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.

Red Sonja by Alex Horley, model Stacy E. Walker
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.”

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.

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!

Figure Drawing For All It’s Worth

This will be the premier posting regarding the second book of Andrew Loomis which I will be presenting for you.  Following my previously stated pattern of approaching Loomis’ writing by order of hierarchy, this manual Figure Drawing For All It’s Worth shall be the second instalment.  It follows naturally from the preceding edition which I have presented (that being Successful Drawing).  If you have not completed that course, I suggest to go back, and read each of those blogs, as it will greatly enhance your ability to succeed in this course.

The manual Figure Drawing For All It’s Worth  by Andrew Loomis will introduce you to every required skill needed to be able to draw realistic figures from the imagination.  Many readers and lay people may believe that the ability to draw a realistic figure from the imagination is something akin to a god given gift.  This is not so, as you shall soon see.

You can invent figures such as this one, as I have drawn this morning.


In this particular posting, I will outline the general course which this presentation will take. The course will be broken into 4 terms, each encompassing 3 major topics.


Term 1 Topics:

A) The Approach to Figure Drawing

B) The Mannikin

C) Bones and Muscles


1.We will begin with a general review of the talk Andrew Loomis tends to begin his books with, where he will explain his philosophy and some of his general history regarding art.

2. Next we will investigate the ideal proportions for illustrating the figure.

3. Following this, we will illuminate the method of placing a figure realistically within an imagined setting, such that the perspective is correct and the relation to the ground is correct.

4. The mannikin figure will then be introduced, including how to add bulk to the frame, how to move the mannikin and keep it in perspective and again how to place it naturally within a setting.

5. Then, the mannikin will be drawn from any position, and I will show you the differences between the male and female mannikin.

male and female mannikin
The Male and Female mannikin are different.

6. After the mannikin has been fully mastered, we will move into proper anatomy.  I will begin this section by relating the reader to all of the major bones which Andrew Loomis indicates are necessary for the illustrator to know.

7. Following this, we will investigate each of the major muscles groups, including those of the trunk, the arms, and the legs both from before and behind views.

This will bring us to the end of Term One.



I hope you will enjoy this course. I intend to present a new lesson each week on Mondays.  Please subscribe to this blog for updates, and let me know how you are doing in the comments below.  I will respond to every comment.

Lastly, I guarantee that following each of these lessons will greatly accelerate your figure drawing skills, and with practice you can become fully proficient and confidently draw the Figure For All It’s Worth.

Light on Basic Forms Part II- The Sphere

Welcome back to my overview of Andrew Loomis’ book, Successful Drawing.  In this posting, I am going to move into the territory that all artists need to understand, that is, how to light an imaginary object in space without reference.

Most lay people call the effect of light on form shading.  This is not a good term to use, and Loomis encourages his readers to abandon it immediately.  The reason being, is that such a conception takes into account only the shadow element of the phenomena.  In actuality, the artist should be concerning himself with the light more than the shadow.  This is a subtle shift of mind, but a meaningful one.  The term Loomis prefers is modelling.  This new term implies a process of sculpture, and he argues that this is how we should represent light on a form.  Loomis asks us to recognize the shadow of a form as no more than a tone governed by the value in the light.  To sculpt is to consider form in three-dimensions.  We illustrators must think in those terms also, if we are to represent light realistically.

Loomis expands on the point regarding  lay-viewers of art.  Such folks generally regard the rendering of form with light as a feat little short of miraculous.  The naive and lay viewer is likely to speak of the artist’s great talent and how lucky they are, to have been blessed with such a gift.  The truth is that most viewers of art are unable to distinguish talent from plain observation and knowledge.  The lay-viewer has never really analyzed the way light works on form, but again, his intelligent observation recognizes and accepts the proper effect.

To represent forms from imagination, one need not attempt to memorize all the various shapes and ways objects cast shadows found in the real world.  Such an attempt would be foolish and impossible.  The technique Loomis outlines is much more reasonable than that, and something anyone can master so long as they attend to the practice.

