The drawing of sculptures and plaster casts is a tried-and-true exercise that has been practiced by artists for centuries. It is the perfect bridge between drawing a still life and a portrait or human figure.
The Tradition of Plaster Cast Drawing 168
A Day at the Museum 169
Plaster Cast Drawing in Charcoal 174
Gallery: Plaster Cast Drawings 184
At the heart of the Renaissance, there was a revival of and fascination with the proportion, form, and beauty of ancient Greco-Roman sculpture. Artists of the time steeped themselves in these qualities by making copies in various drawing media.
The tradition of training artists through drawing great sculpture continued throughout the nineteenth century. After a relatively short decline in the twentieth century, it is now experiencing a revival in art academia. As a form of training, not only does it bring an art student closer to the aesthetic interests of the sculptor who created the work of art, but it is also an excellent way for a student to become acquainted with drawing the human form. In the art schools of the past, a student would often spend a minimum of 2 years drawing antique plaster casts before moving on to drawing the human figure from live models.
Drawing a replica of the human form (from a work of art or an anatomical cast) is one of the best ways to learn how to render complex three-dimensional forms. It is highly recommended that the serious student acquire at least one or two high-quality plaster casts of sculptures, and complete multiple renderings of them under different lighting conditions. This will prove to be invaluable experience as you advance to the drawing of the portrait and figure from live models.
The great antique Greco-Roman and Renaissance sculptures are of such a high order of beauty and expressiveness that they continue to inspire us centuries after they were created—although in many cases they are only fragments of their original form.
The artist can gain insight into the human figure by observing proportion and anatomy, and the rendering of light on the form. To achieve the desired result, as shown in this example, the artist must also consider the aesthetic concerns of what the sculptor had decided to emphasize and de-emphasize.
Copy after a Luca della Robbia sculpture, by Jack Montmeat, courtesy of the artist
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