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DRAW SIP 09 Contents:AA feature 9/18/09 2:45 PM Page 2


The Best of
Drawing M AT E R I A L S

Materials and Techniques of Renaissance Drawing

by M. Stephen Doherty 6

Graphite: The Drawer’s Humble Tool

by Bob Bahr 20

Custom and Handmade Paper

by Bob Bahr 36


The Revival of an Influential Drawing Course
by M. Stephen Doherty 44

Studying Drawing With Professor Eakins

by Gerard Haggerty 58

The Human Form: How to Put It All Together
by Dan Gheno 64

Representing a Studio Model in an Outdoor

by Sharon Allicotti 84

The Creative Possibilities of Draping a Model

by Sharon Allicotti 86

Eleven Reasons to Attend Figure-Drawing Sessions

by Sharon Allicotti 88

Constable’s Sketchbooks
by Lynne Bahr 96
Master Landscape Drawings: Evidence &
by M. Stephen Doherty 104

From Drawing to Canvas
by Joseph C. Skrapits 116

The Tradition of Drawing From Memory

by Joseph C. Skrapits 124

Capturing the Muse: Drawings by Sculptors

by Joseph C. Skrapits 132

Drawing Logic: Drawing for Sculpture

by John Taye 142

88 20
DRAW SIP 09 Contents:AA feature 9/18/09 4:54 PM Page 3

Bargue plate drawing by Jayme del Rosario,
courtesy of Judith Pond Kudlow’s NYK Academy.
Photo by Nathan Kraxberger


Copyright © 2009 by Interweave,

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The contents of this publication
may not be reproduced either
in whole or in part without con-
sent of the copyright owner.
American Artist The Best of
Drawing is printed in the U.S.A.

124 36 64

96 132
DRAW SIP 09 Editor's Note:Editor's Note 9/18/09 2:52 PM Page 4

Editor’s Note The Best of
Drawing ®

The Big Picture M. Stephen Doherty
We’ve tried to present a wide range of articles in Drawing magazine over the Brian F. Riley
last six years so that our readers could find stories in every issue that SENIOR EDITOR
Allison Malafronte
addressed their exact needs. To do so, we needed to space out articles on par-
ticular topics across several years—we may have to wait a while to run anoth- James B. Bogner III
er article on landscape drawing, for example, if we are going to make an ASSOCIATE EDITOR
Austin R. Williams (646) 841-0050
effort to present all the topics readers want covered. That’s why a special PROJECT MANAGER
issue such as this one is so exciting—it allows us to group together previous- Bob Bahr
ly published articles to create a very focused publication that’s a perfect fit for PUBLISHING
readers who want something specific from our artist-writers. PUBLISHER
David Pyle
The title of this publication is The Best of Drawing, but it may be better to
think of this as a carefully curated overview of the drawing process. We went Jim McIntosh (513) 961-0034
through all our issues of Drawing and chose articles that covered the essential MEDIA SALES MANAGER
Mary McLane (970) 290-6065
areas of draftsmanship. We start with materials, the first thing a draftsman must ONLINE PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT MANAGER
have to begin. Our editor-in-chief, M. Stephen Doherty, fully explored the materi- Karyn Meyer-Berthel
als of the Renaissance and the artwork of a great Italian Renaissance draftsman, AD TRAFFICKERS
Teresa Warren • Melissa Brown
Parmigianino, to help readers understand Western drawing’s classical roots CIRCULATION DIRECTOR
(page 6). I had much too much fun researching and writing the lengthy piece on Bob Kaslik
graphite—arguably the most common drawing material of the modern world CIRCULATION MANAGER
Sheila Derrington
(page 22). A look at custom-made paper closes out that section (page 36). WEB BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER
Two popular articles were chosen for the Masters & Approaches section— Tricia Gdowik
one on the Bargue drawing course, which Van Gogh utilized early in his MARKETING MANAGER
Annie Hartman Bakken
career (page 44), and a look at American master Thomas Eakins’ systematic
approach to draftsmanship (page 58). PRODUCTION DIRECTOR
Drawing the figure is a practice that can immensely help artists from their Nancy M. Pollock
beginning exercises to their dying day—we can express the breadth of human Nancy Arndt
emotion and experience through depictions of the human body, a never-
depleted well of inspiration. Dan Gheno offers an overview of figure drawing
in his piece (page 64), which was previously only available in a special issue
published two years ago. Specific instruction on figure drawing from Sharon
Allicotti (pages 84, 86, and 88) round out this section. FOUNDER, CREATIVE DIRECTOR: Linda Ligon
CEO: Clay B. Hall
Prehistoric artists depicted the land (and the beasts that inhabited it), and PRESIDENT : Marilyn Murphy
CFO: Troy Wells
this subject matter has never left the draftsman’s repertoire. Lynne Bahr and VICE PRESIDENT, CONSUMER MARKETING: Bob Kaslik
Steve Doherty cover this aspect of drawing on pages 96 and 104. In many VICE PRESIDENT, SALES& MARKETING: Stephen Koenig
cases drawings of landscapes were done as preparatory work for paintings or VICE PRESIDENT, TECHNOLOGY: T.J. Harty
other forms of art. The last section of this special issue addresses this func-
tion of drawing. You’ll find informative, instructional articles on drawing for Send editorial mail to American Artist magazine, 29 W. 46th Street, 3rd Floor,
sculpture (page 132), transferring drawings to another substrate (page 116), New York, NY 10036.
The contents of this publication may not be reproduced in whole or in part
and honing your drawing skills through memory training (page 124). without the consent of the copyright owner, Interweave Press, a division of
Aspire Media.
The Best of Drawing is, we hope, the best way to survey the essential Attention Retailers: To carry AMERICAN ARTIST in your store, call IPD at
aspects of draftsmanship through Drawing magazine’s lens—one that places 1-866-473-4800, or write: American Artist Dealer Dept., c/o IPD Source
Interlink Companies, 6195 Lusk Blvd., San Diego, CA 92121-2729.
an emphasis on traditional techniques, competence in key skills, and repre-
sentational art as the ideal jumping off point for any kind of art you may
choose to pursue.

Bob Bahr
Project Manager


DRAW SIP 09 Contribs:AA feature 9/18/09 4:55 PM Page 5


Sharon Allicotti ("Representing a Course,” “Master Landscape Drawings: His work has won the support of the
Studio Model in an Outdoor Setting," Evidence & Interpretation”) is the editor- National Endowment for the Arts, the
"The Creative Possibilities of Draping a in-chief of Drawing. National Endowment for the Humanities,
Model," "Eleven Reasons to Attend and the Ford Foundation.
Figure-Drawing Sessions") is an artist Dan Gheno (“The Human Form: How to
who lives and works in Glendale, Put It All Together”) is a New York artist Joseph C. Skrapits (“From Drawing to
California. View her art or contact her at whose work can be found in many pri- Canvas,” “The Tradition of Drawing from vate and public collections, including the Memory,” “Capturing the Muse: Drawings
Museum of the City of New York and the by Sculptors”) is an artist and freelance
Bob Bahr (“Graphite: The Drawer’s New Britain Museum of American Art, in writer who frequently contributes to
Humble Tool,” “Custom and Handmade Connecticut. He teaches drawing and American Artist, Watercolor and
Paper.”) is a freelance editor and writer painting at the Art Students League of Drawing.
based in New York City. New York and at the National Academy
School of Fine Arts, both in New York John Taye (“Drawing Logic: Drawing for
Lynne Bahr (“Constable’s Sketchbook”) City. He is a professor emeritus at the Sculpture”) is a Fellow in the National
is a freelance editor and writer based in Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts in Sculpture Society. He is an emeritus pro-
New York City. Old Lyme, Connecticut. fessor at Boise State University, in
Idaho, and has taught many drawing and
M. Stephen Doherty (“Materials and Gerard Haggerty (“Studying Drawing sculpture classes and workshops. Taye
Techniques of Renaissance Drawing,” With Professor Eakins”) is an artist and has exhibited widely, and his work has
“The Revival of an Influential Drawing writer who teaches at Brooklyn College. appeared in many publications.

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DRAW SIP 09 Parmagianino:AA feature 9/18/09 1:09 PM Page 6

Materials and
Techniques of
Drawing A 2004 exhibition at the Frick Collection included a rich
collection of drawings by Parmigianino, “one of the most undeniably
distinguished but also endlessly surprising artists of the Italian
Renaissance,” writes the show’s curator. by M. Stephen Doherty
DRAW SIP 09 Parmagianino:AA feature 9/18/09 5:48 PM Page 7

Self-Portrait in Profile
ca. 1530–1540, brown ink, 4 x 41⁄2. Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Vienna, Austria.


DRAW SIP 09 Parmagianino:AA feature 9/18/09 1:09 PM Page 8

often reveal more about an artist’s per-
sonality, ideas, and methods than any
other aspect of their art. That is certain-
ly the case with Girolamo Francesco
Maria Mazzola (1503–1540), known as
Parmigianino, whose remarkable draw-
ings provide evidence of his prodigious
talent, his quick hand, and his fatal ten-
dency to procrastinate.
In honor of the 500th anniversary of
his birth in Parma, Italy, the National
Gallery of Canada in Ottawa (October 3,
2003, through January 4, 2004) and
The Frick Collection in New York
(January 27 through April 18, 2004)
presented a major exhibition titled “A
Beautiful and Gracious Manner: The
Art of Parmigianino.” The show includ-
ed 51 exquisite drawings, seven jew-
ellike oil paintings, and a dozen historic
prints considered to be some of the first
ever created personally by an artist (as
opposed to a professional engraver). It
was curated by David Franklin, the
deputy director and chief curator of the
National Gallery of Canada, and coordi-
nated by Denise Allen, an associate
curator at The Frick.
Parmigianino was fortunate to have
been born into a family of artists
when some of the greatest artists of all
time were active, including Leonardo
da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo.
Although he was orphaned at age 2,
Parmigianino was raised by two
uncles who were well-established
painters and ran the Mazzola family
workshop. The prodigious young man
received training in a workshop filled
with prints and plaster casts of antique
sculptures, as well as copies of con-
temporary works in Florence and
Rome, and there is some indication he
may have also studied with Correggio.
As a telling indication of events to
follow, Parmigianino’s talent was first
recognized in his drawings. His repre-


DRAW SIP 09 Parmagianino:AA feature 9/18/09 1:09 PM Page 9


Studies of Female
Heads, a Griffin, and
ca. 1522–1524, red chalk
and brown ink, 71⁄8 x 55⁄8.
Private collection.


Female Martyr
ca. 1522–1524, oil
on panel, 173⁄8 x 101⁄8.
Collection Städelsches
Kunstinstitut und Städtische
Galerie, Frankfurt, Germany.


ca. 1523–1524, oil
on panel, 161⁄4 x 121⁄4.
Collection Detroit Institute
of Arts, Detroit, Michigan.


ca. 1523–1524, brown ink
and brown wash with white
heightening, 101⁄4 x 8.
Collection the Louvre,
Paris, France.

sentations of figures, griffins, and an unexecuted altarpiece or in a gar- from this moment is his use of pen
finials revealed a perceptive vision, a zone study for the figure of Saint and wash on blue paper. This type of
quick and accurate hand, and a skillful Vitalis in one of his frescoes for San paper, which was originally produced
use of materials. He surpassed his Giovanni Evangelista. Red chalk was in Arabia but within Italy appears to
contemporaries in handling the three generally used in this period for highly have been a Venetian specialty,
most common drawing materials: red finished solutions, and Parmigianino allowed artists to experiment with a
or sanguine colored chalk, black chalk, was well aware of its potential for heav- colored ground without any need for
and pen-and-ink. ily chiaroscural, sculptural drawing. preparation. In Venice itself, blue
“The range of styles Parmigianino “Parmigianino’s use of pen—in iso- paper tended to be used by artists
essayed in red chalk during these early lation, or with wash—in this first such as Carpaccio as a backdrop for
years is impressive,” writes David Parmesan period is equally many- meticulously disciplined pen and wash
Ekserdjian in the catalog for the exhibi- sided,” Ekserdjian continues. “There is drawings, sometimes heightened with
tion (Yale University Press, New nothing in the work of Correggio or white, a more forgiving medium than
Haven, Connecticut). “One approach ... any of Parmigianino’s other Parmesan metalpoint that achieved a comparable
is effortlessly polished and tautly disci- rivals that satisfactorily explains his visual effect. ... Also around this time,
plined, but also very delicate. ... By con- precocious confidence with pen and or perhaps a bit later, Parmigianino
trast, Parmigianino concurrently wash. One possible explanation might began to exploit the potential of natu-
employed red chalk to achieve dramati- be the influence of Leonardo da Vinci rally buff-colored paper, not for pen
cally energetic effects, whether in a upon Lombard draughtsmanship. and wash but instead for a combina-
fully resolved compositional study for “Another novelty that may date tion of black and white chalks.”


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Virgin and Child in Glory With Saints

Jerome and John the Baptist, also
known as the Vision of Saint Jerome
ca. 1526–1527, oil on panel, 1333⁄4 x 58. Collection
National Gallery, London, England.


(first version), ca. 1524–1527, etching, 103⁄4 x 8.
Collection The British Museum, London, England.

Reba F. Snyder, a paper conservator from the ground, until the supply even- stump, scrape it with a sharp tool, or
at the Morgan Library in New York City, tually became exhausted. Parmigianino wet it with water to create a wash.”
points out that while Parmigianino may and his contemporaries had available a The pens and ink Parmigianino used
have created exceptional drawings plentiful supply of chalks in varying to make drawings with hatched and
early in his career, there was nothing shades of red depending on the crosshatched lines were also quite dif-
innovative about his choice of materi- amount of iron in the ground. The ferent from the steel nib pens, technical
als. “Red and black chalk were quite chalk was used by the artists just the pens, and bottled inks used today.
common drawing materials long way it came from the earth, a natural “Artists made their own pens by carving
before the Renaissance, and they con- combination of clay and iron oxide. It the ends of feathers or reeds,” Snyder
tinued to be used extensively by artists might be shaped in their hands and put indicates. “There was nothing exotic
until more mechanical drawing instru- in a holder, and the artists could sharp- about the materials, and they likely used
ments were introduced in the 18th en the end to draw fine lines or round the feathers readily available from ducks
century,” she explains. it off for broader strokes. While work- or crows, which varied in size and could
“The obvious reason these materi- ing, the artists are likely to have had be shaped into fine or broad points.
als were used so extensively is that red available three or four different pieces With different amounts of pressure,
and black chalk were naturally occur- of chalk of varying colors and degrees these could be used to inscribe thin,
ring minerals in many parts of Italy,” of softness. They would sometimes faint lines, or dark, wide marks.
Snyder continues. “It was mined, or cut smear the chalk with their fingers or a “The ink was probably iron gall


DRAW SIP 09 Parmagianino:AA feature 9/18/09 1:10 PM Page 11


Drapery Study
for the Vision of
Saint Jerome
ca. 1526–1527, black
and white chalk,
9 x 63⁄4. Collection
Ashmolean Museum,
Oxford, England.


Study of the
Virgin and Child
for the Vision of
Saint Jerome
ca. 1526–1527, red
chalk, 93⁄4 x 61⁄2.
Collection École des
Beaux-Arts, Paris,


DRAW SIP 09 Parmagianino:AA feature 9/18/09 1:10 PM Page 12


Madonna of the Rose

ca. 1529–1530, oil on
panel, 421⁄2 x 341⁄2. Collection
Gemaldegalerie, Dresden, Germany.


made from oak galls,” Snyder adds. Study for the

Madonna of the Rose
“The husk was produced by a tree in ca. 1526–1529, black chalk
response to wasp stings or disease. with white heightening, 101⁄2 x 73⁄8.
Private collection.
The oak galls were steeped in water,
and other ingredients, including iron BOTTOM

salts, were added to make the ink. Sleeping Man

ca. 1527–1530, red chalk,
There were many formulas, some of 71⁄2 x 101⁄2. Devonshire Collections,
which produced brittle, dark brown Chatsworth, England.
ink that eventually flaked off the draw-
ing. Black ink was also made from car-
bon and gum, and natural sepia ink
was made from the cuttlefish. Sepia
was not commonly used in the 16th
century; however, it did appear in sea-
side towns like Venice where the cut-
tlefish was readily available. In the
18th century, bistre, another brown
ink made from the soluble compo-
nents of soot, was popular with artists.
Of course all of these inks varied in
color and density depending on the
formulas used to make them and the
aging of the ink on paper.”
Most of Parmigianino’s drawings are
relatively small, with figures no more
than a couple of inches in height. In part
that is because paper was a precious
commodity in the 16th century. “Large
sheets were available, but most drawings
were done on relatively small pieces of with the paper being turned in different drawing connoisseurship.”
paper,” explains Snyder. “Unless artists directions to use all the available space. Snyder points out that the red and
were preparing cartoons for a wall or “Another explanation for the scale black chalks available today are not
ceiling fresco, they usually made small of the surviving Renaissance drawings exactly like those used by Parmigianino.
drawings, often using both sides of a is that collectors often cut drawings “Over the centuries, the highest quality
sheet. There were paper mills all over into several pieces,” Snyder adds. sources of chalk were exhausted and
Italy making various kinds of papers, but “They did so because they thought the the variety of chalks was diminished,”
artists used those papers very purpose- presentation of the drawings would be she explains. “By comparison, the natu-
fully. Every square inch was filled with more beautiful. The condition of these ral materials available today are not
figure studies or compositional sketches, drawings speaks to the history of nearly as plentiful or as varied, but we


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DRAW SIP 09 Parmagianino:AA feature 9/18/09 5:48 PM Page 14

Adoration of the Magi

ca. 1527–1530, brown ink and brown wash
with white heightening, 131⁄4 x 91⁄2. Collection
Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie,
Frankfurt, Germany.

Sistine Chapel ceiling and Raphael’s

Vatican frescoes, and he also made
drawings directly from live models.
Unfortunately, Parmigianino’s time in
Rome proved almost fruitless in terms
of major commissions, in part
because the city was undergoing mili-
tary turmoil that finally erupted in
1527, forcing Parmigianino to flee to
Bologna. He eventually returned to
Parma in 1530 and made hundreds of
drawings in preparation for painting
fresco decorations and panels.
Throughout all these travels,
Parmigianino made both studies and
independent drawings that were not
preparatory for paintings. In addition to
working on figure compositions, he
designed architectural frames for altar-
pieces, tomb sculptures, bronze stat-
uettes, arms and armor, jewelry, and
cutlery. He is even known to have creat-
ed a few erotic drawings. Indeed,
Parmigianino was so obsessed with
making drawings of all sorts of subjects
that “his industry was often directed
towards avoiding his real professional
responsibilities,” observes Eskerdjian. A
number of important painting commis-
sions went unfinished, including fresco
decorations for the vault and apse of
Santa Maria della Steccata in Parma.
About 100 drawings for the project sur-
now have a great variety of manufac- woodcuts, there is evidence that he was vive, underscoring the artist’s insistence
tured artists’ materials. so obsessive about supervising the on perfection and on an endless process
“The revolution in artists’ materials adaptation of his images that he may of refinement. After eight years of work,
occurred in painting, not in drawing,” have taken over from the craftsmen Parmigianino had still not completed
Snyder says in summary. “Oil painting hired to make the etchings. “If this the fresco and his patrons put him in
was new, but drawing with chalk and analysis is broadly correct,” writes jail. A sympathetic collector bailed him
ink was not. Our appreciation for artists David Franklin, “then Parmigianino’s out, perhaps in exchange for a group of
like Parmigianino is based on their cre- perfectionism would have the unin- drawings, but the artist fled Parma,
ative use of those standard materials.” tended effect of making him the de became ill, and died at the age of 37.
There are aspects of Parmigianino’s facto father of Italian etching.” Despite Parmigianino’s tragic death
work that do appear to be quite innova- At age 21, Parmigianino traveled to at a young age, Eskerdjian concludes
tive. He may have been the first artist Rome with four portable paintings his essay on the artist’s drawings by
to create prints with his own hands and a collection of drawings he stating, “It is first and foremost the
rather than in collaboration with a intended to use as calling cards to beauty, richness, and range of his
craftsman who would translate his solicit commissions from Pope graphic works that make him one of
drawings into etchings. While he did Clement VII and wealthy patrons. He the most undeniably distinguished but
prepare drawings for interpretation as made use of his time by drawing also endlessly surprising artists of the
engravings, etchings, and chiaroscuro copies of the figures in Michelangelo’s Italian Renaissance.”


Hartford Fine Art ad:best of drawing 2009 9/18/09 9:39 AM Page 15
DRAW SIP 09 Parmagianino:AA feature 9/18/09 1:11 PM Page 16

atthew J. Collins, the princi-
pal assistant to artist Charles
H. Cecil and a teacher of
painting and drawing in the Charles
H. Cecil Studio in Florence, Italy, con-
firms Reba Snyder’s conclusion about
the differences between modern and
Renaissance drawing materials. “I’ve
been studying Old Master drawings for
the past 10 years, and it has been diffi-
cult finding drawing materials and
papers that even come close to those
used by the masters,” Collins says.
“I first became interested in learning
more about the masters’ work in 1993
when I saw an exhibition of Italian
Florentine drawings at The Art Institute
of Chicago,” Collins remembers. “I
made copies of drawings by Cristofano
Allori (1577–1621) and his father,
Allesandro (1535–1607), and I realized it
was difficult to emulate the variety of
colors and marks they achieved with the
materials available today. I decided to
conduct research to see if I could locate
or prepare materials that had the same
qualities as those used in the 16th and
17th centuries.
“The natural sanguine the masters
used was more fluid and velvety than
the Conté crayons we use today,” Collins
explains. “Conté is grainy and gritty
compared to the soft material the
Italians once mined in the earth. It
doesn’t allow for the same flowing,
Virgin in Glory With
the Adoration of the rhythmic lines or the subtle blends
Shepherds and Saint Parmigianino achieved in the 16th cen-
ca. 1529–1530, brown ink
tury. Cretacolor brand drawing pencils
and gray wash with white are the best commercially manufactured
heightening on blue paper,
pricked for transfer, 15 x 121⁄2.
drawing pencils I have found so far.
Collection Ashmolean “In some ways the modern black and
Museum, Oxford, England.
sanguine pencils are suited to the world
LEFT of photographs that influence contem-
Study for the Steccata porary artists and not to the elegant
Ceiling, With Three
Canephori and the forms observed by the masters,” Collins
Vault continues. “It is important to rediscover
ca. 1531–1533, brown ink
and green, blue, and brown
those earlier materials so contemporary
washes with white heightening, artists have a better chance of achieving
81⁄4 x 7. Collection The British
Museum, London, England.
the same rhythms in their drawings.
“There is some evidence that
Michelangelo mixed wax with chalk to
make a slightly harder drawing mate-
rial that could be sharpened into a fine
point,” Collins adds. “For that reason
I’ve been experimenting with making
my own drawing instruments by first


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DRAW SIP 09 Parmagianino:AA feature 9/18/09 1:11 PM Page 18


Saturn and Philyra

ca. 1531–1535, oil on panel, 291⁄2 x 25.
Private collection.

making a paste of beeswax and tur-

pentine, then adding sanguine dust
to form a stick of red chalk.”
In his pursuit of the perfect drawing
materials, Collins has consulted Sandro
Zecchi, a well-known art-material retail-
er in Florence and an expert on art
materials. “Even though the original
sources of sanguine in Corsica are
depleted, Zecchi says he has found a
supply in France,” Collins explains.
“He won’t tell anyone where he gets
the clay, but he sells chunks of stone of
varying degrees of quality that can be
cut into slices and put into a holder for
drawing. The stones are rather expen-
sive and a customer at Zecchi’s has to
sort through all the ones available to
find the best. The stones have to be cut
into strips or slices with a saw, and
those slices have to be cut down into
little sticks that can be sanded to fit into
a holder and sharpened to a point.”
While Collins has made some
progress in locating and adapting mod-
ern drawing materials, he has had less
success finding papers that come close
to those available in the Renaissance. “I
have a small stash of 19th-century
papers that are exquisite, and I use
small pieces of them to make draw-
ings, but most of my drawings are
done on cream-colored sheets of Modir
Italian paper that has a slightly textured
surface. The tone of the paper allows
me to add highlights with white chalk.
“Most of the other papers I’ve tried
either have a grain so distinct that it
distracts from the drawn lines, or
they are too smooth and don’t pull
enough chalk off the stick,” Collins
goes on to say. “I’ve also tried a num-
ABOVE ber of handmade papers, and I’ve
Saturn and Philyra found them to be too spongy. I have
ca. 1531–1535, brown ink and brown
wash over black chalk, 61⁄2 x 41⁄4. Collection talked to several mills about the quali-
The British Museum, London, England. ties I am looking for in a drawing
LEFT paper in hopes they will come up
Saturn and Philyra with something more satisfactory.”
ca. 1531–1535, brown ink and gray Collins adds that he likes doing sil-
wash with white heightening, 41⁄4 x 3.
Collection Royal Library, Windsor Castle, verpoint drawings on papers that he
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. prepares. He coats the surfaces of
cold-pressed watercolor paper with a


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DRAW SIP 09 Parmagianino:AA feature 9/18/09 5:49 PM Page 20


Portrait of Victor Edelstein

by Matthew J. Collins, 1996, sanguine
on cream paper, 71⁄2 x 6. Collection
the artist.


