When you Google “Best drawing books”, the first ten images of the search results contain two art instruction books by Andrew Loomis. Considering he wrote seven in total–two of which were published posthumously–that’s pretty impressive. These days Andrew Loomis is most well known for his art books dedicated to drawing and for the Andrew Loomis Methods of drawing.
Many artists today use and teach the Andrew Loomis method for drawing the head and hands, like Stan Prokopenko over at Proko.com. When I began searching for knowledge on figure drawing and anatomy many years ago, I first came across Burne Hogarth and George Bridgman. Both were excellent artists and wrote their own art instruction books, but Andrew Loomis–with an abundance of excellent skill and passion–opens wide the world of drawing with dedication, encouragement, enthusiasm, and a warm welcome.
Artist Spotlight: The Life and Times of William Andrew Loomis
Andrew Loomis was born William Andrew Loomis on June 15th, 1892 in Syracuse, New York. He was raised in Zanesville, Ohio and lived life during a very culturally and technologically formative time in the United States. In the decade of his birth, two states were added to our Union: Wyoming (1890), Idaho (1890), and another, Hawaii, was annexed. The year of his birth, the U.S. population was a mere 64 million compared to today’s 330+ million.
Andrew Loomis’s life from boyhood to early adulthood spanned an era in world history bursting with technological and cultural innovations, social and cultural change, political unrest and upheaval, assassinations and attempts, global conflict, disasters, and two world wars–and all that happened before the 1960s! To give you an idea of the external life influences at play during the life of William Andrew Loomis, here’s a short list of some of the things that were going on during his boyhood to age 18:
- In 1900 Kodak got its start with the introduction of the Brownie camera.
- The mass production of the automobile, the demonstration and use of the Diesel engine, and the production of the Model T by Henry Ford (1908).
- The Wright Brothers became the first to fly a controlled, powered, and sustained heavier-than-air airplane on December 17th, 1903.
- Pablo Picasso introduced Cubism in 1907.
- Theodor Roosevelt was sworn in as President in 1901 after the assassination of President William McKinley.
- The Russian Revolution of 1905.
- The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake (approximately magnitude 7.8) which destroyed much of San Francisco, CA, USA.
- The Great Fire of 1901.
- The first movie theater, called Electric Theatre, opened in Los Angeles, CA, USA.
- The first silent film, and big success of American cinema, The Great Train Robbery debuted.
- The first performance at New York’s Carnegie Hall is conducted on May 5th, 1891.
- The Victrola gramophone was released by the Victor Talking Machine Company in 1906.
Everything listed above happened before Andrew Loomis reached voting age, and in the decades immediately following he lived through “Prohibition”, the “Spanish flu”, World War I, the Constitutional Amendment giving women the right to vote in the U.S., the invention of “Scotch Tape”, World War II, and much more.
Researching the life and works of Andrew Loomis is very much like treasure hunting on a modern-day beach with a metal detector–a lot of effort with little reward. There is very little information available online or in print about Andrew Loomis’s life and work, and what is available is simple and brief. It’s astonishing that a man who was so talented an illustrator, painter, and instructor, with a career spanning over twenty years, is so difficult to learn about in our information overloaded internet age.
In 1911, at the age of 19 amidst new Model T’s and an abundance of blossoming pop culture, Andrew Loomis studied at the Art Students League of New York under George Bridgman and Frank DuMond. From the Art Student’s League he went on to study at the Art Institute of Chicago while working for the Charles Daniel Frey studio.
In 1917 Loomis’s study and work were paused when he enlisted in the military. World War I had begun and he served our county for 20 months with the U.S. Army Engineering Corps, spending ten of those months in France.
In 1919, the year after the first world war ended, William Andrew Loomis married Ethel Olson and together they had three children: Natilie, James, and Diana.
Following his military service and marriage, Andrew Loomis worked for a few different ad agencies before opening his own studio. After the war, Loomis worked for the Charles Everett Johnson Advertising Art Studio in Chicago. At that time, Chicago was home to several art services and was the central hub of the advertising and print industry after World War I.
It is difficult to learn more about the Charles Everett Johnson Advertising Art Studio, but I did come across one helpful article in PRINT magazine. The article profiles commercial artist Louis Paeth who worked with Andrew Loomis at the studio. From this article we learn that the Charles Everett Johnson Art Studio was purchased or otherwise merged with the Bertsch and Cooper art service, also located in Chicago.
