Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art.
– Andy Warhol
In the Fall we have an exciting show opening, Heroes and Villains: The Comic Book Art of Alex Ross (more details coming soon.) I am not a comic book reader or even a comic book enthusiast, but even I am getting excited for this show to open. I have been researching Alex Ross to get caught up on the vast knowledge of him that everyone around me seems to posses, and all I have to say is I am beyond envious of this man’s talent. I am literally blown away just by the photographs of his work, and I cannot wait to see these huge watercolors in person.
In my quest for knowledge I have noticed that Alex Ross freely talks about his artistic influences. In the book Mythology there are even images of his works next to images of Norman Rockwell and JC Leyendecker‘s art that he used the compositions of for his own pieces. One influence of his who I have been reading about is Andrew Loomis. I am literally not sure how I have made it through 20 years of art classes without hearing this man’s name, especially when my teachers have taught me his techniques and philosophies (I have noticed in my readings of Loomis that I am not the only one shocked to be just learning about him.) Something about the way that Loomis talks about his own artistic practice and his own beliefs about art (commercial or fine) really clicked with me, it was one of those, yes, somebody understands what I have been thinking and feeling all these years. He is a firm believer in the individual artist, expression and style. In his famous book series, Fun With a Pencil, Figure Drawing For All It’s Worth, Drawing the Head and Hand, etc., he constantly emphasizes here are the steps that I use, now make it your own. When reading Fun With A Pencil, it is so obvious that Loomis fully understands and embraces his craft. He, in such a simple, fun way, but with such detail, easily walks one through the process of not only drawing caricatures, but also naturalistic forms. He also is so encouraging, he wants the reader to learn and grow as an artist, and if they need to start off by copying him, he is fine with that. However, he truly stresses the point that individuality is key, creating your own voice and artistic identity is of the utmost of importance. “As you know I believe the future in art lies in individuality of conception, and to me, greater individuality is express by a big broad interpretation.”
Although Loomis is famous for his series of books he was, however, first and foremost a very successful illustrator in the first part of the 20th century. He had a very precise system to creating his illustrations (evident from his How To books.) Loomis believed that, “There is no such thing as commercial art. There is just art.. . Art itself does not change. What one learns is how to apply its principles on behalf of industry.” Loomis actually reminds me a lot of Andy. Their philosophies connected for me, and their advertising abilities, not style, but artistic abilities, are clearly similar. To me it seems that Loomis sort of paved the way for Warhol to make the kind of commercial and fine art that he did. Loomis brought fine art to the commercial world; Warhol took it one step further and brought commercial art to the fine art world. Jack Harris wrote, “Loomis, through his carefully composed paintings and richly romantic imagery, helped speed this fusion of art and commerce.” One could easily use either artist’s name and that observation would still hold true. So I have to question, was Warhol a fan of Loomis? Was he aware of who he was, and his teachings of advertisement illustration? I have not been able to find anything to confirm or deny Loomis’ influence on Andy, but I would have to imagine because they were both big names in the illustration world that Andy must have heard about him at least once.
Unfortunately Loomis’ How To books are currently out of print, but they are easily found in digital formats online.