A few notes on Loomis' figure drawing text. Started after I finished Drawing the head and the handsº.

Overall, I found this book pretty helpful. The first half of the book presents useful knowledge on how to approach drawing figures as a whole, while the second half (roughly) is concerned with providing the details and nuances that make up a figure drawing in certain positions (forward movement, the kneeling, crouching, sitting figure, the clothed figure.) As such, the first half is ideal for learning tools of measurement, proportion, value and contour. The second half serves as a handy reference (with many pages of examples) when approaching specific scenarios, I think.

Thoughtful introductory citations

I believe that the greater chances of success lie in the mental approach to the work, rather than in sheer technical knowledge.

I take this opportunity to impress upon you, my reader, how important you really are in the whole of art procedure. you, your personality, your individuality come first. Your pictures are your by-product. Everything about your pictures is, and should be, a little of you. They will be a reflection of your knowledge, your experience, your observation, your likes and dislikes, your good taste, and your thinking. So the real concentration is centered on you, and your work follows along in the wake of what mental self-improvement you are making. It has taken me a lifetime to realize that.


As a student I thought there was a formula of some kind that I would get hold of somewhere, and thereby become and artist. There is a formula, but it has not been in books. It is really plain old courage, standing on one's own feet, and forever seeking enlightenment; courage to develop your way, but learning from the other fellow; exerimentation with your own ideas, observering yourself, a rigid discipline of doing over that which you can improve.

Individuality of expression is, without question, an artist's most valuable asset. You could make no more fatal error than attempt to duplicate, for the sake of duplication alone, either my work or that of any other individual. use another's style as a crutch only - until you can walk alone. Trends of popularity are as changeable as the wather. Anatomy, perspective, values remain constant; but you must diligently search for new ways to apply them. The greatest problem here is to provide you with a solid basis that will nurture individuality and not produce imitation. I grand that a certain amount of imitation in the earliest phase of learning may be necessary in order that self-expression may have an essential background. But there can be no progress in any art or craft without an accumulation of individual experience. The experience comes best through your own effort or observation, through self-instruction, the reading of a book, or the study of an old master [emphasis mine].

Common beginner's characteristics

  1. Consistently gray throughout. a. get a soft pencil with range. b. Find the blacks in the subject and state them strongly. c. In contrast, leave aread of white / light alone d. Don't add lines around white areas.

  2. An overabundnace of small fuzzy line a. Don't use tiny "pecky" strokes; use long sweeping strokes. b. Use the side of the pencil, laid almost flat, for modeling and shadows.

  3. Features misplaces in a head

  4. Rubbed and dirty, usually in a roll (?)

  5. Too many mediums in same picture a. Just pick one medium.

  6. The tendency to use tinted paper (?)

  7. Copies of movie stars

  8. Bad arrangement

  9. Highlights in chalk (it's hard to do right)

  10. Uninteresting subjects.


Consider dividing sections of the figure into "heads". There are common heuristics for measuring traits of an "ideal proportion" (this is the book's opinion, not mine.)

Male Base Proprotions:

  • The space between the nipples is one head unit

  • The waist is a little wider than one head unit.

  • The wrist drops just below the crotch.

  • The shoulder is one sixth of the way down.

  • From feet to knees is about 2 heads.

  • Entire figure is about 2+1/3 heads wide at widest.

  • The body may be about 8 heads high.

Female Base Proportions:

  • Relatively narrower - two heads at the widest point.

  • Nipples are slightly lower than in the male.

  • Waistline measures one head unit across; hip bones come up to the navel.

  • Front angle; thighs generally wider than the armpits.

  • From feet to knees is about 2 heads.

Simple proportions for roughing a manakin: 1/3 to knees, 2/3 to waist, 3/3 to top of head.

Bones and Muscles

  • No bone is perfectly straight; drawing them straight will make your figure appear stiff/rigid.

  • Chief differences: larger pelvis in the female; larger rib cage in the male.

    • These differences ripple out to other more nuanced differences.

