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  1. #1
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    Realism vs construction(a guide to choosing the right art education)

    Regarding fine art. (Figure drawing/painting, still life, sculpture)

    Today it is extremly confusing to choose what kind of art school to attend - but it seems like all schools and ateliers in general can be grouped into two categories -

    * Those with emphasis on construction

    * Those with emphasis on realism

    (this will be a general guide, NOT 100% correct, feel free to debate or add)

    The schools with emphasis on realism

    Angel academy of art(Florence) (
    Florence academy(Florence) (
    Charles Cecil(Florence) (
    Academy of realist art(Toronto) (

    and so forth, many more are listed on

    The schools with emphasis on construction

    Ashland academy of art (Ashland, USA) (
    Glenn Vilppu's school of drawing (around the world, plus books and dvds) (
    Art academy(Florence or Skt. Petersburg)(
    Bridgeview school of fine art(New York) (
    Repin institute(Skt. Petersburg)
    The drawing academy (Viborg, Denmark)(
    Art school(Bulgaria) (
    Otis college of Art and Design (
    Max the mutt (Toronto, Canada)
    Farigh Ghaderi (part time classes and summer workshops, Florence) (
    Mentler (sketchbooks here on Conceptart) - or
    Classes and workshops with Rebecca Alzofon (

    Schools that offer classes of both systems :

    Art student legaue of New York (
    Grand central academy of New York
    Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art
    Mims studios (not entirely sure how they teach, but judging the work, they seem to emphasize the construction more than other similar realist schools, you should check it out yourself - dont take my word for it.) (

    And if you know of any other schools or classes, please reply with an URL in this thread and I'll add it to the list. (if I am able to catagorize the school)

    -- About the schools that emphasise realism --

    The schools that emphasise realism are built on the system of Bargue and partly on the system of the french academy. Their method is optical - they start by copying shadow shapes rather than constructing a figure.
    They emphasise technical mastery of the materials(paper, paints, colors, glazing, varnish) and completeness of a work of art. And of course realism(realistic skin color studies and realistic rendering, perfection of still life paintings).

    Weaknesses are a lack of focus on structural anatomy, construction, form, big form movement, perspective, and imaginary drawing.
    These subjects might be taught as seperate lectures, but they are more or less not taught in everyday drawing.

    The method is to copy in 2 dimension, make a 2-value graphical image, and then add the 3rd dimension with shading.

    Sight size is in general taught for copy of drawings(bargues) and drawing/painting the plastercasts. At some schools/ateliers they also use sight size for drawing the figure.


    -- About the schools that emphasise construction --

    The constructional schools are built on the sculptural drawing techniques invented in the renaissance.(Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael

    The method is to built the figure or still life in 3 dimensions - using perspective. Crosshatch and planar rendering.
    (I will post the basic renaissance system later, as it was taught by the russian master Boris B. Kazakov)
    There is a difference in the emphasis of the individual schools, some are leaning towards realism more than others, but all are still based on 3d construction, not shape-copying.

    Strength :
    Understanding of 3 dimensions, (perspective) and mass. Structural anatomy, construction, big form movement, gesture, drawing and shading from imagination, preperation for clay or computer sculpting. As well as animation.

    Weaknesses :
    Time!!! (it takes years alone to master anatomy and figure construction) so it will not be possible to draw or paint realistically within a few years.
    Works thus won't have the same completeness as in the realist system(will look constructed). Not possible to get the same technical mastery over paint and colors within few years.

    -- Final thoughts --

    Where to go pretty much depends on what you want the most. In general you'd need both realism and construction to be a perfectly trained artist, but we all have different artistic preferences. And unfortunately time and money is everybodies problem, so choose wisely.


    Books regarding figure construction :

    Die Gestalt des Menchen, Gottfried Bammes (yep it's German, but you don't have to read the text to get the point) (you might wanna check out as well - it's probably a lot cheaper!
    Drawing lessons from the great masters, Robert Beverly Hale
    Vilppu Drawing Manual, Glenn Vilppu
    The artist's complete guide to facial expression, Gary Faigin (the most complete book regarding human emotions related to facial anatomy)
    The Frank Reilly School of Art

    Free online books(can be downloaded as pdf) :

    Online version of Gray's anatomy(not for download) (
    Bridgman's complete guide to drawing from life, Bridgman (
    Constructive anatomy, Bridgeman (
    The human machine, Bridgeman (
    Figure drawing for all it's worth, Andrew Loomis (
    Drawing the human head, Burne Hogarth (
    Dynamic anatomy, Burne Hogarth (
    Dynamic wrinkles and drapery, Burne Hogarth (
    Drawing dynamic hands, Burne Hogarth (
    Vilppu figure drawing setup (
    Human anatomy for artists (
    Wir Zeichnen Den Menschen, Gottfried Bammes

    E-books that costs money....

