As seen with the latest Andrew Loomis book, ‘I’d Love To Draw’, artist Alex Ross contributed a new introduction and added some comments to fill the gaps in this prototype book.
If I need to tell you who Alex Ross is, then you haven’t been paying attention to his watercolour work on ‘Marvels’ for Marvel and ‘Kingdom Come’ for DC, as well as various other works since the 1990s. We’ve even reviewed some of his collected works here on site as well.
As the purpose of this book is to concentrate on Loomis’ book and art in general, you’ll have to forgive me if much of this interview is going to end up discussing art technique.
SFC: Hello Alex. We appear to share something in common in learning how to draw from Andrew Loomis’ artbooks when young. Considering so many of his techniques don’t depend on real life models, what made you change your mind with some of your own work and use people? Nothing wrong with that, just curious.
Alex Ross: Basically, I had spent my entire youth up through high school drawing only from my imagination. Rarely did I experiment with drawing from another source, and, frankly, most of those experiments were swiping drawings from Andrew Loomis and turning them into superheroes. Once I went to art school and had the experience on the very first day of drawing from a live model, I felt the benefit to my own work that, with that added information I was seeing and translating, the artwork I could create was more realistic and advanced than I had ever achieved before.
SFC: Were you surprised by how many other comicbook artists have been influenced by Andy Loomis over the years when they weren’t exactly publicised as being available in the 60s? Considering it’s only been recently that so many artists have been pointing out sources other within the comicbook field, I found it quite a surprise for such a rare set of books. In the UK, I was lucky to come across them in the library when young.
AR: Early in my career I got to know other artists including Steve Rude, who took huge inspiration from Loomis’ works. In fact, I’m far less an acolyte of Loomis’ style than I know Steve is. If anybody were to represent what it might be to see Andrew Loomis drawing comics, it would be the Steve Rude himself.
SFC: Were you involved in meeting anyone from Andy Loomis’ estate for getting ‘I’d Love To Draw’ released? If so, did you have the opportunity to see any of his original work? There’s so little of his paintings available to look at. The most recent and as far as I know only one was in Illustration # 20.
AR: I’ve had no direct contact with anyone from Loomis’ family, but his heirs were kind enough to loan a couple of his works for my exhibit that was held at the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. The pieces in question also happened to be two of my absolute favorites: a charcoal study of a nude figure and the final oil painting where he turned the nude into a mermaid.
SFC: There is one last Loomis book to be re-released, ‘The Eye Of The Painter’ from 1954. It wasn’t one that I was familiar with when young. Do you have hopes that it’ll be re-released as well?
AR: Absolutely. I haven’t discussed it with Titan, but I’m assuming it would be part of their series.
SFC: Who was your influence when it came to learning watercolour? I’ve always seen it as a tougher medium compared to diluting down acrylics to watercolour consistency with washes?
AR: Well, as I do gouache paintings, the aspect of full transparency is something I can’t claim I ever mastered. I never even took the watercolor course at my art school but instead focused on oil painting. For a time after school I was using a mixture of markers and colored pencil to work on my first professional jobs. Eventually I came to get the water-based media down to the point that it felt comfortable, but I especially needed the ability to layer and build a finish I was happy with, which gouache provides.
SFC: For those who might want to explore watercolour, which brand do you use and which ones to avoid. I suspect you use gouache but would be interested in knowing.
AR: I couldn’t say what to avoid, but I happily use Holbein gouache paints, particularly, but also Winsor-Newton and other brands where necessary. There is a mixture of some watercolor paints within my palette, and it all is a moot point when you build up a painting instead of needing to get it right in first approach.
SFC: Over the years, I’ve seen you do the odd painting of the Legion Of Super-Heroes. Has it ever been a desire to paint a story of them?
AR: Absolutely. I adore the ‘60s and ‘70s era of this most innocent of comic groups. I particularly have affection for the Dave Cockrum/Mike Grell era of design in comics, and what they both gave to these characters always inspires me.
SFC: Is there any dream project of characters you haven’t tackled yet?
AR: The ones from my own imagination.
SFC: Can you tell us of any other work you’re currently involved with?
AR: I’m currently doing covers for Marvel’s new Secret Wars series for 2015. There are also a few Star Wars-related images I have with them, as well.
SFC: Have you ever wanted to do a how to artbook yourself?
AR: That way lies madness. Titan did approach me about my potential interest in this, but I know that the more I talk the more I can get myself into trouble. Also, I am not trained in education, and I certainly don’t know how to tell people to do modern forms of illustration.
SFC: Thanks for your time.