Day at the Museum continued

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This Greek sculpture of a male torso from 450-400 BC has a freshness, vitality, and degree of realism that completely transcends the passage of time. An important aspect of its vitality is the subtle lateral swaying motion of the sculpture.

The sketch was executed with an HB pencil and a kneaded eraser. The line around the figure was intentionally varied to help capture the rhythm of the figure.

Smooth Charcoal Drawing Statue
Copy after a Greek statue, by Dean Fisher

This drawing of a Roman sculpture is another perfect example of contrapposto. For the figure to maintain its balance and shift the center of gravity over that leg, the shoulder on the same side drops. This is a completely natural pose and was a favorite of the Ancient Greeks and Romans for its subtle grace.

The line predominates in this drawing as a means to describe the contour of the figure, varying from light to dark to add a rhythm to the drawing.

This drawing was done with an HB pencil and eraser. The artist used a finger to blend the graphite to create smooth transitions of tone.

Graphite Pencils Lines Figure
Copy after a Roman statue, by Dean Fisher

For this demonstration, the plaster cast shown here will be used to create a tonal drawing in charcoal. This is the first time that charcoal is used in the drawing examples in this book.

Using Charcoal

Charcoal has some benefits and some drawbacks compared to drawing in graphite. One benefit is that charcoal is generally considered similar to a painting medium, because it remains fairly loose on the paper and can be easily manipulated and blended. Also, because of its extreme blackness, you can achieve a full range of tones from the darkest dark of the charcoal to the white of the paper. A drawback of charcoal is that because it is so changeable and easy to erase, it requires a more delicate touch than graphite to control. After the drawing is completed, it is also susceptible to smearing.

There are three grades of charcoal: soft, medium, and hard. All three were used in the following drawing examples, and explanations of the benefits of each are provided.

Sculpture Drawing Charcoal

In the first stage of the drawing, using the soft grade of charcoal, the artist applied a mid-tone of charcoal to the paper in the same way that the graphite tone was applied in the section "Tone Your Paper" in Chapter 4. The artist was then able to block in the big forms of the plaster cast using a delicate line with a medium-grade charcoal.

At this stage, the focus should be on establishing the overall proportion and shape of the head, and the placement of the features within the shape. Once the overall shape of the cast was drawn, a centerline of the face was lightly drawn; in this case, it was to the left of the center because of the ^-view-point that the artist had. The centerline of the head was easy to determine as this is the line where the nose falls. The artist also indicated the horizontal lines where the eyes and bottom of the nose and mouth would be.

By employing the measuring methods used to help with proportion, the artist could determine the major angles and their relationship to each other (see "Find the Angles" in Chapter 4). Also note that the artist was intentionally simplifying the forms by making them more geometric, which helped the artist determine the shape of the large forms.

Draw How Measure Face Shape


Stage 2

At this stage, the outline of the head, the features of the face, and the planes of the head were further developed using a sharpened stick of medium-grade charcoal. The proportions and angles of all forms were continually checked. The drawing still has a geometric feel, as the artist sought to record the precise angle as each contour changed direction. With the linear definition of the planes of the head, the drawing begins to take on the appearance of solidity.

Plaster Heads Geometric Planes

Stage 3

Here the drawing clearly begins to take on a sense of form. The large shapes of light have been erased using a kneaded eraser, and the shadow area and part of the background have been darkened using the soft grade of charcoal. The goal at this time was to keep the tone of light and shadow very simple, with an emphasis on making these shapes as accurate as possible. It is very important to squint (see page 50) as you look at the plaster cast to help you simplify the forms and see only the big shapes.


Stage 4

Once again, there was no attempt to render the nuances of tone at this point. The artist continued to focus on the accuracy of shape. The drawing is "keyed," as the lightest light and darkest dark (using the soft grade of charcoal) are indicated on this image. With these two tonal reference points indicated, the artist knew that all of the other tones in the subject would fall within this tonal range.

The range of tones in the shadow has been established at this stage. Some of the deeper darks have been indicated, as well as some of the lighter reflected lights, which gives the shadow more depth and a feeling of transparency. It is crucial to remember that none of the tones representing the reflected light come near to approaching the lightness of the tones in the light area of the subject. By overstating the range of tones in the light and shadow, you will overmodel the form and consequently lose the quality and texture of the surface you're rendering. Also, the darker accents within the shadow should always be compared to the darkest dark in order to gauge their precise tone. More of the dark tones around the cast are indicated, which gives a greater sense of relief to the head.

Gauge Your Accuracy

At this stage, it is very useful to frequently place your drawing next to the actual cast and step back at least 10 feet to compare them side-by-side. This is the best way to gauge the accuracy of drawing and tones in your rendering.

The Best Drawing


Stage 6

Now, more of the half tones in the light area have been drawn using the medium and hard grades of charcoal; the artist was careful to not overstate them. If you draw the half tones within the light too dark, they'll merge with the shadow and the separation between the light area and the shadow becomes lost, and the feeling of solidity in your drawing will become compromised. Always compare the half tones in the light against the lightest light to gauge their tone. There is also more elaboration of the shadow, with the structure of the cheekbone, temple area, and beard being defined. With the addition of curved contours, notice that the contours of forms that were once more angular have become more varied. Again, having first blocked in the contours in an angular fashion made it much easier for the artist to "find" the curve within the angles.