    The Sculptor and Art Student's Guide to the Proportions of the Human Form By Dr. Johann Gottfried Schadow(
    The Art Student's Guide to the Bones and Muscles of the Human Body and Lessons on Foreshortening By Dr. Johann Gottfried Schadow (

    Books regarding realism.

    "The human figure" by Vanderpoel. (
    Academy of Realist Art has made a dvd of the system - (
    Cast drawing using the sight size approach, Darren R. Rousar (
    Classical drawing atelier, Juliette Aristides (
    Classical painting atelier, Juliette Aristides (

    Free online tutorials :

    Tutorial/explanation of Prudhon's technique (
    Tutorial about gesture (with animations)
    Tutorial about Bargue measuring (
    Tutorial about Bargue drawing(page1) and a tutorial about cast painting(page4) from a conceptart sketchbook, Dorian from Angel Academy of Art(
    Tutorial about Charcoal drawing(Angel academy, also from Dorian, God bless him!!)
    Tutorial about painting at Angel Academy of Art(Michael John Angel, head of Angel Academy of Art) (
    Some stuff from Frank Reilly's school of drawing.
    How to build a miniature flayed human body in clay and wire (

    Books about the old academies and stuff :

    Life Class: The Academic Male Nude 1820-1920 (Paperback) by Stephen Boyd (Author), Edward Lucie-Smith (Author) (
    The Nude in French Art and Culture, 1870-1910 (Hardcover) by Heather Dawkins(Author) (
    The French neoclassic and academic tradition, 1800-1900 : figurative and compositional paintings, oil sketches, and works on paper : winter exhibition, 1984 Shepherd Gallery.
    French oil sketches and the academic tradition Barnes, Joanna.
    The invention of the model : artists and models in Paris, 1830-1870 Waller, Susan
    The artist's model from Etty to Spencer Postle, Martin
    Strictly academic; life drawing in the nineteenth century State University of New York at Binghamton. University Art Gallery
    The Academy and French Painting in the 19th Century, (Albert Boime
    The Lure of Paris: Nineteenth-Century American Painters and Their French Teachers, Helene Barbara Weinberg (
    Figures du Corps (review, (don't know were you can get this book, perhaps in Paris)

    Articles about academical education :

    La Academia dei Desidorosi: A Pre-cursor to the Nineteenth-Century Academy (
    Léon Bonnat (French, 1833-1922): The First Classical Realist? (

    List of web galleries containing academical drawings and paintings :

    Spanish academic :

    French academic :
    Most of Bouguereau's work. Including pencil drawings and compositional studies (

    Russian academic :
    Drawings from the Mukina institute by Joseph Menna (
    Kramskoy paintings ( (,14/catid,1/)
    Various 20th century russian paintings (
    Various contemporary russian paintings (

    Supplies for the artist

    HIGHLY RECOMMENDED Online 3D ecorche models(move mouse and they spin) and real model pics that turns into drawn muscles when moving the mouse(requires flash) (
    HIGHLY RECOMMENDED 3D virtual anatomy (
    Models of human anatomy (
    Models of human anatomy (
    Real animal bones for animal drawing (highly recommended) (
    Sculpture casts (
    Different sculpture casts (
    Other sculpture casts
    Sculpture casts from Italy
    Online version of Gray's anatomy(not for download) (
    plastic skulls -
    more plastic skulls
    bones -
    bones and anatomy
    various skeletons -
    bones -
    skulls -

    Acland's anatomy dvds (HIGHLY recommended anatomy dissection dvds, offers a complete view of the human body, all muscles, functions, bones, origins of muscles on bones, veins, joints (how they really look and work) and A LOT of other valuable information.
    Dvd 1 upper extremity (
    Dvd 2 lower extremity (
    Dvd 3 trunk (
    Dvd 4 Head and neck part 1 (
    Dvd 5 Head and neck part 2 (
    Last edited by hummel1dane; November 5th, 2010 at 10:38 AM. Reason: update

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  4. #2
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    Where is your life drawing? Quick sketches? Concept roughs?