Female Study
by Matthew J. Collins, 2004,
sanguine and white chalk
on cream paper, 10 x 7.
Collection the artist.


Copy of Cristofano Allori

Drawing for Judith With the
Head of Holofernes
by Matthew J. Collins, 1994, black
and white Conté on blue Canson
Ingres paper, 10 x 71⁄2.
Collection the artist.

liquid made from a combination of Collins concludes by saying his Florence, Italy; call: 011-39-055-21-14-70;
glycerin, gum arabic, and bone-white research is intended to support the edu- or fax: 011-39-055-21-06-90. For more
chalk and allows the surface to dry to a cation program of the Cecil Studio. “Our information on the Charles H. Cecil
hard finish that can be scratched with school is different from others in that Studio, write: Ms. Danielle DeVine,
strands of sterling silver. “The coating we look at nature through the language Dept. DRAW, Borgo San Frediano 68,
is made using the formula Cennini and rhythms of the Renaissance mas- 50124 Florence, Italy; call: 011-39-055-28-
recommended in his classic book on ters,” he explains. “We are concerned 51-02; or e-mail:
artists’ materials” (The Craftsman’s with investigating the idea of beauty and For more information on the
Handbook, by Cennino D’Andrea the means of expressing beauty.” Parmigianino exhibition and a copy of
Cennini, translated by Daniel V. For more information on Zecchi’s art the catalog, call The Frick Collection at
Thompson Jr., Dover Publications, supplies, write: Zecchi Colori Belle Arti- (212) 288-0700, or visit the museum’s
Mineola, New York), he explains. Restauro, Via dello Studio 19/r, 50122 website at ❖


DRAW SIP 09 Parmagianino:AA feature 9/18/09 1:12 PM Page 21

Raw Materials for Drawing in

Ink, Charcoal, and Silver
The raw materials shown above are used by New
York artist Karen Gorst to create drawings in the
manner of artists in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Starting in the lower left-hand corner of the photo-
graph is a reed pen filled with a sliver of sterling
silver that Gorst uses for silverpoint drawings on
prepared papers and boards. Next is a rolled
paper stump for carefully smudging charcoal; two
bamboo-reed pens for ink drawing; natural galls to
be boiled with ferrosulphate to make ink (see the
formula below); left- and right-handed quill pens
made from goose feathers; additional natural
galls; a bottle of ferrosulfate; two pieces of willow
charcoal; particles of gum arabic used in making
ink; and pieces of both sanguine and white chalk.
Stated briefly, her formula for making ink is to
mix 3 parts boiled oak galls, 2 parts ferrosulfate,
and 1 part gum arabic. “Boil the oak galls and
water to the consistency of tea and let that sit for
two to three weeks so the liquid will ferment,”
Gorst explains. “Add the ferrosulfate and strain
the liquid. It should immediately turn black. Then,
add the gum arabic.”
Gorst teaches medieval techniques of drawing
and calligraphy at a number of New York loca-
tions, including the Center for Book Arts (phone:
212-481-0295; and
Kremer Pigments (phone:212-219-2394; www. She also conducts work-
shops in public schools and art centers around
the country. For more information, contact Gorst


DRAW SIP 09 Graphite:AA feature 9/18/09 3:10 PM Page 22

The Drawer’s Humble Tool
The graphite in pencils is common and largely uncelebrated, but its history, appli-
cations, and physical properties are worth a closer look. by Bob Bahr

ow little does our society think of graphite Borrowdale, in England’s Lake District, locked the
pencils? Well, small ones that cost about entrance to the mine each night and searched the
three cents are given away free at some miners at the end of each day for smuggled
government offices where forms need to be filled pieces. According to Henry Petroski’s exhaus-
out. Ditto at horse-racing tracks—even at minia- tive—and somewhat exhausting—book on the
ture-golf courses. In these situations, they are like- subject [The Pencil: A History of Design and
ly used for just a few seconds, then thrown away. Circumstance (Knopf, New York, New York)], a
The pencil’s luck is little better in the art world. saying in the Lake District in the 17th century
Graphite pencils compete with charcoal as the held that “a mouthful [of graphite] was as good as
least valued media—at least in terms of asking a day’s wages.” As the reserves dwindled in that
price for a finished piece—a further insult when mine, which was renowned for its pure, high-
one considers that a detailed graphite drawing can quality product, the owners occasionally flooded
take much longer to execute than an oil painting. the pit in the late 1600s to control supply of the
It wasn’t always this way: Graphite used to be material and to prevent its illegal removal.
a rare commodity—rare enough to spawn imita- Graphite’s ups and downs are directly tied to
tors. Counterfeiters would sell pencil-shaped its usefulness. Artists and tradesmen had long
wood with the “lead” merely painted on. Others known about graphite’s ability to make marks,
would make pencils with graphite in place only but it was rarely found in pure form and there-
for the first inch or so of the writing end. The fore didn’t distinguish itself from other marking
mineral was so valued at one point that graphite materials. Artists interested in fine lines worked
mining involved the kind of security used for the in metalpoint using silver, gold, zinc, or true lead,
extraction of a closely related form of carbon: dia- which left a faint, metallic line that could be
mond. Operators of the graphite mine at removed using the soft parts of fresh bread,


DRAW SIP 09 Graphite:AA feature 9/18/09 3:11 PM Page 23

Graphite leads at the

Caran d’Ache factory
in Switzerland.
DRAW SIP 09 Graphite:AA feature 9/18/09 3:11 PM Page 24

General Pencil Company

sells graphite in the
form of pencils, sticks,
even fist-sized chunks.


DRAW SIP 09 Graphite:AA feature 9/18/09 3:11 PM Page 25

wadded up. Because graphite made a darker mark, it was

referred to as black lead. The discovery of the Borrowdale
deposit, which was initially only valued by the locals for
its ability to mark their sheep, represented the first time
that pure graphite could be cut into a stylus and wrapped
in string to make a writing instrument that made a con-
sistent, dark line. Its fame spread—and so did the confu-
sion of its true nature: Graphite is better thought of as a
higher form of coal, with no relation to lead. To this day,
some parents erroneously worry that their child could get
lead poisoning from the graphite in a pencil.
It’s important for artists to know graphite’s physical
properties in order to use the material to its best advan-
tage. The mineral is metallic in appearance, almost glassy,
which accounts for its sheen when applied in concentra-
tion. Graphite is useful for its superlubricity, which it gets
from the weak atomic bond between the hexagonal
“sheets” that its components form and this weak bond’s
interaction with moisture. This slipperiness means it can
be difficult to apply another material on top of a layer of
graphite. Artists warn that if drawing materials are mixed,
the softer media (charcoal, for example) should be laid
down first, because a harder material (such as graphite)
would eliminate the tooth on the surface.
Graphite came out of the Borrowdale mine in large,
pure chunks, allowing pencil makers to simply cut it into
DRAW SIP 09 Graphite:AA feature 9/18/09 3:12 PM Page 26


Connie XI
by Costa Vavagiakis, 2003, graphite,
251⁄2 x 191⁄2. Collection the artist.

Maria VI
by Costa Vavagiakis, 2005, graphite,
69 x 48. Collection the artist.

Rainbow XII
by Costa Vavagiakis, 2006, graphite,
121⁄2 x 91⁄2. Collection the artist.

small rods and lay it in the slots of blank pencils, then glue the mixture into the desired shape, allowing the thin strings
another piece of wood over the slot to encase the graphite. to dry, then firing them in a kiln at about 1,800 degrees
This product was in demand the world over. But because of Fahrenheit. (In contrast, Conté crayons, which represent an
diminishing supplies and embargoes due to war, those out- extension of the engineer’s innovation, often contain wax
side of England experienced years of graphite scarcity. The sit- and/or softer clay and frequently utilize colored chalk or
uation became dire enough for France’s Minister of War to another type of pigment.) This process not only created a con-
commission the noted engineer Nicolas-Jacques Conté to dis- sistent, effective pencil lead but it also allowed Conté to manu-
cover an acceptable substitute for the Borrowdale graphite facture leads in various degrees of hardness. That’s why today
pencil. According to legend, it took him less than a day, in the softest, darkest leads, such as 6B or 9B, are nearly 90 per-
1794, to come up with the process still used today to optimize cent graphite, while the hardest leads, such as 6H or 9H, are
a limited amount of graphite. Conté found the answer by effi- less than 50 percent graphite. Approximately 5 percent of a
ciently separating pure graphite from its matrix, mixing the pencil’s lead composition is wax; when graphite strings are
resulting fine-powdered graphite with clay and water, forming impregnated with wax, they create smoother-flowing lines.


DRAW SIP 09 Graphite:AA feature 9/18/09 3:12 PM Page 27

Advanced mining techniques for finding the mineral, and

the discovery in 1847 of a large deposit of graphite near the
Siberian border with China, have allowed graphite’s price to
stay very low. Pure graphite in its natural form is no longer
particularly desirable. Artists do indeed use graphite in solid
sticks, in pencils made entirely of 99.95 percent graphite,
even in fist-sized chunks—but it all enters the factory as a
powder—what Katie Weissenborn, an executive at General
Pencil Company, likens to “gray sugar.” From that state it is
mixed, molded, and fired into a variety of shapes and hard-
nesses, just as Conté suggested. It’s generally assumed that
the softer the graphite in the pencil, the darker the mark—
and this is true because the clay in harder pencil leads does
not contribute much to a line’s darkness. But as the graphite
content increases, so does the sheen.
Artists’ feelings on graphite’s sheen run the gamut, but
love it or hate it, this shiny reflectivity is something a
draftsman must take into consideration. Costa Vavagiakis, a
New York artist and instructor who draws detailed figure
drawings with a graphite pencil, points out that the sheen
can affect one’s process. “It acts like a shiny painting,” he
says. “You have to maneuver to not let that sheen distract
you—otherwise, it can be a total ‘flashout’.” Fernando Graphite pencils coming
off the assembly line at
Freitas tells his students the sheen is unavoidable. Freitas, the Caran d’Ache
the senior instructor of the Academy of Realist Art, in factory in Switzerland.
Toronto, says graphite’s reflectivity becomes a bigger factor




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DRAW SIP 09 Graphite:AA feature 9/18/09 3:12 PM Page 28

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Back Issues!

BOEWBMVBCMFJOTQJSBUJPO%POµUNJTTB in areas where a 9B or 8B pencil has been used. “It
becomes almost a mirror,” says Freitas. “But if you don’t
use nonreflective glass when framing the piece, the
UPDPNQMFUFZPVS%SBXJOHDPMMFDUJPO viewer will never encounter it.”
New York artist Sherry Camhy makes sure viewers of
5IFPOMZ¾OFBSUNBHB[JOFPOESBXJOH  her work encounter graphite’s sheen—she builds her draw-
FWFSZJTTVFPG%SBXJOHJT¾MMFEXJUI ings on black paper, with 9B graphite serving as the lights.
TUFQCZTUFQEFNPOTUSBUJPOT UFDIOJDBM This artist turns what many consider a disadvantage into
one of the most compelling aspects of her work, and she
RVFTUJPOTBOEBOTXFST JOEFQUIBSUJTU accomplishes it by seeing the entire process in reverse. It’s
QSP¾MFT BOENPSF a novel solution. “I’ve never explored graphite’s sheen as an
advantage because it only seems to happen in the shadow
4IPQ#BDL*TTVFT5PEBZ patterns,” comments Freitas. Camhy instead lets the black
FBDI of the paper provide the shadows, and allows the sheen of
the graphite to provide the highlights.
Frederick Brosen also uses graphite in a fashion that
To order, visit seems contrary to logic. Despite graphite’s superlubricity,
the New York artist puts down a graphite underdrawing for his watercolors that is so thoroughly toned, Brosen says it’s
“almost like laying a light glaze over a complete grisaille.”
He reports no trouble with the watercolor paint adhering


DRAW SIP 09 Graphite:AA feature 9/18/09 3:13 PM Page 29


627 West End Avenue Jesse and Friend

by Frederick Brosen, 2006, by Fernando Freitas,
watercolor over graphite, 2007, graphite, 12 x 16.
32 x 24. Private collection.

to the graphite layer, but Brosen does recommend harder

graphite, such as a 6H pencil. “Subsequent washes of
watercolor will not mix with a hard graphite like this,” he
says. “With softer leads, you run the risk of having some of
the graphite mix with the washes and gray the colors.” The
artist reports that the more opaque watercolor hues hide
the sheen, and even when the more transparent colors
don’t, he doesn’t mind. “I happen to like what the graphite
does to the finish on the paper,” says Brosen. “But actually,
one often can’t really tell which is the graphite and which
is the watercolor. They sort of fuse together.”
The other popular underdrawing medium is charcoal,
which is slowly charred wood. Many oil painters prefer to
do their underdrawings with charcoal because the char-
coal can be brushed off, has a darker tone, and doesn’t
have graphite’s slipperiness, but even graphite’s slickness
has its proponents. English artist Christopher Cook buys
graphite in powder form, mixes it with oil and resin, and
pushes this mixture around on a prepared panel until an
image begins to emerge. “This mixture produces a very
slippery quality—especially on my nonabsorbent sur-


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DRAW SIP 09 Graphite:AA feature 9/18/09 5:30 PM Page 31

faces—that encourages improvisation and risk-taking,” In the Context

of War
reports Cook. “I have so far resisted the temptation to
by Meghan Gerety,
use anything except damar resin and stand oil in the 2007, graphite on
mixture, as the pure graphite has allowed me enormous watercolor paper,
72' x 52'.
range of expression. The larger particles capture intense-
ly detailed touches very well yet also allow geological
attributes to form in the image: erosion, sedimentation,
rock strata, and so forth. There seems to be plenty more
work yet to come from this intense focus.”
Intensity and graphite drawings seem to go hand in
hand. Pencils usually imply lines, and tone made from
line can only cleanly come from lines that are very care-
fully drawn, be they parallel or crosshatched. “For me, a
large part of the work is the process,” says Meghan
Gerety, a New York artist who draws silhouetted details of
trees and other natural forms. “It’s not so evident in
some reproductions of my work, but in person you can
see all the graphite strokes, all the time that went into it.
I am interested in how the process is reflected in the


DRAW SIP 09 Graphite:AA feature 9/18/09 3:13 PM Page 32

work. If you focus on the process, you can achieve the sub- undesirable crutch, especially in creating transitions. “It
lime.” Gerety often starts with a color photograph of a tree can get too velvety,” says Vavagiakis. “I sometimes will
or other subject, then photocopies the image to reduce the stump—I see it like a glaze, with hatching being like a
information—particularly the color and details. Tight real- scumble. Diego Catalan Amilivia and his peers have devel-
ism is not her goal at all. “I like the contrast between the oped a technique with stumping where they sort of scum-
gestural nature of the subject and the obsessive nature of ble over a tone—they stump an area and then hatch over
my process,” she explains. “I am interested in the idea of the the top of it. They are going for high luminosity and sharp
place, the emotional or spiritual essence of a location.” tactile definitions to emphasize the form.”
Gerety’s use of a multitude of lines to create tone is not The key to precise hatching, which is crucial for a clean-
uncommon, even though graphite’s many forms allow for a looking drawing, is having a sharp point on the graphite pen-
seemingly limitless number of ways to create dark passages cil. Brosen uses a mechanical pencil, always sharp.
in a drawing. Adds Vavagiakis, “The line is really a point of Vavagiakis favors no particular brand, but he usually works
departure as much as it is a point of arrival. The line has to from softer to harder lead. “I start in the middle range—usu-
be a ballpark figure in the beginning. One must start ges- ally an HB or a B,” the artist says. “I want to cover ground.”
tural and then work toward pinpoint accuracy.” The artist He may end up with a 9H in his hand. It may seem counter-
uses hatching to create dark areas but he will also use a intuitive to start with the darkest pencil first, then move to a
stump to create smooth, subtle tones—although he warns harder, lighter lead, but the issue is erasability. One must
that many of his fellow instructors consider stumping an press down harder with hard lead, which leads to a slight


DRAW SIP 09 Graphite:AA feature 9/18/09 3:14 PM Page 33

scoring of the paper. No eraser can completely eliminate ABOVE

the resulting marks because any additional work in the Light and Illusion
same area will show the valley of the scored line because by Sherry Camhy,
it will hold more of the newly deposited graphite. “The 2005, graphite on black
paper, 33 x 54.
worst thing you can do is score the paper. But if you do, Collection the artist.
it’s not the end of the world,” comments Freitas. “You just
have to work more carefully to fill in the trench. Still, if Etude
you tilt your head the right way, you will always be able to by Sherry Camhy,
see it.” On the other hand, very lightly applied lines from 1997, powdered
graphite on gray
a soft, dark pencil can be pulled up with an eraser—but paper, 141⁄2 x 191⁄2.
they shouldn’t be rashly eliminated. Those early, prelimi- Collection the artist.

nary lines should be left in place even when the artist real-
izes some of them are wrong. “A beginner erases by eras-
ing the mark,” Vavagiakis says. “A professional knows that
a mark is something you work off of. Make the adjust-
ment first, then get rid of the unwanted mark. The fur-
ther you get in your drawing, the more sure you are about
the marks, and the harder you go.” The artist uses a vari-


DRAW SIP 09 Graphite:AA feature 9/18/09 3:14 PM Page 34

“A beginner erases by
erasing the mark.
A professional knows
that a mark is something
you work off of.”

Artists who work in graphite rarely recommend pencil

sharpeners. Instead, they suggest shaving the pencil to a
point with a knife or razor blade, then perhaps sharpening
the exposed lead with sandpaper. A sharp point doesn’t just
allow for sharp lines. It also prevents undesired scoring of
the paper. “If a pencil is sharpened properly, this forces an
artist to have a light touch, or the point will snap,” explains
Freitas. The type of paper used with graphite is not a grave
consideration. Graphite does not require the paper to have
much tooth—in fact, too much tooth can impede the flow
of a mark. “Find your preferred paper then stick with it,”
Freitas simply says. “Master it.” Vavagiakis prefers paper
that is externally and internally sized so it can withstand
much reworking. Dan Gheno, a devoted drawer, art instruc-
TOP ABOVE tor, and regular contributor to Drawing magazine, uses
Home Terrain ordinary bond paper for gesture drawings and favors
by Stephen Sollins, 2002, graphite by Stephen Sollins, 2001, graphite Bristol board for more finished graphite pieces.
on 12 catalogue pages, 30 x 32. on catalogue page, 161⁄2 x 225⁄8.
Courtesy Michell-Innes & Nash Courtesy Michell-Innes & Nash Delicate beauty can emerge from simple tools.
Gallery, New York, New York. Gallery, New York, New York. Vavagiakis, a meticulous artist, began drawing with his
dad’s flat carpenter’s pencil, and he still recommends that
ety of erasers on his drawings, from a typewriter eraser to a variety to students who need to loosen up. Most artists may
stringlike polymer eraser, but the primary choice of gravitate toward a specific brand of pencil, but even the
Vavagiakis and most artists and drawing instructors is the exacting Freitas says, “If a student wants to pick up his or
kneaded eraser. “You can use it to create hard edges or gran- her pencil at the dollar store, I’m OK with that.” The magic
ular ones that help suggest a lost edge,” says Freitas. “If you is in what you make with it. Says Cook, “I enjoy the ele-
roll the eraser to a point, you can very specifically tap dots in mental status of graphite, a form of pure carbon that is a
the marked area. You can key in on pockmarked areas and close relative both of soot and diamond. These radically dif-
lighten certain spots to make them read the same as other ferent states of the same element provide a good metaphor
dots in that area. You can press it flat and get a chiseled edge for my creative process, especially the notion that some-
to sharpen a hard line for a contour on a drawing.” thing base can become precious.” ❖


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DRAW SIP 09 Paper:AA feature 9/17/09 6:25 PM Page 36
DRAW SIP 09 Paper:AA feature 9/17/09 6:26 PM Page 37

Custom &
Handmade Paper
Choosing handmade and custom-made paper over machine-made paper
involves trading consistency and low cost for an artisanal product with unique traits.
For some artists, it’s not a choice at all. by Bob Bahr

successful drawing requires the right mix of sever- has made paper to custom specifications for artists such as
al elements, including the artist’s ability, the artist’s Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Jim Dine, James
vision or idea, and the chosen drawing material. Rosenquist, Robert Liberace, William Matthews, and
Artists have drawn on all sorts of surfaces throughout his- Robert Motherwell, plus a host of lesser-known artists who
tory, including handmade paper—the only kind of paper couldn’t find just the right paper in a typical art-supply
around until the advent of machine-made papermaking in store. All Twinrocker paper is handmade, and the staff of
the early 1800s. Today, a small, devoted group of artists still six maintains a rotating inventory of paper available for
seek out the more expensive and rare handmade paper, purchase as overruns of special orders. An e-mail newslet-
maintaining that it both enhances their working process ter alerts interested customers of what’s currently on
and adds to the viewer’s experience. For them, a few small Twinrockers’ shelves.
art-supply chains and mail-order companies are invaluable Jeffrey Ingram Stone asked Twinrocker to make a paper
sources of the artisanal product. suitable for his drawings, which incorporate graphite ren-
“There is nothing more exciting than drawing on hand- derings, gouache, pen-and-ink work, and watercolor wash-
made paper,” says Kathryn Clark, co-founder of es. “I couldn’t find paper that I liked,” recalls Stone. “I
Twinrocker Handmade Paper, a papermill in Brookston, wanted to put on a heavy impasto, and I needed a paper
Indiana. “When you get up close to it, you see it’s really that would retain the brushstrokes. I wanted it to be very
different from machine-made paper. thin and delicate, yet something that could hold up to
Daydream When you look at a drawing, it’s watercolor and pen-and-ink work. The other papers’ sizing
by Jamie Wyeth, 1999,
mixed media on handmade really important to get close to it, wouldn’t hold brushstrokes, or the paper didn’t have the
wove paper made by and that’s when you notice the dif- tooth I was looking for, or I couldn’t find the color I want-
Dieu Donné, 29 x 21 ⁄ .

