“Venus de Milo”
©2010 Musée du Louvre / Anne Chauvet
Before entering the Famous Artists Gallery, did you already visit the Drawing Basics section of this website? If not, now is the time to take a look at how to set up a little art studio – or art studio corner – where you can work on copying these drawings without your work being disturbed when you take a break.
You will also get some good tips on how to work, to get some good habits in place now.
Last, you will need to buy some artist supplies to get started: at a minimum, you will need an artist-quality HB pencil, perhaps a 4B to make the dark shadows really dark, and if you want to go all out, a 6B as well for the final darkest darks. You will be leaving the paper untouched for where you see white bits.
Be prepared that it will take you a little time to do these copies. I remember working myself on a Raphael drawing of an angel over the course of several lunch hours in a local café. Be patient.
You might want to experiment with using a drawing grid to help you get the general shape down. If you want to make your drawing bigger or smaller than the original, you can read the page about grid drawing methods to grid up or down.
All the preparation done? Ready?
Now have a wander through the Famous Artists Gallery. The very classical way to begin is by copying some statues in the Greek art section. Print out the piece you like best, and once you have the outline on your paper, drawn by eye or with a grid, study the lights and shadows.
If you look carefully, you will see that in fact it isn’t just black and white. The black fades into grey, then into white, and vice versa. These different tones are what artists call “values”. Your job will be to try to copy those values with as much sensitivity as you can.
Time to copy a drawing?
As you wander through the Famous Artists Gallery, you will see that certain artists will have an especially delicate range of values in their drawings.
Such is the case in this portrait of a woman by Leonardo da Vinci. Indeed, da Vinci developed the “sfumato” technique of drawing and painting edges so that they have no hard lines – only differences in values that melt into each other like smoke disappearing into the air.
You will want to choose a drawing of this kind to copy if you want to develop your sensitivity to values.
On the other hand, you will see other artists who stress lines in their drawings as opposed to values. This is what is going on in this drawing by Van Gogh of his bedroom in Arles.
This is the type of drawing you will want to work on to study line.
It is not a question of one being better or worse than the other. You will need to do both types of study to further develop what 19th century French artists called bon gout, or your aesthetic sensitivity.
Go from “Famous Artists Gallery” to “Masterwork Drawing Exercises”