    PS I don't know of any art that takes less than 10 years of study.

    Max the Mutt actually stresses both observation and the ability to draw without reference. Sight sizing is not the only approach to observational drawing and is not the only way to "see."

    We teach: finding base lines, height lines, using point to point measurement, accurately observing and drawing positive and negative shapes, and training the eye to and draw silhouettes, exact matching of values and color, letting accurate shapes of color create illusion. This leads to very highly realistic work and is part of basic education. It gives he artist the freedom to scale his work, the than have to paint or draw everything to sight size. I think speaking about "realism" must include more than the sight sizing approach.
    Last edited by Maxine Schacker; September 26th, 2009 at 06:31 AM.

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  6. #3
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    You are also leaving out other types of art education (the 2 you listed are only life studies). Where is Illustration? Industrial Design? Animation? Photography? These are all art educations as well. I appreciate the effort to bring to light a particular division between schools, but IMO a student had better do enough research about not only the school, but themselves, to make sure they are going to the right place for them.

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  8. #4
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    Thanks, that's an informative list! I've definitely found there are usually those two styles of instruction. And it can be difficult to find a place that offers a balance of both.

    Still life and figure drawing form the basis of many areas of art, whether it is illustration, industrial design or animation. So even for any of those fields it is good to know which of the approaches is more important, for example construction in animation and ID vs realism in certain areas of illustration.

    Maxine's refrain gets rather tiring at times.

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    He's talking about basic education for a painter, independently of things like ID, etc.

    The debate isn't between "realism" and "construction"'s between an optical and a sculptural approach to drawing. The method taught in most ateliers is depends on copying the shapes of objects as they appear in the visual field of the a jigsaw puzzle of shapes.

    The sculptural method is largely focused on capturing the physical, tactile aspects of the subject....and understanding it three dimensionally.

    Also, the ateliers have a fraction of the teachings of the french academy. The french did not use sight size systematically, and they understood the planes/structure a lot better....that's why they could produce those huge history paintings, and the ateliers can't. Bridgman studied with Gerome, and I believe Vanderpoel studied with Boulanger...both advocate construction in their books.

    Also, the current crop of ateliers come from the Boston painters lineage. They didn't care for imaginative paintings (think Veronese, or Tiepolo) and were very much focused on painting the visual field.

    Like you said, you need both sides to have complete training. I'm a student of Vilppu, but am also looking to study with a Florence trained painter to get both sides.

    I look forward to future posts in this thread, this is a promising discussion.


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    So would it be correct to say that concept artists and animators would be better served by a program emphasizing construction?

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    Animators, yes. Understanding the form is more important than copying pretty shadows and matching angles just so. Likewise, a concept artist is inventing more often than not and would benefit from very analytical drawing. However, I would say that because concept art more closely mimics the appearance of every day reality (less stylized than animation), they would also benefit from the optical training.

    These types of education are not mutually exclusive. Everyone uses both to some extent...they just lean more heavily towards one side or another. It's merely a matter of degrees....all form and no good 2d placement is useless. All 2d and no sense of form equally so. The important factor is that everything must be based on analysis. Passive copying doesn't lead to great artistic heights.

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  16. #8
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    Thank you panchosimpson,
    Yep I'm talking about fine art. Yes you can call it Optical vs. sculptural. Perhaps that's better!

    It's a very interesting debate - Unfortunately we don't know entirely what they did in the french academies. (do you know of any good books?, Eakins rediscovered is a great one!)
    Yes Gerome did emphasise planar understanding - he told his students to study clay sculpting as well, to become better painters!! - He said that "Painting and sculpting is the same thing"
    And I didn't know that Bridgman studied with Gerome! Thanks!!

    I don't think they ever start out with 2d copying of shapes in the russian academy, and they draw from life and do value studies as well.
    I wonder if they did 2d outline and shadow shapes from the model in the french academy.
    Whatever they did at the french academy, doing the shadow shape copying seems to be the fastest way of getting a realistic looking result.

    About sight size , some classical realist schools seem to be abanding it partly. They keep it for the Bargues, plastercasts, and still-life - but not for figure drawing.

