22 January 2009

Lessons from Cast Drawing

The meat and potatoes of early atelier study are the head and figure drawing classes, usually taken every term. These can take the form of quick sketch, 20-minute lay-in or long drawing (3 hours and up). Most of the head and figure drawings from my first year are pretty hard to look at. Maybe someday, when I’m a more secure artist, I’ll post some of those early drawings…then again maybe not.

In addition to those core classes, I take at least 2 “homework” classes each term so I can practice techniques at home as well. My second term at Watts I took a cast drawing class taught by Erik Gist. The course was based loosely on the methods of Charles Bargue, using comparative measurements for the lay-in.

Cast drawing provides great lessons in value and edge control. The standard procedure goes something like this. After the lay-in and definition of the light and dark sides of the cast, the shadow side is uniformly darkened with an HB pencil, giving a 2-value drawing. The details are mapped in on the shadow side with a 2B and 4B pencil, then halftones are drawn in on the light side with an HB and 2H pencil. Finally the background is added. For a good book on cast drawing see "Cast Drawing Using the Sight-Size Approach" by Darren Rousar. He gives a good description of modeling techniques and a thorough explanation of sight-size, if you're interested.

My cast drawing of the Laocoön took about 30 hours to complete. I photographed the cast so I could work on the drawing at home. By comparison to the actual cast in the studio, the photo lost a lot of detail on the shadow side. The reflected light and core shadow were especially difficult to see in the photo.

Laocoön 2008, graphite on bristol board, 15 x 10


  1. WOW! That's a kickin' cast drawing.
    Great portraits here too!

  2. They're fun to do, too. High recommended.