The new company operated under the Bertsch and Cooper name, and it seems Andrew Loomis stayed on after the merger for a time. Loomis also worked for the Street Railways Advertising Company creating streetcar posters. I haven’t been able to verify when he worked at Railways advertising, nor find any examples of his work from his time there. In fact, much of his work that I’ve been able to find is from after he opened his own editorial and advertising studio in downtown Chicago in 1922.
The Art of Andrew Loomis
It continues to amaze me that an artist who has contributed so much of himself to our craft isn’t better represented online and in print. There doesn’t seem to be a single volume of all his collected works, and what can be found online via a Google image search yields a narrow selection of the massive amount of work he must have created over a 20+ year career as a commercial artist. Still, we can enjoy, learn from, and celebrate what we can find and I’m thankful for that.
Andrew Loomis is remembered and known most for his art instruction books, but he was also a highly skilled illustrator and advertising designer. It is said that he was quite gifted in his ability to highlight and sell a product while also preserving the presence of fine art. No matter what was being advertised, Loomis would find a way to make a compelling ad that was also a solid work of art.
Andrew Loomis, Commercial Illustrator & Painter
As an illustrator and painter, Andrew Loomis’s skill is particularly clear in his use of form and structure, composition, edge and value control, and design. His use of lost edges and precise value control are fully effective in leading the viewer’s eye around the entire illustration, along with masterful use of color, light, and chromatic variation that set the mood for each piece. Loomis had a deft grasp of how and when to vary his forms and edges using brushwork, ranging from soft and out of focus, to sculptural, to sharp detail–often all in the same illustration.
All of his work brilliantly shows his solid foundations as an experienced and skilled draftsman.
Andrew Loomis, Draftsman
The first thing we must all learn as artists are the art fundamentals. Studying Andrew Loomis’s artwork, together with each book he authored, is like having the privilege of a masterclass with him. His expression of form, structure, anatomy, composition, lighting, and technique are superb.
Andrew Loomis, Art Instructor & Author
I love Andrew Loomis’s books. The way he explains our craft is simple, thorough, encouraging, and enthusiastic. Just from reading his opening or closing chats, which are included in almost every one of his books, you can clearly feel the energy of his joy and passion for drawing.
Each of Loomis’s books is written with a bit of fun and humor to appeal to and support the “up-and-coming” artist at any level. He begins educating the reader immediately with is “short chat with the reader” sections, and the tone throughout his books is pleasant, encouraging, and welcoming to the joy and craft of drawing.
“To the reader of this book: May it give wings to your pencil, to carry you to the heights of good draftsmanship.” –Andrew Loomis, Drawing the Head and Hands
As an art instructor, Loomis had a clear and expressed preference for the “direct and efficient approach”. He had a very thorough, fun, welcoming way of teaching that makes me wish I had the opportunity to meet the man himself.
The Loomis Methods of Drawing
I believe the reason the widespread, much sought after, and timeless success of the Andrew Loomis Methods of Drawing can be described best by his own words: it is “simple”, and “at the same time creative and accurate”.
His writing and teaching style are focused, orderly, and considerate as well as thorough. He encourages finding and joying in our drawing craft and pursuit of “the advancement of [our] own ability.”
Fun with a Pencil
Warmth, encouragement, and enthusiasm are the clear tones of Loomis’s Fun with a Pencil. He begins with simple shapes and a helpful character called Professor Blook, “the spirit of the book”. He seeks to excite and inspire the reader by taking them, one small step at a time, through his method for creating cartoon heads. He leads with the fun and simplicity of drawing, and from there manages to keep the fun going as he transitions into some of the more complex aspects of drawing.
Loomis called his method for drawing the human head “The Divided Ball & Plane Method”, and seeks to boost his readers’ confidence by emphasizing how much fun it is to draw and explore with a pencil. He pointedly encourages the readers to accept themselves and their skill where they are, and to start learning and growing from there. Step by step with humor and simplicity, Loomis takes the reader through the basics of drawing and then on to more intermediate subjects such as: the wireframe gesture, posing your wireframe, foreshortening, perspective, and light and shadow.