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  18. #9
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    I started painting following Hawthorne. This is NOT sight sizing, but calls for total focus, concentration and, really, an almost abstract approach of seeing what you are painting as if it IS the painting ( a mosaic of shapes of color), exact matching the colors..and..voila!
    You will get everything- color, texture, space, personality. I think it's a formidable approach and a great way to get people to start painting (not just color) and learn to SEE.

    However, to fully liberate your artistic vision, you need more. Knowledge is power.
    Have any of you seen the Boime book about the French atelier system? It was not the "sight sizing" system.

    Sorry if I'm boring anyone...but as Hale once said to me in class, "there are about 10 things you have to learn and you spend your whole life refining them."

    For me, the problem with the classical ateliers is that they produce work that is almost indistinguishable. It has a kind of cool beauty, but no sense of the human being behind the painting. It seems to work better for still life than for anything with people or animals.

    There is not doubt that to paint complex forms you need to understand perspective, form, anatomy and movement. You may paint what you see, but quite amazingly you see what you know. The more you know the more you see things in many paintings that make you queasy.
    For example, knees that look like pudding (to draw or paint a knee well you must understand the underlying structure and make good choices), collar bones that don't "read" and arms that don't attach properly.

    In the end, we are not just an "eye." The artist who is knowledgeable selects what is essential, emphasizes what is necessary and does this on many levels. In my view, art is about expression. When I look at a Velasquez, a Rembrandt, a Degas, I'm seeing the world through that artist's eyes. Art is not about surface perfection. We try to master composition, color, anatomy- all the stuff of our craft- so that we will have the tools to express our deepest feelings and reactions to life.


    I left out Nicolaides and why he's so revered. I think a major reason is that he asks you to be fully engaged using all your senses, and this too is what one feels in the really great artists. He also stresses unity of the whole. This applies to figure studies, but it is also critical in painting. There is what we can term a 'gesture" through the whole painting: instead of a flow from one part of the body to the next, we are feeling the flow from one object, into the drapery, into the next object. Pulling the passage of light, the passage of middle tone, the passage of dark through the painting are building blocks of composition and design. We do the same with color, and, if you introduce texture, texture. You are weaving the painting into a unity.

    In my view first year training can, and should, include both sides of the coin. Go step by step. Look for developmental training. Learning to use a straight edge to measure will lead eventually to being able to see well enough not to need to go through that step, but when something goes wrong its good to know how to check yourself. Learning to se the set up as if it IS the painting or drawing help us to see positive and negative shapes. There is so much to learn! You are looking at an intensive study best dealt with in a group of courses. Sometime in second semester the pieces start to come together and the work starts to have real quality. The curriculum we suggest is: Life Drawing ( a combo of Nicolaides, Bridgman and Hale),
    Perspective, Structural Drawing, Principles of Drawing (using still life to learn basic concepts), Design and Composition, Representational Painting (Hawthorne), Color and Water-based media.

    We are not born with an artist's eye- it's trained, and we get the skill through repetition.

    By the way, Nicolaides cross contour exercise is a good first step towards understanding cross hatching.

    The best art is a combination of right and left brain working together.

    Don't judge yourself. Judge the integrity with which you do each exercise...and give yourselves time to develop. Enjoy the trip! The beginning is hard work, but so rewarding in the end.

    It takes time!
    Last edited by Maxine Schacker; June 14th, 2009 at 08:52 AM.

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  20. #10
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    The basic renaissance system

    This will be an attempt to outline and describe the basic renaissance system of construction, as it was taught by the russian master Boris B. Kazakov.

    I thought this thread could be a good way of students of different schools to share their ideas and perhaps outline aspects of their system.

    I spent one year in a school that only had this basic renaissance system. My instructors were all students of Boris. - (it's in English)
    and please judge student works lightly - they were done by ½ to 1 year students.
    I have images of work done by more advanced students who whent on to study with Boris in Skt. Petersburg. I might post a few of those in another thread -

    The difference between this system, and the system of say Vilppu, Bridgman, etc, is in the rendering. It is not just a system of construction - but a refined tonal system as well that was used most notably by Michelangelo in his figure studies, possibly in his paintings as well.
    The model studies done in this system are from anywhere between 2min - 50hours.
    More or less.


    Perspective and construction.

