This is literally how our brain has been developed in order for us to process detail; focus on what is of import and more-or-less ignore the rest.  This is because the myriad and infinite details of reality would overwhelm us were they all perceived at the same level of resolution.

Photo images which we are used to on a day-to day experience do capture every detail with an ambivalent eye. Since the photographic image is utterly pervasive, we have become used to seeing high resolution images in a way we don’t experience a subject matter in reality.  Consequently, we have come to associate such high detail and high resolution with attractive realism.  This should not be the aim of artistic realism tho- and it is not realism as a human can perceive.   We as artists need to recreate in paint the experience the human mind goes through when attracted interest perceives a beautiful vista.  We need to represent with conscious sublimation and accentuation of detail, as well as aim at drawing out the “Pertinent Facts”.

This is the end of Lesson Two.  Please review your notes, and we will continue our study of Figure Drawing For All It’s Worth next week.  Thank you for reading and participating.