Loomis says this:

Nature, until her way and laws are understood, can seem so complex as to be almost overpowering.  Usually her forms are surfaces with endless variations of texture, and the relationship of her form, as well as of man-made form, to basic form is not always evident. So some simple plan must be devised to help us understand the complexities before us. 

Here Loomis declares again the main thesis behind his books.  That thesis, plainly stated is that the world is understandable, and can be classified.  To do this, one needs to create a meta rule:


Such a rule will act like a guide through the chaos of possibility, and with one rule, the learner will begin to comprehend futher rules.  This will allow the illustrator to find his way through the multitude of impossible choices when representing nature.

The first rule for learning light on form is this:

Memorize the way light falls on a sphere.

Light falls on a sphere in a totally predictable way, with no variance.  To heed the rule is really only to make this observation: On a lighted sphere, there is a highest point of light, where the surface is nearly flat or at right angles to the source of light. 

That’s a simple fact.  Add to it, that the point of light on a sphere appears as a circle, and that is all we need to know in order to light the sphere.

Consider,  the remainder of the modelling phenomena (as in the new moon, the crescent moon, the waning moon etc)  follows from the basic principles of form particular to the sphere.  As the sphere curves in relation to the light source and our point of observation, how we perceive the circular spotlight changes.  As the surface of the sphere curves away from the source of light, it collects fewer rays, and is observed as a halftone.  The edge of the shadow then begins where the light rays are at a tangent to the surface of the sphere.

Since light will only travel in a straight line, it therefore cannot reach around more than halfway on a round form.  If we have an established direction of the source of light, we can then approximate the place where the shadow begins on the sphere- that is halfway around the form from where the highlight is.

In regards to realistic modelling, the right angle is essential.  The light will fall onto the object at a right angle, that is straight on it from the source.  As an illustrator, consider where your image situates the viewer relative to the sphere you are representing, and in your mind travel half-way around from the point where the light is striking it.  This is the edge of the highlight circle.  At that point, represent the “illustrator’s hump” (a deepening of tone at the transition from light to dark) and model the remaining area as in shadow.

Consider this drawing I did below:

Light on sphere

The light from the  central ‘sun’ goes out, falling on the surrounding 8 spheres in a straight line.  Where the surface of each sphere is closest, at a 90 degree angle to the sun, the circular highlight appears.

If we consider the top sphere, directly above the sun at 12:00 to be Sphere 1, you can see that the highlight upon it’s surface is a complete circle.

Going clockwise to Sphere 2 shows the circular highlight, partially obscured by the actual form of the sphere.  This shows us the curving side and the area of halftone. The highlight is still mostly a circle.

Further along, at Sphere 3, the closest point to the sun is perpendicular to our point of view, so the edge of the highlight is what can be seen, showing a very shallow curve.  This position shows us the dark and light sides of the sphere at the same time

Sphere 4 is the crescent moon shape, which is actually an illusion.  In this case the sphere is beginning to be between our point of view and where the light is, so that most of the circular highlight is obscured by the shape of the sphere.  On the other side which we can’t see, it is a full circle still.  We see only its edge.

Sphere 5 is when the sphere is directly between us and the light source.  We are only able to see the very edge of the highlight at the top, on account of the fact this image’s perspective is slightly from above.  In the case of an eclipse, we see no light at all.


The sphere is the first form to memorize, and with a bit of review, I am certain you can hold the principle in your head, and be able to represent a sphere with light striking it from any angle.  I encourage you to practice this, until you can model the light from any side convincingly on a sphere.

Next posting will move further into how to represent light on form from memory.

Thanks for reading.

Complex forms in light

Complex forms in light

This next section of Understanding Loomis will begin to address the essential question of how an artist can create realistic shadows when a subject matter is not a regular geometric shape, for instance such as in the case of a woman’s face.