Drawing the Head and Hands
Drawing the Head and Hands is one of Loomis’s most popular, and more technical, art books. It carries the same welcoming and encouraging tone of fun and simplicity, while taking the reader through the complexities of drawing the head and hands. He covers drawing the heads of men, women, babies, small children, school children, and teenagers, as well as variations in construction, forms and planes, proportions, types of faces, forms of features, spacing, and more.
Figure Drawing for All It’s Worth
The opening chat for Loomis’s Figure Drawing for All It’s Worth is my favorite of all his books. It is just as inspirational as it is instructional, and I find those few opening pages worth their weight in gold. In it Loomis offers a wealth of guidance and practical information, all the while stressing the importance of the balance between fundamental, technical skill and infusing our artwork with a bit of our personality and individuality.
“Everything about your pictures is, and should be, a little of you.”
Loomis takes the reader through figure proportions, the mannequin frame, anatomical landmarks, the bones and muscles, forms, planes, foreshortening, lighting, the process for drawing the live figure, weight distribution, the figure in action (motion, twisting, turning), balance, rhythm, rendering, different pose types, the head, hands, feet, and the costumed figure. Phew! I know, right?! Thorough. I love it!
Creative Illustration is composed of 7 parts:
- Telling the Story
- Creating Ideas
- Fields of Illustration
- Experiment & Study
In Creative Illustration, Loomis seeks to present the Fundamentals of Illustration, and expresses that he believes in “showing you the means of expression rather than the expression itself…”, showing us where to look without telling us what to see.
“Method and procedure are the only sound basis of teaching, for without them creative ability has no chance.”
He gives a general theory of approach, which he learned from Howard Pyle, and also covers how to experiment with color.
In Successful Drawing, Andrew Loomis focuses on reinforcing the fundamentals and clearly defining the “5 P’s” and “5 C’s” of good drawing. Loomis covers the fundamentals extensively with forms, perspective, light on forms, shadows in perspective, inclined planes, and more.
He explains that, “We who choose art as our medium of expression should realize that it has certain fundamentals from which we progress, just as there are fundamentals of literature, drama, or music.”
I’d Love to Draw!
As excited as I was to see a “new” Andrew Loomis book, I’d Love to Draw! does take a little getting used to. It is essentially a completed “dummy” book, which is an entire book laid out with pictures in sketch form along with text (most usually associated with children’s books these days). Loomis passed away before fully completing and publishing the book, but it was posthumously published by Titan Books in 2014.
Alex Ross–a comic book artist and writer greatly influenced by Loomis’s books–wrote the introduction and filled in some of the instructive captions left unfinished by Loomis’s passing. Loomis penned I’d Love to Draw for the average lay person who may want to draw but never believed she/he could.
The Eye of the Painter and the Elements of Beauty
The Eye of the Painter and Elements of Beauty was written at a time when the art world was in a “chaotic condition”, according to Loomis. It seems there was much questioning and seeking happening as to what art’s future would be as a professional industry. In his prologue, Loomis goes to great lengths to impress upon us as readers the importance of expressing our own voices and personalities once we’ve mastered the fundamentals.
“All art, to be worth its salt, must be individual. It must be creative.”
The rest of the book covers the 12 elements of beauty as defined by Loomis:
- Simplicity, or Clarity
- Quality of Light
- Choice of Subject
The Eye of the Painter and the Elements of Beauty is currently out of print. Thus far, it doesn’t seem to be included in the reprints by Titan Books. I do hope that changes because the only copies I’ve been able to locate cost upwards of $300 or $1000, and are likely first editions since this book seems to have had only one printing.
Luckily, I came across a free copy of the book online as a PDF.
A Closing Chat
Thank you for hanging in there with me to learn about William Andrew Loomis. Everything you’ve read here is absolutely everything I could find about him. I hope I’ve been able to help you get a little more familiar with Mr. Loomis, and that you found the descriptions of his books helpful. I will explore the life, times and works of more artists in the future, and I’m glad I began with Andrew Loomis.
I chose to start my Artist Spotlight series with him because I find my way of thinking about and approaching art feel very similar to his, and I appreciate finding a teacher I whose ways resonate with my own. Like Loomis, I hope to be an encouraging and helpful guide on your art journey. If you have any questions about my article here, please leave them in the comments section below. If you have any knowledge about Mr. Loomis that I’ve missed, please do let me know so I can update and share here!
Until next time, happy drawing, everyone!