William Andrew Loomis

by Armand Cabrera

William Andrew Loomis was born in 1892 in Syracuse New York. His family moved to Zanesville Ohio and Loomis returned to New York city to go to art school at the age of 19. He studied under George Bridgman and Frank Vincent DuMond at the Art Students League. At the age of 23 he moved back to the Midwest to Chicago to work making streetcar posters for the Street Railways Advertising Company.

In April of 1917 the United States entered World War 1 by declaring war on Germany. Loomis enlisted in the Army and served 20 months with the US Army Engineering Corps, serving ten months in France. In 1919 Loomis married Ethel Olson and the couple had four children together.

After the war Loomis returned to Chicago to work for The Charles Everett Johnson Advertising Art Studio followed by Bertch and Cooper Studio. Eventually Loomis opened his own studio in 1922, working in editorial and advertising for most of the top clients of the time including Kellogg’s, Coca Cola, Lucky Strike, Palmolive Soap, Ladies Home Journal, The Post, Redbook and Life magazine. While on a trip to Hawaii the Loomis passed through Southern California and decided to move there in 1938.

As successful as Loomis was as an illustrator it was his books on illustration and art that he is remembered for today. The six books are Fun With A Pencil 1939, Figure Drawing For All Its Worth 1943, Creative Illustration 1947, Successful Drawing 1951(and its revised edition 3-Dimensional Drawing), Drawing The Head And Hands 1956 and Eye Of The Painter 1961(finished by his wife and published two years after his death in 1959).

Comic book artists, illustrators and anyone interested in a career in art bought his books and kept most of them in print for over fifty years. Literally generations of artists have sought the knowledge he wrote down in these important books and their effect cannot be ignored. For me, when I found out about them in the late seventies these books were the only information on painting and drawing realistically available for serious students. Out of print at that time, these books were like the Holy Grail and before the internet you had to hunt them down in used books stores to find them. I can still tell you where I was when I found each copy I own. Here was real information, not some gimmicky writing on how to paint trees or flowers. These books taught the fundamentals of picture making and were written by a master in his field.

Hopefully Loomis will be given the proper respect for his art and writing at some point and a monograph will be created featuring his beautiful paintings.


The Illustrator in America 1860-2000
Walt Reed
The society of Illustrators 2001

The Eye of the Painter and the Elements of Beauty
Andrew Loomis
Viking Press 1961

William Andrew Loomis A Legacy in Words and Pictures
Jack and Jennifer Harris
Illustration Magazine Issue 20 Fall 2007


Talent is really a capacity for a certain type of learning of knowledge and a consuming interest in the facts that contribute to that knowledge~ Andrew Loomis

11 thoughts on “William Andrew Loomis

  1. Figure Drawing For All Its Worth was my holy bible of figure drawing growing up. Still have it. Now I have his other books in a PDF format. Which is your favorite?

  2. Kurt,
    For me Creative Illustration is tops followed by Figure Drawing and Fun with a pencil. Those three books had such a profound effect on my development as an artist. They are must haves in my opinion. I have a link in my sidebar to all of the Loomis books in PDF format.
    I still read them and go to them for information and inspiration.

  3. Armand, thanks for the article to Loomis. Great image choices! "Creative Illustration" is one of the best books on painting ever written. I've gone back to it many, many times since finding a copy when I was 17 years old. Any idea why Loomis's books haven't been recently reprinted?

  4. Jim,
    I agree about Creative Illustration.
    As for why they don't republish it or any of the other books by him- I've heard they thought the text and images were too dated and this was before digital. It doesn't make sense when you think about it because Carlson and Payne and Speed are all still being published. It must be with copyright issues. I can't believe that with cheap printing costs and the ability to print on demand Viking couldn’t make money. I know Bonanza printed editions too. You would think Dover or Walter Foster would be interested. Especially Foster books because they already publish the figure and head excerpts as books.
    Maybe the family is holding it up. I know the copyright in my Figures in Action Walter Foster Book from 1994 says Ethel Loomis with permission from Viking.

  5. I have found some of the Loomis books on EBay. I was lucky and bid on Creative Illustration and Figure Drawing for All It's Worth. I won them both for $50 which is a steel.
    I was the only person bidding on them.

    Most of them can go for a lot more, but you never know you could get lucky. I have paid almost $100 for some of the other books.

    I have use Figure Drawing for All It's Worth in a drawing class I teach. I give the students handouts of from the first few chapters. It is amazing how the first thing the students say is that figures are dated. The other critique is the lack of people from different ethnic backgrounds. I have a lot of Latino, Asian and African American students and in some ways they are right. However I explain that these books were drawn in the 40's and that the information is what counts.

    I also use Bridgman. Personally I think between Loomis and Bridgman a student could develop some serious drawing, design and painting chops. If you can master Loomis's head studies you can draw any kind person.

    Last year Creative Illustration was going to come back into print and then something happened the book never appeared. You could pre-order it on Amazon for a short while. Then it disappeared.

  6. Thanks so much for posting this, those books are incredible and I've never understood why it's so rare to see his illustrations up anywhere. Such wonderful work!

  7. Do you know where the painting of the two women on the couch was originally published and when. I believe that the painting was used in a candy ad, but need to know more. Thanks in advance. Stanley

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.