Andrew Loomis wrote a lovely, useful and rather dated book entitled Fun with a Pencil – How Everyone Can Easily Learn to Draw. It’s a wonderful book, and he’s not lying. “Start with a circle”, he says, “it doesn’t matter if it’s as lopsided as the family budget, it will work”. He continues to chatter and encourage through nose lines and foreshortening, mocking up whole interiors in two point perspective and illustrating types through racial stereotypes. His books are a rare sort of useful fun; a combination of how to draw big ears and freak hats with accurate information about how the human body hangs together – and how to draw its shadow.
I took a few nights off and drew exercises out of the book. When I’d had my fill of bushy eyebrows and huge ears (Loomis is inordinately fond of drawing old men), I tried a study of Rubens, “Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus”. Sisters Phoebe and Hilaeria were abducted by Castor and Polydeuces, and of course their cousins Idas and Lynceus avenged them, killing Castor and starting the chain of events that led to the Trojan War. This is the most popular scene in that long chain because it involves beautiful half-draped women being swept up on horseback, or grappled with, or clinging to, swarthy men. I think this Rubens is the most intimate interpretation: note how Hilaeria’s and Lynceus toes are rested together, and her hand on his foot. In many places the participants are locked together like puzzle pieces, trapped by the horses rearing dangerously close.
The painting suited my purposes nicely – all that force and direction expressed in twined limbs and rounded flesh is the perfect exercise for the theory that all animal action can be drawn from a foundation of spheres and dissecting lines. So, Rubens via Loomis: