This is the first year I’ll be taking ‘homework’ along for my holidays. Of course I always travel with at least paper & pen, plus my trust M500 Palm (monochrome screen!) & keyboard for writing, but this year I’m taking things up a notch.
I’ve only recently discovered the art instruction books by Andrew Loomis, currently easily available on the internet. Back in the days when I went to art college, teaching technique was out of favour. It was sincerely believed that the best arts education was one that encouraged experimentation and self discovery. Many thrived under this sort of tutelage; I was not one of them. While I spent many hours drawing from life, my lack of a fundamental understanding of the human body was a constant barrier to progress.
Fast forward to today. My instant thought upon seeing the Andrew Loomis book, Figure Drawing for All Its Worth was “Where were you when I needed you?” but it is never too late for improvements. While there are quite a number of topic specific books I’ve decided to begin with this one, as, being human myself, figure drawing seems to be good place to start. While I love to draw and paint expressively and far from the realm of the photo realists, there is nothing more distracting to the viewer than ungainly distortions due to poor technique. Since I view art as primarily a vehicle for expression, technical improvements are a must.
And so I begin the exercises. Loomis’ book strongly encourages memorization of some fundamental principles. One of them is the ability to draw a ‘manikin frame’ in proportion, from memory. That means plenty of weird and unlovely skeletal sketches, over and over again until I get it right. Next is a series of memorizations of basic points on the body that, when outlined, will hint at bulk and major muscle groups. And last (this is as far as I got in my perusals) is to memorize and practice until one can accurately draw all the major muscle groups of the body. Thus, I have plenty of homework to do.
Lucky me, I really enjoy sketching on office paper, and I am armed with my absolutely favourite sketching pencil, which is a Prismacolor Expresso (that’s the colour name). It goes on rich and buttery, has pleasant mellow darks, and delivers varied line widths far beyond regular graphite. I’m almost looking forward to this.
Hopefully, by the end (there’s never really an end to practice, but anyway) I’ll have improved my life drawing skills and developed an ability to draw people expressively without reference. This would a huge leap in artistic freedom.
Here’s a place that offers the Andrew Loomis books for download. I recommend printing them into hard copy so they can be properly studied.
Images: all 8x10 office paper & expresso Prismacolor. Top: preliminary ‘quick’ sketch for dog portrait. Next too, some basic manikin practice without reference.