Collection David Wyeth. ference in handmade. The surface ed. I’m very, very particular, and Kathyrn was great. She
© Jamie Wyeth. texture is more alive.” Twinrocker would send me test after test after test. I would come back


DRAW SIP 09 Paper:AA feature 9/17/09 6:26 PM Page 38

Twinrocker co-founder
Kathryn Clark making a
22"-x-30" sheet of paper
at her papermill.

with, ‘I want this weight,’ ‘I want more tooth,’ ‘warm up the start, their ambition was to operate a small papermill
this color.’” Stone ended up with a parchmentlike paper that could offer intense customer service. The couple
with a brownish, middle value, which he named Toledo, moved to Indiana in 1973 to be with a sick relative and
because he had noticed that it was the same color as the decided to relocate their operations to the family farm,
buildings in that Spanish city. where they’ve been ever since.
Twinrocker attracts drawers and discriminating water- It is now one of two notable custom-paper handmills in
colorists, but it also makes stationery and decorative the United States. Twinrocker starts a custom-paper job by
asking the artist to describe the surface, color, size, and
thickness preferred. Sizing and texture are considered next.
“[Handmade paper] adds significance “We then make a trial so the artist can experiment with it,”
to the work. It’s significant in itself.” explains Clark. “We make adjustments until we produce
the perfect paper for them, and then we save the formula.
—Melanie Nerenberg, Kate’s Paperie. Once we know the specifications, we can make it again and
again.” The cost of the custom order depends on the size
papers. “If it starts with P and ends with R, we make it,” and thickness of the paper. A setup fee of $200 applies to
says Clark. Most of their output is sold directly to artists, papers created from a customized pulp, and the minimum
among whom it enjoys considerable word-of-mouth order of sheets is $500.
praise—but it also sells a small amount to retailers such as In New York City, the Dieu Donné Papermill has worked
Kate’s Paperie, Dick Blick, Daniel Smith, and New York closely with artists since it first began beating pulp and
Central Art Supply. The papermill, which is now located pressing paper in 1976. For years, Dieu Donné supplied
two hours outside of Chicago, was founded in 1971 by handmade paper to outlets such as New York Central Art
Clark and her husband, Howard, in San Francisco. From Supply, but the organization filed for not-for-profit status in


DRAW SIP 09 Paper:AA feature 9/17/09 6:26 PM Page 39

New York artist Jeffrey

Ingram Stone asked
Twinrocker to make
this sketchbook to
his specifications.

A detail of Stone’s
sketchbook made
from handmade paper
from Twinrocker.


DRAW SIP 09 Paper:AA feature 9/17/09 6:27 PM Page 40

This laid paper from

Dieu Donné is a cotton-
linen blend.

This is a sample of abaca, from Dieu Donné, a

paper made from the abaca plant—a close relative
of the banana tree—found in the Philippines. Its
slippery, long fibers create a slightly uneven surface,
but its admirable durability is shown by abaca’s use
in the production of marine ropes.

1988, and now focuses on working directly with artists at process. Those who sell both handmade and machine-
its mill on 36th Street. “We’re not so much a production made paper are also quick to point out handmade paper’s
mill,” says Paul Wong, Dieu Donné’s director. “We’re usu- collaborative personality. “The main difference between the
ally more involved with the artist and their project. Our two is that handmade has more character; there’s more of a
focus is custom-paper orders—we’re here when you can’t sense of the person who made the paper,” says David
find a particular color or some other trait in a paper avail- Aldera, the paper buyer at New York Central Art Supply, an
able in the marketplace.” Like Twinrocker, Dieu Donné’s artist, and something of a paper guru in New York art cir-
minimum order is $500 and an artist may send specifica- cles. “The main reason someone would choose handmade
tions to the papermill for a unique product. paper is for the aesthetics. It is for people willing to work
with the inconsistencies that handmade paper is more like-
PRI NTMAKE R AN D PAPE R ARTIST Laurence ly to have, inconsistencies in texture, absorbency, weight,
Barker once called handmade paper the hyphen in “sup- and other traits. Papermaking is like baking a cake—you
port-medium,” stressing its assertive role in the creative can follow a recipe, but it won’t always come out the same


DRAW SIP 09 Paper:AA feature 9/18/09 3:18 PM Page 41

Simon’s green cold-pressed cotton

Cover stock produced rag paper from Twinrocker, suitable
by Dieu Donné Papermill. for drawings and pastels.

This cotton-rag paper from This cotton-rag, cold-pressed paper

Twinrocker has a cold- from Twinrocker was created for
pressed finish on one side drawing with graphite or charcoal.
and a hot-pressed finish on Like the other papers shown here,
the other to give artists it has no sizing, making it less than
their choice in one sheet. ideal for watercolor painting.

way. It’s an issue of human error and skill.” Adds his co-
worker and paper-department manager Kathy Hyde, “You
might notice a richness to the surface. I think you can
build a relationship with the surface of a handmade paper.”
“Artists swear that handmade
Hyde and Aldera both say the appeal of handmade paper is paper behaves differently,
largely aesthetic and perhaps even romantic. and once they work on it,
At Kate’s Paperie, Melanie Nerenberg, the retailer’s mar-
keting director, also sees both sides to the handmade paper
they never go back.”
issue. “Once you put the human hand in it, you allow the —Kathy Hyde,
possibility for human error,” she says. “Conversely, there is New York Central Art Supply.
something incredibly enticing about a unique surface. It
may excite the artist. It may remove someone from their
comfort zone. You know paper from Arches is going to


DRAW SIP 09 Paper:AA feature 9/18/09 3:19 PM Page 42


The two sides—and very different surfaces—of Dieu

Donné’s 100% silk laid paper. This paper looks
delicate, but it is very tough. Technically, it is not
paper because it is made from an animal product.
This unusual surface provides an artist with
significant challenges—and, possibly, rewards.

harmful to the paper anyway. Archival

mist will negate the acidity or buffer
the paper if you are concerned about
it.” Aldera says he also believes the
archival properties of good handmade
paper are essentially the same as
The difference for artists usually
comes down to two factors: aesthetics
and cost. Handmade paper will cost
two or even three times the price of a
good, machine-made paper. (But Hyde
points out that handmade paper’s
higher cost may work to the artists’
advantage, forcing them to “commit to
what they are doing, invest in the
piece of paper and the work on it.”)
With machine-made paper, an artist is
trading uniqueness and the artisanal
aspect of a handmade item for consis-
“There is nothing more exciting than drawing on tency and inexpensiveness. “Machine-
handmade paper. When you get up close to it, you made paper is so regular that it is aes-
thetically boring,” claims Clark. “We
see it’s really different from machine-made paper.” make paper as consistent as we can
—Kathryn Clark, make it—it’s not wild or uneven. But
co-founder of Twinrocker Handmade Paper. just by making it by hand, there’s an
aliveness to it. The person who looks
at it goes, ‘Wow! What is it about this
respond a certain way, but a handmade paper from Nepal is that’s so different?’ The artist gets to work on a surface that
going to respond very differently. It’s more unpredictable.” is really exciting to draw or paint on.”
Nerenberg says only about 10 percent of the paper at Kate’s Many artists prefer that paper be as innocuous as possible
Paperie is handmade, which seems to reflect the market for to avoid distracting the viewer from the rest of the artwork.
handmade paper in general. And some have no problem making a silk purse from a sow’s
Archival properties appear to be roughly the same for ear—and even like it. “I prefer the cheapest paper around,”
both handmade and machine-made paper. Nerenberg says New York artist Dan Gheno. “It allows me to decide what
expresses some lingering concern about handmade paper, kind of texture I will put on it.” Gheno usually uses an inex-
but adds, “The reality is, we’re talking about deterioration pensive bond paper or sketch paper from Utrecht Art
over a very long period of time, and we are talking about Supplies, neither of which pills like expensive paper might, he
people adding materials [paint, water, and the like] that are says. His favorite brand of bond paper is Borden & Riley.


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Expert, Timeless
“The main difference between
[handmade and machine-made
paper] is that handmade has more
character; there’s more of a sense
of the person who made the paper.”
—David Aldera,
paper buyer at New York Central Art Supply.

Cost and convenience may dissuade many artists

from working on handmade paper, while others have no
choice—their artistic vision involves a paper that doesn’t
exist. Jamie Wyeth has worked with both Twinrocker
and Dieu Donné in search of an unusual surface for his
art. “My quest has been to find an archival cardboard,”
Wyeth says. “I want it to look like junk. I’d gone to card-
board manufacturers and the only archival cardboard
they could supply was gray. In order to get brown
archival cardboard, I’d have to make 50,000 pounds of
it at once.”
Wyeth says he prefers the “give” that cardboard has,
plus the feel of it, the look of the surface, and the dis-
cernible pulp and “junk” in cardboard. He’s been work-
ing with Dieu Donné lately, but not to his complete sat-
isfaction. “We haven’t reached the bad look that I like,”
Wyeth says. “I realize cardboard ends up eating itself—
just breaking down, self-destructing—but I literally like
Discover American Artist
cardboard.” Back Issues!
Projects like Chuck Close’s pulp paintings also
require custom work that can best be done by a small
papermill like Dieu Donné. Sculptors and multimedia
artists keep Dieu Donné booked at least two months in
advance, and their artist list includes such luminaries
as April Gornik, Neil Welliver, Cy Twombly, Richard
Serra, Maurice Sendak, Ed Ruscha, Richard Tuttle,
William Kentridge, Lesley Dill, Sol LeWitt, Claes
Oldenburg, Terry Winters, and Close. The most suc-
cessful artists can afford to have their paper and other
materials handmade and custom-made. But the allure
of handmade paper extends to anyone with an exacting
artistic vision.
“Handmade paper signifies how important the details
are,” says Nerenberg, of Kate’s Paperie. “It adds signifi-

cance to the work. It’s significant in itself.” Adds New

York Central’s Hyde, “Artists swear that handmade
To order, visit
paper behaves differently, and once they work on it, they
never go back.” ❖


DRAW SIP 09 Bargue:AA feature 9/17/09 6:38 PM Page 44

Drawing Course
2004 saw a museum exhibition and a new book that made
Charles Bargue and Jean-Léon Gérôme’s 19th-century
drawing course available to art students once again.

by M. Stephen Doherty


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Study for The Opinion

of the Model
by Charles Bargue, ca. 1867,
graphite, 93⁄4 x 61⁄2. Collection
The Walters Art Museum,
Baltimore, Maryland.


The Artist and His Model

by Charles Bargue, 1867,
hand-colored photogravure
issued by Goupil & Cie,
241⁄2 x 19 (full sheet). Collection
Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, France.
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From its initial publication in 1868 to 1873

until the first decades of the 20th century,
the three-part drawing course formulat-
ed by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824–1904)
and Charles Bargue (1826/27–1883) was
one of the most influential art-education
programs in the world. From Paris to
London to New York, most major
museums and art schools owned a
complete set of the 197 loose-leaf litho-
graphs and expected students to copy
them. Diego Rivera, Pablo Picasso,
Vincent van Gogh and hundreds of
other art students spent weeks and
months making exact copies of the lith-
ographs of plaster casts, great master
drawings, and life drawings. Van Gogh
was so convinced of the benefits of fol-
lowing the course that he completed at
least three separate sets after the 60
plates in Course III.
But despite the importance of the
Cours de Dessin, as it was titled, the
educational program was supplanted by
free, less rigorous methods as Modern
art became the dominant international
movement. By the 1950s, the academic
method of drawing plaster casts and
copying works of art, as well as spend-
ing days and weeks working directly


The Foot of Germanicus (Course I)

All the artwork in this article was created by Charles
Bargue and was published from 1866 to 1871
unless otherwise indicated. The lithographs were
printed as individual sheets from stones measuring
approximately 24" x 18". The copyright for all the
plates in the Drawing Course is held by the Musée
Goupil of Bordeaux, France, which has given
permission for the plates to be copied for
educational purposes only.


Woman’s Arm, Bent (Course I).


Leg of the Crouching Venus (Course I).


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from live models, was so discredited serious lack of skill and taste among ABOVE OPPOSITE PAGE

Homer Female Torso,

that sets of the Bargue lithographs were students of design and the decorative Rear View
(Course I).
seldom used by students. Only a hand- arts. Gérôme, his colleagues, and his (Course I).
ful of complete sets remained when, in students began making drawings of
1983, art historian Gerald M. Ackerman plaster casts and a selection of paint-
began searching for the plates to repub- ings; Bargue was engaged to copy those twice, once as a schematic line drawing
lish them in book form. drawings on lithographic stones to be with grid lines to help with measure-
After 20 years of research, study, printed by Goupil & Cie, the most ments, and a second time with three-
and writing, Ackerman published a important art publisher and dealer of dimensional shading. Students were
book containing all the Bargue litho- the time. Courses I and II were pub- expected to make exact copies of each
graphs and instructions on how to use lished in 1868 while Course III, which drawing in charcoal, laying in the
them. Concurrently, the Dahesh appears to be the work of Bargue alone schematic lines and then adding shad-
Museum of Art, in New York City, (since his is the only name on the fron- ing. As they worked, the students would
mounted an exhibition of the original tispiece), wasn’t published until 1873. observe both the Bargue lithograph and
plates. Photographs of Van Gogh and Course I of the Cours de Dessin their copies from a measured and
Picasso copies, as well as drawings included 70 lithographic prints of plas- demarked distance to make sure their
and paintings by Bargue, supplement- ter casts, progressing from the simplest completed drawing was exactly the
ed the exhibition. images of an ear, a foot, or a hand up to same size as the printed plate.
Gérôme and Bargue originally con- the final plates in which complete clas- The second part of the Bargue/
ceived the drawing course as a way of sical sculptures are presented for copy- Gérôme course presented 60 litho-
addressing what they believed was a ing. Most of the objects are shown graphs of drawings and paintings by


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Copy of Portrait of a Young Boy

by Thomas Couture
(1815–1879), (Course II).


Copy of a Roman Woman

by Adolphe-William Bouguereau (1825–1905),
(Course II).


Copy of Head of a
Young Italian Girl
by Émile Levy
(1826–1890), (Course II).


Copy of Self-Portrait
by Andrea del Sarto
(1486–1530), (Course II).

artists considered the greatest of any

historical period. Included are
Michelangelo figures from the Sistine
Chapel, Raphael paintings of women
and men, Hans Holbein the Younger
portraits, and drawings by artists of
the time, including Gérôme, Gleyre,
and Couture. Those were presented as
models of both expert skill and good
taste. By making exact copies of these
plates, the art student would gain an
understanding of form, line, value,
and aesthetics.
Course III, Charcoal Exercises in
Preparation for Drawing the Male
Academic Nude, was designed only for
fine-arts students because it was
assumed that designers and decorators
didn’t need training that led to drawing
a live model. The 60 lithographs were
referred to as academies, meaning
drawings or paintings of male models
in poses considered to be “noble and
classic.” Female models were not used
in life-drawing classes in 19th-century
academies until quite some time after
the middle of the century, and students almost all with no facial features and ABOVE

were expected to learn to draw the very few notations within the outline The Daughter of Jakob Meyer
by Hans Holbein the Younger (1497–1543), 1525,
female form from statuary and other to indicate volume or anatomical black and colored chalks, light green wash
works of art. The first proofs of the detail. In most cases, the outlines are background on paper, 151⁄2 x 143⁄4. Öffentliche
Kunstsammlung Basel, Kumpferstichkabinett.
Course III lithographs showed com- drawn in straight segments, and the Holbein’s work was admired in the 19th century for
pletely nude men, while the more joints are delineated as sharp angles. its “primitive” or “naïve” qualities, and a number of
the plates in Course II are based on his drawings
modest later sets included loin clothes That’s because students were encour- and paintings.
draped over the men’s genitals. aged, when drawing the curve of an
Bargue’s lithographs in Course III arm or leg, to simplify the contour of
were outline drawings of the models, the part into straight lines. First, one


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marks the beginning and end of the

curve, then, “by finding the apex of
the curve and marking it, and joining
the three marks, an accurate approxi-
mation of the curve is produced from
which the curve can later be devel-
oped,” Ackerman explains. “If you
draw a curve without any help, you
will probably draw an arc, and you
may not know when to stop.”
Written instructions were never
published with the drawing course
because it was assumed that the
instructors who made the plates avail-
able to their students knew the long-
established, conventional routine of
teaching drawing and could explain
the recommended procedures. But a
hundred years after the course was
abandoned, few teachers can ade-
quately explain how the Bargue litho-
graphs might be used. In writing his
book, Ackerman was left with the
monumental task of preparing such
detailed instructions.
“The course had no text, and
although it was self-evident that these
were beautiful drawings—inspiring
and exemplary models that any figura-
tive artist would prize and want to
copy—I as an art historian and not a
trained artist found it hard to imagine
my writing an explanation of the plates
and their use,” Ackerman explains in
the preface of his book. He goes on to
credit Daniel Graves, to whom the
book is dedicated, for urging him to
write the book and for teaching him
how to draw. After studying with
Graves in Florence for five semesters
over a 10-year period, Ackerman felt


Copy of Young Woman

Kissing Her Child
by Auguste Toulmouche
(1829–1890), (Course II).


Copy of Study of a Baby

by Timoléon Lobrichon
(1831–1914), (Course II).


Copy of Head of a Child

by Jules Lefebvre
(1836–1912), (Course II).


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An Archer
(Course III).


Seated Man, Rear View

(Course III).


Seated Man, Hiding

His Face in His Hands
(Course III).


Man in Profile,
Leaning to Right
(Course III).


Seated Young Man,

Three-Quarter View,
Hair Somewhat Long
(Course III).


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Standing Man, In Profile,

Holding Out His Open Left
(Course III).

Standing Man in Three-

Quarter View, Holding
a Pole With Both Hands,
His Left Leg Crossed Over
the Right
(Course III).

Standing Young Man,

Turning His Head to the
Left, Right Hand Extended
(Course III).

Standing Man in Profile,

Hiding His Face in His
(Course III).
DRAW SIP 09 Bargue:AA feature 9/17/09 6:42 PM Page 57

confident enough to write the recom-

mendations for using the Bargue
plates, with the help of Graves and
artist Graydon Parrish, his co-editor.
In order to faithfully pursue the
Bargue drawing course, an artist must
be prepared to devote a considerable
amount of time and energy to the
effort. Ackerman recommends spend-
ing up to 15 hours over several weeks
on each copy, always working from a
standing position. “It’s quite typical, in
the schools where the drawings are
still used, as in the Florence Academy
of Art, to spend three to five weeks of
three daily hour sessions making exact
copies of the plates in Courses I and
II,” he explains, “and it would take
less but still considerable time to copy
each of the plates in Course III, con-
sidering that the student would be
more advanced.” Furthermore,
Ackerman strongly recommends that
artists use the sight-size method of
standing a constant distance from the
Bargue plates and the drawing surface
so that the copies are exactly the size
of the image seen from that distance.
This practice will prepare the student
for drawing from live models. For an
appendix in the book that explains the
use of the sight-size technique,
Parrish prepared diagrammatic draw-
ings to explain how artists should
be positioned to use the technique.
Charles Bargue Drawing Course, With
the Collaboration of Jean-Léon Gérôme, by
Gerald M. Ackerman (with the collabo-
ration of Graydon Parrish), is published
by ACR Edition Internationale, Paris. ABOVE

The Musée Goupil of Bordeaux, France, Man Pulling on a Rope

which owns the copy of the course (Course III).

reproduced in the book, has given per-

mission for the Drawing Course plates
to be copied and enlarged from the
book for study purposes. The book is
available from the Dahesh Museum of
Art bookstore; copies may be ordered at ❖


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Studying Drawing With

An unearthed drawing manual from America’s consummate realist painter demonstrates the breadth
of Thomas Eakins’ intellectual curiosity and the vigor of his methods. by Gerard Haggerty

lease fill in the blank: “_______ is not a painter, he is disputing the conventional wisdom about how muscle

P a force.” The missing name is that of Thomas Eakins,

and the cryptic pronouncement comes from the
artist’s friend, admirer, and onetime model, Walt Whitman.
groups work. (He was right.)
Eakins loved bone and muscle, which he analyzed in
ways that remind us that the term analysis traces its roots
Eakins’ A Drawing Manual, published in 2005, collects the back to ancient Greek words signifying “to take apart” and
long-forgotten manuscripts for his planned instructional “to resolve.” He took apart human bodies—animals’ too—
book, helping us to understand the particular force that and he advised his students to do likewise. Although some
motivated his genius: an unwavering belief that logic, labor, of his pupils at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
and linear perspective could create what we see out of what (PAFA), in Philadelphia, initially recoiled at the idea of dis-
we know. In the artist’s own words, “You can copy a thing to secting cadavers, Professor Eakins reported they were won
a certain limit. Then you must use intellect.” over after they saw the beneficial effects of the practice on
Eakins’ intellect encompassed a multitude of subjects. their colleagues’ art.
His vast expertise in linear perspective dovetailed with an Most 19th-century American art schools styled them-
informed enthusiasm for higher mathematics, a discipline selves after the École des Beaux-Arts, in Paris, the institution
he urged students to investigate because “it is so like where Eakins enjoyed the distinction of being the first
painting.” A fascination with optics led him naturally to the American accepted to study with Jean-Léon Gérôme. The
camera, which, like perspective, can be used as a tool for French Academy placed a heavy emphasis on drawing from
objectifying sight. His contributions to the field of stop- plaster casts, but the curriculum that Eakins instituted at the
motion photography alongside Eadweard Muybridge influ- PAFA stressed working directly from life, along with anato-
enced the development of movies. Eakins, who had once my and linear perspective. The approach was remarkably
considered becoming a surgeon, taught anatomy to medical progressive for its time, and so was the school’s policy of
students as well as artists. He published a scholarly article admitting women and men into the same classes. It’s


DRAW SIP 09 Eakins:AA feature 9/17/09 6:55 PM Page 60


Perspective [Thomas Eakins at

Drawing for The About Age 35]
Pair-Oared Shell by Frederick Gutekunst,
by Thomas Eakins, 1872, ca. 1879, gelatin print on
graphite, ink, and cream wove paper, 5 x 4.
watercolor, 3113⁄16 x 479⁄16. Collection the Pennsylvania
Collection Philadelphia Academy of the Fine Arts,
Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


DRAW SIP 09 Eakins:AA feature 9/17/09 6:55 PM Page 61

possible to be too progressive, as Eakins discovered after he

lifted up the loincloth of a male model in a coed class to
reveal the articulation of the muscles beneath it. The press
got wind of the story and sensationalized it. The misstep got
Eakins booted out of the PAFA in 1886: a forced resignation,
technically, from the school that he had both run and revolu-
tionized. One year later, Eakins would be fired by the Drexel
Institute of Art, Science and Industry, in Philadelphia, for
repeating the revealing moment during an anatomy lecture.
Well, times change. In 2005 The Philadelphia Museum of
Art, in association with Yale University Press, published A
Drawing Manual, the textbook that Eakins was developing
until his job ended and his enthusiasm for the project
waned. Kathleen A. Foster’s introductory essay, “The Tools of
Art: The Drawing Manual of Thomas Eakins,” details the
combination of luck and
deductive scholarship that
gave birth to the book. After
the artist died one month shy
of his 72nd birthday in 1916,
his illustrations and text fell
into the hands of his widow,
Susan Macdowell Eakins. She
passed them on to Eakins’
protégé and lifelong friend,
Charles Bregler. The bulk of
Bregler’s materials ultimately
found their way into the
Philadelphia Museum of Art.
When the museum acquired
a second cache of related doc-
uments in 1985, the pieces for the book were all there—too
many pieces, actually, since Eakins had written multiple ver-
sions of some chapters and very rough drafts of others.
The best art historians are also detectives. Editorial choic-
es, including the chapters’ sequence, were made after scruti-
nizing watermarks, paper types, and the artist’s notes. Even
changes in penmanship came into play. His father was a
writing master, and the most elegant versions of Eakins’
handwritten text were assumed to represent his final draft—
although penciled addenda on some of these pages also
helped determine the last word. The resulting book,
designed by Frank Baseman, is a work of art in its own right
that evokes the no-nonsense clarity of Eakins’ teaching, and
the look of drawing manuals that proliferated in his time.
An illuminating monograph by Amy B. Werbel places
Eakins’ book in the context of the “art crusade”—a phrase


DRAW SIP 09 Eakins:AA feature 11/3/10 10:11 AM Page 62

This illustration opens
Chapter VI of Eakins’
book, which deals with
depicting the tricky
perspectives of
reflections on water.

