A walk through just about any atelier or art academy will likely reveal numerous plaster casts hung on the walls. Why they are being used and why were the particular casts chosen over others? The answers often have little to no impact on today’s students, but that was not the case in the past.
Atelier training often begins with cast drawing in Sight-Size. The articles in this collection explain the basics.
Back in the mid 90s I taught alongside Charles Cecil at his atelier in Florence, Italy. The teaching pattern there followed that which I had previously experienced in my own education at various ateliers. Students received critiques of their work 4 times per week. Beyond that, they were left to work on their projects by themselves. It’s a fine system, but it can be a bit of a shock to beginners. So I’ve created something to help and I’ll tell you more about that shortly.
Gammell taught his students how to see by having them draw plaster casts in Sight-Size. To do so they were to follow specific and progressive steps. Each succeeding step led logically to the next, resulting in a finished cast drawing that was seen and rendered as a whole. This article more fully explores his cast drawing process.
Some claim that art can be created with just about anything. Whether that is true or not, having the proper supplies will make the task far easier. In this article I list the supplies needed for cast drawing and painting, as well as some recommendations for where you might purchase them.
Beginning students must learn to see nature simply, unencumbered by all the little piecemeal details. Under proper lighting many casts can provide this. But Michelangelo’s nose of David gives us simplicity, regardless of lighting. Due to that, the first thing I ask my students to do is to buy a nose.
Common in the world of business is a concept called the Pareto Principle, which is better known as the 80/20 Rule. Generally speaking, it states that roughly 80% of the results come from only 20% of the effort. The principle has been shown to be valid in a surprising number of fields including economics, athletics, and computer coding. Relative to learning to see, the 80/20 rule also applies to cast drawing.
As a private student of Richard Lack’s, one of the first things he impressed upon me was the art of starts. He preferred to begin students with the rudiments of Sight-Size cast drawing and through them, starts. As I recall, foremost in his mind was the idea that the start of a project was prime-time.
Many beginners see starts as merely a means to an end. But the art of starts goes well beyond learning how to see, for how well you start can affect how well you finish. That’s especially true for cast drawings. Therefore, let’s revisit the art of starts with an eye towards learning how to do them for practice.
No matter what you’re skilled at doing you are probably taking shortcuts. Oftentimes you take them without even knowing it. That’s equally true for drawing and painting as it is for anything else. Of course all shortcuts aren’t necessarily bad. But when they affect your accuracy they are. The problem is, how do you know when you’re saving time or introducing errors? While the answer depends upon the shortcut being taken, better is to stop relying on them. One way to do that is to keep your eye in tune by doing a cast a year.
One of the directions often given by Mr. Gammell was that the student should “See the big shapes. See them truthfully and then move on.” This is vitally important advice because if your big shapes are not correct, any additions will also be in error.
You Can Draw With Confidence!
And you can begin today!
You can learn cast drawing in Sight-Size at home!
Learning how to accurately see, as well as draw, is best done through cast drawing in Sight-Size. Ateliers exist worldwide to help you do that. But what if you cannot attend an atelier? Or, perhaps you're already in an atelier and would like to supplement that training? I can help.