I found this at a thrift store a while ago and thought it’d be something people might be interested in having some nice, high-res photos of for reference. Arno is an amalgam of the Loomis planes and a ‘planes of the head’ sculpture by John Asaro. Asaro was, as far as I can gather, a student of. Documents Similar To Planes of the Head – John Asaro. Anatomy Intro. Uploaded by. vinicius Successful Portrait Painting. John H. Sanden. Uploaded by.
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This post is picking up a thread that I dropped in Aprilthe Loomis head drawings.
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. At first I thought that looked like a very good way to proceed, very sound. 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. Now, call me a sceptic, but it appears to me that what Loomis is doing here is drawing heads in perspective, which as a professional illustrator with years of experience he was quite capable of doing, and then superimposing the merest suggestion of his planes over the drawings.
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. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Arno:.
John Asaro Vintage Ceramic “Planes of the Head”.
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. 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 assro together much more convincingly.
They also felt a lot better hte the pencil. The first four drawings here, reading from the top of the page down, are pretty much in the same vein as the previous sheet. 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 xsaro planes on it, feel the form of the head rather than copying the drawing.
This head is by Bernini, and I found haed exercise interesting enough to bead 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, Johnn and Sargent, back with Bargue and the French academic tradition.
All roads lead to Rome, as they say.
Well, Paris in this case. Join over other artists and get free updates. I’m a mostly self-taught artist. I paint realism in oils, mostly still life. I share my work, my evolving process and what knowledge I’ve gained on my own learning journey here, in the hope that it might help you along on yours. When bits started falling off him I broke him up and chucked him in the bin.
I had a drawing teacher twenty years or so ago who made us draw the Asaro planes of the head cast for the first half hour of every class before we were allowed to draw the model. I think this practice helped me immensely. As an illustrator, Loomis would have found a planar system useful to figure out how light would have lit a head so that he could figure out relative values in the planes as they relate to the light source.
So, if your subject moves, you know where that plane defines the form even if the contour line has changed a little bit. I also found it difficult working with the planes in the Loomis book and became disheartened, but now feel inspired to try making my own head in a manner of speaking! The point about values is particularly interesting. At least, I believe Reynolds, Raeburn and Lawrence did.
Have you seen this article on the history of sight size?
Feeling the Form – Loomis and the Planes of the Head
I know sight size is primarily an what you might call an optical approach, but I would have thought that it could only be helped by being used in tandem with say, knowledge of anatomy or a clear conception of the main planes. Hi Sharon, I highly recommend you try a bit of adaro. It makes an amazing difference to drawing I think.
headd Hard to describe, but tangible. It might be a good idea to try a few little ones first though. Arno was no male tge, but the first couple of prototypes looked more like space aliens.
It might comfort you to know that I gave Arno a moment of silence by the bin when he met his planee. Not a very long moment though, it was cold out.
I received a fascinating email today from a forensic artist who read this post. Part of her asaaro is to draw heads based on the descriptions of witnesses.
How hard must that be? She raised the interesting, and I think very valid point that the Loomis method also tends towards standardised, ideal heads. I can imagine that that might result in drawing the same head, or a close variant of it, every time. I was discussing this some time ago with a highly accomplished artist David Kassan — check out those paintings! He may well be right. Any thoughts on that? Interesting point made by the forensic artist. I had a life sculpture made of my own head once, you know, the kind where they put straws up your nose and cover you with some kind of gel.
I was really alarmed by the hhead cast — I look so Cro Magnon — and put the thing in a bag and whumped it against the driveway.
Planes of the Head – Artist’s Mannequin Head
It has gone to meet Arno in the great hereafter. David could be right. I see Caucasian artists drawing Asian subjects who keep insisting on putting in a chiselled nose bridge, or putting angled cheekbones on little children.
But I still think the planar head keeps you thinking of a volume in space. By the way, David Kassan is an incredible draftsman. I watched him stand maybe twenty feet away from his portrait subject and use binoculars for the details after he made accurate broad measurements.
I am playing with this also since I got some binos for Christmas. Hello, aforementioned forensic artist here!
I can draw a comparison with the way forensic artists work when they do a composite. It is essential to know anatomy and the canons of facial proportion, period. I headd the same experience as you with Loomis Paul, and I too suspected that he first learnt how to draw and then subtracted these ideas after the fact.