Fun With A Pencil by Andrew Loomis (book review).

‘Fun With A Pencil’ was my first encounter with Andy Loomis’ art books back in the late 60s. Actually, I did spot ‘Successful Drawing’ in the library as well but decided it made sense to start with the first book. Finally, Titan has given it a re-release and that means nearly all of Loomis’ books are now available so you can read and study from them in the right order. There is one more, ‘The Eye Of The Painter’, but I’ve never been able to see a copy of that one.


Even more remarkable, this 1939 book is still relevant today and re-reading it now, I can see all the main things I learnt again and practiced at the time. From what I learnt from this book, I did a trick Andy didn’t show but applied in that I can the human figure upside down but face-up to the person I’m showing how to draw. The reason is simple. Loomis taught shape and structure and if you could draw a reasonable circle than you can quickly learn how to draw a head. The difference between caricature and real life study isn’t much other than exaggeration and before you know where you are, if you practice as you go you’ll be drawing real heads. Then before, you know it, Loomis progresses to structuring bodies in a similar way and then in a similar way does what he shows in the later books, in giving grace and motion to them.

It is with the end of the book, he teaches perspective and how understanding the ‘ground line’, which irrespective of distance apart of figures in a drawing will always pass through the body at the same part will mean you’ll never have people walking knee-deep in the ground again. For artists, this is something we take for granted but being reminded of it again and how to check if your perspective is correct is never a bad lesson to remind yourself of.

I should point out that its only when it comes to perspective that you need to use a ruler but it comes in handy in understanding shadows and light sources. There has to be elements of draughtsmanship when creating scenes but by the time you get this far into the book, you’ll trust Loomis and just knuckle down and get on with it.

Make no mistake, this is really an artist primer and if your sprogs have an inkling for art then having this book will get them on the right track and having to unlearn anything they are doing wrong. If you just want to learn how to draw yourself, then that works, too, and then you can progress to the other books in this series.

In many respects, this isn’t a book you just sit down and read. Text wise, especially compared to the other books, is actually very short. You could probably read it in about an hour but whether you would be wiser for it, then probably not. The book is designed to practice from, so ensure you have a couple drawing pads, pencils, rubber, pencil sharpener and if you want the same blue pencil he proposes, you’ll also need a Caran D’ache Supracolor II soft pale blue (3888.171) before you start. Once you realise how easy it is, you’ll make good progress.

I can recommend this book wholeheartedly and if you’re going to start developing any art talent, then this is one that will beguile you and make it fun.

GF Willmetts

March 2013

(pub: Titan Books. 120 page large hardback. Price: £29.99 (UK), $39.95 (US), $46.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-85768-760-9)

check out website: www.titanbooks.com


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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