    In the basic renaissance system you immediately set up perspective - you work in 3 dimensions right away! This is done to get the understanding of mass, construction, gesture. You idialize as well - that is, you construct a sort of idialized version of the model - you will be using your constructed perspective lines rather than the model(you can even exaggerate perspective if you prefer!!) You will have to look at the model from different angles - especially the side! If you look at the model from the side, you will see where the up planes are located - you will be constructing the main light from above and any direction you choose. Sometimes from the side, front, and most rarely - below. Except from the back. (you do NOT set up any lightsources, you simply imagine where the light is comming from)

    You will be modelling the edges - work on the edges to show the turning of planes. (Most shade on edges)
    In this system an edge is the meeting of two planes.

    You will be controlling the direction of the eye by using atmospheric perspective - what is most in the front - the highest contrast. (the difference in tone between what is in front and in the back might be extremely subtle. )

    Crosshatch :
    You will be using completely free lines, that are supposed to follow the 3d form of the model. Like the pen sketches of Michelangelo. The most important is loosenes and freedom! with time you'll get to draw like Michelangelo, that is, when you start to understand the form and perspective.
    Your lines will automaticaly turn into shade as you work in layers, multiple lines. (layers explained later)

    You'll use flow through lines, especially as a way to get good proportions and working with the figure as a whole.

    You won't use eraser except later, when you are doing the light planes. You will be using your kneded eraser as a white pencil.

    You won't measure, never(except in your mind). You have to understand mass and sort of feel the proportions. In the beginning your result will be horrible. But when you get the feeling of mass and perspective down as a 6th sense, it will be easy. The proportions will get better and better.

    You never have to draw something exactly the way it looks. So in the beginning your horrible result is ok. Also it will take some time before you understand how to work in layers. Check out Michelangelos pen drawings. He is the ideal.

    Your instructor will sometimes tell you to erase part of the drawing and start all over with this part.... You can have completed a whole leg, and then you have to move it, this happens if you have lost the feeling of the whole - focused too much on a specific part.

    Draw transparent in the beginning - if one leg crosses the other - complete the behind leg. NEVER break a line that is going behind another form.

    You want a mess of lines. When you decide which one is correct you just give it a darker tone - you don't have to erase the other lines. You will erase them only if they are on a light plane. If not you will probably shade over them anyways.

    Use complete constructions. Complete all forms. Draw them through - continue them on the other side, like if you had x-ray eyes. (and always construct perspective)

    Often the old masters made a complete sketch of something that would acually be behind something else. This was necessary in order to think in terms of complete forms.
    I think Michelangelo is seen as the one who achieved the most advanced results.

    You will be using anatomy right away - constructional anatomy - 3d anatomy.

    Draw bones - allways. When you look at the model - you'll be drawing the underlining bones. If you don't have them in mind and you are drawing, lets say an arm - just pick up the corresponding armbone, look at it in the same perspective as the arm on the model - and in this way figure out the bonal structure of the model.

    About light and shade on planes - you will be using a guiding cube that you can put next to your drawing. One plane is 100% shade, another 100% light another 50% of each. This is Michelangelos school! (I think Leonardo suggests more softness, also Raphael is more soft)
    But in the beginning all you care about is form!!!!! The other stuff is a later study.

    Drawing is a communication of form. Therefore, DO NOT CONSTRUCT CAST SHADOWS YET. Learn to think ONLY in terms of planes. (when you master form you'll start to do cast shadows)
    But cast shadows aren't neccesary to show form - so at least if you do anatomical sketches - dont use cast shadows!

    Subdivide tone in the different planes (this is where the russian school differs the most from the american constructional system)
    Study Michelangelo - he uses the most amount of subdivision.
    In your light planes you will be lightly subdividing, in the shaded planes you will be subdividing with stronger tones.

    In the beginning, treat everything as if it was made of the same material, draw only form - A person with black skin will be drawn the same as a person with white skin. Form is the only thing truly important in this system!
    This is the beginning - later you will learn to work with and master the different skin tones etc. But first your understanding of form, planes, construction and perspective must be perfect.


    How to work in layers.

    Working in layers is the way the crosshatch technique is taught, you just work your way into the figure(because you have no actual tonal reference, other than your tonal guiding cube) - you can do this method with pen as well...

    There are two different layers - tonal and anatomical.