Chapter IV of Eakins’
Drawing Manual
addresses mechanical

coined by Peter Marzio to describe the zeal for teaching Those who dread the complexities of linear perspective will
drawing that swept across America in the first half of the smile ruefully upon learning from Professor Werbel’s intro-
19th century. Two of the best-selling how-to-draw books of duction that artists such as Gérôme and Jacques-Louis David
the time, Rembrandt Peale’s Graphics and John Gadsby often hired specialists to map out the perspective schemes
Chapman’s The American Drawing-Book, both linked draw- that underlie their paintings. They will also take comfort from
ing to prosperity and the common good. Chapman pro- Eakins’ opening assertion that “the whole science of [linear]
claimed that art “gives strength to the arm of the mechanic, perspective is one of great simplicity and of easy comprehen-
and taste and skill to the producer, not only of the embell- sion.” Eakins leads us gently through the rationale for the sys-
ishments, but actual necessities of life. From the anvil of the tem, using commonsensical examples like tracing what we
smith and the workbench of the joiner ... it is ever at hand see upon a windowpane placed at various distances from our-
with its powerful aid, in strengthening invention and execu- selves and our subject, and offering pithy truths such as
tion, and qualifying the mind and hand to design and pro- “twice as far off, half as big.” Complications and geometry les-
duce whatever the wants or tastes of society may require.” sons accrue gradually. His black-and-white illustrations are
Eakins used Chapman’s textbook when he attended crisp—though some of the geometric diagrams ought to be
Philadelphia’s Central High School, a first-rate public school larger—and his language is as clear as glass.
where Peale’s notions about drawing and daily(!) grading pre- Eakins was a beloved teacher—praised by his students,
vailed. Although Eakins’ writing is less florid than Chapman’s, who followed him en masse out the doors of the academy
the organization of his manual resembles both The American when he resigned, and praised as well by subsequent
Drawing-Book and the curriculum at Central High School. artist/educators such as Robert Henri. This elegant little
The reader is introduced to linear perspective, mechanical book offers a real sense of Eakins’ plain-spoken pedagogy: in
drawing, and isometric perspective; but where Peale spends equal measure didactic and democratic, caring and exacting.
only two pages on linear perspective, Eakins devotes three Many how-to-draw books preceded and followed Eakins’
chapters to the topic. A chapter on the science of reflections manual, and it is not the final word on the topic. But it is a
mirrors Eakins’ interest in optics, followed by what he claimed valuable addition to one’s library and indeed to one’s life—
were “entirely original” theories about bas relief sculpture. because it provides an opportunity to study with an
Observations about stop-motion photography, equine anato- American master. ❖
my, and mathematical formulae for refraction make up the
books’ appendix, revealing that it is not just his love of linear For more information, or to order Eakins’ A Drawing Manual,
perspective that qualifies Eakins as a Renaissance man. visit


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In this tutorial overview of the figure, we learn how to analyze and correctly draw
different areas of the body, and then bring it all together. by Dan Gheno

The Human
Form: How to Put It
All Together
ou wouldn’t build a house without referring to a infatuated with his new-found knowledge. I learned this the
blueprint or try to take a trip without consulting a hard way when, at 10 years old, I tentatively began my study
map, anymore than you would set up your DVD of anatomy. The sternocleidomastoid in the neck was my first-
player without looking at the instruction manual. found and favorite muscle for weeks. I couldn’t draw a neck
Or, perhaps you would—as most of us do—resulting in that had any cylindrical solidity, but I certainly was proud of
a clock that flashes 12 a.m. in perpetuity and a timer-record my “knowledge”—that is, until I started to read more anato-
function that never seems to find the channel or program my books. The key, as many anatomists warn in their hand-
that you wanted. Many of us approach figure drawing the books, is to learn anatomy so well that you can forget it.
same way, as if trying to reinvent the wheel each time we That way, it doesn’t interfere with your creative impulse,
sketch the human form. There are a multitude of helpful allowing your subconscious to quietly and spontaneously
guidebooks that provide crucial information about the fig- provide the technical information when you need it.
ure and its underlying structure and overlying surface fea- After flailing about for months, memorizing muscles
tures. Artists have compiled this hard-wrought information and drawing rubbery, flaccid drawings, I realized that I
over several centuries of looking and analyzing, each gener- needed to reboot my studies. I began concentrating on the
ation of artists building upon the previous generation’s dis- skeletal underpinnings of the human form as all the anato-
coveries. This knowledge can be found in the many artistic my books recommend. Like all contrarian youths, I had a
anatomy books on the market, as well as in general books hard time accepting the truth: that the muscles follow the
on figure drawing, such as Richard G. Hatton’s Figure underlying curve of the arm and leg bones as well as the
Drawing manual (out of print), but most of them go unread big planar shapes of the rib cage and the pelvis. But soon, I
by the average art student and many of the art profession- could see the results of my study: more rhythm and a sense
als fearful of squelching their “creativity.” of volume in my figure drawings.
It’s true, a little bit of anatomical knowledge can be a very It would be impossible to present all the art world’s
dangerous thing. A cursory study of the subject can result in accumulated knowledge of the human form in one book,
stilted, overworked, muscle-lumpy drawings by an artist let alone in this one article. Whether you’re interested in


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Weighted Stasis
by Dan Gheno, 2006,
colored pencil and white
charcoal on toned
paper, 24 x 18.
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Sideview of the Muscles of the Body Outreaching

by Jan Wandelaar. Figure
Wandelaar (1690–1759) drew a series of anatomical by Dan Gheno, 2005,
plates for Albinus’ influential book on human anatomy colored pencil, 12 x 8.
over the span of more than 20 years. Albinus gave
great credit to the artist of the copper plate
engravings that filled this book, Tabulae Sceleti et
Musculorum Corporis Humani. But Albinus felt that
he was the ultimate author of the images, explaining
that the artist “was instructed, directed, and as
entirely ruled by me, as if he was a tool in my
hands, and I made the figures myself.”
Muscle names: A) serratus anterior, B) external
oblique, C) pelvic or iliac crest with the posterior crest
to the right of tag and the anterior crest to the left,
D) deltoid muscle, and E) extensor muscle group.

drawing the figure in a traditional or expressive manner,

it helps to read as many different anatomy books as you
can stomach—every book repeats a certain core of infor-
mation, but each book presents some surprises and
reveals juicy facts missed by others. I hope the following
serves as a road map that helps to get you started on
your own voyage. In this article I will summarize what I
consider are some of the more significant lessons that
I’ve gained from my study of the human form, its struc-
ture, and anatomy. Concentrating primarily on the sur-
face characteristics of the human form, I will explain
how to use this knowledge to draw more volumetrically
dimensional and gesturally dynamic figures. Although I
will need to refer to some anatomical terms now and
then, you needn’t worry. You won’t find them at all
intimidating if you occasionally refer to the two elegant-
ly simple diagrams by Jan Wandelaar.

The Core Figure

The core figure, as I call it, is the most important part of
the human form. Built out of the chest and pelvis, the
core figure serves as the hub or the trunk from which all
else emanates, including the entire gesture or posture of
the figure, not to mention the neck and head, the arms
and hands, and the legs and feet. As I’ve mentioned pre-
viously in my first article for Drawing (fall 2003), it’s matically inward under the belly button. In the rear, the poste-
extremely important to note that the chest and pelvis move rior pelvic crest (right of C) is often visible on a thin model, tilt-
in opposition to each other; they never sit straight, one ing forward in an almost parallel thrust to the stomach mus-
above the other. In a standing position, the chest usually tips cle. Even on a full-sized model, the upper buttocks or gluteus
backward (see In the Distance), while the pelvis tilts forward. medius tends to follow the tilt of the pelvic crest underneath
Meanwhile, in a seated position, the pelvis usually tips rear- (see Weighted Stasis). Next I look at the breastbone or the bony
ward and the chest slumps forward. No amount of detail surface of the rib cage sitting between the breasts and pectoral
will save your figure drawing if you don’t grasp this funda- muscles. On a standing figure, this bony landmark always
mental gesture of opposition. shifts backward toward the top. On the back of the torso, you
It’s sometimes difficult to perceive these relationships can almost always see at least an echo of the lower rib cage’s
while drawing the human figure, especially if you’re not structure underneath, even on a heavy model. This slightly
familiar with the supporting skeletal forms. Many of my curved form tips forward in near unison to the slant of the
beginner students exclaim in frustration, “I hear what you say, breastbone on the front of the chest. Although they are only
but I can’t see it—it looks like a jumble of bumps to me!” In two outside lines, they act like the parallel, vertical planes on a
response, I point out the visible, bony landmarks or muscle box. And when these two simulated boxes are stacked in
forms that you can use to analyze the tilt of these forms. On a opposing angles to each other, they create a dynamic contrap-
standing figure, notice how the stomach muscle turns dra- posto, or opposition of forms in the torso.


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Standing Male Front View of the Muscles of the Body

Nude From Rear by Jan Wandelaar.
by Michelangelo, ca. Muscle names: F) flexor muscle group, L) linea alba,
1501, chalk and bistre, N) infrasternal notch, S) suprasternal notch and the
15 x 73⁄8. Collection top of the sternum or breast bone, P) patella, T)
Albertina Museum, inner end of the tibia, I) area near the midpoint of
Vienna, Austria. the body, close to the trochanter and slightly below
where the major front leg muscles (rectus femoris)
enters the pelvis.

paper-thin, cut-out version of the torso. Most often on a front

view or side view, the collarbones slope downward into the
pit of the neck, creating a broad plane that tilts dramatically
forward. Along with the neck that sits obliquely upon its
slanted form, this top plane acts like a natural cross-section
that reveals the full depth and volume of the torso. It’s also
crucial to the overall gesture of the figure; it provides another
reference point for the tip of the rib cage, just as drawing the
top or bottom plane of a box helps to show the form’s tilt in
space. About the only time the collarbones look straight or
seem to curve upward is when you look at them from a lower
angle or when the figure is leaning back away from your
point of view (see Sargent’s Nude Man).
Once you’ve established the overall gesture of the core
figure, you need to look deeper into the supporting struc-
ture. Find the centerline first, whether you’re drawing a
front or back view of the torso. On a back view, you can see
the centerline reflected in the central structure of the spine
itself. The frontal centerline is a little more difficult to find,
but it is implied in the bony space between the breasts (S-
N) and runs down the middle of the stomach, or the rectus
abdominus. On thin or muscular models, you can often see
the centerline running through a vertical line, called the
linea alba (L), that divides the stomach muscle. The chest
and the pelvis are built upon a bilateral structure, which
So far, we have only considered the front and back planes simply means that one half of the form mirrors the other.
of the torso. Most artists remember to draw in the side But be very careful when drawing in the centerline. We
planes that run up and down the torso since the big light and usually see the torso in some sort of perspective recession.
dark shapes tend to break at this point. But although many of That means that the far side of the form, past the center-
these artists know that the torso has a top plane, they fre- line, will take up less space. Even many advanced artists
quently forget to draw it. The top plane can be envisioned as forget to consider perspective. Some of them think the cen-
a sort of sloping tabletop that begins at the top of the shoul- terline is too elementary to worry about, but in their haste,
der or trapezius. It wraps downward across the top of the they often make the far side of the core figure too big.
arms or deltoids (D), and bordered by the collarbones, or Nevertheless, don’t worry if you fall into this trap. Your gut
clavicles, continues to descend toward the centerline. Too will tell you that something is wrong, and once you run a
many artists draw the collarbones horizontally straight across belated centerline through your torso, you’re more likely to
the torso, cutting off the depth of the plane and producing a catch and correct your mistake.


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Female Nude Study Slumping Figure Gesturing Figure

by Pierre-Paul Prud’hon, by Dan Gheno, 2006, colored by Dan Gheno, 2005, sanguine
1809, chalk on blue paper, pencil, 14 x 12. crayon, 23 x 15.
231⁄4 x 121⁄2. Collection In this slumping figure, the pelvis In this drawing I first imagined the
Pierpont Morgan Library, tips backward and the chest underlying structure of the core
New York, New York. tilts forward, which compresses figure, or torso, before drawing
the abdominal area in between. the overlapping foreground arm.


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Getting a Likeness
Although this guideline will work on all figures, even still- above the breasts. Above all, trust your eyes! Even though the
life objects, there is no such thing as a generic core figure. word bilateral implies an absolute symmetrical relationship
I’ve explained previously in Drawing how to get a likeness between each side of the torso, there is always some variation
when drawing or painting a face (fall 2006). Simply put, from the norm, with one breast usually a little smaller than
you divide the distances between features into three seg- the other and one side or segment of the “six-pack” abs larger
ments, estimating which distance is longest and which is or more defined than the other.
shortest. If you can’t find the likeness
at this broad level, you never will, no
matter how many details you throw
into the face. The same is true of the
torso. Try measuring the front of the
torso in a similar manner, dividing it
into three sections and comparing
each of their relative lengths as you
would do with the features. The first
segment begins at the pit of the neck,
or suprasternal notch (S) and ends
below the nipples at the infrasternal
notch (N); The second begins at the
infrasternal notch and ends at the
navel; the final section starts at the
navel and finishes at the pubic bone.
Once you establish this basic frame-
work, you can go to town on the
details, if you want.
But proceed with caution! Some
artists get too hung up on the details—
especially the breasts and shoulder
blades. Most people have a tendency to
draw the breast too large or skimp on
the rib cage so that the breasts seem to
float outside of the torso with no base of
support. With equal frequency, artists
tend to draw the shoulder blades too
small and tight to the torso, not leaving
enough room for the rib cage. I usually
ignore these details when I first set up a
drawing of the core figure. Instead, I
concentrate on establishing the underly-
ing curves of the rib cage, drawing
through the positions of the breasts and
the shoulder blades. Then, with a sup-
porting surface to work with, I add
In the Distance
these superficial details on top. On your by Dan Gheno, 2005, colored
drawings of the female form, don’t for- pencil, 11 x 8.
get to add a little extra bulk for the pects


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The key, as many anatomists warn in their handbooks, is to learn anatomy

so well that you can forget it. That way, it doesn’t interfere with your
creative impulse, allowing your subconscious to quietly and spontaneously
provide the technical information when you need it.


Two Studies of an Ascending

Male Seen From Behind
by Jacopo Robusti, il Tintoretto, ca.
1540, charcoal with white heightening,
153⁄4 x 101⁄2. Collection Krugier-
Tintoretto drew the figure obsessively,
often rendering a single pose or action
several times on the same piece of
paper, perhaps in an attempt to
rehearse his painted figures before he
committed himself on the canvas, or
maybe to catalogue and memorize a
vocabulary of figure forms in his
subconscious mind.


Studies for Haman

by Michelangelo, ca. 1511, red and
black chalk, 10 x 8. Collection the
Teylers Museum, Haarlem, the
When drawing a seated figure, it’s
helpful to compare the length of the
upper and lower legs, then compare
each individual leg segment to the
length of the torso.

The ribs are a particularly enticing—and baffling— own bodies as “love handles.” As its name suggests, this
detail. Many confused artists look at the ribs and see a muscle rises upward toward the ribs at an oblique angle,
mind-boggling webbing of details that seem to break into and on well-developed individuals, this muscle is also fin-
long and short shapes, sometimes angular, sometimes cur- gerlike at the top. The external oblique muscle intersects
vaceous, going in all different directions. You will find it the serratus above, as if they were two clasped hands, fold-
easier to analyze them if you remember that the rib cage is ing into the same dependable, curving arc that guides the
basically barrellike in structure, and that the individual ribs upper muscle.
follow this form, starting high in the back at the spine and
then curving downward toward the front (see Michelangelo’s The Extremities
Studies for Haman). The pesky complications start when As you may recall from previous installments of this series,
you try to add two very elegant muscles to this simple you know that I like to begin my drawings of the figure
mass: The serratus anterior (A), which grabs the ribs from with a “line of action.” Coined by Thomas Eakins, this term
above and the external oblique (B), which grabs from below. refers to a line, either imagined or actually drawn on your
Luckily, these seemingly complicated muscles have their paper, that indicates the overall thrust and action of the fig-
own logic to guide your eye and pencil. The serratus is ure. The primary line of action usually runs through the
literally a serrated muscle, with short fingerlike segments entire length of the figure, from head to toe, buttressed by
that individually dig into the ribs. The overall muscle more specific, tributary lines of thrust that run through the
follows a dependable arc that runs from underneath the individual extremities. As I move deeper into the drawing
bottom of the shoulder blade and aims for the nipple in process, I concentrate on the core figure and then later
front, before finally disappearing under the pectoralis. move into the extremities that radiate off of it. I usually
The external oblique is the form that sits so gracefully shift into the supporting limb or limbs—for instance, the
above the hips in athletic people and Greek and Roman legs in a standing pose or an arm if the model is leaning
statues; unfortunately, most of us experience this on our back in a seated position.


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Indian Beggar
by Georges Seurat,
ca. 1878, graphite,
19 x 111⁄4. Private
Note the shadow
patterns on the arms
compared to those of
the torso.


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Arms and Legs

Many artists have a difficult time attaching the arms and backward, it takes the shoulder girdle with it. Notice how
legs onto the core figure so that the limbs seem to grow nat- the shoulder blades almost touch when both arms swing
urally out of the torso in a secure, believable manner. There back, or how the pects and the scapula move upward when
is an easy solution that will sound so elementary you may the arm does. It’s interesting to note that the scapula is
not want to accept it—give it a try anyway. In your mind’s unaffected by an upwardly moving arm until just before the
eye, visualize the core figure as if it were a doll with its arms limb begins to move above the line of the shoulder.
and legs removed, leaving empty, ovallike crosssections The arm has a great deal of mobility thanks to this shoul-
where the limbs should attach. Then imagine the arms and der girdle, but when the arm hangs parallel to the body, the
legs attaching into the empty slots. This will help you visual- limb participates in the same light patterns that govern the
ize the relationship of the limbs to the torso’s big planes. In torso, as you can see in Indian Beggar by Georges Seurat.
the arm’s case, it is firmly rooted into the torso’s side plane, And when the torso’s side plane is totally in shadow, the
not hovering outside the chest as some people like to draw entire arm often falls into darkness too. It’s vital to remem-
the upper limbs. The arm slides deep into the core figure ber that arms and legs are basically cylindrical in nature,
and is embraced by “the shoulder girdle,” with the pectorals regardless of their position or the lighting situation.
in the front; the shoulder plane, collarbones, and deltoids However, the arm and legs are not simple, smooth tubular
above; and the muscles of the shoulder blade, or scapula, forms. Like the torso, the arms and legs are composed of
behind. The arm can’t move without taking portions of the many hard, sharply turning muscles and bones that cause
torso with it. When the arm swings forward, upward or the limbs to corner into decisive front, side, and back
planes, and split into equally decisive light and dark shapes.
You also need to be very careful when connecting the leg to
the pelvis. Don’t cement the leg to the top of the hip or pelvic
crest like so many artists habitually do. This high placement of
the leg doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for movement in the
limb. Some transitional muscles connect to the pelvic crest,
but the greatest mass of the leg enters the pelvis much lower,
near the halfway point of the body (I), where it has more flexi-
bility and can pivot more freely. Like the arm, the leg is con-
structed on a similar cylindrical basis, subject to all the same
planar and lighting effects—with one frequent exception: most
often we place the light source above the model, so on a sim-
ple, standing leg, the intensity of light usually dissipates radi-
cally as it cascades down over the long length of the limb. You
will find the light much brighter where the fuller mass of the
upper leg turns toward the light than on the lower leg. The
foot, on the other hand, often rebounds into a little more light
than the lower leg because the horizontally inclined top plane
of the instep faces the light more directly than any form on the
vertically oriented legs. Even if you place the light low on the
ground, you will usually encounter the same effect of dissipat-
ing illumination, only reversed.


Shadows tend to follow the exteriors of cylindrical forms, Notice the
while on spherical forms, shadows cut across at right dissipation of
angles to the direction of the light. Arms and legs are brightness as the
essentially cylindrical, but they are covered by a leg gradually drops
combination of contrasting rounded and cylindrical away from the
subforms that are sometimes mostly spherical in nature, source of light.
sometimes spherical, or mostly cylindrical with elements of
roundness. But when you add up all the various movements
of these subforms, the overall thrust of the shadow shapes
tend to follow the outside of the cylindrical limbs.


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A Hunchback Boy, Half-Length

by Annibale Carracci, red chalk with red
wash, 103⁄8 x 87⁄8. Collection Duke of
Devonshire, Chatsworth, England.

Study of a Man Lying on His

Back (verso)
by Théodore Géricault, 1749, pen and
brown ink, 10 x 12. Collection Musée
des Beaux-Arts, Lille, France.

Studies of an Écorché (verso)

by Théodore Géricault, 1749, pen and
brown ink, 91⁄2 x 131⁄2. Private collection.

Nude Studies for Saint

Andrew and Another Apostle
in The Transfiguration
by Raphael, red chalk over stylus on
cream paper, 13 x 91⁄8. Collection Duke
of Devonshire, Chatsworth, England.


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There is nothing rigid or straight about these cylindrical shell. Many artists loathe this exercise—until they look at the
arms and legs. Even so, it’s sometimes hard to see the sub- anatomical sketches by Michelangelo, Leonardo, and the
tle, curving line of action that runs through the limbs even studies for The Raft of the Medusa by Théodore Géricault.
when they are bent upon themselves. Look closely: The They were Old Masters, not rank amateurs. That’s why they
underlying bones of the extremities curve subtly, taking the understood the need to return to the bones when necessary.
muscles on a ride with them. It can take a long time for They knew that you sometimes have to build from the inside
some artists to give up their preconceptions and see these structure and work your way outward to find a better under-
slight bends that run through the limbs. In fact, when told standing of the surface forms and rhythms.
to look for the bowing, many artists
inexplicably curve the limbs in the
opposite direction. Then, when
they finally grasp the concept, they
frequently over do it. For instance
when drawing the lower arm sus-
pended in midair, they will look at
the muscle mass that droops below
the ulna and often exaggerate its
appearance, drawing the overall
forearm like a piece of overcooked
pasta. If this is you, and you want
to avoid this effect, try visualizing
the bony structure underneath the
skin and muscle casing. Remember
that in architectural terms, these
bones of the limbs are essentially
weight-bearing posts or columns.
Built out of delicately refined twists
and turns, the bones coil just
enough to deflect the stressful
effects of the body’s weight and
actions outwardly away from the
core of their long forms. They can’t
curve too much beyond their basic
columnar structure, or they will
snap like a twig. Another important
architectural point: Avoid the equal-
ly annoying problem of drawing
the lower arms and legs too thin,
leaving barely enough room for one
bone, let alone the two bones that
support each of the forelimbs.
If you’re having a hard time see-
ing any of this, put some tracing
paper over one of your drawings and
draw the bones underneath. See if
your drawing makes sense and see
if the subtly curving bones will fit
your drawing without “breaking the
bones” to make them fit a faulty


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Action and Movement

There are a lot of muscular and skeletal parallels
between the arms and legs. But the legs present
a much more dynamic and rhythmic silhouette,
especially when viewed from a side view. The leg
bones don’t curve any more than the arm bones.
In fact, one of the lower leg bones, the fibula, is
straighter and doesn’t swivel like its counterpart
in the arm, the radius. But due to the massive,
overlying muscles, the legs display a more dra-
matic back-and-forth visual relationship. On the
upper leg, the larger muscles sit on the front,
while in the lower leg, the more massive mus-
cles sit on the backside, creating alternating
swellings that gracefully shift from the front to
the back. Even the bones participate in this set-
back of forms. When looking at the leg from the
front, notice how the upper leg bone, the femur,
angles inward, while the lower leg bones, the
tibia and fibula, shoot downward in a more verti-
cal manner. With the muscles fuller at the out-
side of the lower leg, this gives the impression
that the lower aspect of the leg is set back, slight-
ly to one side of the upper leg. The result is a
springlike structure that acts as a shock absorber
when we walk. Visually, this canted effect
between the upper and lower leg becomes highly
accentuated in an action pose when the figure is
off balance or running. There are a lot of helpful
analogies between the human form and our
four-legged friends to guide our understanding.
Since animals depend more on the speed of
their legs for flight or fight, the zigzag shock
ABOVE absorber aspect of their limbs is much more
Standing Nude Woman extreme and extends all the way through their
With Upraised Arms
toes. It is not as dramatic as in an animal, but
By Adriaen van de Velde, ca.
1665–1670, red chalk, 113⁄4 x 7. the springlike action of the human leg likewise
Collection Los Angeles County continues down into our feet, through the arch
Museum of Art, Los Angeles,
California. of the foot and the toes, which swing upward
Note the springlike structure and then downward as if they are grabbing the
of the leg in this running figure. ground for dear life.
In your pursuit of anatomical and structural
Man Pulling on a Rope,
His Left Leg Rehearsed knowledge, don’t ignore the dynamic effects of
a Second Time movement on the human form. This means that if
by Lodovico Carracci, black chalk,
133⁄4 x 101⁄4. Collection Duke of
you decide to change the position or gesture of the
Devonshire, Chatsworth, England. hand or foot, you must alter the entire arm or leg
as well. Stand in front of a mirror and try to move
your foot inward without at least slightly bowing
your leg outward. You will even feel the twist
pulling all the way up on your hip.