Loomis begins his answer to this important question with a short word regarding theory.  He starts with the observation that laypeople cannot tell the difference between talent and knowledge.  He means that when most folks perceive a person of skill executing his craft – be it drawing or drywall- the product may seem like the result of an immaterial gift, rather than the exercising of an integrated, practiced knowledge base.  This is a mainstay of fine-art, where the ‘myth of talent’ seeks to delineate a line between craft and art.  The position being held by the talent advocates states that artists are geniuses, and their work is akin to revelation.  These elect few ‘geniuses’  are not craftsmen, but vehicles of expression who’s concepts (opinions and ideas) are purportedly the seat of their greatness.  Loomis being an illustrator reveals this as a myth with the straight-forward observation that talent really is a mis-appellation applied to what really is a practiced craft.  This confusion and elevation of the discipline into the realms of fine-art is done by those who lack knowledge of the pursuit, onto those who have knowledge of that pursuit; that is the ability to draw and paint.

Loomis defends the position that drawing and painting well, is a matter of understanding the terms of how such a skill is done and that there are specific areas of technical knowledge needed in order to manifest the illusion of reality on a 2-d surface.

Now he goes into the nuts-and-bolts of shadows and complex forms.  Loomis begins this section by indicating that when a drawing or painting is being done, and a smooth tone is chosen to be interrupted by the artist, there are only two ways an observer can interpret that change in tone.

  • That the change in tone represents a change in the character of the surface which is trying to be represented (say for instance, a few small rocks on a wide stretch of beach)


  • That the change in tone is a smudge on the surface of the art, and not part of the image which is trying to be represented.

The interpretation of a dark tone as being a change in surface character within the picture, vs it being some sort of surface smudge is exclusively within the domain of the placement of that mark.  A properly placed, grey mid-tone mark, will read as perfect sfumato of light on a woman’s cheek, where a misplacement of that same mark by a matter of degrees will make it now appear as a dirty spot; a mistake where your hand disturbed the charcoal.

This is a very useful distinction to keep in one’s mind when making a picture, in that many artists are compelled to ‘fill-in’ areas with various marks and tones.  The naive illustrator overly relies on hatching and details because he does not know where the exact place surface changes should naturally occur given the object and the light he is attempting to draw.

Unfortunately, many naive approaches in art can be interpreted as elements of style, and therefore also intentional on the part of the artist.  This conclusion is generally false, and such art is really most often the product of the artist trying to ‘fill in’ the work.  People usually have a good enough eye to see that something is wrong in a picture (see earlier posts on intelligent observation), but they lack the knowledge of why.  When this happens to an artist regarding his own work, the common natural response is to fuss over the area, adding random marks and tones in order to address the error in intelligent observation the artist is experiencing.  For instance, Loomis indicates elsewhere that the appearance of a receded or distended jawline in a portrait, which causes the artist to keep refining the contour of the face, is most often nothing wrong with the jaw, but actually the effect of the artist having misplaced his subject’s features, such as a too-low mouth, or too-wide eyes.

Naive art is often given a pass, and even loved by consumers and the audience in some cases.  Whether intense, ‘stylized’, ultra-detailed and highly-rendered art is your cup-of-tea or not does not change the fact that there is a particular place where surface character changes in regard to light, and knowing those particulars is better than not knowing.

Drawing is only difficult to those who don’t know what information to hold onto when representing a subject.  The placement of contours and changes in the nature of surface character are measurements and nothing else.  When one knows how to measure these properly, the matter of placing them is made simple.

Knowledge over talent.  Know how to do it, don’t try to guess because you can’t.

Moving on, Andrew Loomis declares that to find the planes of an object is to watch the angle of the surface as it changes, then record the tone or value caused by the angle.  I think this is most easy to understand when put in the context of drawing a face.  Loomis wants us to recognize that areas of light on form, always fall into a shape.  So do the dark tones and the half tones.  To be able to represent a face in light is to know these shapes, and place them together properly.

