I just finished an interesting discussion with my brother Eryn. Our discussions are varied and wide ranging, but a common topic which we return to is the idea of being effective. Webster’s dictionary offers the following as its primary definition of effective:
producing a decided, decisive, or desired effect effective policy>
Cambridge Dictionary offers this definition:
producing the intended results, or (of a person) skilled or able to do something well: an effective policy/strategy
The commonality between the two definitions is the idea of producing something specific well. What is not included are the terms understood to categorize something as being ‘well done’ as opposed to something which is ‘poorly done’. Those terms are not stated, but I believe that there are 2 fundamental traits within the concept ‘well done’ which are universal and therefore not subjective. Here are the fundamental elements which are a part of all things termed as ‘well done’:
- The result objectively achieves that which was desired at the endeavour’s inception
- The result was achieved exclusively, without any secondary results which counteract the original endeavour.
For instance, it cannot be said that when a baseball player is trying to hit a baseball, that he has been effective when he instead makes a strike; he failed to achieve his primary objective of hitting the ball, thus he has not been effective in those terms. This example covers the first of my two fundamental traits of ‘being effective’.
Secondarily, let us say that there is a trucker who is dispatched out to transport a load of eggs safely from the east coast to the west coast. He sets out, and from prior experience knows that excessive speed causes bumps and jostling in his trailer. To counteract this, he drives very slowly. When he does reach the west coast, he has indeed achieved a safe transportation of the eggs. Unfortunately, he is a week late, and many of the eggs have spoiled on account of the time spent in transport. It cannot be said that the trucker was effective at transporting the eggs because his method introduced two secondary and contrary results to the overall intent of the endeavour; transporting the eggs safely so they could be sold. The transport of the eggs was not an end it itself as the trucker thought. Indeed, the transport is a stage in a series of events, all of which need to be achieved. The fact that the trucker brought the eggs 1 week late cost the merchant money, and the fact that some of the load were rotten makes their safe transport irrelevant.
This second of the two fundamental traits is the one most often evaded by people seeking to achieve an ends of some type. The evasion occurs on account of their hope for success outweighing their objectivity. In the end, these people can only save face by compromising the principles regarding any terms which should disqualify their effort as being effective. As a result they say, ” ah well, it is good enough!” without considering the long-term results of the equivocation.
The talk regarding being effective was meant to set out the groundwork for Loomis’ next major idea, which is being effective.
Loomis makes a very strong case for artists to free themselves from the need to use reference. Although he acknowledges that the use of a model is the best way to achieve a realistic end in drawing, and that photographs are needed to reference particular information, he clearly states that too many artists attempt to work professionally without really knowing how perspective works, or how the human form is put together. He indicates that the primary subject matter of the illustrator -the human form- is so multifarious and so pliant that to lack specific knowledge of it, forces an illustrator to rely on photo refs and other external sources of information in order to get by. In addition, he states that to draw anything, one needs to understand the principles of how perspective works.
He accepts that the ends of such efforts may be achieved by compiling reference, but Andrew Loomis is not willing to consider that method to be effective.
Consider this excerpt from Successful Drawing (pg 22-24)
Suppose you were asked to draw a series of columns, spaced 10 feet apart, set on cubes measuring 5 feet each way, with some figures standing at the second and fifth columns, and the bases of eight columns going back in the distance. This is very simple if you know perspective. Which would take the most time, to hunt up such a building, take photographs, develop films, make prints, and set the assembly on a projector, or just to sit down and draw it? Almost daily, lack of knowledge of simple perspective can hack away an artist’s time. The amount of motion and time which you save by knowing how to solve your problems far exceeds any saving by the projector. The more you lean on your crutches, the more your strength ebbs, and soon you cannot get along without them.
It should be evident to most people that to know something is better that to not know something, so then is it evident that integrating the principles of perspective is better than trying to guess at them, or to rely on reference.
In order to expand on this, Andrew Loomis indicates a few facts regarding drawing the human form from photos versus knowing how the form is put together, and working from your knowledge base. He states that photographs do not make good drawings in that they impartially record the subject. An artist who uses the photo as a reference risks the suspension of artistic judgement in place of the recording of anatomic detail and an obsession over its correct placement. Loomis encourages us to be more concerned with geometric shapes present in the human form, and the activity of light and shadow rather than on any attempts at recording the tiny muscular bumps and lumps recorded in photographic reference of the human form.
He also cautions against the use of ‘swiping’ magazine models, and integrating them into one’s artwork. He makes no evaluation of the artistic honesty of such practice, nor does he comment on copyright infringement. Instead -ever practical- Loomis reminds us that most modern photography is taken under highly unreal conditions, using several light sources. The visual language of the photo studio he says creates images which ‘…defy every principle of good drawing. There is no authentic form in them; it has been broken up in meaningless light and shadow; and good drawing is essentially a statement of form.”