The Missing Element in Andrew Loomis’s “Figure Drawing: For All It’s Worth”

For some reason my first article on the Loomis method for drawing the head keeps getting views from search engines for the past 2 weeks. (I suspect its people getting on the Proko [Youtube Instructional Drawing Channel] 2.0 train so they stumble upon/google about the Loomis method more.) So, I might as well capitalize on that and write another thing about Loomis, right?

I don’t remember (and too embarrassed to re-read my own articles) if I have said this in the first article but I don’t mean to disparage or say that Andrew Loomis is bad at teaching or you shouldn’t follow his books at all through these articles, the point in general I want to put across is that you can’t blindly follow one book to the letter and live by that, you have to draw from life, learn how to see by yourself and expand your horizons with other books as well.

If you have read other figure drawing books there will be a lot of emphasis or at least a chapter on ‘Gesture’ and ‘Gesture Drawing’, interestingly enough, the term ‘gesture drawing’ never appears in this book.

The following page spread is the closest to gesture drawing it gets to and it:

1) Doesn’t address it as gesture drawing. Also, establishes it as the first step of drawing.
2) Looks totally different from usual gesture drawing, actually still going structural with a mannikin/mannequin frame first.

Mannikin frames as the starting point.

The terms: “figure action, weight, life, action, balance”. A lot of these are involved in gesture drawing but gesture drawing is usually done in a different more abstract, loose and less structural form, like the drawing in the top right.

The book-king of gesture drawing

So like I always say, why bring this up? What’s the problem with just following the Loomis Method of mannkin frames and trying out the action and life from there?

I would argue the main concern is stiffness in your figure drawings starting out this way without proper loose gesture drawing practice beforehand, tightening up too early, worrying about the ideal proportions too much when it’s likely better to feel out the figure’s action and proportions through loose drawing.

It takes a…I always hesitate to use the term but, master like Andrew Loomis to just draw mannikin frames like that and still have them have action and weight and life like they do in the first image, are they stiff? I would say not particularly. I don’t know if he has done abstract gesture drawings before and just doesn’t mention them but I feel like there’s still life there.

And I think I have mentioned it before but stiffness which is usually seen as a bad thing in drawing has been actively sought out by artists before, I recall an impressionist art exhibition where the artist wanted his models to be as stiff and as un-moving as possible, and his art shows that stiffness.

However, if you have felt that doing the Loomis Method, strictly only doing that method and not seeing progress that you like perhaps invest into some loose gestural drawing.

Like in usual gesture drawings, “feeling the action” and “expression being more important” are also mentioned.

Jumping further into the book and building onto the frame that you feel already doesn’t help you will probably not help you much further and indicates a need to go beyond the book either applying the concepts to references in real life or pursue other areas of knowledge.

Using the mannikin frame on top of a abstract gestural drawing will help to un-stiffen the final drawing as well and bring structure to the abstract making it representational as a lot of artists use gestural drawings for layouts then flesh them out.

Drawing/art is a personal journey of seeing what works and what doesn’t for yourself, for better or for worse, it’s always best to consider many avenues and theories and concepts than sticking to one entirely throughout.

If you liked what you read, please consider supporting me on Patreon (monthly) or ko-fi (one time donations).

Stay safe~!
JR





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