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A Flying Angel
and Other Studies
by Michelangelo,
ca. 1534, black chalk,
16 x 103⁄4. Collection
the British Museum,
London, England.


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Harry Seated, Hands Clasped Standing Nude

by Dan Gheno, 2006, colored pencil and by Pierre-Paul Prudhon,
white chalk on toned paper, 24 x 18. charcoal heightened with
As you can see from the example of white chalk on blue paper,
Michelangelo’s Studies for Haman, it’s helpful 24 x 133⁄4. Collection Museum
to compare one body part to another to of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston,
gauge the proportions of the figure. But don’t Massachusetts.
become an unthinking abuser of proportional A faint flexion line occurs on
guidelines, particularly when observing the the back of the knee where
figure from a foreshortened point of view. the femur and tibia meet,
Trust your eyes—measure each body part usually at the midpoint of
against the head. Then measure each limb the overall length of the leg.
section freshly against each other as they
appear at the moment to your eye, not
according to a preconceived canon.

Putting It All Together

As the previous examples demonstrate, you cannot
study the parts of the figure without looking at its totali-
ty. How do we arrange everything into an organized,
proportionate, fluid whole? First, I begin my sketch in
an improvisational manner, trusting my gut and eyes as
I rough it in. Then, like many artists, I usually employ
the head as my unit of measurement, judging it against
the entire body and each major body part. After I’ve
established that the parts work with the head, I counter-
measure on a larger level by evaluating the major body
parts against one another. To keep the confusion to a
minimum, I look for body parts that are, on average,
nearly equal in their measurements. I usually follow a
checklist, first comparing the upper arm against the
lower arm, then the upper leg against the lower leg and
eventually each separate leg section against the torso.
Don’t be surprised if you have a hard time isolating the
limbs into easily measurable, equal, upper and lower seg- vertical distance that spans between the iliac crest and the
ments. For the arm, try to visualize it beginning at the collarbone—a particularly useful set of measurements
shoulder and ending at the knuckles of the hand. On the when drawing a seated pose (see Prud’hon’s Female Nude
back of the arm, you will generally find the midpoint at the Study). All of these body parts are well balanced with one
elbow. On the front of the arm, you will usually find the another, as you’ve probably already noticed if you practice
midpoint at that large protrusion on the inner side of the yoga. Many of its parts are capable of folding neatly into
arm, called the epicondyle of the humerus (the culprit that one another, with the arms and legs able to evenly tuck into
causes the funny tingling feeling after you’ve hit it). For the themselves and the torso into the limbs (see Michelangelo’s
leg, think of it as beginning at the hipbone and ending at Studies for Haman). As always—and I can’t emphasize it
the base of the heel. You will usually find the halfway point enough—this canon of measurements is only a jumping-
of the leg just below the kneecap or patella (P) on a front off point, giving you a place to start and something specific
view; and on the back, located behind at the faint flexion to base your judgments against. While looking at the
line (see Prud’hon’s Standing Nude) on the back of the knee. model, ask yourself where the figure and its parts deviate
Both of these leg segments are very similar in length to the from the so-called norm.


DRAW SIP 09 Gheno:Drawing-Feature 9/17/09 7:14 PM Page 82

Carry a small anatomy book with you when BELOW

Recumbent Youth Posed

you go to a sketch class or when you work Nude, Except for His Hose
Pulled Down to His Ankles
in your own studio from the model. Refer to by Annibale Carracci, red chalk,
9 x 15. Collection Duke of
the book as soon as you discover a lump on Devonshire, Chatsworth, England.

the body that you don’t recognize and can’t OPPOSITE PAGE

Nude Man
identify from your previous studies. by John Singer Sargent, graphite,
97⁄8 x 73⁄4. Collection Wadsworth
Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut.

Trust Your Eyes

I can only offer the briefest of overviews in this article and fall into the trap that tripped up many lecturers who mind-
perhaps provide you with the incentive to continue your lessly recited Roman-era texts on anatomy as they dissected
studies on your own. But even with all the many great human cadavers for their students in the pre- and early-
anatomy books that you can turn to, it’s not enough to just Renaissance era. Researched by the great anatomist Galen
work mindlessly from charts and texts—do your own of Pergamum when it was illegal to dissect humans, these
research from life and make the anatomical charts real to texts were based on the dissection of animals, mostly pigs
your eyes and mind. Carry a small anatomy book with you and sometimes chimps. Everyone in the lecture hall,
when you go to a sketch class or when you work in your including the lecturer, could see that the words didn’t
own studio from the model. Refer to the book as soon as always match what their eyes saw. Unfortunately, for too
you discover a lump on the body that you don’t recognize many years, they trusted the text instead. How many people
and can’t identify from your previous studies. died in these early times because doctors didn’t trust their
However, remember the most important lesson you can eyes? Don’t let one of your drawings perish because you
learn from this series as you draw: Trust your eyes! Don’t trusted a book, instead of your own sight. ❖


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Representing a Studio Model

in an Outdoor Setting by Sharon Allicotti

O N C E R E A S O N A B LY CO N F I D E N T with your figure-

drawing skills, you may wish to pose a further creative chal-
lenge for yourself by developing drawings that place studio
models in settings outside your work space. Models are apt
to feel uncomfortable out-of-doors, and it is frankly imprac-
tical to undertake a complex, detailed drawing outside, con-
sidering the vagaries of weather, lighting, and the possible
remoteness of a location. A more realistic approach
involves staging the scene with the figure posed in the stu-
dio and the landscape composed from a variety of plein air
sketches, photographic sources, and imaginative invention.
In the charcoal piece Study for Cradled, my solution to
the disconnect between the observed landscape and the
model posed indoors was to create a strong formal relation-
ship between the disparate parts. The diagram retraces the
The reference photograph of the model in my studio shows the extensive
changes I made in the final work to repeat rhythmic lines and draw the principal repeating patterns and lines found in the figure,
composition together. drapery, and landscape features.
Traced in red, the drawing’s dominant pattern is visible in
the curving rhythms of the reclining pose and covering cloak,
which corresponds with the spiraling lines of the gnarled
shrub behind and left of the model. The spiraling motion
keeps the eye moving around, yet always remaining in the
image. Observe that the repeating spiral is elliptical, with its
diagonal axis (shown in green) consistently angled at about
45 degrees. The effect is to lead the viewer’s eye from the
lower left up to the right, terminating at the model’s head.
This strong directional vector is countered by the opposing
angle of the vinelike branches (highlighted in blue) reaching
down behind the figure. These secondary, flowing, organic
lines are reflected at three major points in the composition:
along the model’s right thigh, in the drapery folds at her
waist, and with the major fold of the sleeping bag beneath
(and following the angle of) her left upper arm. Minor repeti-
tions of the spiral motif appear in the folds of a small portion
of the model’s cover lying far left, just off the figure, and in
This shrub, which I incorporated into the upper-left corner of my work, is from the oval-shaped stones in the lower right. The shape and posi-
the desert east of my home in Los Angeles.
tion of the small branch in the lower right foreground echoes
the major folds of the sleeping bag as well as the posing of the
model’s limbs. The addition of this grouping of twigs and
stones reprises the landscape theme in a potentially trouble-
some, isolated corner of the composition.
Comparing the drawing with the photograph of the model,
you can see the extensive changes I made in the cloak and
sleeping bag in order to repeat rhythmic lines throughout the


DRAW SIP 09 Allicotti:AA feature 9/18/09 7:23 AM Page 85

entire composition. In addition to physically rearranging the

drapery on the model in my studio setup, I made many
adjustments on the page in the course of working on the
drawing as the overall compositional needs became more
apparent. Moreover, in a departure from the original pose, the
entwining of the model’s feet mimics that of branches and
vines, further tying together nature and the human subject.
Extra-soft vine and willow charcoal and soft-pressed
watercolor paper allow me to easily lay down broad pas-
sages and experiment with the scale and position of forms.
Versatile and easily altered, charcoal can be effortlessly
wiped off with a soft cloth or chamois, or even blown off
the page using a bulb syringe. As the drawing progresses
and I become satisfied with my decisions, I develop details
using charcoal pencils and use compressed charcoal to cre-
ate areas needing more intense darks. Tones are lightened ABOVE

This diagram shows the repeated rhythms I used to reconcile the

and highlights lifted out with an eraser. outdoor setting with the model’s pose indoors. The red marks show
You can create cohesive, compelling compositions featur- the curving rhythms. The green marks show the repeating, elliptical
spiral and its diagonal axis. The blue lines highlight the opposing
ing both figure and setting by designing a plan for your pic- angle of the vinelike branches reaching down behind the figure.
torial structure, as well as by understanding that an intuitive
conversation between artist and page must occur on an
Study for Cradled
ongoing basis. Begin to experiment with studies using soft 2002, charcoal, 22 x 30.
vine charcoal on sturdy drawing or watercolor paper. With Collection the artist.
much practice, you will become increasingly responsive to
the unique, poetic voice of a complex work in process. ❖


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The Creative WO R K I N G W I T H D R A P E RY is considered by many

artists to be a challenge, if not a nuisance. But I have found it
to be an exciting and highly useful element in my figurative

pieces—and well worth the added effort. Drapery can extend
the possibilities of a pose, add psychological and narrative sug-
gestion, and help tie together parts of a complex composition.
Over many years of both drawing and teaching how to

of Draping draw drapery, I have devised some useful methods for

returning garments as close as possible to their original
position after the model has taken a break. Models may

a Model
break as often as every 20 minutes, and it is simply not real-
istic to expect that one will get the fabric back in precisely
the same place. But, because I always want to make at least
some modification to the drawn study for aesthetic improve-
by Sharon Allicotti ment and to suit the overall pictorial design, I am not undu-
ly concerned that the drapery does not remain exactly the
same throughout the session. The inevitable changes in the
drape caused by model breaks actually offers the artist sub-
tle variations often superior to the initial arrangement.
In Study for Wellspring, the drapery forms enabled me to
develop curved, swirling rhythms to play off those in the
landscape and to serve as a transitional element between fig-
ure and nature. I arranged the fabric to form a large “figure
eight” that began at the model’s upper torso and raised right
arm, flowed down and across the left bent knee, around and
beneath the right foot, and ran up the left covered arm to
complete the shape. I was also mindful of the exposed pant
leg, taking pains to arrange and redraw the folds to coincide,
as much as was practicable, with the overall drapery scheme.
The model demonstration illustrates how safety pins can
assist in holding folds and gathers at key points. I make sure
to run a pin through all of the fabric layers that make up the
fold. I use an inexpensive eyeliner pencil on the model’s skin
to mark the position of the pinned drape. The position of the
edges is also marked on the drape, using a small safety pin
or chalk mark to match the cross drawn on the model’s skin.
If the model is wearing a leotard, I use chalk instead of eye-
liner so it can be easily laundered out later.
I first sketch the undraped model, either nude or wearing
dancewear, in order to understand the model’s gestures and
the anatomical structure beneath the drapery. In the graphite
study Wendy, Draped, I intentionally allowed the underdrawing
of the knees to show through the fabric. Although the cloth is
not actually transparent, the drawing is a preliminary study for
a painting, so retaining such critical figure landmarks will be
useful in developing the final
Study for Wellspring
2002, charcoal, 30 x 22. All artwork
piece. I used a twin-size bed-
this article collection the artist. sheet for the drape.


DRAW SIP 09 Allicotti:AA feature 9/18/09 7:24 AM Page 87


Wendy, Draped
in progress, graphite,
30 x 22.


Wendy, Draped
2003, graphite, 30 x 22.


Note how I marked the

model’s chest with a
cross and matched it to
a pin on the drapery so
I could approximately
recreate the folds after
the model took a break.

Following the figure study, the drapery phase of the

drawing starts with a general overall sketch of the disposi-
tion of the principal drapery masses and major constituent
folds. As with any subject, I work broadly at first and grad-
ually focus on the details.
Figure draping is most effective when it reveals as much
as it conceals. By this I mean that the body is the emphasis,
and even if extensively covered, it should not completely
disappear under a drape. This objective is met by allowing
the fabric to settle on and hug key landmarks (for example,
shoulders, hips, and knees), depending on the pose. In
addition, I always allow strategic portions of the figure—
either nude or in form-fitting clothing—to be exposed, as
seen in both of the studies featured here.
I suggest to my students that they see draped fabric as a
marvelous array of curved and faceted planes—a visual as
solid as ceramic still-life props or a hilly landscape. I tell
them to contemplate the draped figures of Renaissance
stone sculptures—Michelangelo’s Pietá, in the Vatican, is a
superb example. This structural approach to analyzing and
drawing drapery will transform a perhaps confusing, seem-
ingly amorphous mass of cloth into a clearly observed,
understandable subject that can enhance the expressive
dimension of one’s figure drawings. ❖


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to Attend Figure-Drawing Sessions
Figure-drawing sessions aren’t just for students. Continuing with this practice
throughout your career will result in better art. Here are 11 reasons why.

by Sharon Allicotti
DRAW SIP 09 Allicotti:AA feature 9/18/09 3:22 PM Page 89

Fey, Seated
2005, colored pencil on
blue-green paper, 25 x 19.
All artwork this article
collection the artist.

We all took figure-

drawing classes in art
school. And when the
semester was over,
many of us didn’t look
back. But there are
several good reasons
to continue figure
drawing. I can think
of 11 compelling ones
right off the bat.

1. Maintaining the practice (and discipline) of the artist.

Just as a musician, dancer, or athlete must practice and train to maintain a level of
excellence, drawing the figure from life on a regular basis keeps an artist’s visual
and spatial abilities in good form—calisthenics for the artist’s craft, if you will.
Moreover, attending sessions regularly affords an excellent means to develop a bet-
ter work ethic. And just as one is more apt to continue an exercise program with
companions, drawing in the company of a group provides a real incentive to stick
with it. There is no overstating the value of a regimen that simply keeps one in the
activity of drawing, circumventing any number of distractions at home or simply
overcoming a case of artist’s block. Once you find a drawing group or workshop
that meets regularly, there are no excuses not to draw. (Information on how to find
figure-drawing workshops and artist groups is included at the end of the article.)


DRAW SIP 09 Allicotti:AA feature 9/18/09 7:24 AM Page 90

Samantha, Seated
2004, charcoal and
crayon on fawn-colored
paper, 41 x 291⁄2.

2. Improve overall drawing skills.

“If you can draw the figure, you can
draw anything,” is an oft-repeated (and
very true) adage. Draftsmanship is tra-
ditionally regarded as the foundation
of painting, cartooning, and sculpture;
with the figure recognized for cen-
turies as the benchmark challenge of
the working artist. The great range of
movement possible, together with the
anatomical and structural complexity
of the body, including the effects of
perspective (foreshortening), require
special demands of an artist’s abilities.
The group experience of drawing
the live model accelerates the process
of training the eye, especially in terms
of gauging proportion. In my figure
classes, I encourage students to com-
pare all of their drawings to see which
bear the strongest resemblance to our
model. Without exception, the most the company of others, such objective parallels with many animals, the body
proportionally accurate drawings of the comparisons can be made without an can be conceived as analogous with
model evoke a portrait-worthy likeness. instructor’s assistance. the manifold living and nonliving
Although some of the students’ draw- An improved ability to assess figure forms of the natural landscape: It’s no
ings may appear as plausible figures, proportion extends to drawing other coincidence that we speak of the
they do not look like our particular subjects where proportional discrepan- trunks and limbs of trees, and find in
model, a distinction that even the cies may not be so obvious. Moreover, hilly terrain the undulating forms of a
novice can detect. When drawing in in addition to strong anatomical reclining nude.


DRAW SIP 09 Allicotti:AA feature 9/18/09 7:25 AM Page 91

3. An authentic experience in a digital era.

Drawing from the life model, you will see and understand your fel-
low human beings with greater sensitivity and acuity. In an electron-
ic age of increasing disassociation from authentic sensation, the
direct experience of drawing from the live, human subject yields
important insights unattainable by other means. This time-honored
practice promotes greater empathy for the human subject in both its
physical and psychological dimensions, offering insights into how
these two aspects combine to portray emotion and convey meaning
in figurative art.

Draw better from photographs (and memory).

Conversely, having had the repeated experience of drawing from life,

4. Better than photographs.

No photograph—no matter how good—
offers the advantages of an actual spa-
tial encounter with a living subject.
Photos are static, momentary docu-
ments that lock in a pose from a sin-
gle, monocular position; the photo
does not offer the subtle variations in
vantage point possible when working
from life that enable an artist to grasp
the three-dimensional form of the
body. Even the best photographs pro-
vide mostly an abundance of surface
detail, but not the essence of a pose:
its weight shift and gesture.
I require my students to walk around
the model before beginning a drawing,
observing from many different angles
in order to better understand the pose.
I remind them the life model is a sub-
one learns how to use photographs when it is necessary, or for con-
venience. Frequent practice with drawing the life model imparts
knowledge; successful observational drawing is not simply about
seeing, but understanding what is seen. I explain to my students
that the accomplished artist considers it more difficult to get a good
drawing from photographs than from life—usually the exact oppo-
site for the novice. The experienced figure draftsman realizes well
what information is missing from photos; he or she has the skills,
and also the ability, to employ memory to compensate for this.
In my own highly developed, time-consuming portraits, I often
use photos in conjunction with actual observation. I almost always
begin my drawings from life, devoting one or more six-hour ses-
sions to settling on a pose and redrawing and subtly adjusting
proportions to suit pictorial and expressive requirements. I then
make dozens of photographs, moving around my model and
varying the camera exposure. This process of extensive photo-
documentation more closely simulates actual observation than a
single photograph, but it is still best when used to supplement life
drawing. I refer to the photos
for rendering fine detail and
perhaps color in a highly
developed drawing or paint-
ing between sittings.
ject in-the-round and that the students
are not confined to the stationary posi-
tion of their easel to gather vital infor-
mation about the subject.
Finally, in terms of light perception,
the camera cannot approach the optical
latitude of the human eye, which can
adjust instantaneously to a wide range
of lighting conditions over the entirety
of the subject; an ability that is essential
to effective tonal description in drawing
and painting.
Please remember that
professional figure models
usually have different rate
schedules for photography
versus life modeling, charg-
ing a substantial premium
for photographs. Never pho-
tograph a model without
their express permission.


DRAW SIP 09 Allicotti:AA feature 9/18/09 7:25 AM Page 92

6. 7. Learn from others.

At the beginning of the term, I explain
to my figure-drawing students that
they can expect to learn as much (if
not more) from their classmates than
they will from me. This is not an
instance of false modesty, nor am I
known to be a lax teacher (as my stu-
dents will certainly attest). In truth, I
Network with other artists.
Few things are more crucial to an artist’s viability than an
affiliation with a creative community, yet negotiating the
have learned a great deal from my stu- social dimension of the art world can seem baffling. If your
dents over the years, which I have aspirations include becoming more “visible,” associating
applied to my own work as well as to with other artists significantly increases the likelihood that
my teaching. Drawing with a group invitations to exhibit, make presentations, and the like will
offers a variety of approaches to a sin- be extended. Attending artists’ drawing groups and work-
gle subject. Rarely does one have the shops is an excellent way to access one’s local art scene and
opportunity to view an individual make important contacts.
artist’s process, let alone that of sever- Participation in drawing workshops enables one to tap
al others. Most attendees, some of into the collective energy and expertise of a motivated
whom are accomplished professionals, group of individuals. It is not unusual for lifelong friend-
will be happy to share information ships to form in drawing groups. Working with others in
about their working methods and if the field builds confidence and creates a sense of belonging
requested, to comment or give advice in a forum where news and information about events—
on another’s drawing. even scuttlebutt—can be exchanged.

Substantial savings in model fees.
Figure-drawing-workshop fees average about $15 per three-
hour session—versus $15 to $20 per hour for private sittings.
Eventually, if you have the space in your home studio, you
may wish to organize your own sessions. Splitting model
fees with even one other artist results in significant savings.
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Sean Leaning on His Arm

2004, charcoal, 30 x 22.


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Wendy Reclining,
Taos (detail) How to Find Figure-Drawing Sessions
2003, graphite, 30 x 22.

Look for “uninstructed figure-drawing” or “life-drawing” workshops at local colleges, community recre-
ation centers, galleries, museums, artist clubs, and associations.
Also, figure artists—found through galleries, local art schools, and colleges—sometimes run figure-
drawing sessions in their own studios or belong to drawing groups that meet regularly to draw from
models. This arrangement confers the added benefit of working with talented professionals; attend one
workshop and, in turn, find out about venues from both participants and the models themselves.


DRAW SIP 09 Allicotti:AA feature 9/18/09 7:26 AM Page 95

9. Produce a series of drawings quickly.

Workshop time-limits, coupled with various factors beyond
one’s control, means that drawings produced there will
largely be learning experiences, which they truly are in the
best sense of the phrase. Most drawings done in workshops
Inspiration for personal work.
Through many life-drawing sessions over the years, I
have met a number of models I have gone on to hire
privately. Workshops are an ideal setting to discover
prospective subjects for your own personal creative
work. Skillful models may take poses that are espe-
cially inspiring, generating ideas for further explo-
ration. The majority of models are happy to arrange
private sittings, be it for figure or portrait. In the con-
text of a workshop, you and the model will become
familiar while working together in a comfortable
group situation.

are likely not exceptional, but some will invariably be of

interest to family and friends and perhaps even saleable.
Certainly, regular attendance at workshops enables one to
quickly build a portfolio ranging from rapid sketches to a
series of “resolved” drawings from longer poses. Begin by
first attending sessions featuring shorter poses from three-
minute gesture poses to a maximum of 25-minute poses.
These shorter-duration poses are the fastest way to hone
your basic figure-drawing skills.


11. Working from the life model affords an ideal

opportunity to experiment with new tech-
niques or unfamiliar media and, quite possi-
bly, to expand your artistic range. The inher-
ent “no-pressure” nature of the workshop,
combined with an accessible and exciting
subject on view in front of you, promotes
risk-taking and exploration. ❖


DRAW SIP 09 Constable:AA feature 9/18/09 8:42 AM Page 96

1803, black chalk and
stump, 13 x 91⁄2.
Each stroke and mark in
this drawing has a unique
quality, lending a fresh-
ness and sense of life.


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SketchbooksJohn Constable responded to the landscape in pocket-size sketchbooks
he carried nearly everywhere he went. Although primarily used
as notes and studies for large-scale, highly finished oil paintings,
the drawings show an immense authority in a small format.

by Lynne Bahr

View of the Stour

1814, graphite, 3 x 41⁄4.
Collection Victoria and Albert
Museum, London, England.


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1820, graphite, 41⁄2 x 71⁄3. Collection Victoria and
Albert Museum, London, England.
Arranging all the stones in such a small format
required Constable to view the scene from a very
close range. It seems the artist was able to do this
and still incorporate the objects on the periphery in
an effective composition.


