Andrew Loomis's "Flat Diagram"—Part I

I'm currently studying Andrew Loomis's 1943 classic book "Figure Drawing For All It's Worth." I was moving along until I turned to page 30 and saw THIS monstrosity:



Dayum! That's A LOT of information! Moreover, Loomis makes assumptions about our knowledge and therefore doesn't fully explain all of these diagrams.

I went online looking for an explanation of this confusion. Instead I found only more questions. NO ONE had a full explanation as to what was happening on this page.

So I decided to crack the Flat Diagram code myself and can happily say that I think I did it.

The first step is to divide this page into sections. For now, let's focus on this part of the page:





Loomis has divided the figure into an idealized 8 heads tall and 2 1/3 heads wide shown in equally divided boxes. Loomis notes some anatomical points that relate to the box divisions (the female figure's divisions vary slightly, see page 27):



That's pretty clear and self-explanatory. Where the trouble begins is adding perspective to that diagram which Loomis, in my opinion, doesn't fully explain. Here's my approach:

1. Establish your vanishing point. Loomis doesn't show a horizon line in this diagram, but that's on what the vanishing point sits (also known as the viewer's eye line).




2. Draw the width of the figure with a line, here it's A–C. (The dashed lines indicate the extending of the width from that diagram to the new, perspective diagram.)


3. Indicate the midpoint of line A–C with point B.


4. Draw perspective lines from points A, B and C to the vanishing point (NOTE: in the image below, I extended the three perspective lines to the vanishing point. They're not fully shown in the book.)




5. Draw a horizontal to create the first box's depth by "eyeballing" its position. Notice that Loomis labels it "Optional Depth" with an arrow and the number "1". 



6. Draw a diagonal line from point A through line B to line C. Where the "Optional depth"/box 1 line meets line B is point D. Where the diagonal meets line C is point E. Loomis labels the diagonal just drawn the "1st diagonal."




7. Point E indicates where the horizontal for box 2 should go. From point E, draw a horizontal to line A. Where this horizontal and line A meet is point H. Also, where box 1's horizontal meets line A is point F. See Loomis's note about the lines.



8. Continue to draw the 2nd and 3rd diagonals. When completed you'll be as far as line G–J and point I. This gives you the first three of eight boxes.



9. Continue the same method of drawing horizontals and diagonals until you have all eight boxes.



10. Now when you place your figure drawing in the perspective diagram/map, according to the original diagram at left, you'll have the figure in correct perspective as shown in these diagrams: 


So that's my explanation of the first of Loomis's two ways of rendering the box of the flat diagram.

Tell me if you found this helpful or if any of it is still confusing.

My part II blog post discussing this page will explain the diagram below, the second of the two methods for creating the box:




Comments

  1. wow great observation. i too had no idea what was going on on that page.

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    1. Thanks, Rich. It's a scary page but the information on it is important enough to take the time to figure it out.

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    2. Thank you! Help me some much.

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    3. You're welcome, I'm glad it could be of use!

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  2. hey thanks man, didnt know what loomis mean. very helpfull

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  3. Thank you so much for this. I felt like an idiot for about twenty minutes staring at these diagrams before deciding to Google "Andrew Loomis box diagram," and I'm glad I clicked your link first. Now I'm feeling a little stupid for not realizing the lines in that diagram on the left were meeting at the vanishing point at the top of the page. Anyway, thanks. Now, back to learning how to draw.

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Jwhite1979! I've gotten so much invaluable information from others online that I realized I needed to start sharing whatever little I know.

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  4. Oh, and I totally dig your punk diy sensibility. Kick ass.

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    1. Thanks, again! DIY is the only way to go.

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  5. Thank you so much for this, I found it extremely helpful! I've just started going through Loomis's book and like others above, got a little confused. :)

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    1. I'm glad you found it useful! And best of luck as you go through the rest of the Loomis book. I think you'll ultimately find it was worth the effort.

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  6. Thank you for the help, much appreciated! Definitely not entirely explanatory, as the necessity for a blog post proves! You've really cleared things up though so thanks! Looking forward to reading the rest of Loomis. Cheers!

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment! I'm glad you found it useful and I hope to find other equally helpful art instruction items to post.

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  7. Also will be checking out your 2nd post ... :D

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    1. Hopefully that one will be helpful, too!

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  8. Yeah, this page in Loomis' book made little sense to me. Thank you for taking the time to explain it!!!

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    1. I'm happy that you found it useful! I wanted to share something worthwhile. I think Loomis has lots of drawing insights but often his books's illustrations don't convey those insights clearly.

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  9. Finally I found the answer to that cryptic diagram. It was driving me nuts. The book is wonderful, but I find myself struggling to understand some of the things in the book due to a lack of info. Now I feel a bit more confident continuing my studies with this book.

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    1. Good for you for sticking with the book! I'm a fan of Loomis's books (I own copies of all but one) but do find them a little confusing in parts. I'm glad you found this helpful and good luck with the remainder of your studies!