The drawing continued to progress in much the same way—the artist worked back and forth between the shadow and light areas, adding more tonal information to the entire drawing. When subtle changes of tone are desired, it's best to use the medium and hard grades of charcoal. More shapes have been defined, which refines the structure and increases the illusion of realism in the drawing. More of the subtle curves of the various contours have been carefully added. The artist decided to darken the entire background using the soft grade of charcoal, because the light and darks behind the cast in the previous stage were detracting from the focus on the form of the sculpture.

Form Portrait Drawings


Stage 8

In this stage, the artist was striving to create the subtle textures in the plaster cast, making sure that the quality of the material was depicted clearly. The textural qualities are achieved as a result of the subtle play of light over the form, as well as some minute detail in the surface topography. The artist also tried to gradate the light across the entire plaster cast to show a greater concentration at the top left, where the light was more concentrated, and gradually becoming darker in those areas that were farther from the light.

Plaster Drawing Casts

Final Stage

This detail image of the completed drawing clearly shows the texture of the charcoal on the paper, as well as the way in which the charcoal depicts the surface of the plaster cast.

Classical Plaster Casts Noses
Cast Study, by Dean Fisher

This is an example of a plaster cast drawing in charcoal and white chalk on gray paper. The color of the paper is most evident in the background to the left of the sculpture. It is also present to varying degrees in the light areas of the sculpture, where thin lines of white are hatched to represent the lighter parts of the form and highlights. The use of vertical and hatched lines of charcoal represents the shadow and half tones, which gives the drawing a unified appearance. The artist has achieved a compelling illusion of light and solidity through the skillful use of tone, with virtually no detail.

Use Tone Drawing

Cast drawing after a Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux sculpture, by Jack Montmeat, courtesy of the artist

This highly finished plaster cast drawing was executed in charcoal on white paper. All of the strokes of charcoal have been smoothed out, and the transitions of tone are gradual and subtle, which conveys the texture of smooth white plaster.

The artist achieved a dramatic feeling of light by keeping the areas of light very separate from the shadow areas. The most contrasted areas of the face are where the light areas of the eyebrow, nose, moustache, and beard meet the shadow. This effectively brings those areas forward and heightens the illusion of three-dimensionality. Notice how much darker the reflected light in the shadow is compared to the light areas of the cast.

How Draw Shadow

Cast drawing after an unknown ninteenth-century artist's rendition of Moses, by Yumiko Dorsey, courtesy of the artist and Aristides Classical Atelier

Cast drawing after an unknown ninteenth-century artist's rendition of Moses, by Yumiko Dorsey, courtesy of the artist and Aristides Classical Atelier


In this light and airy plaster cast drawing, the sense of form is achieved through precision rather than a dramatic use of tone. The artist achieved a great feeling of "correctness" in the drawing by considering the proportion and shape through extensive measuring. If you look closely at the drawing, you can see numerous faint vertical and horizontal lines that the artist used as visual guidelines. The delicate use of tone conveys a feeling of gentleness that echoes the expression of the portrait.

Langstaff Callipygian

Cast drawing of the head of the Callipygian Venus, by Joshua Langstaff, courtesy of the artist and Aristides Classical Atelier

In these plaster cast block ins, you can see how the artist has built the forms of the sculptures through their essential large shapes and planes. The gestures are carefully observed by comparing the various angles and thrusts of the various components. Without any detail, you have a strong sense that these objects have a "correctness" about them. Without the accuracy at this initial stage, all of the detail in the world wouldn't help to infuse these studies with the sense of realism that arises from this foundation.

How Draw Sculpture

Cast drawing of the hand of Michelangelo's David, Cast drawing after a Greek sculpture of Venus, by Annie Rosen, courtesy of the artist and by Annie Rosen, courtesy of the artist

Aristides Classical Atelier and Aristides Classical Atelier


In this charcoal plaster cast drawing on white paper, there is a clean, crisp look due to the firm, hard edge around the entire drawing and the flat, white background. The very clean look of the drawing shows off the precision of contours and musculature of the sculpture, and the dynamism of the gesture. It is striking that even though the head, arms, and lower legs are missing from the sculpture, the drawing emanates power and expressiveness; a true testament to the sculpture as a great work of art.

Michael Hoppe Drawings

Cast drawing after Charles Barque's Belvedere Torso, by Michael Hoppe, courtesy of the artist and Aristides Classical Atelier

This is a drawing of a Luca della Robbia sculpture that is considered a high-relief sculpture because the sculpted forms emerge at least 180 degrees or more in the round from a slab of stone, instead of 360 degrees in the round as in a freestanding sculpture. The sifting of light over the form is beautifully conveyed in the drawing. The very strong feeling of light comes through a very definite separation of the shapes of light from the areas of shadow, and a very minimal use of reflected light in the shadows. Another effective device to convey form is the numerous lines that are used to shade the drawing, which often follow the direction of the form.

How Draw Using Charcoal

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  • Barbara Spataro
    How to draw a sculpture?
    8 years ago
  • Azzeza
    How to drawing david by michelangelo?
    8 years ago
    How to draw sculptures?
    8 years ago
  • Daniel
    How to draw for sculture?
    5 years ago
  • GLEN
    How to separate shadow from light when drawing?
    3 years ago
  • IIRO
    How to draw shadow drawings?
    3 years ago
  • Helen
    How to draw sclupture?
    2 years ago

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