Greek Torso Sculpture

Practice Makes Perfect

While Dean was in art school, he was fortunate to have several plaster casts to work from. Eventually, he could draw two of them from memory because he had drawn them dozens of times. Both were anatomical casts made by nineteenth-century sculptors: One was of the planes of the human head, and the other was a life-sized sculpture depicting the musculature of the human body.

The drawings on pages 170-173 are the result of a day that the authors spent in the Antique Sculpture rooms at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Most museums allow their patrons to bring a sketchbook and drawing materials to draw the sculptures and paintings without needing a permit.

Museums are overflowing with inspiring works of art. It is highly recommended that the serious student spend many hours studying, sketching, and absorbing the great works that are there.

All of the drawings on the following pages were drawn on 12" x 9" lightly textured drawing paper with graphite pencils, ranging from H to 2B, and a kneaded eraser.

Kneaded Eraser Sculpture

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How Draw Statue
Copy after a Greek statue, by Dean Fisher

Copy after a Greek statue, by Dean Fisher

Copy after a Greek statue, by Dean Fisher

In this Greek torso of a male athlete, there is an incredible feeling of gracefulness in the subtle gesture of the figure arching backward. Even though the musculature in this figure is flexed due to the fact that this is a sculpture depicting a male athlete in motion, those qualities were subordinated to the elegance of the overall pose.

The artist tried to capture the movement of the pose through a fairly loose tonal-and-line rendering. Starting with mid-toned paper, the artist lightly drew the figure and then erased the light shapes. The next stage was to work back and forth, adding more graphite with the pencil and erasing other areas until the artist was satisfied with the level of refinement in the drawing.

This is another angle of the sculpture on the previous page. It's really amazing that the figure has such a quiet dynamism and grace, even without a head or limbs. In this drawing, the artist tried to capture the movement of the pose through a fairly loose tonal-and-line rendering. After starting with mid-toned paper, the artist lightly drew the figure and then erased the light shapes. Like the previous drawing, the artist proceeded to work back and forth, adding more graphite with the pencil and erasing other areas until reaching the level of refinement that he was seeking.

How Draw Greek Statue

Copy after a Roman statue, by J. S. Robinson

Copy after a Roman statue, by Dean Fisher

Copy after a Roman statue, by J. S. Robinson

Copy after a Roman statue, by Dean Fisher

This Roman statue shows a contrapposto—first used by the Greeks and so called because the weight of the whole figure is supported by one leg, which makes the hip move outwards—which is somewhat demanding to draw. In order to understand this pose, when you are drawing, make sure the hip of the body is placed correctly. You need to make sure that your measurements are exact. It is a very subtle pose and demands careful observation and restraint. In this example, the artist has drawn a line to conform, as near as possible, to the curvature of the sculpted body. This is an important exercise to practice, if you want to draw an object accurately rather than in a general manner.

Here, the artist has sought to capture the simplicity and beauty of this classical portrait—a head of a Roman athlete— with a simple, fairly crisp line and a minimal amount of shading. The tip of the nose was broken off, but instead of detracting from the beauty of the face, it only seemed to add to it.

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