Figure Drawing – best books part 1

Drawing of female nude model kneeling with arms raised and hands by ears.

As artists we know how important it is to learn how other artists create their work. Watching an artist sketching a figure from start to finish, or seeing how an artist adds shading or how they start a piece of work is invaluable information.

Often, I will go online and watch one of the thousands of amazing videos of artists offering tips and education on drawing and painting and am amazed at the differing styles and approaches to drawing and sketching.

But there are times I like to go to books to learn. Because with a book you can stop or pause and look closely at drawings at different stages of completion. So when I was given Andrew Loomis’ book called “Figure Drawing, For All It’s Worth“, as a gift, I found myself lost in its pages, for hours.

Loomis divides the book into twelve sections from tips on how to approach figure drawing and drawing the bones and muscles in the body and onto more tips for drawing the standing and reclining figure. He gives examples of women and men in at differing stages of life and in different pursuits. First published in 1943, it is a book I return to again and again before any other book written since.

Loomis uses a friendly conversational style to successfully make subjects like:

  • anatomy
  • perspective
  • shadow
  • foreshortening
  • the figure in action
  • the tipped line of balance
  • rhythm
  • the head, hands and feet
  • the complete figure in costume

seem light and easy. He has thought through how to teach artistic skills step by step and provides exceptionally beautiful illustrations to accompany the text.

In this book you will learn the fundamentals of drawing figures: proportion, anatomy, perspective, values, colour, and knowledge of mediums and materials. Some people believe the text is too detailed but I found it invaluable in improving how I approached each of my drawings.

Loomis’ drawing style can be seen as old-fashioned in that it is a drawing style from the 1940’s and 1950’s but if you master the fundamentals in this book you can easily adapt them to any style.

Alex Ross (Marvel and DC comic artist) pretty much sums up how I feel about Loomis’ book when he writes “My entire approach to drawing and painting superheroes owes its genesis to Loomis’ work.”

This book is a must-buy for artists and anybody who wants to learn the principles of figure drawing and I promise once you have this in your hands, you won’t be able to put it down.