Hugh Laidman – Drawing – A Fundamental

Last week, I found a hidden treasure in the book section of a second hand store. The book, entitled “Animals: How to Draw Them” was written by Hugh Laidman (published by E.P. Dutton in 1975). I had never heard of Laidman, but was impressed at how easy it was to learn his approach to drawing animals. In it, he does a great job of emphasizing the importance of starting with big shapes, then moving into details. He starts with ellipses, circles, triangles and rectangles then transforms these into the animal. The section on photography (pre-digital) is a little dated, but overall, the book is terrific.

Laidman’s introduction starts by contrasting the approaches of three great American artists known for animal painting: Edward Hicks, John James Audobon, and Federick Remington. Each had a very different approach to gathering their subject matter. Hicks “borrowed” from other artists’ work. Audobon killed his animals and drew them. Remington moved out west and drew from life. The book covers how to draw a variety of animals from domestic (e.g., cats, horses) to wild (e.g., tigers, bears).

With my curiosity about this artist, I checked on line to find out that he was quite notable. He was a partner in an advertising firm in New York. He was also a military reporter, rendering military scenes in the U.S. Marine Corp during World War II. This quote, from the web site I found is consistent with the skill I see in his book.

“The base of creativity is knowledge.” Hugh said, “An outsider usually considers the art world a hotbed of creativity although in reality it is frequently a deathbed of imitation. Knowledge of the basic tools and materials, plus at least an acquaintance with their potential, is a small step in the right direction. Knowledge of the tools and materials in relation one to the next is a giant step. Most artists feel more at home in one medium. The simple fact is that an ability to work in one medium serves to reinforce an artist’s capabilities in the next one in which he chooses to experiment…with the hope that lifting any mystery that surrounds a given process might remove the fear that is evidenced by so many specialists. A fundamental in the entire process of the artist is a knowledge of drawing. To distort effectively, the artist must first know how to draw correctly.”

Do you have a tendency to move into details too quickly? What references have you found have helped you to improve your drawing skills?

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