You may not see any evidence of this -- I know I'm hard-pressed to produce it sometimes -- but I'm constantly working to improve my drawing skills. Whether it's studying other artists' work or self-imposed sketching regimens, I'm almost always working at getting better. Especially where drawing the human form is concerned. So when I started catching articles online about a couple classic books on drawing the human figure, I took note.
Back in the 1940s, illustrator Andrew Loomis created a series of densely-packed drawing instruction books that have long been considered standards in the field. Lauded by the American Academy of Art as "one of the most brilliant contributions that figure drawing has ever received," Drawing The Head and Hands and Figure Drawing For All It's Worth have been essential books for any artist or illustrator seriously studying and recreating the human form. You can read extensive reviews on both books (at the links above) on one of my favorite art blogs, Lines and Colors. Thank you, internet, for once again providing me with priceless knowledge.
The problem with these books is that they'd been out of print for years and very hard to get your hands on. When I started to do research on them, I found that ebay had only a few to offer -- and they were upwards of a hundred bucks each. But then, right before Christmas, they announced these out of print classics were being reprinted and released for around thirty bucks! This was fantastic news. But other issues got in the way and I had to put off the purchase. One of those things was a broken washing machine.
The Washing Machine Component
Right in the middle of a weekly load of whites, my friend's washing machine conked out. She called Sears for an estimate and a service call to her house to repair the washer would be at least as expensive as buying a few out-of-print Loomis books. Seeing as how I'd soon be able to buy the Loomis reprints at an affordable price, I figured I'd try to help her save some cash too. So, in a fit of softheaded generosity, I agreed to help her fix her washing machine. And really, what more efficient way to get something done than have a complete novice bumble around with unfamiliar tools for a few hours?
Recalling her basement is chock full of dusty old fix-it-yourself manuals --the sort that Time/Life Books released in encyclopedia-sized sets back in the 80's. -- I told my friend that, before we started tearing apart a major appliance, I'd help her look through her basement for some basic home repair books.
Disappointingly, we couldn't find the home repair books.
But sitting there on a shelf with other dusty art books once owned by my friend's mother (an artist herself) were early, hardcover printings of Andrew Loomis' Drawing The Head and Hands and Figure Drawing For All It's Worth! I couldn't believe it (pictures posted as proof)! These things had been sitting there for decades undisturbed (the cover price on these giant tomes was only $5.95!!) yet they were in fantastic shape!
My friend noticed my gaping maw and told me I could have the books. Free of charge. Yes! Now I didn't even have to spring for the reprints! So the lesson learned here is that sometimes, when you put positive energy out into the universe, it boomerangs back at you. Or, more succinctly, if you're desperate to get your friend's washer fixed so that she might be willing to wash a backlog of your winter laundry, you might just trip and stumble into some awesome, late Christmas gifts with little to no effort on your part. Score!
One final addendum: We did end up doing a bit more research online about washing machines and were able to fix it ourselves after ordering one thirty dollar part. Thank you, once again, internet. -v