    First layer is the overall anatomical structure of the big forms, the box of the pelvis and the open box/egg of the ribcage and so on.. - And the flow of the middle lines(spinal column, sternum, linea alba...) You'll use the x-ray vision and constructed perspective . Always keep both the sternum and spinal column in mind(draw it or think it - whatever works for you)
    And the feet are the most important because they determine the weight and pose of the figure - force yourself to see them in perspective right away, get a feel of the plane they are standing on.

    Second anatomical layer is the inner skeletal structure of all the bones and muscles.
    You want to see the big anatomical picture, and then break this down into smaller forms, and break the smaller forms down into even smaller forms... and so forth(you'll even break bones down into different structural shapes...). But you always keep a strong feeling of connection. - all small forms belongs to a bigger form.
    For example, the phalanges belongs to the finger, the finger to the hand, The hand, lower arm and upper arm belongs to the whole arm. The shoulder connects the arm to the body, and so forth. You will be drawing the bones first, then draw the muscles on top.
    In the beginning a disconnected look of bones and muscles is normal - this is just untill you figure out the anatomical and structural connections.


    The tonal layers.

    The reason you do tonal layers are in order to explain general form and plane changes. An edge is a line between two planes. In general you model the edges to explain the change in direction of form.
    Your goal is to communicate the form independently of light(sculptural). So you will create your own light source and sometimes move it around a bit freely to enhance the visual communication.

    First layer

    3 basic tones.(light values - you will make them darker later...)

    Make your own light source in your head! Think in terms of the big masses - crosshatch or tone down first the side and down planes(on a figure constructed in these basic shapes/planes)

    Second layer

    When you start to move into the detailed anatomical layer, you will also move into the detailed layer of different light intensity. So that if you have decided to tone down the side plane 50% - you model the planes located on the side plane in similar values - like 30-70%
    So all up planes located on the side planes would have like 30% and all down planes located on the side plane would have like 70% and planes turned in other direction will have other values in between the two, or something like that. (this is a VERY general idea, do whatever explains form)
    And on the down planes you'll model in even darker tones...
    And on the light planes you'll model in lighter tones.
    In this way you'll keep the strongest feeling of the big boxes (about 3 basic planes, each subdivided into different tones). Because you can clearly distinguise the big planes, and the small planes located on these big planes. This is called the sculptural approach. And my understanding of it is very limited! (but just study Michelangelo and you'll figure it out )
    But there are other principles that change the amount of tone you'll use - like atmospheric lighting, atmospheric perspective, reflected lighting, constructed cast shadows. and so forth.


    How to copy a master drawing ::

    First understand the reason for doing a master copy - you want to learn how this master thought about the figure(a drawing is thoughts).
    Remember he worked in layers!!!!!!!!!
    You will be drawing it as if it were an actual 3d object in front of you!!!(use persepctive construction right away)
    Sometimes his constructional lines wont be obvious. They are there none the less. Sometimes you will see these x-ray lines, sometimes you wont!
    In order to do a perfect copy of a master drawing you'll need the same amount of anatomical knowledge and skill as the master. If your skill and knowledge is higher - you should be able to improve the master drawing. If your skill and knowledge is worse, you'll make it worse.
    IN SHORT - you can't draw properly that which you do not understand.


    All right, I hope this is at least partly understandable.
    Last edited by hummel1dane; June 14th, 2009 at 08:56 AM.

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  22. #11
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    Hey Maxine,

    I have the book about the french academy, quite interesting, but I don't think it explains so well exactly what methods they were using. It mentions cast drawing, but not much about "building the model". It does however mention that the french did use cross hatching as late as the 1830's.
    But they seemed to be more into copying other paintings and drawings in those days. Maybe they invented the shadow shape method for this reason. Faster copying.
    But it is a very good book, no doubt about it.

    And yes, sight size wasn't taught academical before the later part of the 20th century.
    However Eakins does mention it as a good way of sketching a portrait, not having to worry about proportion, and thus being able to capture personality(painting fast!!).
    But that is the opposite of what people do today with sight size. And of course he already knew construction and anatomy.

    Oh yes - the deadness of paintings today are also due to the use of photos.

    I don't know about Howthorne, I'll check him out.

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    Many aspects of this system are very close, if not identical, to Nicolaides "The Natural Way To Draw" combined with classical rendering. If you get a chance, take a look at our 2009 galleries when they are posted (we are redoing the website and new galleries won't be up until mid July).

