One of my three current projects is a copy of this lithograph by Charles Bargue.
Bargue produced the Cours de Dessin in 1886 and this is Plate 36 from that book. The book is composed of 197 lithographs which students copied (and, since the re-publication of the book still do copy) before moving on to work from plaster casts and drawing from the living model.
I’ve had a go at the Bargue drawings before but my problem has always been knowing the correct technique to adopt in copying them. When I did my first few (about three years ago) I did them in charcoal working at an easel. However, photos from the websites of various ateliers showed students working on the plates in pencil with drawing boards on their laps and that’s the method I’m trying currently. Pencil certainly gives a cleaner finish than charcoal.
Then there’s the question of measuring. I’ve heard a very divergent range of opinions on this. Some people say you should work on them sight size (ie putting the paper and the lithograph side by side and stepping back from the easel to judge the measurements using a plumb line or knitting needle, reproducing the image in 1:1 scale). Others say it’s a good idea to reproduce the lithograph larger than it appears, using comparative measurement. Photos of atelier students at work suggest that some schools actually allow measurements from the surface of print itself, using string or dividers. I’ve also seen accounts saying you should use no artificial means of measurement at all, simply using the eye alone, which sounds super difficult! I know of at least one atelier which says not to bother with the course at all, as the exercises deaden the eye.
Whatever approach is adopted, the idea is to copy the finished drawings exactly; hopefully my latest one will turn out well. For this one I’m measuring from the plate itself, which is pretty easy. Next time I might try working from eye alone and see how scarily bad the results are!
Among the artists who studied by means of Bargue's Cours de Dessin is Vincent van Gogh, who copied the complete set in the early 1880s.
3/3/2019 06:28:47 am
Being able to draw is a natural talent, however, that does not mean that it cannot be improved or learned. Most people easily give up on their dreams. In my opinion, it is because of their belief that talent is a must. I mean, sure, talent is something that can make things easier, but it is not everything. A smart man once said, "Hard work beats talent when the talent does not work hard". Grinding and working hard is just as important.
25/7/2019 10:25:31 am
I have read from another blog some tips on how to draw properly and on how to measure your drawing. It was so helpful to me. I realized a lot of things why I cannot properly draw the image in front of me. He clearly explained it and even gave some tips and tricks in drawing. He also said if a drawing is bothering you, it's often because something is out of proportion. . Proportion helps to harmonize our drawing with itself. So, therefore you should practice your proportion. And also he said the more you practice the better your brain will get at seeing proportion without even measuring.
12/9/2019 05:29:51 am
An interesting discussion is worth comment. I think that you should write more on this topic, it might not be a taboo subject but generally people are not enough to speak on such topics. To the next. Cheers
29/4/2021 08:17:12 am
Good post, I am going to spend more time researching this topic. Yeah, bookmarking this wasn't a bad decision great post!
6/5/2023 09:36:36 am
Thanks ffor writing this
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Ben Laughton Smith
Contemporary works of art in the classical tradition.