Pr3-Ex4: Drawing Statues

This exercise turned out to be a really positive experience. For a long time I have had a fear of drawing in public. I was determined to face this demon. A few life classes over the last few years have certainly help. So I was now ready for a real challenge!

I packed my equipment in a bag and headed of to the V&A. Once in the sculpture hall I found a bench that was a little hidden in a window alcove. So I squeezed my self as close to the wall as I could so as to not be to obvious to fellow visitors. Well after half an hour all nerves had gone and I was really enjoying myself. I begain to notice loads of people coming and going with sketch books, drawing the statues just as I was. Some even brought there own stools. Not one single person looked over my shoulder, well not obviously any way, and no one laughed. Result! By the end I was drawing in the open with out a care in the world. Now I can’t wait to get back there and draw some more.

The statues are all so perfectly light with spot lights making brilliant strong cast shadows and highlights. It really is a gift for aspiring artists such as myself.

I came across an interesting article recently. The subject of this is a life drawing method. Basically it takes you step by step through plotting the space on the page to building up the form. I read through it on the train and then applied the principles to the statues I drew as they are human form. I’v made a bullet point list of the main facts. Some of which are new to me, others revision of what I’v learnt over part one and two. It’s a simple recipe that can be applied to drawing any thing. It served me well at the V&A so I thought I’d keep a note of it to refer back to. I’m sure I’ll be learning more about this in part four, people drawing.

Basic Principles for Drawing from Life:

  • Start with toned paper. (suggested Indian ink wash on water colour paper or bought toned paper.)
  • Draw vertical plumb line. Mark top and bottom and aprox width. Mark in head size and find the point where the legs meet the groin.
  • Indicate tilt of rib cage and pelvis. Add gesture lines too mark in limb width, head then hands and feet.
  • Add anatomical land marks with line to mark the contours of the body. Centre and shape of breast, position of joints, Muscular of fleshy protrusions.
  • Introduce a flat value to represent the main shadow shapes. Squinting helps to compress values and differentiate between tricky shadow and mid tone. Don’t go to dark at this stage. At this point there are only two values in the drawing. Decide whether mid tones are closer to dark or light and mark in accordingly.
  • Start adding complexity to the shadow shape. Pay attention to the edge quality of each shape. Are they sharp or soft? This is very important to describe how light and shadow follow form.
  • Start to add back ground value at this point to further isolate the light shapes.
  • Establish the full value range. Find the darkest areas (with charcoal) and lightest (with chalk). It can be impossible to match the true lights and darks we see with the drawing media we have available. Try to keep the shadows unified to minimise distracting variations. The paper should now take its place as a half tone.
  • Focus on smaller and smaller areas. Reference against model. Add and remove shadow accordingly.
  • Work the back ground to create atmosphere and contrast. If the back ground is quite dark bring the value of some areas on the figure down to match this helping parts to recede.
  • Pay special attention to the bone points. Accuracy poisoning and well represented light values can make or brake.

Baring all this in mind for the statue studies (well the bits I remembered) I feel like I’v made a step forwards on my never ending quest to conquer form. There still loots to work on but I think these drawings are heading in the right direction and I’m pleased with the out come.


‘Truth and Falsehood’ – Alfred Stephens (1857-86)

I used a faint F pencil in A3 sketch pad. They are to faint. At this point I was trying to get things in the right place and start to block in the most obvious shadow shapes.


‘Theseus and the minotaur’ (1782) – Antonio Canova (1757 – 1822)

Theseus’s contrapposto body had such a loverly contraposto shape. Adding the plum line really helped replicate this but still keep the figure grounded and weight central.


‘heroic torso’ (1908) – by Ivan Meštrović, Croatian

After lunch I set about a long pose on previously drawing ink toned paper. It is not a great tone job. Its to light really not to mention messy looking. I have been doing a bit of experimentation trying to find what tone,value,colour and texture I like best for this tonal drawing on mid tone stuff. This is still on going.

I begain by drawing a plumb line, then adding basic gesture lines, Then marking in shadows to make a two value drawing. I used light charcoal pencil for this before increasing some vales with medium charcoal pencil and used a chalk pencil for the high lights. Sadly these are not very clear due to paper being a bit light. I spent a long time over this one. nearly an hour I think. More observing was done than making marks. I would have liked to have done more on this drawing, increasing shadows and building up details and back ground. However a large flock of school kids swamped round said sculpture and did not show any signs of moving for quite some time. So I moved on to the next one.

Some of the anatomy is a little off. I hope t improve my knowledge of anatomy in the next course section. But I’m pleased with this drawing. I feel it is a marked improvement on previous tonal, mid tone paper drawings. The form is evident, Success at last!


‘The Muse’ (1896) Bronze – Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)

the final drawing was a quickie trying out fine liner pens. The bottom leg is stumpy. Note to self.. Must practice feet.

I think she looks a bit like a low relief sculpture because of the hurried back ground when really she is free standing. The pen works well to quickly show form as it is such a strong contrast with the white paper. I must be careful with my drawings as some of them are starting to come out quite faint. I used to be a heavy handed drawer applying lots of pressure to the pencil and speaking in line not form. So I think now I have a lighter touch which is a good thing. I should spend a bit longer to build up the shadows and increase the contrast that way.

As it is my Birthday this week I left enough time to pop to the shop and treat myself to a book I’v fancied for a while. ‘The Art of  Drawing’ British Masters and Methods Since 1600 By  Susan Owens, V&A publications. Having flicked through the pictures there is loads of great stuff which I will use later in this blog to illustrate my research. The volume is also very wordy so if I ever get time I will have a read.

To sum up. My new passion is drawing statues. So much to learn from them and so enjoyable. Can’t wait to do it again soon.


About Emma Perring

Artist, oil painter

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