Consider this drawing I have done, presented below:

woman contour face loomis

A face is drawn as any other surface by following the angles of the surface and with each change of plane, noting the change of value.  Highlights are found on the highest parts of the form, and nearest point of the surface to the light.  As you can see in the image above, there is no need for complicated and intense detail.  The value of the shadow tones are limited to only 2 in my picture; full black for shadow, medium grey for half tones.  The brightest parts of the face are represented by no pencil work- it is the paper colour.  Squint your eyes at my drawing and you will see a generalization of the values, and recognize that the mid-tone is basically uniform.  With the magic of photoshop, I reduced my image to only 2 tones and the white ground.  You can still read this as an attractive woman’s face.  This is because the placement of the shadow tones is correct .  We read this as a face, and even an attractive face because the marks are in the correct areas.  If they were moved about, the image would become less attractive.

small contour

Here I have taken the shapes of value, and moved them around a bit, then added a red filter to indicate the distortion.  This example shows how the positioning of the value-tones is the essential variable which artists need to get correct.  The actual ‘prettiness’ of the particular eye or nose drawn is not what makes a woman’s face look attractive.  It is the knowledge of how form creates shadow, and the proper measurement of where the artist chooses to place those values.  

distortedsmall contour

You can see in the red version, the masses of tone when slightly moved, also move in our interpretation of them from descriptions of value to random marks.  The tones appear like surface blemishes.  Look for instance in the halftone mark which describes the edge of the woman’s cheek where it meets the muzzle of the face. The correctly placed one looks just like a shadow, the incorrect one is an unreadable mark -a smudge.

adistortedsmall contour

The obvious next question is how does one learn these various shapes, which represent light on form in regards to the multiplicity of facial angle and quality of light?  The answer will be outlined in the next posting, which will go into the principle that light on form is related to the basic, and memorizable way that light falls on the sphere and the cylinder.

We will discuss this next monday.  I hope you join me.


Perspectival Shadows cast from Before

Last time, we considered the method of showing a proper shadow cast from a light source which is behind the viewer.  This lesson today will demonstrate the opposite situation, where the light source is before the viewer.

Andrew Loomis in his book Successful Drawing shows us the method of solving how to draw shadows in proper perspective.  The first point which needs stating is a concept hinted at from 2 postings past, which I hope to make concrete by the end of this lesson.  The aforementioned idea is that if the light source is Behind, the angle of light is below the horizon.  When the light source is before the viewer, the angle of the light is above the horizon.  Hold onto this thought, and I will review it at the end of the lesson, where I am sure it will form an integration for you.

Here are the steps for casting a perspectival shadow from a light source which is before.

  1. Set up your horizon and the object using proper perspective.  Establish the Vanishing Points for the object’s sides, and draw the appropriate angles.  Draw the guidelines for the perspective on a separate layer of vellum or digitally, then remove the guidelines when the object is perspective. Save the layer.Screen Shot 2019-03-04 at 8.22.41 AMScreen Shot 2019-03-04 at 8.24.58 AM
  2. Since the light source in this exercise is before the viewer, it is proper to next establish the position of where that light is coming from specifically.  This should be done with precision within the layout phase of your drawing.  Even if the light is not going to be within the boundaries of your finish crop for the illustration, you must lay it out with exact placement, or else your shadows will appear unconvincing.  Drop a line vertically down at 90 degrees from the centre of the light source to the horizon line.Screen Shot 2019-03-04 at 8.25.15 AM
  3. The point where the vertical line crosses the horizon will be the VP of the shadows. This is a crucial step, so pay close attention to it.  As a rule, the Vanishing Point of shadows is directly below the light source when the light is cast from a Before placement.  The blue lines below represent the projection for the  Shadow VP.  Please not that these guidelines cross through the corners of the object you are drawing, laying on the ground plane.   Screen Shot 2019-03-04 at 8.26.13 AM
  4. Next we will cast the lines of light, which will fall like a triangle from the light source.  Each corner of the object you are drawing will interrupt the light, but the perspective you have chosen may conceal certain corners.  In this drawing there are 3 corners which will cast a shadow we can see, so there will be 3 lines.  If your object and perspective yields more corners which will cast a shadow, use the appropriate amount of lines.  Note how the light lines emanate from the centre of the light source, not its perimeter.  Cast the light lines further than where the Shadow VP lines lay on the plane.  Screen Shot 2019-03-04 at 8.26.28 AM
  5. Now, turn on the layer with the original perspective lines showing.  These perspective lines will give us the other half of the information we ned  regarding where the shadow’s perimeter will lay. Screen Shot 2019-03-04 at 8.29.02 AM
  6. Where the red light lines cross either the blue Shadow VP lines or the black object perspective lines with demarcate the corners of the cast shadow your object will make, given the perspective you have chosen, and the placement of the light source.  I have numbered these 1-4.  Numbers 5 and 6 are the points where your object touches the plane it rests on, and from these points the shadow will originate.Screen Shot 2019-03-04 at 8.28.44 AM
  7.  Outline the cast shadow perimeter, then fill it in with the value appropriate for the light intensity you are describing.  The darker the shadow, the brighter the light.  Add half-tones to the shaded sides of the object (the sides facing away from the light) Flat planes have even shading, curving planes will appear as a gradation.  Screen Shot 2019-03-04 at 8.29.25 AM
  8. Remove the guidelines to reveal your illustration of a properly done shadow, in perspective, with the light source before the viewer.  Congratulations!Screen Shot 2019-03-04 at 8.30.37 AM


