This photograph shows my latest project. It is a cast drawing of the bust of Constanza Bonarelli by Bernini. I am completing the drawing in chalk and charcoal on toned Roma paper. I find the cast appealing because it is such a personal portrait, capturing the grace and elegance of the subject. The cast has a range of interesting textures which, I am sure, will provide me with hours of fun!
Constanza was the wife of Matteo Bonarelli, who was one of Bernini's pupils. Bernini fell passionately in love with her. The affair lead the normally good natured Bernini to fall out badly with his former pupil, eventually leading to the intervention of the Pope in order to sort the situation out before things turned really ugly between them!
This cast drawing of Aurora, originally by Michelangelo was completed over several weeks in Autumn 2015 in chalk and charcoal on grey Fabriano Roma paper. The cast presented a number of challenges, foremost among them being to convey the backwards tilt of the cast. Creating the foreshortened effect required careful use of value in order to keep the focus on the near part of the face (the nose and mouth).
The face itself is highly idealised and smooth - but I managed to create interest by capturing some of the subtle textures of the paster around the jaw and within the headdress.
This was such an enjoyable figure drawing to work on. Luckily I got off to a flying start with a good solid block-in. I put a lot of effort into breaking down the figure into the major planes, which, although the drawing looked somewhat like a robo-guy for a time - enabled me to establish the overall proportions pretty accurately from the very beginning.
I wanted to produce a full value drawing and so I also devoted a decent amount of time to getting a background in that 'worked'. I used this to inform the values within the interior of the figure. It's come out well, compositionally - although it is perhaps a tad more dramatic than I originally envisaged. After the background, the main challenges were to ensure there was a nice solid feel to the standing leg and creating an interesting pattern of light in the upper torso. I had great fun trying to convey the somewhat less elastic skin type of an older model, which I think I've achieved with reasonable success.
As so often happens, the gesture of the figure seems to have straightened up a bit over time. That is normally a product both of the artist making corrections which undermine a strong gesture and the model reducing the amount of strain in the stance over the course of the pose. Something to be mindful of in future.
Ben Laughton Smith
Contemporary works of art in the classical tradition.