Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Old School: Andrew Loomis

I would venture to say, "They owe it all to Loomis."

Before Sundblom, before Anderson, before Joyce Ballentyne, Gil Elvgren and before a host of other practitioners of "the old school style", there was Loomis.

William Andrew Loomis was born in Syracuse, New York in 1892 and studied under the legendary George Bridgeman at the Art Student's League in New York City. By 1915, at age 23, he was already working in a Chicago art studio. Apart from a 20-month stint in the army during WW One, he would spend the rest of his working life in that city, eventually opening his own studio and ultimately becoming an instructor at the American Academy of Art.

Perhaps more importantly, Andrew Loomis quite literally wrote the book on illustration: his Creative Illustration, first published in 1947, is considered by many to be a masterpiece of commercial art instruction. In his introduction to the book, Loomis wrote:

"My purpose is to present what, in my experience, have proved to be the fundamentals of illustration. To the best of my belief, such fundamentals have not been organized and set forth before. So I have attempted to assemble this much-needed information, trusting that my own efforts in the active fields of illustration qualify me to do so."

I found my fourth printing copy about 20 years ago in a Toronto used book store for ten dollars, but a quick internet search for this long-out-of-print book shows me that you'd need to spend a couple of hundred dollars to get a copy today.

Really, this book is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in drawing,painting, design and illustration and I can't understand why it hasn't been reprinted. For those students who can't afford a two hundred dollar book, I discovered a site that offers all of Loomis' books free for download in pdf format.

By the late 1940's, Loomis illustrations in the magazines, like the one below, are rare. I've got a few more, all from Ladies Home Journal, that you can see in my Andrew Loomis Flickr set.

Why did Loomis fade from the pages of America's major magazines? Was he busy teaching? Did he retire? Or perhaps his style was simply a little too old school.

Whatever the case, Andrew Loomis should be lauded for the powerful influence he had, both on the industry and on the many students who learned from this master illustrator - either in the classroom or through his books. Andrew Loomis died in 1959 - and for reasons I can't imagine, it took forty years for him to be inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame.


  1. Anonymous11:29 AM

    I had never heard about Loomis' book "Creative Illustration" until now. I've downloaded it and I agree with you Leif, it's a masterpiece. Thank's for posting it. Your blog has become an invaluable resource and a real pleasure to read.

    Joe Lepiano,

  2. Hey Joe;

    Well that's great to hear - I'm so glad to have introduced you to this important piece of illustration history. Thanks for your comment!

  3. Yeah, thanks for posting that link. It's really great to get to 'peek behind the curtain' of someone that talented.

  4. Ah, Loomis. Finding his PDFs online helped reboot my efforts to improve my figure drawing. Anyone interested in learning to draw better should have a look for his Creative Illustration book, as well as "Fun With a Pencil", "Figure Drawing for all it's Worth" and "Drawing the Heads and Hands".

  5. Leif (or anyone), do you have any idea where that legendary mermaid painting of Loomis' was first published? Was it a magazine piece or a personal study made for the "Creative Illustration" book? Without a doubt it's one of my top ten favorite American illustrations of all time. Any background on it would be greatly appreciated. I just downloaded the book, so maybe there's info about it there.

    As always, thanks a million for all this great stuff, Leif.


  6. Thanks all for your comments!

    Sorry Les; I don't know where the mermaid painting first appeared - but should you find out, please post a comment about it here or on the flickr page where I've archived it! Thx - L ;-)

  7. A good new (sorry for my english) all the loomis books are brand new reprinted in spanish editions, I bougth “Figure Drawing...” and “Drawing the head and hands” in only 12 USD per book, it’s an excllent news to the people who loves the illustration (like me) and specially the Master Andrew Loomis

  8. Thanks for that info, Pablo! :-)

  9. Anonymous11:23 AM

    Loomis was a true giant. I became aware of him from my Father Oleg Stavrowsky. My father is a very successful western or cowboy artist,
    and he credits Loomis for teaching him all the fundamentals. I myself teach a college figure drawing class
    and I use Loomis examples constantly.
    still can't be beat. Thanks for the post.

  10. Anonymous3:23 AM

    andrew loomis is my god father, a teacher who taught me every thing about drawing and art from my child hood..

  11. Anonymous8:55 AM

    my cousin, now deceased, was a commercial artist. he introduced me to andrew loomis. i too, cannot understand why viking has not reprinted this book. it is one of the best.