As a last comment, think back the the idea of the angle of light above and below the horizon which I mentioned at the beginning.  If you think about it, it is natural to recognize that the angle will come from above when the light is before, because when standing on the earth, you perceive the horizon above you.  If the light is coming from behind, the angle must come from below for the same reason.  It is possible, tho rare that one’s point of view can be distorted, such that the horizon is perceived as below you.  This could occur if you are inverted or suspended in the air.  Such points of view will break this rule.  Luckily, there are limited calls for illustrations of that type.  I will cover such considerations at a much later date, due to their peculiarity.

There are many more subtleties related to cast shadows, but I believe I will go onto showing organic cast shadows in perspective next week.  It will be a difficult one!

Drawing Shadows in Perspective

The method of placing a shadow into perspective is an important skill to have as an illustrator.  There is a method which Andrew Loomis shows us in his book called Successful Drawing.  I will outline it here, following a short preamble.

When we look at an object on a plane, we see it in perspective, as it appears from our point of view-or our perspective.  The angles recede to a point on the horizon called the Vanishing Point, which always changes depending on where the viewer is situated.

The shadows cast by an object sitting on a plane will also have a vanishing point, but it is relative to the direction the light is being cast, as well as to the viewer’s point of view.  Working out the perspective the shadow takes, relative to the viewer is a factor of drawing the primary object into proper perspective- if you have done this, the P.O.V perspective of the object’s shadow will follow suit.  This is only the first consideration though, as stated above, the shadow also has to fall relative to the direction the light is being cast.

I will demonstrate Loomis’ method of solving this problem.

