Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Drawing a Plaster Cast: The Set Up

French Plaster Cast, ca. 1900

This cast will be drawn using the Sight-Size Method which simply means that your picture will be the same size as you see the cast. The first step will be setting up the cast and your drawing.
  1. Hang a piece of medium or darker value paper or cloth behind the cast's position. This should be at least as big as your drawing is going to be.
  2. Either hang your cast on a wall or set it up on a table. There should also be room on one side or the other for your drawing as well as enough room to stand and maneuver your arm. The cast should be about eye level. Remember that you will be standing to draw. This may mean raising the cast up to eye level on something stable since you will want to avoid reaching up too high or too low to draw.
  3. Choose or create a lighting situation for your cast so that there is obvious light and shadow. Daylight from a single source or a carefully artificially lit situation work well. I also like to choose lighting that brings out the best features of the cast. It's a good idea to try and hang your lights and darks pretty much together. Take time experimenting with this till you've achieved these qualifiers. Your drawing paper should also have the same quality of light on it as the cast does. If it does not, you will struggle with your values.
  4. Position your drawing paper.
    We're going to make the drawing the exact same size as the cast this time around so:

    • If the cast is hanging on the wall- Either tape your drawing paper on the wall right next to the cast or place your easel with paper taped to a drawing board as close to the cast as you can.

    If it's a free-standing cast- Position the drawing board to cut halfway through the cast. Adjust the easel shelf so the cast will be in the center of the drawing. If using an easel, mark the leg positions on the floor with tape. Also mark the adjustable shelf position in case you want to use the easel for other work as well.
  5. Mark your standing position. Stand back about ten feet from the middle of both drawing board and cast, and position yourself in between them so that you can see both without having to move your head. You should be able to flick your eyes between the cast and your drawing without moving your head. Mark the positions of both feet with tape. This is the spot to which you'll return a multitude of times during the course of your drawing. (If you look at the photo, you can see where I have marked my standing position for viewing the cast in the middle of the room, back from where I'm standing wearing the orange blouse.)
All this tape will make your art room look a little like a crime scene, but you must keep everything the same during the course of your drawing.

Next blog: Cast drawing supplies

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

How to Draw a Plaster Cast: Getting a Cast

Plaster Cast Drawing Class

Recently, I and five other students started a plaster cast drawing class with Carl Samson. He took this shot and posted it on his Facebook wall. One of the comments under it was from a mutual friend and read:

"For all the wonderful things Australia has to offer it is also very limited in many workshops or gatherings of creative minds...and the only life drawing class/session I could find in my area was listed under 'Hens Night Out' where the bride-to-be and her drunk and giggling friends can sketch a nude male figure :( very disappointed......"

That was so sad, I've decided to try and do a series of posts on plaster cast drawing just for April - and anyone else who is interested. I'm just sharing as a fellow student, but will do the best I can.

Step 1: Getting a Cast

The first step is to get a cast. I have been most fortunate to have kind, generous artist friends who actually own casts and will let me borrow them. But that may not be your case. As I see it, you have several options:

  1. Purchase a cast. There are sites online from which you may acquire casts. Just Google something like "plaster cast" and maybe "artist" and see what you come up with. Here are a few sites to get you started:

    Also, there is no reason why you couldn't go to a garden or furniture store, and buy a better looking garden statue and spray paint it (with a matte finish) white or cream.

    Auctions, estate and garage sales, Goodwill or cruising good neighborhoods on garbage nights might just yield what you're looking for as well.

    Another one of my clever artist friends bought a whole big box of slightly damaged plaster casts and then fixed them up with - plaster. They look as good as new!

  2. I have considered old graveyard statues briefly...

  3. Art museums will often have plaster casts or white statues on display if you don't mind going often and drawing in public.

  4. One other option that I have thought about occasionally is to make your own cast. If you have a willing victim - I mean - subject - like your child or husband or even your own foot, you could try making a life cast. After all, this was done Back in the Day with famous or notorious individuals. There is actually an Association of Lifecasters and lessons in lifecasting on YouTube!

Disclaimer: I have never, ever actually made a lifecast, and so refuse to be responsible for anyone who tries this and gets stuck in the goop.

Next: The Set Up