Blocks Forms, Planes, Foreshortening, Lighting

The transition from outline and specific construction to the figure rendered in light and shadow is quite a hurdle. Often the student is unable to make this jump. The difficulty arises from a lack of conception of the solid

  • without a light source, there is no form

  • The brightest planes are called the light planes

  • Next, the halftone planes

  • Third: the shadow planes (they receive no direct light.)

  • "Simplification" or "massing" is when something is rendered in a collection of planes rather than trying to capture all the perfect nuance of a rounded and depth-ful subject.

    Continuing a plane as a single tone on a surface as long as we can before turning it in anothe rdirection is simplification, or massing

Regarding planes:

  • planes flatten rounded forms and make the application of light/shadow more obvious

  • having too smooth/roundness of forms will render a slick/photographic appeal; Loomis recommends avoiding this.

    • the act of cutting out is important in yielding artistic choice and lending focus to some areas over others.

  • There are no rules with plane; draw them as you think/see them.

  • Planes are used to show how forms can be simplified.

When working without a model or copy, you draw the planes FOR the light, halftone and shadow. When working with the model or copy, you draw the planes FROM the light, halftone and shadow.

On Light/Shadow

  • Draw shadows first, then halftones.

  • Cast shadows are darkest.

  • Do not make form shadows too black.

  • "Simple lighting" - lighting from a single source (and it's reflection) "is the most perfect lighting there is."

Drawing the Live Figure: Methods of procedure

Measuring the figure

Suggestions for measuring and aligning a model to page (this was a bit confusing to me).

  1. Establish where you want the top & bottom of your drawing. Draw a line between them.

  2. Location the middle point of the line. Then, hold pencil at arm's length; find the middle point on the subject before you. From the middle point get quarter points up and down.

  3. Take the greatest width of the post and compare to height. Locate the line of width on your middle point.

  4. The above is the middle point on the model; you work out from it in all directions.

  5. Using a "plumb line" locate all the important points that fall beneath one another (ie; "the heel is directly beneath the hairline").

  6. "Start by blocking in head and torso and, from the head, sight straight up and down and straight across, all the way up and down the figure" (?)

  7. "For the angles, sight straight on through and establish a point on the line where it falls under a known point." (?)

  8. Constantly check points opposite / points underneath / angles that emerge to get a consistent/accurate drawing.

Notes on figure positions

From chapters V through XII.

  • Avoid drawing your figure (sans model) as "just standing there." In standing poses, introduce something different.

  • Action poses should have a suggestion of "sweep" - that is; the suggestion that the preceding movement of the post is "still felt".

  • When depicting forward movement, the top should be shown ahead of the base.

    • Movement drawn without consideration for the tipped line of balance will not give the impression of forward movement.

  • If a figure is drawn without balance, it can irratate the view subconsciously.

  • Regarding rendering and rhythm:

    • it can be useful to think about whether you want your drawing to be a "pure line drawing", a "combination of line and tone" or "purely tonal" (or somewhere in between)

    • Try different mediums in relation to the above, to gain broader experience.

  • When a figure is sitting, crouching, etc; consider the shapes of the spine and where the weight is shifted to.

  • The Reclining Figure

    • a commonly challenging phase

    • lots of opportunity for design, interseting pose, foreshortening.

    • can't really use the "number of heads" measurement menthod.

    • Do use the method of measuring relative middle, height, width etc.

  • The Figure in Costume

    • Do not draw every seam, every fold, and every button.

    • Try to understand constructive principles and interpret them correctly in what you put down.

    • Practice drawing clothed figures, but draw a clothless figure underneath so that you may understand the relationship between the two.

Closing notes

  • "Talent, in its underclothes, is a capacity for a certain kind of learning."

  • "It is natural for young [people] to look for the "secrets" that allegedly assure success. It is even reasonable to feel that these secrets are somewhere hidden away, and that to reveal them would assure success."

  • Do thumbnails and small studies before big works. Same with colour picking.

  • "Painting will help your drawing, and vice versa. The two are so interrelated that they should not be thought of as distinct and separate"