09 September 2016

[art] Fun With A Pencil: Andrew Loomis' Foundational Drawing Text

Though I prefix-tagged the title with the word art, a modest handful of tags would have done as well: cartooning, art, artist, comic art … Andrew Loomis' book for beginners at both artists both casual and aspiring to serious craft has a great, great deal to offer.

As mentioned in the previous article, up until recently, Andrew Loomis' works were much beloved and, since they had been out of print for a very long time, highly sought after. A quick online search reveals that used vintage copies of his classic works from reliable sellers ask $60-$80 a copy. But it doesn't take much looking thorough Fun With A Pencil, that beginner's book, to convince one that this is something that in a fairer world would be of much benefit if it were more widely available.

Well, my friends, your Loomis famine is pretty much over. Starting in 2013, Titan Books has re-released these classic books for a more accessible price, unleashing them upon the world to inspire the next generation of motivated illustrators. The quarto-sized hardcovers are just as one might have bought them in the 1930s-1950s … not one illustration missing or out of place, in the volumes I've seen, each of a quality befitting the publisher and the legacy of the author. They'd look stunning on any shelf, not only for fans of drawing and learning to draw but anyone who adores and remembers the graphic style of books published during those days.

Titan may have been out to publicize the work of a foundational American illustrator, but they worked it out on one level by just making them lovely productions of book design on its own terms. The design look is very much that of of the 2nd quarter of the 20th Century in American graphic design.

Professor Blook, our
author's alter-ego, is
our companion along
the educational journey
But, of course, it's not just the book and its cover that are so pleasing. The inside is a pure revelation, as Loomis, one of the most popular and in-demand commercial artists of his day, takes the auto-didact though his poetically powerful and accessible drawing technique. The accent is on warmth, friendliness and lightheartedness as he enouragingly beckons the reader forward to learn to create art on what eventually becomes the burgeoning artist's own terms. Taking a the simple idea of a circle we move in one deft idea to the ball and how to take this easy-to-draw (even if your circle is a wobbly oval, he swiftly shows us that that's no problem either) figure to create the heads of cartoon figures. After several pages of practice suggestions, all clearly laid out, we get some technical tips and then its on into bodies. From bodies we move into clothing them, and from there we are encouraged to construct a world for them.

The result after all this is a beginning artist with enough skill to either please themselves and friends by drawing for the sheer pleasure or, if they want, take it farther. The book originally came out in 1939, and Loomis and his contemporaries could scarcely have seen the rise of computers and digital art, but as a foundation, the ideas and techniques presented in this book are timeless and are as fresh and necessary today as they were nearly 80 years ago, when the book was introduced. The illustrator of 2016 might have the most amazing electronic tools to use, but without the building blocks of drawing technique, it's all just a powerful scratch pad.

This is the sort of book were you take your time, have fun with it, and make it yours. Like John Hendrix, Andrew Loomis must have been the kind of teacher who wanted everyone to at least try, and noticed that a lot of people wanted to. That encouragement animates the entire text and causes you to understand, in a gut-level way, why drawing, even casual, can be a lifesaver.

In the next article, I'll take a more critical look at the Loomis method. You'll be pleasantly surprised at how essentially easy and potentially powerful it is.

Publisher: Titan Books, http://www.titanbooks.com
ISBN: 9780857687609
Retail: $39.95/$46.00 CDN/GBP 29.99

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