Binfield: A Watersplash
1816, graphite, 31⁄3 x 41⁄3.
In nearly all his drawings Constable commented on
the sky. Here he also attends to the footbridge,
explaining how it was built with heavy and light
strokes of his pencil.


Cornfield at East Bergholt

1813, graphite, 31⁄2 x 43⁄4. Collection Victoria and
Albert Museum, London, England.
In this drawing the artist concentrated on developing
differences in tone rather than relying on line to
define the forms.


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he British landscape artist John Constable position—and whole compositions.” The drawings are
(1776–1837) believed that “we see nothing, ‘til exquisite in terms of their execution, showing the artist’s
we truly understand it.” Suggesting that one skill and sensitivity. “They are a means to an end,” adds
sees through the mind, not through the eyes, Evans, “but they have huge authority.”
this concept is central to understanding Between 1809 and 1812, Constable painted directly from
Constable’s creative process. Largely known as a painter of nature in oil, making quick sketches that significantly
specific places—the Stour Valley, Salisbury, and Brighton, advanced his artistic development, “establishing, with bold
for instance—he relied on sketchbooks to develop his skills tonal and colour juxtapositions, landscape images of utter
of visual perception in addition to collecting source material originality,” writes Ian Fleming-Williams in Constable and
for his oil paintings. Most important, however, the sketch- His Drawings (Philip Wilson Publishers, London, England).
books became a vehicle through which the artist could His ability to experiment with light effects was more limit-
respond spontaneously and freely to the subject he knew ed when he worked in graphite, and according to Evans,
and loved best: the English landscape. Constable used the sketchbooks primarily to study a subject
Among the papers that were found after Constable’s in detail. “One infers they were done rapidly,” he says,
death was a quotation from a book on painting by the 14th- “because they are small, but they are highly finished and
century Italian artist Cennino Cennini, stating, “Day after meticulous.” The development of the footbridge in Binfield:
day never fail to draw something,
which, however little it may be, will
yet in the end be much, and do thy
best.” Constable took this advice by
filling sketchbooks with small
drawings of wherever he was at the
moment, especially during periods
when he was not painting, such as
during a tour of the Lake District in
1806 or the summers of 1813 and
1814. “The drawings vary from
individual people or things to
pieces of foliage,” describes Mark
Evans, the senior curator at the
Victoria and Albert Museum, in
London, which owns the largest
collection of Constable drawings in
the world, including the 1813 and
1814 sketchbooks. “They include a
man sitting on a bank, a woman
and child, and entire landscapes,”
says Evans. “We see things that are
major or minor elements in a com-


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A Group of Two Compositional

Cottages and a Studies
View Towards 1814, graphite, 31⁄4 x 21⁄2.
Farmhouse at East
1813, graphite, Bergholt appears on the
43⁄4 x 31⁄2. Collection back on these studies.
Victoria and Albert
Museum, London, OPPOSITE PAGE
Dedham Lock and
Farmhouse at 1816, graphite, 31⁄3 x 41⁄2.
East Bergholt One of several studies
1814, graphite, 3 x 41⁄3. for a large oil painting,
in this drawing the artist
Constable drew at distilled a complex
random in his sketch scene into an organized
books. This work composition.
appears on the reverse
of two compositional


DRAW SIP 09 Constable:AA feature 9/18/09 7:32 AM Page 101

Constable used the sketchbooks primarily to study

a subject in detail. “One infers they were done rapidly
because they are small,” explains curator Mark Evans,
“but they are highly finished and meticulous.”

A Watersplash, a drawing in the 1816 book, is one such objects and their component parts are represented in terms
example. Heavy and light strokes of graphite build up the of lights and darks of varying strengths with a closely relat-
structure of the bridge, attesting to the artist’s attention to ed, quite spontaneous system of textures,” he writes.
detail in visually describing the structure. Furthermore, at this point the artist was experimenting
Constable excelled as a draftsman in other ways as well. with revealing and concealing certain parts of forms, which
Notably, in the sketches of whole compositions, the artist was to become a critical aspect of his art.
had an unusually well-developed aptitude in organizing By 1815, Constable had apparently begun recognizing his
individual elements. As Fleming-Williams describes, some powers as a draftsman, as evident in the three drawings he
of the drawings present a point of view that incorporates submitted to the Royal Academy exhibition of that year. His
objects that normally are out of the visual range, revealing sketchbook of 1816 shows his new confidence as an artist,
how Constable convincingly depicted a broad sweep of the achieved by the ambitious oil paintings he had recently
landscape. In Stonehenge, for instance, one would have to completed, as in Dedham Mill [not shown]. One of a few
stand much farther away to include all the stones within drawings of the same scene that Constable had in mind for
the pictorial space. Undoubtedly the artist moved his head an oil painting, Dedham Lock and Mill shows how the artist
and relied on more than one line of vision in composing worked out the composition. “With a relatively blunt-
the drawing, but he was nevertheless able to take in the pointed pencil and an unerring eye, Constable reduces a
long view and convey it effectively in a small format. scene of some complexity down to a miniature alive with
Equally remarkable is the way in which Constable endowed information,” writes Fleming-Williams. The Horizontal
each stroke or mark with a unique and spontaneous quality Mill, Battersea, another fully realized sketch, depicts an
and avoided repetitive gestures,
as in Washbrook.
Drawing in sketchbooks
advanced Constable’s skills such
that eventually it did not matter
whether he drew or painted,
according to Fleming-Williams.
All that mattered was the use of
lights and darks. In Cornfield at
East Bergholt, for instance,
Constable enhanced the shad-
ows on the foreground to offset
the sunlit fields beyond, defin-
ing the scene in terms of light
and shadow. In A Group of
Cottages and a View Towards
Denham, he represented the
scene tonally, playing up the
subtle effects of light. Compared
with earlier drawings, in these
examples the artist relied less on
outlining the forms. “The whole
is seen as a tonal field in which


DRAW SIP 09 Constable:AA feature 9/18/09 7:33 AM Page 102


Redcliff Point Osmington Church and Vicarage

1816, graphite, 31⁄2 x 41⁄2. 1816, graphite, 31⁄2 x 41⁄3.


The Horizontal Salisbury Cathedral and the

Mill, Battersea Bishop’s Palace
1816, graphite, 31⁄3 x 41⁄2. 1816, graphite, 31⁄3 x 41⁄2.
This bold sketch shows Notice the sensitive touch in this drawing in
Constable’s immense contrast to the boldness of The Horizontal
authority as a draftsman. Mill, Battersea.

unusual structure that was

undoubtedly of interest to the
artist. It is, in fact, one of the bold-
est in the sketchbook.
Although the artist approached
some of the sketches with vigor,
others reflect a softer mood.
Salisbury Cathedral and the Bishop’s
Palace, for instance, conveys a slow-
er pace and a more sensitive touch,
perhaps because the artist had
recently married after a tumultuous
seven-year engagement. Some of
the other sketches from this period
share the lighter tone, as in
Osmington Church and Vicarage and
Redcliff Point.
In nearly all his drawings
Constable commented on the sky.
Even a cloudless day, such as in
Binfield: A Watersplash, is indicated
with a few strokes of graphite. “The
character of the day, or of a particu-
lar time of day, is for him an inte-
gral part of the scene, and some-
times it is quite remarkable how,
with the simplest of media, he is
able to capture the quality of light
prevailing at the time,” writes
Being truthful to nature in this
way was, in fact, central to
Constable’s work, and sketching
was the only means to that end
prior to the invention of the cam-
era. “Constable died around the
year the first photograph was made,
and I think there is something
symbolic about that,” says Evans, of
the Victoria and Albert Museum.
“Constable represents a vision that
in a way ended with the invention
of photography. He never saw a


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According to Evans, Constable’s greatest contribution

is not in the way he handled pencil and paper but in
the kind of landscape he pursued. As the son of a
prominent merchant, Constable knew the houses, mills,
farms, and waterways of the countryside well.

photograph, but some of his pic-

tures have a photographic quality—
a palpable reality. But photos never
have that kind of assurance. It
comes out of the classical tradition
of Claude and Rubens.”
According to Evans, Constable’s
greatest contribution is not in the
way he handled pencil and paper
but in the kind of landscape he pur-
sued. As the son of a prominent
merchant, Constable knew the
houses, mills, farms, and waterways
of the countryside well. “For
Constable landscape was also land
where people lived and worked, and
for an understanding of which as
such he possessed special knowl-
edge and a trained eye,” writes
author Fleming-Williams. “This
meant that he understood more and
consequently ‘saw’ more deeply into
landscape than most other artists of
his time.” Indeed the landscapes he
created became “the warp and weft
of the idealized rural scene,” Evans
notes. However, viewed in the con-
text of Rubens and Claude, as the
paintings were when they were on
view at the Royal Academy, they
represented the cutting edge, with
their depictions of grain barges and
windmills. “They were no more
quaint than a factory would be
today,” comments Evans.
Ultimately, the sketchbooks
helped Constable to achieve an
extraordinary clarity of vision. By
working intuitively and striving to
see the landscape, like Claude before
him, with an innocent eye, he would
create some of the most admired
landscapes in Western art. ❖


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Evidence & Interpretation
Many great landscape drawings were created as preparatory studies,
educational exercises, or informational journals and not as finished
works of art. We can now study those freely made graphic images for
evidence of the artists’ ideas and procedures. by M. Stephen Doherty

he history of art is often pieced together seldom listed them in the inventories of their
from scraps of evidence and pure specula- holdings. Even when auction houses offered
tion, and drawings are often the most valu- the landscape drawings for sale, they tended to
able resources in conducting that kind of investi- group them together to be sold as a lot rather
gation. When someone discovers dozens of indi- than as individual treasures.
vidual studies for a large fresco, for example, they To those of us who are trying to improve our
understand all the various compositional ideas abilities as artists, there is much to learn both
the artist considered before executing the fin- from the cast-off studies and the polished draw-
ished decoration. And when a carefully detailed ings. And landscape drawings are often among
graphite study is linked to a painting of two war- the most interesting scraps of evidence about
ring gods, scholars can see how the artist turned the thoughts and methods of the Old Masters
studio drawings of hired models into an emotion- we admire. They are like the first draft of a
ally charged painting of supreme conflict. novel, the unedited version of a public speech,
Some Old Master landscape drawings were or the unaltered score of a symphony. They
polished up by the artists so they could be used provide valuable insight that helps us expand
as part of a proposal to a prospective painting our own abilities to create art.
client, duplicated to satisfy several collectors Drawing magazine selected a group of master
who each wanted the same drawing, or present- drawings to review, with each offering an oppor-
ed as a gift to a patron who supported the tunity to explore some important aspect of the
artist’s career. But even these refined drawings artist’s powers. All are reproduced in books that
failed to impress their owners as great works of are still in print, and several are currently on view
art, as evidenced by the fact that the collectors at the National Gallery of Art, in Washington, DC.


DRAW SIP 09 Master Landscapes:AA feature 9/18/09 7:38 AM Page 105


Pastoral Scene
With Classical
by Claude Gellée
(called Claude Lorrain),
ca. 1640–1645, pen
and brown ink and
brush with brown and
gray wash over graphite
on cream laid paper,
79⁄16 x 101⁄8. Collection
The Cleveland Museum
of Art, Cleveland, Ohio.


View of the
Acqua Acetosa
by Claude Gellée
(called Claude Lorrain),
ca. 1645, pen and
brown ink and brush
with brown and gray
wash over graphite on
cream laid paper,
103⁄16 x 1515⁄16.
Collection The
Cleveland Museum of
Art, Cleveland, Ohio.


DRAW SIP 09 Master Landscapes:AA feature 9/18/09 7:39 AM Page 106

ca. 1590, brown ink,
77⁄16 x 511⁄16. Private collection.


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Agostino Carracci (1557–1602):

Agostino Carracci, along with an older brother and a cousin, served artists well when they held a carved feather in their
had a strong influence on the development of the Baroque hands and applied varying amounts of pressure to either
style of late 16th- and early 17th-century art in Italy because increase or decrease the width of an inked line. One imag-
of the pictures they executed and, perhaps more crucially, ines that as Carracci sat under a tree and drew without any
because of the many students they trained. Among the preliminary graphite or charcoal lines, he guided his pen
most important lessons that Carracci offered young artists effortlessly around the shape of the leaves and branches,
was the value of drawing directly from nature, as demon- increasing the pressure as the shadows deepened and reduc-
strated by this rapidly executed, expressive study of inter- ing it as the sunlight touched the left side of a trunk or leaf.
locking trees. One can almost feel the wind billowing Most of the drawings made in this period emphasized
line over tone, so ink was a very appropriate medium with
which to make drawings. The images would have more
Among the most important lessons that strength and permanence in ink than if they were done in
charcoal or colored chalk, especially if the drawings were
Carracci offered young artists was the made in sketchbooks whose pages would rub against each
value of drawing directly from nature. other as the artist carried them from place to place.
Because artists often kept their sketchbooks with them
at all times, frequently stopping to make notations about a
through the leaves that are drawn with a series of curled landscape, figure, or building that caught their attention,
lines stretched in a horizontal pattern. And the tree the bindings that held the books together often broke apart
branches are given dimension with lines that follow the and had to be repaired with new strips of paper or leather.
natural curve of their form, thus accentuating the play of Sometimes the artists would bind together different sets of
light and shadow. drawings rather than simply repair a sketchbook with its
Like many artists who excelled at drawing with a quill original pages. They might want to have all their landscape
pen, Carracci spent a number of years developing his skills drawings together in one folio for easier reference; or they
as a printmaker. The strength and control required for might want to eliminate pages that were soiled or unused
manipulating an etching needle or an engraving burin when they glued the sheets together in a new book.


DRAW SIP 09 Master Landscapes:AA feature 9/18/09 4:33 PM Page 108

Thomas Gainsborough (1727–1788):

With the work of most great masters, predominate among the artist’s draw-
there is a direct correspondence between ings, and he produced hundreds of
the subject and style of their drawings and sketches throughout his career. Working
paintings. Portrait painters such as John on paper allowed him the freedom to
Singer Sargent made hundreds of char- experiment with unconventional combi-
coal portrait drawings; masters of large nations of media and to study and record
figurative compositions, such as Tiepolo, nature for his own personal pleasure,
created dozens of ink drawings of invent- unrelated to formal commissions.”
ed people twisting in space; and painters Tonkovich goes on to compare this
of pastoral landscape scenes, such as Gainsborough drawing with “the ideal
Claude Lorrain, drew landscapes with the tradition of Claude Lorrain. He eschews
same compositional arrangements as in the conventional devices of framing the
his serene, late-afternoon painted vistas. scene with trees and establishing a cen-
It is remarkable, therefore, that an tral focus; he also shows no trace of
artist like Thomas Gainsborough, who human or animal presence save for what

“Working on paper allowed [Gainsborough] the freedom

to experiment with unconventional combinations of
media and to study and record nature for his own
personal pleasure, unrelated to formal commissions.”
—Jennifer Tonkovich, associate curator

was admired for his portraits of English may be a lone sheep—drawn with
lords and ladies, would consider the act utmost brevity—atop the hill at left.
of drawing to be an opportunity to Gainsborough executed the sheet with a
explore new materials, concepts, and layer of rhythmic, diagonal chalk strokes
styles of expression. This example of his that emphasize the thrust of the land-
experimental chalk drawings was on scape. The softened, rounded features of
view at the National Gallery of Art in a the rocks and trees, and the feathery sur-
2007 show titled “Private Treasures: face pattern, evoke a lush, dramatic set-
Four Centuries of European Master ting, presaging the landscapes of the
Drawings.” In the catalogue description British romantic school.”
of the work, Jennifer Tonkovich, the One can easily understand how an
associate curator of drawing and prints artist who devoted most of his artistic
at The Morgan Library & Museum, skills to serving English society would
where the show originated in New York take pleasure in creating experimental
City, comments that “although drawings. In all likelihood, he would have
[Gainsborough] occasionally made lost his sanity if he hadn’t found some
studies related to portraits, landscapes relief from flattering dukes and dowagers.


DRAW SIP 09 Master Landscapes:AA feature 9/18/09 7:40 AM Page 109

Wooded Landscape
With a Stream
ca. mid-1780s, black and
white chalk on gray-blue
paper. Private collection.


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Notch in the White

Mountains, From
Above With the
Notch House
1839, graphite,
111⁄8 x 167⁄8. Collection
Princeton University Art
Museum, Princeton, New
Jersey. Gift of Frank Jewett
Mather Jr. Collection.


A View of the
Mountain Pass Called
the Notch in the
White Mountains
1839, oil, 403⁄16 x 615⁄16.
Collection National Gallery
of Art, Washington, DC.


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Thomas Cole (1801–1848):

Although Thomas Cole is well respected as one of the It has been postulated that Cole’s additions and alterna-
founders of the Hudson River School—the first native tions were suggested, in part, by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s fic-
school of art in America—his paintings often seem exces- tionalized account of the Willey disaster. Hawthorne’s short
sively sentimental, moralistic, and overstated. For example, story, The Ambitious Guest, turns the natural disaster into a
one cycle of paintings, The Voyage of Life, illustrates the day of reckoning for Willey and his daughters, who hoped
life of a man from infancy to old age as he travels on a river their visitor could help them achieve their selfish ambi-
that changes from being a calm stream to a calamitous tions. In her book The Anatomy of Nature: Geology &
waterfall and, finally, a dark ocean guarded by angels. Cole American Landscape Painting, 1825–1875 (Princeton
uses a series of obvious devices—a floating cradle, a fork in University Press, Princeton, New Jersey), Rebecca Bedell
the river, a dark storm—to preach about the consequences writes that “since Cole avidly sought out literary associa-
of age, bad judgment, and lack of virtue. tions with the sites he painted, it seems likely that he
In contrast to his paintings, Cole’s landscape drawings would have known Hawthorne’s tale.” Bedell goes on to ref-
seem like chaste studies of nature. The linear graphite erence another cycle of paintings by Cole, The Course of
examinations show little evidence of invention or exaggera-
tion, suggesting that one could probably still determine
exactly where he was standing when he drew the landscape It’s only when one compares a drawing to
near his studio along the western shore of the Hudson the oil painting on which it is based that
River, in Catskill, New York. It’s only when one compares a
drawing to the oil painting on which it is based that one
one can understand how Cole imposed
can understand how Cole imposed his beliefs—or the his beliefs—or the belief system of a
belief system of a young nation trying to distinguish itself. young nation trying to distinguish itself.
The subject of this drawing, Crawford’s Notch in the White
Mountains of New Hampshire, was the site of a tragic ava-
lanche that took the lives of Samuel Willey, his wife, their five Empire, which illustrates that “it is pride and ambition
children, and two hired men. Willey had constructed a shelter (among other sins) that bring about the fall of the empire.
away from the base of the mountain where he thought he and Hawthorne’s story points to the same lesson, the idea that
his family would be safe if such an event occurred, but on pride and ambition precede a fall.”
August 28, 1826, the deflected boulders crushed the shelter Making a comparison between Cole’s preliminary draw-
and spared the house. Cole visited the site two years after the ing and the resulting painting is like studying the develop-
event and returned in 1839 to make a drawing of the exact ment of a magazine cover illustration by J.C. Leyendecker
appearance of the mountain, valley, and home. or Norman Rockwell. The raw material inherent in a draw-
When Cole returned to his studio to create a painting ing of live models is changed to tell a story that can be
based on the drawing, he began shifting the composition, understood quickly. Gestures, facial expressions, and body
adding figures, and inventing weather conditions. A man positions are adjusted to emphasize the most revealing
now rides past a symbolic dead tree on a horse that senses episode in the story and to heighten the emotional impact
danger, a father and his children come out from the house of the underlying message. In Cole’s case, human gestures,
to greet the rider, and rain clouds burst on the top of the natural forms, and weather conditions are the elements
mountain and instigate the tragic events. used to increase that sense of drama.


DRAW SIP 09 Master Landscapes:AA feature 9/18/09 7:41 AM Page 112

William Stanley Haseltine

Although all artists prefer to draw and paint subjects that Nahant, Massachusetts, the fashionable summer watering
interest them, those who aim to sell landscape pictures must hole for wealthy Bostonians that had geological significance.
deal with several common expectations among prospective In all likelihood, Haseltine discovered the shoreline while
buyers. One is that collectors prefer landscapes with historic, attending Harvard University, where he was a member of
geological, environmental, or personal significance; and the the Harvard Natural History Society. Louis Agassiz was a
other is that wealthy individuals tend to gravitate to the same lecturer at the college who frequently took his natural-
exclusive locations. That was true in the 19th century when history students to Nahant to show them ice-sheared, pol-
Thomas Moran and James Abbott McNeill Whistler sold hun- ished rocks of volcanic origin that were thought to be
dreds of prints, drawings, and paintings of everyone’s favorite among the oldest on earth.
city, Venice, Italy; and it is true today when artists sell pictures That particular coastline proved to be a perfect subject for
of wealthy communities such as Palm Beach, Santa Fe, and Haseltine’s precise drawings and oil paintings because he
Carmel by the Sea. The back streets of Podunk may fascinate believed “everything in nature is worth painting, provided
painters, but it is unlikely that collectors will share their one has discovered the meaning of it. The picture will then
enthusiasm for the gritty appearance of an insignificant town. tell its own story.” So many wealthy art collectors were inter-
It was no accident that Haseltine created dozens of ested in the story told in Haseltine’s pictures of Nahant that
detailed drawings of rock formations along the shoreline at he could barely keep up with the demand for them.


DRAW SIP 09 Master Landscapes:AA feature 9/18/09 7:41 AM Page 113

Rocks at Nahant
ca. 1864, graphite and watercolor,
141⁄4 x 207⁄8. Collection Museum of Fine
Arts, Boston, Boston, Massachusetts.

or the ink used for the drawing proved to be unstable and

So many wealthy art collectors were the images lost contrast. The best preserved of these draw-
interested in the story told in Haseltine’s ings tend to be ones in which the artist first toned the sur-
pictures of Nahant that he could barely face with a professional grade of watercolor, casein, or
gouache, then applied the dark and light marks over those
keep up with the demand for them. midtone colors. The most popular colors were blue, tan,
gray, and green. Today there are a number of archival,
Haseltine used drawing materials and techniques toned papers available for artists to use for landscape draw-
commonly employed by artists for hundreds of years. He ing, some bound together in sketchbooks that offer sheets
worked on blue- or gray-toned paper with dark graphite or of three or four different color options. For example,
charcoal, and then he added highlights with white chalk. Fabriano makes both the Fabriano Quadrato Artist’s
He could effectively develop three separate values with only Journal and the Artist’s Journal pads with as many as 12
two drawing materials. Although Haseltine’s drawings are different colored laid papers that are ideal for tonal land-
generally well preserved, many other such drawings on col- scape drawing; and Legion makes its versatile Stonehenge
ored paper have deteriorated. Quite often these papers were paper in several subtle shades that are perfect for tonal
dyed with fugitive colors that faded or changed over time, drawing in graphite, charcoal, or chalk.


