Andrew Loomis (1892–1959) was an art teacher and a renowned illustrator. He was particularly active in the 1930s and 1940s and his instructional books have become sought-after treasures for artists, illustrators, and art-lovers around the world. We are, therefore, very lucky indeed that Titan books have chosen to re-issue Loomis’s entire back catalogue, of which Creative Illustration is probably the most comprehensive and useful volume.
Originally published in 1947, the book covers line, tone, colour, storytelling, and generating ideas. If you already know how to draw and want to develop your skills further, this book is for you.
A word from the author himself: “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 organised and set forth before.”
It would appear that no volume has so successfully set such principles forth after this one, either.
The tone is that of a tough but fair teacher, and working your way through this book is the next best thing to having Mr. Loomis as your personal tutor.
There are hundreds of hand-drawn instructional panels and matter-of-fact, practical advice that can be immediately put to good use. This is not merely a book on technique. The author shares his insights on a deeper level which adds a great deal of extra value.
Whether one views the retro illustrations and tone of voice as charming or distracting, they certainly don’t negate the practical advice on offer.
The book should also be of historical interest to students of marketing and advertising. We may now rely on photographs and computer graphics for magazine covers, billboards, point of sale display designs, advertising, and packaging labels but in the author’s day those were all active markets for the illustrator. Creative Illustration approaches these tasks in a way that offers both historic insight and timeless advice.
It is easy to view times gone by as a golden age of illustration and have a misty-eyed view of hand drawn adverts, but the fundamental rules of good design presented in this volume will allow users of modern tools to draw on the expertise of the retro illustrator. Whether you use a pencil or a brush setting in Corel Painter is irrelevant; both are merely tools, and the skill of the person using them determines the end result.
Creative Illustration has also influenced many comic book artists whose work has gone on to inspire the next generation of illustrators. Alex Ross, American comic book illustrator for DC Comics and Marvel Comics, is quoted on the exterior book jacket: “Andrew Loomis’s books were a formative influence on my life and art. My entire approach to drawing and painting superheroes owes its genesis to Loomis’s work.”
At the time of publication, the author stressed that his book was specifically aimed at serious professionals who wished to hone their skills. Whilst that still remains true, I would argue that today, this book is also of interest to students of design, marketing and advertising history.