  1. First, as will all drawing, one should set out the horizon line, and decide on the vanishing point, or points if the perspective is 2 point or more.  Here is a sample with 2 Vanishing Points, labeled V.P. below.Screen Shot 2019-02-25 at 8.15.57 AM
  2. Once the VPs are set up, draw lines going to them, as per the shape you are drawing.  It is important to draw a geometric shape at this stage, then convert it to an organic shape later once the perspective is worked out, since it is easier to solve these issues geometrically.   Here I intend to draw a box shape.  Screen Shot 2019-02-25 at 8.16.08 AM
  3. Here is the box shape drawn in using the two VPs.Screen Shot 2019-02-25 at 8.16.17 AM
  4. Now, once you have decided on the object’s perspective, it is time to decide on the next major piece of information which an illustrator needs, in order to create a convincing picture; the direction of light.  You should be aware that this stage is not regarding the angle the light is falling from, just whether it is coming from the left of the object or the right.  The angle is determined later.  For this image, I chose the light to be coming from behind-right. (NB. Last posting defined the direction terms Behind and Before as being relative to the viewer, not the subject matter.  If the light is behind the viewer, the direction line comes from below.)Screen Shot 2019-02-25 at 8.17.41 AM
  5. Light travels in a straight line, so this direction line you set is very important; it will now show us where the VP of the shadow will be, relative to the light.  As stated before, the shadow’s perspective relative to you will be taken care of on account of the shape you have drawn already.  Whichever perspective that shape is in will define the POV perspective the shadow takes, as we will use the corners of the shape as reference points for the shadow.  When you cast the line the light is travelling at, the point where it crosses the horizon will be the VP of the shadow.  Bisect the horizon with a vertical line where the Shadow VP lays.Screen Shot 2019-02-25 at 8.18.32 AM
  6. Once the vertical line bisecting the Shadow VP has been established, we can now determine the angle of the light.  The vertical drawn will act as our gauge to keep the angle constant.  Choose the most prominent corner of your subject matter, and at an angle of your choosing, cast a line which goes through the prominent corner, as well as through the vertical line you drew in step 5. This will be the primary angle of the light.Screen Shot 2019-02-25 at 8.21.23 AM
  7. Since there are more than 1 corner which catch the falling light, we need to determine where that far, and hidden corner of the box would be.  This is done by again casting lines to the 2 original VPs we chose for the box.  Cast your lines to determine the back side of the box using the corners which you can see on the right and left.  I used the blue lines to demonstrate this below. Screen Shot 2019-02-25 at 8.23.17 AMScreen Shot 2019-02-25 at 8.22.33 AM
  8. Once that is done, describe the back side of the box, using dotted lines, and make a note of where the corners are. Screen Shot 2019-02-25 at 8.24.00 AM
  9. The second upper corner of the box, hidden by the side which faces you is also within the purview of the light which is falling.  You need to now account for the angle of the shadow it casts, using the first Angle of Light you decided upon.  At the crossing point of the Angle of Light and the vertical line which bisects the Shadow VP, draw up again, crossing through the new, hidden corner you just solved in step 8.  This will tell you how the shadow falls relative to that corner, and the angle of light.   This new angle line I have drawn below, it is the thinner of the two lines describing the Angle of Light.Screen Shot 2019-02-25 at 8.24.32 AM
  10. Now, using the heretofore unmentioned bottom corners, cast lines from both the near and far corners, going to the Shadow VP.  These lines will give us the side edges of the cast shadow, and they are represented in dotted blue below.  The red Angle of Light lines show us where the shadow will end, in a straight line between the two crossing points of the 2 dotted blues, with the two reds. Screen Shot 2019-02-25 at 8.26.33 AM
  11. Please note, I marked an X where the far corner of the shadow would appear (at the crossing point of dotted blue and the thin red Angle of light line).  You can see that the X is within the body of the subject matter, indicating that the back corner of the shadow cannot be perceived by a viewer standing at the perspective we chose for this object.  This is what I was meaning by saying that by properly drawing the subject matter in perspective will take care of the shadow’s P.O.V perspective.  Here is the X marked in the drawing below, with pink lines outlining the box’s shadow which such a perspective and angle of light would cast.  The far corner of the shadow  is behind the box.  The shadow extends from the bottom of the subject matter where it touches the plane.Screen Shot 2019-02-25 at 8.28.55 AM
  12. Finally, remove the guidelines and fill in the shadow with a dark tone, relative to the brightness and quality of light you would like to represent.  I kept the angle of light lines active, so you can see how the corners of the shadow will meet them.  Screen Shot 2019-02-25 at 8.31.10 AM

Thank you for reading this week’s posting.  Next week I will show you how to cast shadows in perspective from a light source which is Before the Viewer.

Best wishes.

Cast Shadows: Behind and Before

Cast Shadows: Behind and Before

When you are drawing shadows, there are a couple of rules which need to be remembered in order to create a natural looking illusion of light. Fortunately, Andrew Loomis helps us negotiate these points in his book Successful Drawing.

The first rule he indicates is an observation regarding the two location choices of light source when representing cast shadows; that is, a behind light source or a before light source. Behind and before are designations of where the light source is in relation to the viewer of the picture, not the subject.  Examine these samples I’ve drawn for you below.

In the picture of the Ogre below, the primary cast shadow on the ground plane shows us that the light source is behind you– the viewer of this picture.  The ogre’s actual body is interrupting the direction the light is falling, and hence, it casts a shadow behind.  Notice that cast shadows which are even somewhat to the side of the subject are still considered the result of a behind light source.

If the light source is behind, the shadow will fall behind.

(NB. In this drawing there happens to be two light sources, as you can see in the secondary small cast shadow under the ogre’s chin, and likewise below his hands.  For this matter, we are regarding only the large cast shadow on the ground.)

