Monday, February 21, 2011

Why I Draw Plaster Casts

I am a plaster cast drawer these days...and thought that I would like to share Why.

Reason Number One: My Teacher Told Me to Do It
I admire my teacher's beautiful work ( and figure that if he is willing and gracious enough to pass on his knowledge, I will do what he says to do. He received his training from an outstanding group of teachers (Allan Banks, RH Ives Gammell and Richard Lack) who all are from an academic background...and that includes plaster cast drawing. That tradition goes way back to Italy as this video from Angel Academy in Florence, Italy explains:

Reason Number Two: Working from a cast is working from a model that does not move

  • Live models vary their positions; it is inevitable. A cast does not. You can depend on seeing the same relationships and shapes. It is an "easier" ballgame in which to play - so to speak.

Reason Number Three: The cast (your model) is always there whenever you have the time

  • I now have the cast(s) set up in my art room. Winter is a great time for plaster cast drawing. When I get home from work or wake up early before going to work, it is a simple matter to switch on the spotlight and to start drawing.

Reason Number Four: The cast helps you to see values more clearly

  • Since casts are basically ivory, you are not dealing with issues of color. It is easier to concentrate on learning to create form, the bedbug line, distinctions in values and so on.

Reason Number Five: The cast gives you more time to observe art principles for yourself

  • When I first started this process, it was in a small class under the close supervision of my teacher. For about eight Saturday mornings, we worked on our cast drawings. He taught us how to use the sight-size method, the Boston School approach to drawing, and other important principles. Now that the class is over. I still have the privilege of getting occasional and valuable input from him, but essentially I have become the day-to-day decision maker and evaluator of my work.

    As I spend time with Homer's unchanging head, I have the luxury and time to think about what it is that makes a shape look rounded or how each edge of a shape is saying something about the shape next to it or discerning the planes of a face. Really - this list can go on and on because as I embrace this exercise, I look for more and more truth to discern. I write down my "lessons" and my teacher's critiques on the margin of my drawing. I'm collecting them and saving them as visual and written reminders of this journey.

How many of these casts will I do? I've heard that it may be ten, but probably it will be as many as it takes until I understand and can apply the principles that are being taught. I am now on number six and am still learning. As long as I am learning, I am happy.

Is cast drawing the only kind of art I do? No, nope, no way! At the present, I am working on a painted portrait from a live model, regular plein air painting, a still my Tuesday Morning Meeting sketches. Principles from the cast drawing apply to those other efforts as well. Ah, yes...I also like to read art books which is also valuable - as I'm sure you'd agree!

HomerThe Unknown

1 comment:

  1. Keep it up.
    Cast drawing teaches the fundamentals. Most 'artists' that say it is a waste of time or will make your work stiff are ignoring the fact that most of the great artists of the past were trained this way, and are probably not very good draftsmen. Though some figure it out with out doing cast, I think if you can get through 10 or so cast drawings you will be the wiser and stronger for it.
    I should do another one myself. Nothing points out your own inadequacies than draw the cast.