Thursday, February 28, 2013

why copy a drawing?

In classical drawing lessons, one is encouraged to copy master drawings. Copying old master's drawings is a time-tested discipline, especially in the European tradition of art instruction. It teaches us to draw what we see, not what we imagine. And that is precisely what is needed. Because once we can draw what we see, we are then free to draw what we imagine. The discipline of learning technique gives us freedom...a powerful idea and the basis for learning by copying.

I was a fine art major in college in the mid 70's, a time of upheaval and turmoil in more than just politics and the woman's movement. Art instruction in America took on the same freedom mentality that all of society was embracing...and out went realism and classical training in art schools. Art was free wheeling and everything then. We were encouraged to explore and anything we did was called art. I remember covering a wire armature with wet cast material and then putting a blow torch to it to melt it into a dripping, charred mess and calling it art (I even got an A+ for creativity). I suppose it could of been art, but I didn't learn anything; no skill was imparted to me.

Drawing and draftsmanship, took a back seat to exploring and non-conformist thinking. This continued right through the 80's and the 90's. Thankfully, realism and classical art training seems to be coming back into vogue. Ateliers are springing up all over that are once again teaching classical drawing and painting and in 2003, a classical training book was re-released back into production: Charles Bargue and Jean-Léon Gérôme's Drawing Course. It was the training for VanGogh and Degas, to name two 19th century artists who learned by way of copying.  

my copy of Charles Bargue's leg drawing,
his on the left, mine on the right
graphite and charcoal on paper
each image is 7"x10"
click to enlarge
So here I am in my 50's and still wanting to draw I am working my way through a book called,  Lessons in Classical Drawing, Essential techniques from inside the Atelier, by Juliette Aristidies. I'll be posting my 'lessons' here. I think the book is a good resource and I believe my drawing skills will improve as I work my way through the book. In the first chapter we are assigned to find a master drawing and then copy it at 100% size. I picked an image from the Charles Bargue book as my first to copy. I didn't use tracing paper, but I did use my old drafting tools, (I went back to school as an adult to learn to be a draftsman), a ruler, divider, triangle, eraser and a knitting needle (to measure angels).  I think I did a good job of copying this image above, but it did take me awhile. I have to trust that this will eventually bring me to a better place in my art!

No comments: