Alex Ross on Andrew Loomis on Good Drawing
Alex Ross, one of America’s leading comic book artists, is known for his realistic human depictions of classic characters and brilliant work for DC and Marvel, especially his covers. No wonder he has taken a keen interest in the learn to draw books by Andrew Loomis, notably I’d Love to Draw: The Lost Loomis Masterpiece (Titan Books), for which he has written an introduction and additional instructional texts. Loomis’ method is simple and direct yet with layers of nuance. During the ’30s and ’40s he published and taught drawing mechanics and technique. I’d Love to Draw was an unpublished dummy. I recently asked Ross what drew him to Loomis’ methods.
From your introduction it appears that Andrew Loomis was very important to you. But can someone really learn to draw from a manual? Yes, because it’s always upon the individual to pursue the craft of drawing, and if they follow any of the guides that Loomis has provided, they will certainly increase their understanding.
Similarly, can drawing actually be taught? Any student who is willing to put the effort in will grow and evolve over the process of being taught. The question of whether or not they can become objectively good or a working artist isn’t certain. Drawing is a skill that is not only the domain of those that seem to come by it more naturally. Everyone has to pursue getting better at this craft, and if a person is interested, they can expand their skills in this area.
How did you learn? I learned from absorbing everything around me and trying to reflect those influences in my own homemade comics since I was 3 years old. As a teenager, I looked more and more at Loomis’ books and would often try and draw like him. I’ve also had art classes my whole life, as well as my art school that Loomis had himself taught at many years before.
It is clear from his text and his examples that he’s removing the style from his drawings as much as possible. Do you think that Loomis has a signature style that is readily recognizable? Yes. Loomis had a beautiful painting style that’s a much softer focus impression of subjects than many of his contemporaries. His drawing style, though, may be his most memorable signature for approximating reality in such a grounded realistic but idealistic fashion.
When I first saw these books, my reaction was “this is old,” but perhaps I was responding to representation versus abstraction? Do you feel that Loomis is a good model for where art and design is going? Or is drawing like this a constant? Not old, not new. Drawing real life is a constant, and it should not matter what time in history you approach works like Loomis’. Art and design will always have to reflect the natural world, which Loomis’ work clearly captures. His simple drawing guides are at the very least a great basis for someone to build their understanding of illustrating life from. Where one goes from there can lead in any direction.
What would you like the user to get from this book? Within I’d Love to Draw are the basic building blocks of drawing. For historical purposes, the book’s release is a wonderful achievement, adding another work to his library of great instructional volumes.
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