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Daniel Garber (1880–1958):

Indiana-born artist Daniel Garber completed his education to drawings with subtle tones rather than those that require
at the Cincinnati Art Academy and the Pennsylvania deep, heavily worked dark passages.
Academy of the Fine Arts, in Philadelphia, at a pivotal time The artist also handled his drawing tool in such a way
in the history of American art. Painters were being strongly that it left patches of tones rather than solid, hard-edged
influenced by the French Impressionists they met while shapes. Garber may have been looking at a photograph to
studying in Europe or whose pictures were acquired by understand the spatial relationships in the scene, but he
American collectors; and they were fascinated with the pos- interpreted those relationships as he developed his draw-
sibilities that photography offered them. ing. The same might be said of the methods Monet used to
capture the appearance of a garden or a haystack. The
Frenchman applied separate pieces of paint that coalesced
Garber may have been looking at a photo- when seen from a distance.
graph to understand the spatial relationships This particular drawing of a quarry was the source for one
in the scene, but he interpreted those of Garber’s oil paintings, and the subject appears again in sev-
eral of his etchings. The quarry provided him with an oppor-
relationships as he developed his drawing. tunity to study the effects of light on a deep crevasse, a heav-
ing mountain, and a body of reflective water. Interestingly,
Garber responded to both of these forces, and he devel- other artists have been attracted to quarries as subjects of
oped an interesting method of using his photographs as the their paintings, presumably because the locations offered a
source of highly textured tonal drawings that conformed to variety of landscape forms in one small area, and because
the Impressionist aesthetic. First, he tended to work on laid they afforded a degree of privacy one could not find along
paper that was relatively thin, heavily sized, and had a dis- an ocean beach or public lake.
tinctive linear weave. A laid paper such as Fabriano Roma is Garber demonstrated an effective way of bringing imagi-
much less likely to mimic the continuous tones in a photo- nation, style, and personal content to an otherwise mechan-
graph than would a soft, mould-made paper such as Legion ical record of a landscape; and he showed how drawings
Stonehenge or Rives BFK. A sheet of laid paper—which is can become an integral part of that interpretive process of
more often associated with writing stationery—is best suited realizing paintings and prints. ❖


DRAW SIP 09 Master Landscapes:AA feature 9/18/09 7:42 AM Page 115


The Quarry
ca. 1917, charcoal,
16 x 20. Collection the
Pennsylvania Academy of
the Fine Arts, Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania. Gift of the


1917, oil, 50 x 60.
Collection the Pennsylvania
Academy of the Fine Arts,
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Joseph E. Temple Fund.


DRAW SIP 09 Transfer:AA feature 9/18/09 7:46 AM Page 116

Study for Diogenes in the School of Athens

by Raphael, silverpoint on pink prepared paper, 93⁄4 x 11.
Collection Städel Institut, Frankfurt, Germany.


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From Drawing
to Canvas
A wide range of traditional and modern techniques is available
for transferring preliminary drawings onto the painting surface.

by Joseph C. Skrapits

or most artists, drawing is both a stylus or the end of a paintbrush—is
pleasurable activity in itself and a then used to trace over the lines of the
stage in the complex process of drawing with enough pressure applied
creation. The final goal is often a to leave graphite marks on the paint-
painting, usually on canvas, paper, or ing support. The result will be a faint
a similarly portable support, or more graphite reproduction of the original
rarely today, on a wall. Between the drawing on the canvas, with the accu-
initial expression of a graphic idea in racy and detail determined by the
charcoal or graphite, and its ultimate artist’s care in tracing the original.
realization in oil, watercolor, or acrylic, As with everything else in the crafts
lies the technical challenge of transfer- of drawing and painting, practice
ring the preliminary design to the makes perfect. Experiment with differ-
painting support. Artists in late ent tracing tools, the density of the
medieval times developed or refined graphite layer, and variations in pres-
the basic transfer techniques that are sure to achieve a satisfactory transfer.
still widely used today; in addition, Chalk or pastel can be rubbed on the
modern technology offers the contem- back of the drawing instead of
porary artist an array of options that graphite. And since graphite rubbing
promise to save time and labor while is really a primitive form of carbon
improving the accuracy of the trans- paper, a sheet of carbon paper can be
ferred image. placed between the drawing and the
canvas as a substitute for the layer of
TRADITIONAL TRANSFER graphite or chalk on the back of the
TECHNIQUES drawing. Graphite rubbing is best suit-
ed for the transfer of small-scale
GRAPHITE RUBBING: Possibly the designs and simple outline drawings
simplest way to transfer a drawing without too much detail.
onto canvas or another support, when
there is no change in scale, is to cover POUNCING (SPOLVERO): The revival
the back of the drawing with a thin of fresco painting in Italy near the end
layer of graphite using the broad side of the 13th century gave rise to two
of a solid graphite pencil. Next, the important transfer techniques:
drawing is taped, faceup, to the can- spolvero and graticolare. The art of
vas; a tool with a dull point—such as a fresco required meticulous planning


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Study for the Left Foreground Cartoon for the School of Athens Cartoon for Annunciation
Group in the School of Athens by Raphael, charcoal and black chalk, with by Raphael, ca. 1502, pen-and-ink and wash
by Raphael, silverpoint with white heightening white heightening, on many sheets of paper, on paper, pricked for transfer, 11’ x 161⁄2’.
on gray prepared paper, 111⁄2 x 16. Collection pricked for transfer, 9’ x 27’. Collection Collection The Louvre, Paris, France.
Albertina Museum, Vienna, Austria. Ambrosiana Gallery, Milan, Italy.


DRAW SIP 09 Transfer:AA feature 9/18/09 4:52 PM Page 119

and preliminary work, including the Since pouncing results in permanent damage to the
preparation of a full-scale drawing,
called a cartoon, comprising numerous
cartoon—not to mention the damage caused by contact
sheets of paper glued together at the with wet plaster—the drawings were considered
edges to cover the exact dimensions of
the wall to be painted. The surviving
expendable and often discarded after use.
cartoon for Raphael’s School of Athens,
for example, measures 9' x 27'. ding section of the fresco. Next, a cloth trace the lines of the drawing with a
Spolvero, or pouncing, was used to bag filled with charcoal powder was stylus when it was in contact with the
transfer the cartoon onto the wall. The rubbed over the cartoon using circular, intonaco, leaving physical impressions
lines of the drawing were first perforat- daubing motions—the “pouncing.” of the lines in the plaster—a transfer
ed with thousands of tiny holes. The The charcoal dust passed through the technique very similar to graphite rub-
perforations were made in two ways: a perforations in the paper and marked bing, but of course useful only in fres-
pouncing wheel, resembling a riding the wall with a series of dots, which co. In his entertaining and well-
spur, could be used to trace along provided guides for redrawing the researched book, Michelangelo & the
straight and gently curving lines—as design on the wall after the cartoon Pope’s Ceiling (Walker & Company,
the wheel turned, it made holes at was removed. The pouncing bag was New York, New York), Ross King close-
evenly spaced intervals. More intricate made from a piece of coarse, heavy ly examines Michelangelo’s varying use
lines, such as the details in faces, were linen, folded to double thickness. of spolvero and incision to transfer his
perforated by hand using a sharply Charcoal powder was placed on the cartoons to the ceiling of the Sistine
pointed tool such as an awl or a sewing linen, and then the corners were gath- Chapel. The project lasted four years,
needle fixed to a piece of wood. ered together and tied to form the bag. from 1508 to 1512, during which time
Once perforated, the cartoon was A shortcut transfer technique, called Michelangelo’s confidence grew with
usually cut into sections, which were incision, was sometimes used instead experience. In the early stages he used
then laid directly on the wet plaster, or of spolvero to save time. Instead of per- spolvero exclusively because it pro-
intonaco, of the wall in the correspon- forating the cartoon, the artist would duced more accurate and detailed


DRAW SIP 09 Transfer:AA feature 9/18/09 7:47 AM Page 120

The Music Lesson transfers. Near the end he relied were considered expendable and often
by Jan Vermeer, ca. 1662–1665, oil, almost entirely on incision to transfer discarded after use. None from the
291⁄2 x 25. The Royal Collection, St.
James’ Palace, London, England. the outlines of his figures, then paint- Sistine Chapel ceiling are extant.
ed faces and the interior modeling of Raphael’s cartoon for the School of
musculature freehand. Athens survived because, though it was
Since pouncing results in perma- perforated, he did not make the trans-
nent damage to the cartoon—not to fer directly to the intonaco but onto an
mention the damage caused by con- auxiliary cartoon. King theorizes that
tact with wet plaster—the drawings because the fresco was painted for the


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Study for Miss Lala at the Cirque Fernando, Paris

by Edgar Degas, 1879, black chalk and pastel, 181⁄2 x 13. Collection
The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham, England.


Miss Lala at the Cirque Fernando, Paris

by Edgar Degas, 1879, oil, 46 x 30.
Collection The National Gallery, London, England.


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pope’s private apartments

where few people would see it,
Raphael wanted to preserve
the original cartoon, which he
could then exhibit publicly as
evidence of his genius.
It’s not surprising that, as
oil painting on portable can-
vases replaced fresco as the
dominant mode of artistic
expression, artists largely
abandoned the labor-intensive
process of spolvero. However,
there may be situations—in
the production of large
murals, for instance—where
pouncing may still prove help-
ful. Pouncing wheels can still
be found; they’re used mainly
by sign painters today, and can
be purchased from large art
suppliers, such as Dick Blick,
that carry sign-painting mate-
rials. The best-quality pounc-
ing wheels have needle-sharp,
hardened teeth and swivel
handles, which ease the trac-
ing of curving lines.

SQUARING (GRATICOLARE): The Artograph MC 250 Professional Projector

Graphite rubbing and pounc-
ing produce transferred images that
are identical in size to the original desired dimensions, is drawn on the chalk study for Miss Lala at the Cirque
drawing. But many transfers involve a support. For example, doubling the dis- Fernando, Paris clearly shows the
change in scale as well: typically, pre- tance between the lines of the grid will squaring lines the artist used to trans-
liminary drawings and sketches are double the height and width of the fer the image to his canvas.
enlarged or “scaled-up” for canvas or image when it is transferred onto the Although squaring is normally used
wall painting. Renaissance fresco canvas. The transfer is made by copying to enlarge transfers, there’s no reason
artists used the technique called grati- the drawing by hand onto the painting why it can’t be used to scale down
colare (squaring) to perform this task. support, using as references the points drawings or to transfer drawings with-
The basic principle of squaring is where the main lines of the drawing out changing their size. Indeed, squar-
familiar to anyone who’s read a map or cross the grid lines. A tighter grid, with ing is probably the most versatile and
created a floor plan on a sheet of grid more closely spaced horizontal and ver- widely used of all techniques for trans-
paper. Horizontal and vertical lines, tical lines, will enable the artist to make ferring drawings onto canvas. It
forming a grid of squares, are drawn on a more accurate copy than a grid with requires only a pencil and a ruler,
the preliminary sketch or cartoon. This lines spaced widely apart. Like pounc- which are inexpensive, portable, and
grid is visible, faintly, on Raphael’s car- ing, squaring results in a permanent easily stored. Its disadvantage is that it
toon for the School of Athens. In this alteration of the drawing—that is, if the is labor intensive and time-consuming,
case the graticolare was used to transfer grid is drawn directly on the paper. As but given the fact that the artist has
drawings of the individual figures from an alternative, the grid can be drawn on already spent hours making the draw-
smaller studies onto the large group tracing paper or clear acetate and then ing and is planning to devote many
composition. But the same process positioned over the drawing to avoid hours more to the painting, the addi-
could be used to transfer the studies marking the paper. tional time—usually no more than an
onto the final painting support, Unlike pouncing, squaring sur- hour or two—spent on squaring and
whether wall or canvas. vived the transition from fresco to copying is negligible.
Another grid of squares, sized to the easel painting. Edgar Degas’ black- Squaring a drawing may in some


DRAW SIP 09 Transfer:AA feature 9/18/09 7:48 AM Page 123

If past masters had available to them the range of tools available today, no doubt
many of them would unhesitatingly have adopted the latest methods.

cases save time in the long run: of one’s drawings. There is also the ects startlingly sharp enlargements up
Placing a grid over the drawing can issue of possible distortion of the to 15 times the original size. The MC
make distortions in figural propor- image caused by the camera lens, the 250 has a 6"-x- 6" copying area, so I
tions more apparent, allowing the projector’s lens, and the angle at made reduced-size scans of my draw-
artist to correct mistakes early and eas- which the image is projected onto the ings on my computer. Alternatively, I
ily, in the copying stage, rather than in painting support. Only practice in could have downloaded images of the
the difficult later stages of painting. photography and in the use of the pro- drawings from a digital camera for
jector can adequately address these printing from the computer.
MODERN potential problems. Using the projector, I was able to
TRANSFER TOOLS An alternative tool would be an easily transfer several basic outline
opaque projector, which displays source drawings to canvases in a matter of
PROJECTORS: Latter-day replace- material—commonly photographic minutes. The projected images were
ments for traditional transfer tech- prints but also drawings—directly, very clear and detailed—more than
niques come in a variety of shapes and eliminating the need to create an inter- adequate for my needs. In fact, were I
sizes, but they share a common tech- mediate transparency. Opaque projec- to consider buying a projector, I would
nological principle: the projection of an tors are of two types: stand-mounted, probably choose a less expensive
optical image of the source (drawing, which project images downward onto a model, such as the general-purpose
photograph, or in some cases a three- horizontal surface; and tabletop mod- Artograph Prism Projector, which is
dimensional subject) onto a plane sur- els, which project onto vertical surfaces suitable for transferring high-
face. Optical projection requires, at a such as walls or easel-mounted canvas- contrast line art, patterns, and designs.
minimum, a strong light source and a es. (Some models can project both hori- Projectors, coupled with comput-
lens to focus the image, and in fact zontally and vertically.) ers, scanners, and digital cameras, can
most projection systems today feature Opaque projectors are very popular certainly bring speed and convenience
a lot more bells and whistles. The basic among artists who work from photo- to the process of transferring drawings
principle of optical projection has been graphs, and most models have copy- to a painting surface. They make it
known for centuries, however, and was ing areas of 6" x 6" that easily accom- possible to preserve original designs
used as early as the Renaissance in modate standard-size prints. Some intact, without marring by graphite
such devices as the camera lucida and more expensive projectors have copy smudges, pouncing holes, or squaring
camera obscura. areas as large as 81⁄2" x 11". Therein lines. But these modern conveniences
The artist David Hockney believes lies a problem for the artist who also add substantial financial costs and
that these early predecessors of the wants to transfer a drawing larger a lot of cumbersome, complicated
modern film camera were used exten- than that. One solution would be to equipment that eventually must be
sively by masters such as the Van Eyck shoot photographic prints of the serviced or replaced.
brothers and Vermeer to achieve stun- drawing. Another would be to make a Ultimately, one’s choice of transfer
ningly realistic effects. The camera luci- reduced-size copy of the drawing, techniques and tools may reflect his or
da and camera obscura could, theoreti- using either a commercial photocopi- her overall approach to art making.
cally, be employed to transfer the image er (found at most office-supply stores) How important is speed to you, and is
of a drawing onto panel or canvas; but or a flatbed scanner attached to a it worth the investment to make the
that would defeat their purpose, which home computer and printer. “chore” of image-transfer go more
was to bypass the stage of preliminary quickly and easily? If past masters had
drawing altogether by enabling the COMPUTERS, SCANNERS, AND available to them the range of tools
artist to fix an image of the “real world” DIGITAL CAMERAS: For the purpos- available today, no doubt many of them
directly onto the painting support. es of this article, I borrowed an would unhesitatingly have adopted the
Today, an ordinary 35-mm slide pro- Artograph MC 250 Professional latest methods. Others, like the cur-
jector can become a basic transfer Projector from my local Dick Blick art- mudgeonly Degas, would have stuck
device for the artist. Its use presuppos- supply store. This is a top-of-the-line with the old ways. “Speed,” he once
es, of course, that one owns or has tabletop model featuring a precision- quipped. “What nonsense! Nothing
access to a 35-mm film camera and ground color-corrected lens system was ever accomplished without the
can take good-quality transparencies and 300-watt halogen lamp that proj- patient collaboration of time.” ❖


DRAW SIP 09 Memory:AA feature 9/18/09 5:01 PM Page 124

The Tradition of
Drawing from Memory
The systematic methods of a brilliant 19th-century teacher can
help artists of all ages discover and develop their inner eye.

by Joseph C. Skrapits

rtists who wish to improve had previously drawn in the life class. these abstract shapes to “one of the
their drawing skills would do Continual practice in this exercise, he simplest details of the human face, a
well to consider the crucial role said, would soon enable the student to nose drawn in profile,” as he wrote in
that memory plays in even the most draw “tolerably correct” human fig- The Training of the Memory in Art, pub-
straightforward drawing from life. As ures “with as little effort of the mind lished in 1847. He pointed out some
Kimon Nicolaïdes wrote in his classic as is required to trace with a pen the salient characteristics of the form and
book The Natural Way to Draw, “With letters of the alphabet.” lectured on the nose’s anatomical con-
the exception of the [blind] contour Probably the most comprehensive struction, then allowed the pupils to
study, there is no drawing that is not a approach to memory training for study the image for a few days before
memory drawing because, no matter artists was devised in the 1840s by a asking them to draw it from memory.
how slight the interval is from the time wonderfully gifted teacher with the Lecoq took care not to require his
you look at the model until you look at unwieldy name of Horace Lecoq de students to use a particular method in
your drawing or painting, you are Boisbaudran. While a professor at the committing the image to memory. He
memorizing what you have just seen.” School of Decorative Arts, in Paris, wanted them “to have free scope for
Various exercises for cultivating the Lecoq conducted some experiments their own natural and individual ways
visual memory have been practiced at involving a group of enthusiastic 12- to of working.” Some simply looked at
least since the time of the Renaissance, 15-year-old students in his drawing the nose very attentively, others drew
and, no doubt some form of memory class. He wanted to find out whether repeated copies until they could
training was used by artists long his pupils’ varying natural abilities to remember the nose’s modeling, pro-
before that. For example, Leonardo da recall visual forms could be improved portions, outline, and details exactly.
Vinci recommended that artists, through a series of logically graduated Lecoq was surprised at how rapidly the
before going to sleep at night, review tasks of increasing complexity. young artists progressed. After three
in their imagination the outlines of Lecoq began by asking his students months, they could draw an entire
forms they had studied during the day. to memorize straight lines of different head accurately from memory, even
Similarly, in the 18th century, Sir lengths, then angles of different down to details of the hair. The later
Joshua Reynolds told his students to degrees, followed by curves varying in stages of the experiment involved the
redraw from memory figures that they difficulty. He moved on quickly from memorization of engravings of classi-


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Dancers at the Barre

by Edgar Degas, ca. 1900, oil,
511⁄4 x 381⁄4. The Phillips Collection,
Washington, DC. Although Degas
used models throughout his career,
his eyesight was sufficiently weak
at the time of this painting to make
it, most likely, a work from
memory. The somewhat awkward
placement of the figures in relation
to each other also implies the work
was done from memory.
DRAW SIP 09 Memory:AA feature 9/18/09 7:53 AM Page 126

sary, but dangerous, phase. In many

ways a traditionalist in his teaching prac-
tice, he believed that too-accurate copy-
ing of the imperfections of the human
body would fill his students’ memories
with ugly forms and spoil their taste for
the ideal. He therefore asked them to
make idealized, rather than exact, mem-
ory drawings of the figure, after having
first drawn it accurately from life.
All this preliminary training pre-
pared Lecoq’s students for what he
called the “true artistic application of
memory,” the accurate recall and
reproduction of figures in motion and
transient natural effects. He took his
students to a secluded outdoor loca-
tion—“a beautiful spot, a sort of natu-
ral park”—where hired models, both
clothed and unclothed, walked, ran,
sat, or stood about in full sunlight or
deep shadow. Lecoq allowed his stu-
dents “entire liberty to choose the
impression that had most vividly
struck them,” then had them repro-
duce the remembered images as exact-
ly as possible. The exercise, he said,
“made them really understand the pur-
pose of this unusual training, for with-
out it all their fine impressions would
have faded away rapidly like dreams.”
Lecoq never intended that his mem-
ory-drawing exercises should replace
traditional methods of instruction. They
were a supplement, not a substitute,
and Lecoq recommended that students
not undertake his memory training
until they could draw reasonably well
from casts and engravings. The purpose
of memory drawing was to force artists
to use their own eyes and develop their
powers of observation. Lecoq was reluc-
Dancer Putting on Her Shoe cal sculpture, Old Master paintings tant to prescribe any hints or tips to
by Edgar Degas, ca. 1892–1895, and drawings, and finally, the copying facilitate memorization, because he sus-
etching, 93⁄4 x 65⁄8. Collection The Art
Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.
of three-dimensional casts and original pected that such tricks would be applied
Degas relied on his memory when sculptures and paintings in the Louvre. mechanically by teachers who did not
composing his work.
Lecoq insisted on accuracy; only take into consideration their students’
when the memory drawings at each individual aptitudes and intellects.
stage were flawless could the students Nevertheless, in an appendix to the sec-
move on to the next level. One pupil ond edition of his book, published in
recalled having to make a copy of an 1862, Lecoq offered some general ideas
engraving from memory five times to guide artists in their memory work.
before the teacher was satisfied. The In observing any subject, he noted,
exercises led eventually to the making of there are five principal points to keep
memory drawings from a live nude in mind: dimensions, position, form,
model, which Lecoq considered a neces- modeling, and color.


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■ To determine dimensions, choose

some part of the subject (in a figure,
the head, for example) as a unit of
measure, and use it to compare the
proportions of different parts to the

■ To fix position, establish “land-

marks”—prominent points of the sub-
ject—and imagine horizontal and verti-
cal lines passing through them. The
points and the intersections of the lines
form a simplified grid that can be easi-
ly remembered and referred to when
drawing the subject from memory.

■ In observing forms, imagine them

enclosed within simple geometric
shapes—circles, squares, and trian-
gles—and then decide how far the
observed form deviates from the imag-
inary shape superimposed upon it.

■ Modeling, or three-dimensionality, is
best remembered by noting the pat-
tern of light and shade on the subject.
Pick one part of the subject, either the
darkest or the lightest, to use as the
unit of comparison to measure the
relative values of all the other parts.

■ Color observation requires judgment

of both value and intensity of tones.
In an advanced course of training,
after they had mastered memory
drawing in black and white, Lecoq’s
students memorized a series of pure
color tints, which they then could
use as fixed points of comparison to
judge the intensity of colors
observed in the subject.

These general methods are especially “formula,” he called it, despite his Nocturne: Blue and Gold—
Old Battersea Bridge
important in the early stages of memory own distrust of formulas. With the
by James McNeill Whistler, 1872–1877, oil, 267⁄8 x
training, but with practice, such con- object in view, he said, trace its outline 201⁄8. Collection Tate Britain, London, England.
scious guidelines become gradually less or major forms in the air with the tip During the period when Whistler painted his
Nocturnes, the artist, who studied under Lecoq,
necessary, according to Lecoq. “For then of your finger or a pencil. Then look prided himself on the ability to turn his back on a
the proportions, points, shapes, model- away from the object, close your eyes, scene and describe it accurately from memory.
Because of problems with lighting and logistics,
ing, and color are calculated by what I and draw it again in the air. Repeat the Whistler painted many of this series from memory.
may call the inner eye of the memory, process rapidly, as often as it takes to
without recourse to previous calcula- fix the object clearly in your mind.
tions and reasoning, much as they are
judged by the eye in ordinary vision.” LECOQ NOTIC E D that his students
Finally, Lecoq recommended one applied the formula in different ways,
overwhelmingly successful method of depending on their abilities to grasp
committing any object to memory: the essential qualities of structure, mass,


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Modern Applications of Lecoq’s Methods

I know of only one recent instance of
Lecoq’s methods being handed down
from a teacher to his students. In the
1960s, Siegfried Hahn emigrated from
France to Albuquerque, New Mexico,
where he opened a school with Howard
Wexler. Hahn was one of the early advo-
cates of painting with Jacques Maroger’s
medium; he also brought a copy of
Lecoq’s book, which he used to develop
a method of drawing instruction founded
on the principle of logical progression
from simple to complex forms.
“Siegfried always told us to train our
memories when we were young, because
it’s easier then,” says one of his stu-
dents, Carol Allison. Allison has incorpo-
rated Hahn’s methods in the teaching of
her own students, who are mostly chil-
dren, but include some adults. Like
Lecoq, she finds it fascinating to watch
her pupils catch on to the power of mem-
ory training. “Many times, students come
to a point where they think a drawing is
finished, but when you push them a little,
it’s amazing how much more they can
remember about an object or a complex
subject like a still life.” In her own work,
Allison often paints landscapes from
memory in her studio, after making stud-
ies first, with color notes outdoors.
Allison and Joan Irey, her teaching part-
ner at the New Mexico Art League, locat-
ed the long-out-of-print English translation
of Lecoq’s The Training of the Memory in
Art, which Allison calls her “bible.”
Carol Allison and Joan Irey
use Lecoq’s methods when
teaching their art classes. Students
start by memorizing straight lines
and boxes. This may seem to
exaggerate the point, but Allison
says to draw them with utmost
accuracy is extremely challenging.
The students then advance to
curves, then basic forms,
and on to simple still lifes.


