Monday, December 5, 2011

Drawing the Head and Hands, Andrew Loomis

Drawing the Head and Hands, Andrew Loomis
in the 1940’s well known illustrator and art instructor Andrew Loomis wrote a series of drawing books that have become standards in the field of art instruction, prized by generations of illustrators, comic book artists, concept artists, character designers and others, particularly those who must “invent” the human form without constant recourse to a model.

Ironically, these tremendously valuable and influential texts were long out of print, leaving artists to discover them by word of mouth and prowl used bookstores, and later the internet, hoping used copies would turn up for a reasonable price. Copies of them in good condition would often sell for $250.00 to $300.00, sometimes more.

We all scratched our heads, wondering why these obviously popular books hadn’t been reprinted, until this summer, when Titan books finally reprinted the most prominent title, Figure Drawing for all it’s Worth (see my review here).

Much to the delight of myself and countless other artists, Titan did a superb job, bringing to life the character and appearance of the book in a facsimile hardback edition that actually surpassed the printing quality of the original.

The edition has been a tremendous success, and Titan has followed up with what is considered the second most important and sought after title in the series, Drawing the Head and Hands, and they provided me with a review copy.

As I expected, Titan has once again done Loomis justice with a superb job of reproducing the book. I can say without hesitation that the original book and its content are of tremendous value, and the beautiful reproduction makes it a joy to follow the instruction.

Here, Loomis expands on demonstrating how to draw the human figure in correct proportion by constructing it from a knowledge of its basic forms, and goes into the details of the head and hands with subtle, yet clear and strong drawings and diagrams.

In addition to building his approach on the fundamentals of human anatomy, he gives construction methods based on the underlying geometry, allowing you to turn and move the head and hands in your mind and position them in space when drawing. By marking off spatial divisions related to the major features, Loomis guides the reader through an understanding their basic proportions, and how those of the face in particular can vary from individual to individual.

He also demonstrates the correct proportions of the face relative to the head (solving one of the most common problems of those learning to draw people — making the face too large), and shows how to construct the head not only from different angles, but in perspective.

The book goes into better detail than I have seen anywhere else on understanding the change in proportions that the human face and head undergo as we move from infancy through childhood into adulthood.

His section on hands brings similar focus to the proportions of the various parts of the hand, an understanding of the hand’s underlying geometry, and the distinction between the hands of the young and old, male and female.

In case I haven’t gotten it across, I can’t recommend these books highly enough for those learning to draw the human form without reference to a model. For those who are drawing from a model, you might be surprised how much a study of the Loomis construction methods can inform your drawings with an underlying strength and dimensionality.

Priced at under $40.00 US, the book is a bargain. Don’t allow yourself be put off by the fashions and hair styles in the drawings, which reveal the book’s origins in the 1940’s (I rather like them myself); the drawings and instruction are as relevant as if the book had been written today.

In addition, I think the drawings are beautiful, and the book serves as an art book as well as an instructional text.

The great news is the series has been so successful that Titan is extending it; the next title, Successful Drawing, is due to be released in May of next year.

For more, see my review from earlier this year of Figure Drawing for All it’s Worth.

[Important note: with the exception of the cover image, the sample pages above, with which I’ve tried to give you a taste of the content, are taken from poor scans of the previous editions and do not do justice to the quality of the images in the new book. Those, in fact, are superbly printed on a lightly off-white paper, bringing out the beautifully subtle quality of the drawings.]

12 thoughts on “Drawing the Head and Hands, Andrew Loomis

  1. Nancy Ewart

    I bought my copies in a now defunct second hand store. They were in amazingly good condition and only cost $1.5o each (neiner, neiner..) When I was taking life drawing, I referred to them all the time. They are an invaluable part of my reference library.

  2. Charley Parker Post author

    I was lucky enough to find my copy of Figure Drawing for All it’s Worth for $10 many years ago in the back shelves of a large used book shop called Baldwin’s Book Barn in West Chester, PA. I was never lucky enough to find Drawing the Head and Hands for anything remotely similar.

  3. Doug Bell

    So good to see that they have republished these wonderful volumes. As a young boy I must have checked Head and Hands out at least 50 times from the library. I agree with Robie… Santa, Me too please.

  4. Mark Mayerson

    Why is Titan reprinting Successful Drawing when Loomis himself revised it into a book called Three Dimensional Drawing? Why not reprint the revised version?

  5. Peggasus

    I have this original book! It was very instrumental when I was a painting student.. uh…many years ago. It’s such an amazing resource, I’ve referred to it countless times over the years. Clearly, I have not ever mastered it like he did, but it is a fine tome, to be sure. Thanks for highlighting it.

  6. Ron

    If you find a copy of Three-Dimensional Drawing, buy it because the gallery in the original title (Successful Drawing) has been replaced by some of the more valuable perspective drawing lessons. I ran across my copy quite by accident almost 20 years ago and I still refer to it. Nomatter how advanced you become, you can never really outgrow Andy Loomis because he was a master of fundamentals.

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