With brilliant fauve colors, his admiration for dancers and their dedication is reflected in his own dedication to capturing the lines and forms of the graceful ballerinas. He follows them from classroom to stage in various poses of relaxation, performance, contemplation, and even the pain that comes with such passion. On stage or in the classroom, the costumes and lighting are constantly shifting, creating delicate tension between the artists and their environment. He occasionally finds himself of the same ilk, and dances around his studio, paintbrush in hand with his patient cat as a partner.

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One of my original ideas when I came back to painting was that I wanted to get back to portrait painting. I find portraits fascinating,and am often to be found skulking around the National Portrait Gallery. When I was a street artist in my twenties, every now and again people used to ask me to copy poor quality snaps of their nearest and dearest, which I used to do quite happily for them.

Loomis was an illustrator who wrote some very useful art instruction books, most of which are out of copyright and can be downloaded here. Now, Loomis being an illustrator, I should imagine that it would be very useful to him to be able to draw a head from any angle, and the aim of the book is to teach you to do just that. Working from imagination is a useful skill no doubt. Although my own work has been, and will continue to be, a result of direct observation,it would surely be a sorry painter who had no imaginative facility at all.

What brought this into sharp focus for me was getting to the section of the book where Loomis starts to deal with the planes of the head. He simplifies the form of a head down into the main planes and proceeds to draw them from a variety of perspectives, and to draw them very well.

Personally, I started to really struggle with the book at this point. The Bargue approach stresses working from the general to the specific, getting the large shapes right first and then refining down. I know that principle works in practice, and at first sight Loomis seems to be following it here. However, I think that these planes are too vague to be really useful except in very general, conceptual terms. Too many of the interlocking edges of the planes are undefined, even in the first drawing.

What happens where the eye line meets the side of the socket going down to the cheek in the first drawing? How does the mouth fit into the planes coming down from the cheek bone to the chin in the second one? Perhaps I tried to implement them too literally, and Loomis meant them only as a general guide. Time to get some of my own drawings out.

There were many much rougher ones before this set,too. I struggled on like this for a while, until, out of sheer frustration, I decided to make a head to finally figure out how those planes fitted together. Firstly, I made a few small maquettes with Plasticine, a few inches high. They were fun to do, and instructive, but I felt the need to do something life-size in order to properly resolve the planes, so the final head was made from clay.

For an armature, I screwed a length of wood,2 X 1 inches in section I think, to the board with a couple of metal brackets. I built up the ball of his head with screwed up sheets of newspaper covered with tape, and taped them around the top of the wood. But once I started building up the clay around the head, the weight of it started dragging the head down the wood which then started poking out of the top, resulting in that odd lump on the top of his head.

But at least I got to finally resolve how some of those planes might be made to fit together. But I still had to look a little further than Loomis to do it. Coincidentally, so was Loomis. So what did I learn from Arno, and from his smaller Plasticine prototypes? Well, I did figure out a way to finally resolve the Loomis planes. But the real lesson was more far reaching and was also unexpected.

After Arno, something started to happen to my drawings. When I was drawing a head,I had a new, much clearer conception of the three dimensionality of the form I was describing with two dimensional lines. The most valuable lesson I learned was that sculpting something in three dimensions builds a three dimensional model of it in your mind, which translates directly, almost effortlessly, into drawings with a greater feeling of form.

There was one other method I tried at about the same time which also proved to be quite helpful. I got hold of a mannequin bust from ebay and drew the main divisions of the planes on it. Here it is. I can lay it on the floor or put it up on a shelf and draw it from almost any angle. What this head represents to me is a kind of half way house between an imagined head and working from observation.

It would undoubtedly be better to sit some poor unsuspecting soul down and draw the planes on their head with a magic marker, but in lieu of that the mannequin does pretty well.

The forms have more depth and three dimensionality to my eyes,and the planes are fitting together much more convincingly. They also felt a lot better under the pencil. I think the first two were drawn using the mannequin head as a model and the second two were imagined. The last one at the bottom right was something of an experiment. I thought it might be interesting to take an old master drawing and see if I could superimpose the planes on it, feel the form of the head rather than copying the drawing.

This head is by Bernini, and I found the exercise interesting enough to try out a few more. After this one, I did a series of copies of Sargent drawings in the same way, which proved very instructive. Sargent turned out to be the perfect master to try this on since he simplifies his forms quite strongly into planes and has a strong sense of form. It seems that all these disparate threads start to join with each other eventually. It seems oddly apt that I should start out with the Loomis head and hands book and end up, via Asaro, DuMond and Sargent, back with Bargue and the French academic tradition.

All roads lead to Rome, as they say. Well, Paris in this case. Free Value Tutorials Subscribe: Join over 10, other artists and get free updates. Now check your email. Your first value exercise is on its way. There was an error submitting your subscription. Please try again. First Name Email Address We use this field to detect spam bots. If you fill this in, you will be marked as a spammer. Send me the Tutorials! I paint realism in oils, mostly still life.


Planes of the Head - John Asaro



Feeling the Form – Loomis and the Planes of the Head




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