DRAW SIP 09 Memory:AA feature 9/18/09 7:55 AM Page 129

Irey, far left, and Allison,

bottom right, let students
take a drawing as far as
they can, then they ask
them to execute the
drawing again from
memory. Students often
render the second drawing
with more detail and
accuracy than the first.


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The Tuileries Gardens reminiscent of Lecoq’s exercises with

by Édouard Manet, ca. 1862, graphite and ink wash, 71⁄4 x 81⁄2. Private collection. Manet moving models in the open air.
made numerous sketches of his friends and Paris celebrities, along with sketches of
people in the park, to use as studies for his 1862 painting Music in the Tuileries Gardens. Rodin’s drawings and watercolors of
The complexity of the subject matter ensures that Manet worked from memory. dancers are made with confident,
sweeping contours that are accurate,
and light. “The abler ones may begin sion instrument. Surviving works by not because they were painstakingly
with the big lines of the mass, that is, his students show that they learned to rendered from life, but because they
the simplified impression of the whole record and retain vivid impressions of are so well observed and remembered
effect, before attending to details. The complex objects and scenes with near- that Rodin could draw them with his
weaker ones, being unable to grasp photographic detail. Such training paid eyes closed—which he sometimes did.
the whole subject at once, will have to off handsomely for some of Lecoq’s Whistler developed an interesting
make imaginary drawings of one part pupils, who included the sculptor idiosyncratic variation on Lecoq’s
only over and over again, and stroke Auguste Rodin and the painter James memory techniques; he depended on
by stroke, in order that the impression McNeill Whistler. Their art forms were verbal, rather than visual, cues to help
may be, so to speak, incrusted on their based on their ability to understand and him visualize a scene. Happening
mind.” remember transient effects: the human upon a subject he wished to remem-
Repetition and rehearsal, either by body in motion, in Rodin’s sculpture; ber, he observed it intently for a few
actually copying the image on paper or subtle atmospheric moods, often noc- minutes, then turned his back and
by making imaginary drawings in the turnal, in Whistler’s paintings. described its essential points out loud,
air, were evidently key components of In his later years, Rodin often had as if reciting a poem. Lecoq would
Lecoq’s method, which was geared to models moving around him in his stu- have heartily approved of Whistler’s
turning the visual memory into a preci- dio while he drew them, a practice adaptation. His greatest desire was to


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empower his students to discover their tence that students in his class initially the trouble of committing a complex
own inventiveness, to unlock the pow- produce exact copies of memorized subject to memory when you can sim-
ers of their own imagination. As models was but one step in a long ply take a picture of it? Lecoq’s elegant
another of Lecoq’s pupils, Henri process, the ultimate goal of which system fell into disuse in the schools,
Fantin-Latour, said in honoring his was—paradoxically—to free the artist’s and today, is all but unknown except
teacher, “Cultivating the memory, as he imagination from the grip of literalness. among scholars of 19th-century art
especially recommends, means noth- “In the execution of such drawings and a handful of perceptive teachers.
ing less than cultivating more intense- and paintings in our heads,” he wrote, That’s unfortunate, because there
ly the personality of each one of us.” referring to the formula of tracing in the are real advantages to cultivating the
air with a finger, with eyes closed, “our visual memory, and serious disadvan-
LECOQ’S I N FLU E NC E, direct and ideas and feelings are unhampered by tages to an overreliance on photo-
indirect, was greatest among the gen- material difficulties and have free play graphic material. As he demonstrated,
eration of artists who came of age in to follow their natural inclination. They Lecoq’s methods, when practiced con-
the middle to last part of the 19th cen- need not be slavishly bound by the exact scientiously over a long period of time,
tury. The Impressionists’ interest in appearance of things, which they may can be a way of growing those “higher
painting figures in the open air may modify at pleasure by selection, by faculties” of art: not only memory, but
have been stimulated by Lecoq’s exer- abstraction, by adding to them or taking imagination, intelligence, and feeling.
cises using models posed outdoors in away from them, by emphasis or embel- Relying on photographs may be a
the early 1860s. Édouard Manet’s lishment, in short, by grafting, as it shortcut, but ultimately, it’s a shortcut
famous Déjeuner sur l’herbe, a studio were, the ideal upon the real. to nowhere. Not only are the “higher
painting of an outdoor subject that “Is not that truly an act of assimila- faculties” not stimulated, they might
combines elements of direct observa- tion, whereby an artist, once he has actually atrophy in the long run.
tion and references to the grand tradi- made nature his own, is able, so to
tion, is very much in the spirit of speak, to infuse her with his own per- I N CONTE M PORARY society, awash
Lecoq’s teaching, though Lecoq proba- sonal sentiment? with generic mechanical memories—
bly would have objected to the inclu- “Thus the procedure that I advocate photographic and electronic imagery—
sion of so much observed “ugliness.” must be admitted to exercise and there is less occasion than ever to

As another of Lecoq’s pupils, Henri Fantin-Latour, said in honoring his teacher,

“Cultivating the memory, as he especially recommends, means nothing less
than cultivating more intensely the personality of each one of us.”

Manet would have known of Lecoq’s cultivate simultaneously artistic memo- exercise and develop our natural pow-
methods through his friendship with ry, artistic intelligence, and artistic feel- ers of visual recall. As we witness a
Fantin-Latour, as would another mem- ing. It is equally well adapted for growing epidemic of memory loss
ber of their circle, Edgar Degas, who advanced as for elementary study. among the aging in our general popu-
shared Lecoq’s belief in the importance Besides tending to develop the memory lation, is there a connection? Studies
of cultivating the memory. Alone and the higher faculties, it will lead to have shown that memory training can
among the Impressionists, Degas the early formation of the excellent benefit patients in the early stages of
scoffed at the idea of painting directly habit, only too rare, of devoting a few Alzheimer’s. It couldn’t hurt those of
from nature. Though he did make life moments of head work to considering us who don’t have an organic brain
studies of his beloved dancers, laun- the model, before the hand work is disease, but want to improve our
dresses, and horseracing scenes, Degas allowed to begin.” drawing skills—or maybe just remem-
relied on his memory when compos- ber where we put the car keys. As with
ing his finished oils and pastels, draw- LECOQ’S BOOK was translated into physical fitness, the lesson for memo-
ing and redrawing the lines of his fig- English in 1911, and his methods had ry fitness is simple: Use it or lose it.
ures until they satisfied the demands some impact on art education in Great There is, potentially, a lot to lose.
of his inner eye. Britain and the United States during Horace Lecoq de Boisbaudran under-
The connection between memory the early 20th century. But artists’ stood that the ability to remember is
and the creative imagination, so abun- increasingly widespread use of not merely a mechanical aptitude, a
dantly demonstrated in Degas’ achieve- mechanical memory—that is, photo- parlor trick; it is the key feature of our
ments, is a theme that Lecoq empha- graphic reference material—made the individuality, as artists and human
sizes again and again in his book. arduous training of the visual memory beings. Without our memories, we lit-
Lecoq’s vision was holistic. His insis- seem like a waste of time. Why go to erally don’t know who we are. ❖


DRAW SIP 09 Sculpture:AA feature 9/18/09 12:56 PM Page 132

Madonna Breastfeeding
the Christ
by Michelangelo, ca. 1525, red
and black chalk, 211⁄3 x 153⁄5,
Collection Casa Buonarroti,
Florence, Italy. Photo courtesy
© Alinari/Art Resource, New
York, New York.
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A comparison of drawings by Michelangelo, Rodin, and

Henry Moore shows that while the means may have changed,
the aim of sculptors in making drawings has remained
remarkably consistent over five centuries. by Joseph C. Skrapits

the Muse
by Sculptors
sculptor Auguste Rodin. “My object [in drawing] is to test to what extent my
hands already feel what my eyes see.” Rodin’s linking of visual perception to
tactile, emotional expression establishes the vital, but often overlooked, role
of drawing in the art of sculpture. Rodin is one among many master sculp-
tors—from Michelangelo in the 16th century to Henry Moore in the 20th—
who have also been superb, prolific draftsmen. They drew to understand and
explore anatomy, mass, and movement, and to try out possible compositional
solutions before translating their ideas, irreversibly, into marble or bronze.
For many sculptors, drawing is thus both a preliminary and a necessary
accompaniment to the realization of their three-dimensional conceptions.


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modeling. His restatement of contour lines and his treat-

ment of the body as a fluid “machine” of interlinked
spheres, cylinders, and cones give these drawings a shim-
mering, abstract dynamism not seen again in European art
until the late 19th century, in the drawings of Paul Cézanne.
Michelangelo produced drawings for every stage in the
creation of his sculptures, using a range of styles that var-
ied with the functional requirements of the process. He
began with quick summary sketches that helped him visu-
alize his thoughts about possible treatments of the subject.
Once he’d more or less settled on a pose, he concerned
himself with how his sculpture would look from different
vantage points. Relying on his imagination, Michelangelo
could picture the front, back, and sides of his figures with-
out having to look at a model. Only when he was almost
ready to carve would he make life studies, and these were,
most often, not drawings of the entire body but of details,
such as the views of an arm, hand, and upper body in Study
for the Figure of Adam.
Priceless treasures today, these painstaking renderings
of the architecture of human beauty were treated roughly
by their creator. They were working drawings, and since
paper was expensive and Michelangelo exceedingly frugal,
he had no qualms about drawing over them for other proj-
ects, or tearing a large sheet with a gorgeous drawing on it

The rarity of Michelangelo’s talents as sculptor, painter, and
architect tends to obscure the fact that he was, in some
respects, a typical product of the Renaissance studio system,
which valued skillful drawing as indispensable to serious
accomplishment in any of the visual arts. The 15th-century
sculptor Donatello demonstrated this attitude when he told
his students, “The art of sculpture could be summed up in
one word: Draw.”
Michelangelo learned to draw as an apprentice to the
painter Domenico Ghirlandaio, who used an elaborate tech-
nique of crosshatching in pen-and-ink over preliminary
drawings in graphite or chalk to build up a rich range of val-
ues and a convincing illusion of volumes in space. Among
Michelangelo’s earliest surviving drawings are copies of
robed figures from the frescoes of Giotto and Masaccio, also
know as Three Figures From a Group of Spectators, in which
the young sculptor-to-be transformed the flat patterns of
wall paintings into startling convex forms that appear to
bulge outward from the paper. He produced this effect by
carefully emphasizing the play of light on the folds of heavy
drapery, moving the viewer’s eye from highlight to midtone
to deep shadow in regular intervals, as would happen when
viewing a sharply lit figure in the round.
In black-chalk studies of a fragment of ancient sculpture
made later in his career, Michelangelo continued to refine
the crosshatching technique, employing subtler internal


DRAW SIP 09 Sculpture:AA feature 9/18/09 12:56 PM Page 135

Study for the Figure

of Adam
by Michelangelo, 1511, red
chalk, 471⁄5 x 10. Collection
Teylers Museum, Haarlem,
The Netherlands.


Study of an Antique
by Michelangelo, black chalk,
10 x 71⁄10. Collection the
British Museum, London,


Three Figures From a

Group of Spectators
by Michelangelo, pen-and-ink,
111⁄2 x 47⁄8.


DRAW SIP 09 Sculpture:AA feature 9/18/09 12:57 PM Page 136

Portrait of Andrew Quaratesi

by Michelangelo, ca. 1532, black chalk, 161⁄5 x 111⁄2.
Collection British Museum, London, England.

[Michelangelo’s] works but of figures ...

imagined and elaborated in order to
understand his technique.” Later Rodin
would hire a model and pose him in the
remembered gestures of Michelangelo’s
statues, which he would then use to
make rapid outline drawings.
Rodin’s habit of drawing from
memory, at a remove from his object
of study, was formed during his early
years as a pupil of the artist Horace
Lecoq de Boisbaudran, who had devel-
oped a course of studies for educating
the visual memory. The aim was the
preservation of direct observations,
proceeding from simple shapes to
complex three-dimensional objects
and whole scenes. Late in his life,
Rodin claimed to be still using Lecoq’s
methods, which he found particularly
effective in capturing the transitory
gestures of figures in motion.
As Michelangelo obsessively stud-
ied the rippling musculature of bodies
straining in heroic effort, so Rodin
intensely observed movement. “The
human body can be compared to a
striding temple, and like a temple, it
has a center of gravity around which
the volumes are distributed and
ordered,” he wrote. “Once you have
realized this, you know everything. It
is simple, but you have to see it.”
Although Rodin could model small
clay figures with amazing facility and
speed, drawing offered him an even
into pieces in order to give one of his students something quicker means to comprehend movement. He made almost
on which to practice. Fearing that rivals might steal his no preparatory drawings for specific pieces of sculpture,
ideas, Michelangelo himself destroyed many of his own though he often drew his figures after they had been cast.
drawings. The artist’s rare and exquisite, highly finished Instead, drawing served him in this more general way: To test
drawings in red or black chalk, such as his famous Portrait the coordination between his eye and his hand, and to improve
of Andrea Quaratesi, required weeks if not months of labor his chances of seizing and retaining not just the physical
and were usually made as presents to friends and patrons. appearance but also the emotional essence of a gesture.
In the 1880s, the artist developed a style of pure contour
auguste rodin drawing that dispensed entirely with internal modeling and
Rodin’s encounter with Michelangelo’s work in Italy in the the illusion of depth. In making these later contour drawings,
spring of 1875 has rightly been called one of the seminal Rodin had his models move around him in the studio as he
events in modern art. But among the more than 7,000 worked. He drew without taking his eyes off the model,
drawings that Rodin produced, only a very few show that he because he believed that the success of the drawing depended
made direct copies of Michelangelo’s sculptures. Rather, he on a continuous flow of feeling from his eye to his hand. “The
would visit churches and museums during the day and moment I drop my eyes, that flow stops,” he said.
make multiple sketches in his room at night. Rodin The blend of precision and expressiveness in such con-
explained to his wife that his sketches were “not of his tour drawings as Reclining Female Nude, One Foot Propped on


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Study After Night by Michelangelo

by Auguste Rodin, ca. 1877, charcoal, 191⁄8 x 245⁄8.
Collection Musée Rodin, Paris, France.


Study After Day by Michelangelo

by Auguste Rodin, ca. 1877, charcoal, 191⁄8 x 245⁄8.
Collection Musée Rodin, Paris, France.


Tomb of Giuliano Dé Medici

by Michelangelo, 1526–1531, marble,
248 x 1652⁄5. Collection New Sacristy,
San Lorenzo, Florence, Italy. On this
tomb sit the figures Night (left) and Day


DRAW SIP 09 Sculpture:AA feature 9/18/09 12:57 PM Page 138

Her Thigh depended as well on Rodin’s practice of keeping damentally sculptural way of thinking about the figure. In
his arm still while allowing his wrist to move freely. The sta- these early drawings Moore discovered the theme that would
bility of the arm delimited the scale and proportion of the fig- preoccupy him for much of his career as a sculptor: a vision
ure—confining it to an area within the borders of the of the body as a heavy object; an expression, not of internal
paper—while the freedom of the wrist allowed him to search dynamism, but of the force of gravity acting upon it.
for the truth of what he called the “great line,” which could Life studies such as Standing Figure have a palpable
describe both volume and movement in a rapid, varying, but weight that grows from the artist’s use of pen-and-ink to
unbroken mark of his pencil. Rodin sometimes later added a develop thick outlines and a dense network of shadows.
wash of watercolor to the graphite outlines of his drawings, Pen over chalk or graphite was the combination of materi-
which strengthened the sense of massiveness of the forms als used by Michelangelo to make his early studies of fresco
and also enabled him to make minor corrections of the con- paintings. Moore has used a hatching technique with the
tours, as he did with Cambodian Dancer en Face. pen that is reminiscent of Michelangelo’s crosshatching,
Formal perfection in drawing was not Rodin’s aim. “It is though Moore’s seems sketchy and random rather than
a false idea that drawing itself can be beautiful,” stated the orderly and deliberate. Moore’s figure exudes the feeling of
sculptor. “It is only beautiful through the truths and the having been desperately scratched or carved into existence
feelings that it translates.” out of some hard, resistant material.
Around 1930, Moore began to experiment with the
Henry Moore Surrealist practice of “automatic” drawing, through which
Henry Moore belonged to a generation of modernist sculp- he generated hundreds of ideas for sculptures by initially
tors who seemed to reject the Renaissance tradition and the letting go of conscious control. He explained, “I sometimes
vigorous naturalism of Rodin. Moore eventually looked to the begin a drawing with no preconceived problem to solve,
art forms of non-Western cultures and the dream imagery of with only the desire to use pencil and paper, and make lines,
the collective unconscious for inspiration. Yet his many early tones, and shapes with no conscious aim. But as my mind
drawings from life prove that he began his career with a takes in what is so produced, a point arrives where some
sound grasp of traditional methods and a very personal, fun- idea becomes conscious and crystallized, and then a control


DRAW SIP 09 Sculpture:AA feature 9/18/09 12:58 PM Page 139


Reclining Female Nude, One Foot

Propped on Her Thigh
by Auguste Rodin, ca. 1900, graphite,
121⁄8 x 77⁄8. Collection Musée Rodin, Paris, France.


Cambodian Dancer en Face

by Auguste Rodin, ca. 1906, graphite and
watercolor, 125⁄8 x 93⁄4. Collection Musée Rodin,
Paris, France.


Standing Figure
by Henry Moore, 1923, pen-and-ink, and ink
wash, 16 x 81⁄4. Private collection.

and ordering begin to take place.”

Once an idea had crystallized,
Moore used complex combinations
of media—chalk, ink, gouache, and
wax crayons—to give a sense of bod-
ily substance to the creatures of his
imagination. Drawings such as Ideas
for Sculpture in Metal and Wire are,
in effect, highly realistic renderings
of abstract forms that might poten-
tially be carved or cast. Moore trans-
lated only a small fraction of these
ideas into wood, stone, or metal; his
method of drawing produced far
more ideas than he could ever carry
out. Moore’s well of inspiration was
virtually inexhaustible.
During World War II, Moore’s
drawing gained him his first wide
recognition outside the small circle
of enthusiasts for avant-garde sculp-
ture. Commissioned as a war artist,
he documented the condition of
Londoners who took refuge from
German bombing in the “tubes” of


DRAW SIP 09 Sculpture:AA feature 9/18/09 12:58 PM Page 140


DRAW SIP 09 Sculpture:AA feature 9/18/09 12:58 PM Page 141

the Underground. Today, Moore’s

Shelter Drawings are considered
among his greatest achievements.
Although stylistically related to his
drawings for abstract sculpture, they
have a timeless humanity that recon-
nects Moore’s art to Renaissance tradi-
tions. Pink and Green Sleepers has a
powerful simplicity and monumentality
worthy of Giotto.
Shortly after he completed the
Shelter Drawings, Moore received a
commission to carve a Madonna and
Child for a church in Northampton,
England. Michelangelo had received a
similar commission for a church in
Bruges, Belgium, in 1504. Comparing
Moore’s study drawing for his commis-
sion with one by Michelangelo shows
the extent to which drawings by sculp-
tors have changed over five centuries—
and the degree to which they have
remained, in essential ways, unchanged.
In Michelangelo’s chalk drawing,
the mother and child are depicted with ABOVE

Seated Studies of
an astonishing economy of line. In Mother and Child
Moore’s Seated Studies of Mother and by Henry Moore, 1940,
Child, he has shown a movement of graphite, wax crayon, pen-
and-ink, gouache, and
the child toward the mother for nour- watercolor, 104⁄5 x 15.
ishment and protection, but his draw- Collection Henry Moore
Foundation, Hertfordshire,
ings are much more heavily worked. United Kingdom.
Using a combination of chalk,
graphite, watercolor, and pen-and-ink, Madonna and Child
Moore works each drawing, searching by Henry Moore, 1943,
for the right composition for his piece. bronze, height 71⁄6".
Collection Henry Moore
Michelangelo’s drawing encapsu- Foundation, Hertfordshire,
lates the lucidity and confidence of the United Kingdom.

Renaissance, Moore’s the woe and fore- OPPOSITE PAGE, ABOVE

boding of a world at war. Yet the germ Ideas for Sculpture in

Metal and Wire
of the sculptural idea in both drawings by Henry Moore, 1939,
is identical: A large shape encloses and graphite, chalk, watercolor
shelters a small one. Whether the idea wash, and pen-and-ink,
11 x 15. Private collection.
is carried out in marble or wood, cast
bronze or welded steel, whether it is
Pink and Green Sleepers
modeled or carved, made rough or by Henry Moore, 1941,
smooth, grand or sweet, realistic or graphite, crayon, watercolor
wash, and pen-and-ink,
abstract, these issues, which bring trou- 15 x 22. Collection Tate
ble and joy and ultimately success or Gallery, London, England.
failure to the sculptor, are determined
by individual talent, historical con-
ditions, and the dictates of
fashion. But the process of
germination transcends
individuals and historical
trends; and it begins, very
often, with a drawing. ❖


DRAW SIP 09 Taye:AA feature 9/18/09 1:01 PM Page 142

Study for The Awakening

2001, graphite, 36 x 24.
Study for The Awakening These two drawings emphasize proportional
2001, graphite, 36 x 24. relationships and contain measurements that The Awakening
All artwork this article collection the artist. were used to create a large wood sculpture. 2001, wood, 76" high.

Drawing Logic:

Drawing for Sculpture

by John Taye

IT HELPS TO DRAW BEFORE YOU START A SCULPTURE. people ask about using photos, but there are distortions in
I find that if I draw first, I become more familiar with the photos, and unless the lighting is good they will not be that
model’s proportions and body type. It also makes me more useful. They don’t record a lot of the information one can
awake visually, and warms me up to that particular model. see and thus depict in a careful drawing. Drawings record
I recommend doing sketches of the model from four views: in a more personal way the information needed to create a
front, back, left side, and right side. These are contour sculpture. I also use written notes, such as, “sharp edge” or
drawings that simply show the proportional relationships, “shallow indentation.” I may record actual dimensions if I
rhythms, and masses of the model. plan on doing a life-size piece.
Quick gesture studies help me find a pose that is inter- If there’s time, fully shaded drawings with strong side-
esting. I often have students do gesture drawings of the lighting will give a good sense of the form. It’s crucial to
same pose from different places in the room to better ana- carefully render the light and shade seen on the model, then
lyze the form and be able to visualize it in three dimensions. recreate the same light conditions on the sculpture as you
Another helpful approach is to draw cross-contour lines work. This can be a problem in a classroom because the light
that explore the form at right angles to the direction of the is usually uneven in different parts of the room. If the shad-
form. These lines help record the surface topography of the ows on your sculpture appear the same as the shadows on
model and are especially useful on complex areas. A lot of your drawings, then the form should also be fairly accurate.


DRAW SIP 09 Taye:AA feature 9/18/09 1:01 PM Page 143


High Step
1996, bronze, 12" high.

Standing Woman Proportion
1997, graphite, 15 x 7. and Movement
Cross-contour lines are used Studies for
here to show planes and High Step
surface topography of the 1995, graphite,
model. 12 x 16.

Another helpful step in using drawings to plan a

sculpture is marking where the armature will be. If you
mark where the support will be on a full-size drawing
with red crayon, and also indicate the elbow and knee
joints, it helps when you’re bending the wire in place.
In a nutshell, be more sensitive to what you’re see-
ing, and plan the sculpture as much as you can
before you get into it. The better you draw, the better
you are going to be able to sculpt. I’ve never seen a
good figurative sculptor who wasn’t a good drafts-
man. Many students have told me that sculpture
helped them draw better. The two certainly reinforce
each other, as careful observation is important for
both. I like what the Italian sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti
said: “Supremacy in sculpture is only attainable by a
superior draftsman.” ❖


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