Screen Shot 2019-02-06 at 3.24.47 PM



This drawing is considered to be a light source which is before the viewer.  One can tell on account of the fact that the shadow is falling between where we the viewers are, and the subject matter of the lady, as she sits on the plane.  One can imagine the sun above her, in the sky, before where you are standing, looking at this lady.  The sun before you, therefore constitutes a before light source.

If the light source is before, the shadow will fall between.Screen Shot 2019-02-11 at 6.45.42 AM


Now that the terms before and behind have been established, there are several rules about casting shadows from before and behind light.  Here are  Loomis’ rules about drawing cast shadows.

  1. If the light source is behind the viewer, the angle of the light comes from below the horizon.
  2. If the light source is before the viewer, the angle of light comes from above the horizon.
  3. If the light source is before the viewer, put the shadow VP on the horizon nearby, below the light source.
  4. When the light source is before the viewer, the angle of light is the nearest of the 3 cast shadow considerations;
    • position of light source
    • angle of light
    • VP of shadow on the horizon
  5. All shadows radiate from a point on the ground directly below the light source.  This point is the shadow vanishing point (SVP)
  6. All shadows within a drawing recede to the same SVP.
  7. The length of shadow on the ground plane is determined by the angle of light.


That is a lot to digest, so at this point, it may be of use to my readers to think on these concepts for a while, before diving into how one actually draws before and behind light source shadows.  Next week, I will demonstrate that process, as well as how to cast shadows of organic shapes, like those in my samples above.

Thank you very much for your continued interest.

Bye for now.


Types of Light, Cast Shadows & Perspective of Shadows

Types of Light, Cast Shadows & Perspective of Shadows

Greetings,  this week we will be continuing our discussion of Andrew Loomis’ book Successful Drawing, and considering types of light and how to represent shadow.

He begins by indicating that there are two main types of light.  These types are

  1. Direct light
  2. Indirect light

Loomis emphasizes that the decision to treat a scene or subject which an artist is attempting to represent, begins with choosing one or the other of these 2 types.  It is important to choose only one of these types, and to stick to it because the treatment of light in a drawing is what gives the art an impression of consistency.  The absence of light could technically also be a 3rd category, but Loomis doesn’t even mention it because the drawing would be pure black.  Any small amount of a subject matter, regardless of shadow depth around it, is an effect of Indirect Light treatment.

With the casting of light, comes the Cast Shadow.  Cast shadows are the areas of a drawing where your subject matter interferes with the direction of light, and that interruption shows on another plane in the form of a shadow.  The shadow you see of yourself on the ground on a bright day is a Cast Shadow.  This is different than the type of shadow called Shading; ie. how lights and darks fall on an object, as discussed previously. Although one could consider the Shading on the dark side of the moon, to be a shadow which is cast by its lit side, such  reasoning only confuses the issue.  It is better to think of Cast Shadows as those shadows which an object throws onto another plane or object.

  • Cast Shadows: the interruption of light caused by an object, translated as darker value, appearing on a secondary object.
  • Shading: the translation of how light falls on a specific form, related to that form’s general shape.

When representing Cast Shadows, the artist must consider 3 factors.  These factors are as follows:

  1. position of light source
  2. angle of light
  3. the Vanishing Point (VP) of the shadow on the horizon.

Each of these three must be understood in order to place a Cast Shadow convincingly within the context of the scene an artist is attempting to represent.  Loomis shows us how to do it.  He indicates the best way to cast the shadow properly is to alter the plane of your subject matter which is facing the light to a square.  Draw this square properly extending to the VP.  Then, using the line the light falls at, project a central line and lines from the corners to the angle of ground you have your subject matter sitting on.  This will show you how a square casts a shadow.

Example.  IMG_9277


Here are the steps.