    We are not teaching pure Nicolaides in life drawing ( as I said in my last post, we introduce elements of Bridgman and Hale), and our students have other classes besides the figure ( as listed above), but we have a great deal in common. However, we don't really go into anatomy until year two, and animation and illustration students don't get sustained figure drawing (only year one is entirely fine art). Concept Art students get advanced drawing and many painting courses (oil) as well as illustration.

    If the curriculum you list is all first year you are going much faster than we do!

    PS I'm glad I didn't bore you.
    Last edited by Maxine Schacker; June 14th, 2009 at 09:09 AM.

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  26. #13
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    hummel1dane, Maxine: thanks for your contributions, this aspect of the philosophy or art and perception is very interesting to me, since it' something I've researched and given a lot of thought to.

    I've read the Boime book as well, very interesting stuff, but again it's approached from an historian's point of view, he probably wouldn't know what a plane was if his life depended on it.

    Interestingly enough, Mr. Kazakov's teaching sounds VERY similar to what we learned in Vilppu's class. Glenn bases his teaching on his intensive study with Michelangelo, Pontormo, Greuze and others. In addition to the concepts of understanding gestural flow (energy from one limb to the next, but also in the whole figure, and throughout the composition), seeing through, 3D thinking, perspective and construction, he teaches us to use tone as a tool to further define and clarify the form.

    So it's not about copying, rather it's about communicating the form in the clearest, most effective manner (which sometimes includes eliminating cast shadows). To be honest, I feel like most people (including his students) never get a full grasp of what Glenn is teaching, and see his instruction more as training "for animators". His classes generally have shorter poses (the longest we had was 1 hour) but it doesn't mean that his approach can't be followed for longer drawings.

    In rendering, he encourages us to think logically and use lines that go over the form, trying to feel every bump and hollow in the surface, but he expects to study anatomy and know why each bump is there. I'm not the best example of Glenn's approach, but I have learned a lot and have tried to follow it as far as my skills have allowed for now. If you're curious you can see them at

    Some work by Glenn

    and some by my other teacher and mentor, Will Weston, who studied with Glenn

    Regarding the change in drawing (which did in fact occur around 1830) is a common thread in the European academies. You will notice certain key differences in drawings produced before and after this time. In the 18th century, and early 19th, drawing with understanding of the form was institutionalized and probably at its peak as a whole. The drawings of Brullov in Russian, Louis Cheron in France, and numerous artists in Spain attest to this. Drawings were generally done with a pointed instrument, which lends itself to more dimensional thinking, in the sense that "shading" was done with crosshatching and feeling/experiencing the form. I think David's power grab in France has something to do with the change in European art education. He obviously was trained in the old traditions of painting, much like Greuze or Boucher, but he rejected some of their methods, like the transparent shadow, opaque lights favor of solid painting all over...and painting one bit at a time i.e. windowshading. He still drew in a primarily linear way, but I think he set the stage for the changes that occurred later.

    Students at this time also spent more time in front of the model. I believe the figure was something like 6 hours for a figure drawing in the 18th century (3 x 2 hr sessions), while in the newly formed institutions, it was upped to like twice that or more. (I'll post the name of the book that I got this from later)

    At this time, the academies started preferring charcoal as the medium for academies, like today. This is important, because charcoal is generally a broad, tonal medium, it's not particularly suited for drawing through and doing linear construction. This might mean that draftsmen had different goals in drawing and picked a tool more appropriate to their task.

    Moreover, photography was being developed and brought to full operation at the same time that these changes occurred!

    "Photography as a usable process goes back to the 1820s with the development of chemical photography. The first permanent photograph was an image produced in 1825 by the French inventor Nicéphore Niépce. However, because his photographs took so long to expose, he sought to find a new process. Working in conjunction with Louis Daguerre, they experimented with silver compounds based on a Johann Heinrich Schultz discovery in 1724 that a silver and chalk mixture darkens when exposed to light. Niépce died in 1833, but Daguerre continued the work, eventually culminating with the development of the daguerreotype in 1837. " (wikipedia)

    I imagine seeing photography for the first time made people re-evaluate how they drew, especially those who were dedicated to the precise imitation of the visual aspects of nature. The idea that flat shapes could be copied like a jigsaw puzzle probably came from this. That is basically drawing the visual field.

