Leonardo da Vinci said: “To draw is to learn to see”. How can the act of copying an Old Master's drawing help you "learn to see"? How can this improved ability to "see" help you improve your drawing ability?
- Learn about the artists we call the “Old Masters,” including the time period of the Italian Renaissance
- Study the drawing techniques of the Old Masters by faithfully reproducing a work of art (free-hand or grid, value through mark-making, line quality, modeling of form, accurate proportion and perspective)
- Practice mark-making skills using charcoal, conté crayon, pen and ink or silverpoint
- Step 1: Choose an Old Master drawing that clearly exhibits intentional mark-making; make sure to have a VERY HIGH RESOLUTION image to work from.
- Step 2: Determine the correct size paper for your enlarged drawing. LIGHTLY sketch the basic structure of the image you have selected. You may work freehand or use a grid (the grid was used extensively during the Renaissance as a method for reproduction with correct proportion). Apply all drawing lessons learned to date (like drawing upside down!) and don’t forget to pay VERY close attention to the negative space. REPEAT: DRAW LIGHTLY. ERASING WILL DAMAGE THE PAPER, WHICH WILL BECOME VERY OBVIOUS AFTER TONING!
- Step 3: Tone your paper with a water-color wash. This is not mandatory but, if you drawing includes white highlights, this method is important to provide a mid-tone as a starting point. It also can make your new paper look more authentic.
- Step 4: Begin to apply the master's marks.
- You will use the same materials used by the artist you are studying. Remember, you are studying from the master, not tracing or merely copying; you are trying to understand his process and sense of form through use of mark making, line quality, and modeling of form.
- Take on the role of the artist who created the work that you are studying; if it is Leonardo, for example, you must ask your self, “How did Leonardo's hand move? How did his wrist turn? Did the pressure he was applying vary as he worked? Why?” Become the Old Master, pick his brain…Analyze the mark before you try to reproduce it. Was it a series of gestural strokes, did he change the speed of the line? How did he traverse the form finding its repeating and opposing rhythms? How does a line travel over the form? Do you remember CROSS CONTOUR exercises Drawing Bootcamp in Art 1 or from the pen and ink still life in Art 2?
- Accurate transfer of the original proportions and composition (negative space!)
- Clear evidence that you have really studied the original work
- Replication and accuracy of the Master's mark
- Here is a very long list to get you started - Peruse it. What names were familiar? How may artists had you never heard of before? Click on some links to learn/see more.
- A recent article New York Times article speaks to the relevance of the Old Masters - "All art was once contemporary." Think about that... it's 2018, why should we care what happened in the art world 500 years ago?
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