  1.  Contour draw your actual subject matter with light pencil.  Decide where the light is hitting the object and the angle it is coming at.IMG_9269
  2.  Draw a line of the light direction, and approximate the “Illustrator’s Bump” (see last post) which will show at the transition from light to half tones.  The line of light will bisect the Bump.IMG_19270
  3. Draw a flat square shape, representing a simplification of the plane of your subject matter which is facing the light.  Set the square to the VP which your actual subject matter is related to.  Cast diagonals from corner to corner of your new square to reveal the centre.  I do this on a separate layer to keep the original artwork clean.  NB> the line of light is not related to the perspective lines.  They are at separate angles.IMG_9271
  4. Project the edge of the square onto the ground at the angle you imagine your subject matter to be sitting at.  This angle goes to the horizon again, at a secondary point, where the VP of the shadow points.  IMG_29274
  5. Cast a line parallel to your light line off of the top near corner of the square. Let it cross the angle line you drew in step 4.IMG_39274
  6. From the bottom near corner, send a line to the VP.  Likewise do the same from the point where  the top light line from step 5 bisects your ground angle.  Lines to VP are pink, Light lines are green. The pink perspective lines show you the top of the projected square.  IMG_19274
  7. Use the points of the square to draw the other side of the projected square, bisecting the top perspective line you just drew.   Aim this line to the VP of the shadow used in step 4. This line will establish the mostly hidden other side of the projected square. The yellow line represents the opposide edge of the projected square.IMG_y19274
  8. On another layer, draw lines from corner to corner on the projected square, and where they cross, draw a third dotted line parallel to either side.  That dotted line is the centre of your projected square.  These guides will help you draw the projected shadow of your original subject matter.IMG_9275
  9. Using this information you worked out, go back to your original contour drawing of the shape, and add the proper modelling of form in light, as well as the Cast Shadow laying on the ground beside. Don’t forget the Illustrator’s Bump, where the shaded side meets the lit side.


Next week, we will continue with some more information on how to use Cast Shadows in perspective.  Thank you very much for reading.






Light on Basic Forms II

Today, we shall continue the investigation of how Andrew Loomis unpacks the principles of light and its effect on forms.  Following the 4 Laws Loomis provides for us, as outlined in the previous posting, he continues with some very useful particulars regarding light and shadow.

The first of these particulars is the phenomena Loomis calls the “illustrator’s hump”, that is the observation of how on a curving surface, the darkest part of the shadow appears closest to the lightest part.

This seems counter intuitive, as per the idea that the furthest point away from the light source must be the darkest point, until one realizes that light also reflects. The darkest part shows at the point of change from light to dark, on account of the fact that a certain degree of the cast light reflects back from the surface which the lit object is laying on. This reflected light, or other ambient light partially illuminates the object.  This phenomena does not occur on the Moon, because the Heavenly Bodies are objects which are actually suspended in space, and there are no planes below them, which could reflect the light back onto the dark side.

A further observation about the ‘illustrator’s hump’ is that the shadow which the object casts begins where the “hump” on the surface begins.  Tracing a light line in the direction which the light is falling will show you where to put the edge of the shadow which the object casts on the plane it sits upon.  For clarity, please refer to the illustration I have done, just below.


illustrator's hump

Further particulars which Loomis outlines in this section are some rules on how to think of the principles of light and shadow in regards to the angle the subject sits at, relative to the light source.  If one thinks of angles, rather than the puzzles of how to render light on a surface, many potentially confusing traps can be avoided.  He provides us with the following principles.

  1. An object between the viewer and the light source is in full shadow.
  2. If the light is behind the viewer, the lit object is cast in full light, as in the effects of a flash bulb.
  3. If the lit object is placed at right angles to the viewer’s position, as well as to the light source, the object seems to be half in light and half in darkness.
  4. If the lit object is placed in a quarter-turned position, the resulting effect is either 3/4 light and 1/4 dark, or vice-versa.

Loomis further indicates that quarter turned positions present a more satisfactory effect, as either light or dark then dominates the subject matter.  This appears more appealing to the viewer than an equal division of light and dark.

Finally,  there is concession which Loomis gives to certain cases where an even dispersal of light on a subject is appropriate, for instance he indicates that full-frontal light is good for posters and poster effects, such as in the work of Norman Rockwell.

Thanks again for reading, next week we will cover the 2 main types of light, cast shadows and how to represent shadows properly in perspective.