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  10. I'm totally confused why you would eyeball the depth and why loomis would call this "optional"? Won't this optional or arbitrary depth entirely change the head to width ratio? If I drew line AC 2 1/3 inches won't the depth have to correspond by an appropriate ratio instead of an "eyeball" so the head corresponds to the shoulder width? I guess my question is why is the depth optional in perspective if this vastly effects the figure's proportions. i.e a depth too small would lead to a short man with huge shoulders, and a depth too large would yield a man too tall and skinny.

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    1. I'm not sure if I have the correct answer to your question but I'll give it a try. I don't know why Loomis called that line "optional" when it's clear that's it's mandatory in order for this method to work. That eyeballed horizontal line, Line 1, which indicates the first depth does, as you said, have a relationship with the width (line A-C). Line 1 can't be random or your figure will indeed be distorted. Since this diagram is taking the standing 8 head diagram and then showing it in perspective, the eyeballing of Line 1 should probably be close to the Line 1 in the standing diagram. In other words, it's a logical, common sense guess. That way you're maintaining the proportion of the standing diagram and transferring it to the perspective diagram. I hope this answered your question!

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  11. could u do a tutorial that can explain page 38 and 39 better? those two pages have me stumped.

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    1. I wanted to clarify that the pages you're requesting from Loomis's "Figure Drawing for All It's Worth" are of the mannikins. If so, I will have a future post dealing with how different artists handle the body's framework. Also, could you explain exactly what has you stumped so I can address it? Thanks!

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  12. Love from Germany ;)

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  13. Perhaps he calls the second horizontal "optional depth" because it is the artist's choice how much or how little depth to use? However, wouldn't the width choice, or A-C, determine how much depth we use? What I mean is, we know that our width is 2 + 1/3 heads. With that we can deduce what one head's length is and one head's length makes the second horizontal. However, there is still the effects of perspective to take into account. So, I'm not sure if it is truly optional or truly predefined, but I don't think it's arbitrary either. This is the last part of this I'm still hazy on. Otherwise, you helped me a great deal!!!

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    1. I agree, Nap, that the "optional" line is common sense/eyeballing/deduction. Deciding where that line goes simply has to make sense in relation to the standing diagram. So you're right, it can't be completely arbitrary or else the entire perspective drawing will be distorted. I'm guessing that once we actually need to draw a figure in perspective, this will make a lot more sense. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

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  14. WOW great, thank you in advance, you saved me lots of time.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and I'm glad the post was helpful!

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  15. Really helpful, I just followed your steps. Thanks a lot, you did a great job

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Ali! I'm glad the post was helpful to you.

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  16. Hey thanks, this is really helpful. That page is very difficult to understand, thank you !!!!

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  17. Thank you very much, random internet guy. You are awesome.

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    1. Thanks for your comment and the compliment, Wladimir!

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  18. This is probably a stupid question but why are the diagonal lines needed, like why did you draw a diagonal line in step 6?

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    1. It's never a stupid question when you're truly confused about something. :-) The diagonal line in step 6--and all of the diagonal lines like it--are necessary for making equal divisions in perspective. The standing figure has horizontal lines indicating the figure's divisions. When translating that diagram into proper perspective, one uses diagonal lines instead of horizontals to indicate the correct equal divisions.

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  20. Thank you very much for the explanation, that helped me alot.

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  21. I have a question please
    When you draw the flat diagram to the vanishing point how could you determine the length and what does the optional depth means?

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  22. Hi, Ahmed. The vanishing point sits on the eye line (also called the horizon line.) The horizon line is based on where you, the artist, is positioned: above, below or on the same level as the horizon. Once you determine the horizon position, then you place the vanishing point or points. And the vanishing point is based on your distance from the object. In the diagram above, Loomis decided that the horizon line is high indicating that he's looking down at the figure. He then decided that the figure is close to him hence the location of the diagram. Optional depth is another way of saying "guess." As one of the comments above says, that measurement is the artist's choice and would logically be close to the depth of the original diagram. In summary, both of your questions are choices that you can make based on what you're trying to draw.

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  23. Thank you! I thought I was the only one that didn't get this, until I googled and found a bunch of people with the same confusion

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    1. You're welcome! I'm glad it was helpful.

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  25. Hi Rochelle
    Thank you for explaining this it all makes sense now.
    I also realise that all the instructions are actually there on the page, and numbered in order of execution. If I only looked properly. Now that I understand his style I will know what to look for to decipher his other diagrams.
    Thank you
    Gordon

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    1. Thank you, Gordon, for the comment. I'm glad I could be helpful and keep on drawing and studying!

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  26. Rochelle, I see I'm late to the show you've been running for five years now- as you've been holding up the lantern for many lost and wandering artists stumped by Loomis' page- but this is fantastic. Thanks for the help! It's funny how many people were stumped on the same page and thank goodness you took the initiative to dissect it in a comprehensible way. Much appreciated!

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    1. You're not late at all! This information never gets old so it doesn't matter when you find it, as long as you find it and apply it. I'm glad that I could be helpful to you and others and I'm constantly looking for other ways to instruct. Thanks for your comment!

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  27. Thanks, I didn't understand it either.

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    1. You're welcome and I'm glad it could be helpful!

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