In this fourth Supplementary entry about Loomis, I will be talking about drawing people of other races/ethnicity.
The main gripe with Andrew Loomis especially from people of colour is the frankly, racist and outdated depictions of anyone who isn’t Caucasian/white.
I wrote about this with some examples here.
Andrew Loomis’ illustration career era was in the past era of American advertising, promoting the ideal Caucasian American lifestyle, and a lot of outdated stereotypes were common in the depiction of other races.
Loomis was not immune to how society was last time, even in “Fun With A Pencil”‘s racist caricatures not withstanding, he has written some off-colour remarks in that book as well.
I remember one metaphor he used being like “-as/like a Chinaman” as someone who is Chinese myself, I was like “Okay…?”
So, if you started with his “Fun With A Pencil” and/or even with his “Drawing The Heads and Hands” book which had all these problems then going onto “Drawing The Heads And Hands” or vice versa which has no other races other than Caucasian still, you might be at a loss of how to proceed.
Regardless, his method still has its merits but how do you use it still to draw more diverse characters of different races?
A main problem I find from artists who are not white trying to tutorial-lize the issue of drawing other races other than Caucasian is that they also tend to fall into some form of stereotype short-hand methods to follow.
“Asian eyes tend to be smaller/angular”, “No double eyelids”, “African American noses are huge”, all these kinds of things then just going “Oh just draw them like how I said it.”
These shorthand methods like to also go in tandem with comparisons to the “default” white race, or to “stereotype” characters. Kind of erasing that there are people with those stereotype features.
“Eyes not as big as average Caucasians”, “nose bigger than average Caucasians, etc.
“Asian eyes don’t look slant-y”, “The face is actually smaller than what most white artists draw”, etc.
The list of examples goes on and on, with the problems of those examples showing through.
1) The look of a ethnicity need not be compared to a default white slate for drawing even if the target artist being taught is someone who is Caucasian wanting to diversify the faces that they draw.
2) There are people who do not have those stereotypical facial traits but can still be recognized as whatever race they are intended to be.
3) There are also people who are of mixed parentage so they do not fit as easily into those stereotypes, who are also not immediately identifiable as one race or the other.
4) People with “stereotypical” racial features exist but that doesn’t mean they need to be caricatured into a racist depiction and that also doesn’t mean those are the only features that exist and that even with other features existing those stereotypical racial features still have merit.
There are so many races and so many people with different facial features. How do you as an artist, draw different people of colour inclusively and accurately in a non-prejudiced way? I try to answer that as best I can in the content behind the paywall below. If you wish to read more content try the other links related to Loomis down below.
Related Loomis Method Articles:
You have to first build up a reference library of different people of different races, not just celebrities and models too, try to get more of how the average (in terms of looks) person looks like in your library. You can try photos of crowds, or amateur photography, as long as they are not models or celebrities it is fine.
This will be your library to refer back to when you need to draw a person of a certain race, when you have managed to get good at drawing with reference you can try to draw from your imagination and see how close you can get to the look that you want.
Your library should include people of many different races and not just that but those that are from mixed direct lineage/parentage as well. From different angles as well.
You can mix and match features from different people from the same race from your library, and see how that looks as well. You can also show your drawing to those from the race you intend to draw to get their feedback.
If you worried about your depiction that worry is good as worrying shows you care about your depiction, if your intentions are not to draw a racist drawing, it is likely you will not draw one, and with the proper research you will definitely not draw one.
The issue of getting celebrities and models is that they are still pre-scouted to appeal to the masses, if you want to draw a very handsome/pretty person then you can use more celebrity references mixed in to have a beauty standard involved to strive towards when wanting to draw a conventionally good looking person of a certain race. Celebrities and models are a good indicator also of what beauty standards that culture has, for example Korean boyband celebrities VS Western boyband celebrities, how are they different?
The Loomis Construction Method can still be used with anything of these, the proportions used in the Loomis Method are the ideal proportions, they are for drawing the most good looking people to put in advertorial illustrations of that era.
The method can also be used with average looking people as well of course, with the method adjusted to what their proportions are. As Loomis himself has done to draw people not as good looking as the ideal.
We are just using his construction method and not his thinking in how we draw people of colour. You don’t have to worry about the method being inherently prejudiced, it is possible to take what is good from Andrew Loomis and leave the rest behind.
Conforming the method to what you are seeing which goes into learning how to draw from observation using the method as a tool which goes into learning the features and then being able to draw from observation of references more easily into what type of face you want.
Its very iffy to rely on general words like “Asian eyes are small” you have to see many people of that race in photographs and in real life for yourself and decide for yourself whether the Asian character you draw will have small eyes. Many people follow that trait and many people don’t as well but they are still identifiable as Asian for example.
As mentioned before, when in doubt do reach out to people of that race to see how they react to your depiction, take that feedback and decide for yourself. Usually if you had done your research and really observed how people of those race tend to look like, without caricaturing and exaggerating their features, you won’t have a negative feedback to your drawing.
This is likely the final chapter on Loomis regarding heads, I shall combine all the previous posts and additional material for a final pdf download on Gumroad that is more easily accessible in terms of not needing a wordpress account.