    The question might have also been...what is reality? is it the world as we see it with our eyes? or is it the way we experience it with our sense of touch?

    In a widely circulated writing about Sargent, we can find further evidence

    "Mr. George Moore, in one of the most illuminating essays in Modern Painting, said: "In 1830 values came
    upon France like a religion. Rembrandt was the new Messiah, Holland was the Holly Land, and disciples
    were busy dispensing the propaganda in every studio." The religion had no more ardent apostle than
    Carolus Duran.
    " -

    Recently, a whole series of 18th century drawings from the Spanish academy were posted online. The difference between late 19th century drawing and it's earlier predecessor is very clear and it's interesting because they're from the same institution.

    18th century drawing

    Realism vs construction(a guide to choosing the right art education)

    late 19th century drawing
    Realism vs construction(a guide to choosing the right art education)

    Note that the first one has a more sculptural feel...appealing to the sense of touch. In the sense that it feels tangible, it's more real.

    The second one is more visually real...from the standpoint of sight, it's more real than the other one.

    However, because of the intensive anatomy training at the academies, even the 2nd drawing has strong sense of form. That is what we've lost in most ateliers of today. A lot of figure drawings are basically rendering exercises, which get precise values, but no knowledge of structure. I think the figure drawings of today are also the longest ever. In the 19th century, I believe drawings took at most 40 hours, the norm was more like 15-20. Today, some places have 75 hour poses (FAA). In the ateliers of 19th century France (Bonnat, Gerome, Duran) the norm was a week-long pose, usually 3 hours with the model if I'm not mistaken.

    Julian Alden Weir's study from Gerome's atelier
    Realism vs construction(a guide to choosing the right art education)

    Albert Edelfeldt, atelier Bonnat
    Realism vs construction(a guide to choosing the right art education)

    Notice how these still feel structural (in a planar sense)

    Compare with current atelier work (Angel)
    Realism vs construction(a guide to choosing the right art education)
    Realism vs construction(a guide to choosing the right art education)

    Angel is actually one of the best ateliers, and these studies are good, but in my opinion, they lack the clear articulation and knowledge of structure of times past.

    I should be bringing this to a close now, so I'll just put up some more examples as food for thought. On the questions of whether the ecole des beaux arts taught 2d shape copying. I think by the late 19th century, yes they did to some degree (see below)

    Realism vs construction(a guide to choosing the right art education)

    But these were school studies. A mature artist like Cabanel drew much like a Renaissance draftsman
    Realism vs construction(a guide to choosing the right art education)

    And the British draftsmen like Leighton and Poynter always drew with the point, following the form and understanding structure.

    Realism vs construction(a guide to choosing the right art education)

    Realism vs construction(a guide to choosing the right art education)
    Realism vs construction(a guide to choosing the right art education)

    Anyway, I'm really enjoying this discussion. I think most art students (like most people) passively accept information given to them by their teachers, without researching on their own and questioning why things are taught the way they are. Like all the claims about ateliers being "classical" or, "in the manner of the old masters"...look that stuff up, they're not.

    Hope this was of some use to someone!

    Last edited by Ramon Hurtado; March 18th, 2012 at 11:03 AM.

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  28. #14
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    very interesting discussion. Though about ateliers, I think that the majority of the sessions classes in LAAFA( are pretty analytical(or constructional) instead of visual.

    I don't know much about the atelier program though.

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  30. #15
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    Copenhagen, Denmark
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    Damn! Thanks!

    I'm just about to finish first trimester at Angels - I ask about gesture and form and all the fun stuff - and the answer :
    "sure, we'll get to that - after some years!!!"
    Even perspective isn't taught untill 2nd year.
    But the main instructor Jered has a very good understanding of form.

    About the change in the academies - Prudhons earlier drawings were much less realistic as well. Though totally cool and perfect regarding planar and anatomical understanding!

    All right, please tell me what book you got those images from? And where to find the spanish drawings online?

    I got a huge collection of russian academical 20th century drawings, and some from the High art school of Bulgaria. I wonder if I should make a new thread and just post all of them there.

    Ok, I'll post a few here :

    The first three are russian academic drawings - first and third are unknown artists. Second one is by Harmalov.
    The last two drawings are from Boris Kazakov's school in Skt. Petersburg
    The draftsman of the last drawing is now a teacher at "the drawing academy"

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