I’m not one for enjoying reading things without pictures. As a comic artist that goes without saying, but even as a kid it was more so, than most people know. At the earliest age, I showed a tendency to only see things, not read them. Granted I could read well enough, but I tended to focus on the visual side of books. When my parents saw that I loved to draw comics they went out and got me the “How to Draw the Marvel Way” book. When others look at it, this is what they see on the page.

But for me it always looked like this.

So fast forward 35 or so years, and you see me now. Still drawing, and still hating to read long sections of copy. Most art text books I avoid like the plague, mainly because they don’t seem to acknowledge that artists are visual and need things explained that way, but Andrew Loomis understood this. I think that’s why his books have been sought out by artists more so than any other. His have taught me tons, and I still go back to them on (almost) a daily basis. For years you couldn’t find them, except as expensive collector pieces, since they’ve been out of print for decades. Luckily they’re being re-released by Titan books and the first two, Figure Drawing for All It’s Worth  and Drawing the Head and Hands, are now available.

But at a recent art session, I was sitting near a girl who was just whipping out sketches. There was something that I recognized in the approach, so during a break I asked- “Are you an animator?” to which she said “How did you know?”. It was obvious from the way her pencil skated about the paper and how her pictures were more about capturing the feel of the pose than reproducing it. I noticed that after she had exhausted the pose multiple times over the five minute pose, she would expand to drawing other artists in the room, quickly capturing the essence of their stance. So I started thinking about how I needed that energy in my own work, to loosen up, to capture the feel of the pose, and not get bogged down in detail. To help me achieve this I found the Drawn to Life series by Walt Stanchfield. They’re not so much books, as they are a collection of handouts he did for his drawing/gesture class at the Disney studios.

What’s happened is I’ve been totally taken in by them. I’m reading theory, and further more, I love it. Perhaps it’s age, which has allowed me to develop… oh, what’s the word, ah, patience. They’re all theory, talking about how to see the figure, how to study it, interpret it, and only then convey it onto paper. He talks about not drawing what’s in front of you, acting like a camera, but living the pose, stressing the important elements, and letting the message of it fill the sketch. Sure there are the visual examples of what he’s talking about, and the lectures (completed around the time Disney was doing the Little Mermaid) have drawings by young animators who are now legends in their own right. It’s a concept, supported by visual cues, but ultimately it’s about how you draw in the brain, not on the page. It’s funny that to me, an artist with 20 years of professional experience (crap, now I feel old), can read this, get excited, and learn as much as a first year student. If you feel caught, stagnated, and frustrated with where your art is, take a look at these. It’s the basics, and as with any profession, be it music, sports, or art, you have to go back to the essentials now and then. This is a great way to do that, and still feel like you’re moving forward.  It’s sad that it’s taken me so long to get to an age where I can realize this, but to para-phrase a line from “It’s a Wonderful Life” , “Youth is wasted on the wrong people.” So be a kid, and learn a little.