This review was originally written when I was on the first plate of the course. The review below is quite critical of some aspects of the book, partly as a result of the frustrationI was experiencing at the time. Graydon Parrish, one of the editors of the book, sent me a very nice email having read this review, and considering how critical I was, he was very polite. The book appears to have been a labour of love on the part of Graydon and his co-editor,Gerald Ackerman. Graydon says that neither of them have gained financially from the book, and I see no reason not to believe him. Having read his email, I do believe that the book was published with altruistic motives, and that getting it into print was no small task.
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Choose one video. Charles Bargue was a lithographer and painter who worked with Jean- Leon Gerome to design a course of study for not just art students, but people that were aspiring in the arts, people who wanted to gain admittance to an academy, a way to specifically study accuracy, line, and form. This is sort of a mid-level, mid to higher-level Bargue.
Either of these have so much more subtlety than the initial hands that are silhouetted. Some of these are rather complex. As you see towards the end we get into torsos, the Belvedere Torso is of course a very famous sculpture in the Vatican Museum The unknown woman of the Seine certainly one of the most interesting stories of all the casts that people worked from in the 19th century.
I remember the first Bargues that I did at the school I tried to do in just one or two days and instead doing the process too fast taught me on the second time that I attempt to them pacing, how to slow down and work a little bit more methodically through the early stages to gain confidence and finish stronger. What I would like for you to do now is start thinking not just about what you might copy in a simple sense but have your eyes on something a little bit more complex as well.
These are the typical last Bargues that people would do before moving on to working from three-dimensional form. And as you can see this has a great deal more subtlety than the initial few that we went through. I want you to sort of have your eyes on the prize here looking at the more complex things, but yet pick Bargues that are a little bit more simple than what you think you might draw. Remember that these are exercises much more so than pieces of art.
Charles Bargue is the name of the artist that made them and it is a drawing course a little different then the drawing courses that most people think of today. These courses were a nineteenth-century convention that were essentially mail-order. And you receive a portfolio of prints. They were hand done lithographs and an artist would copy them either on their own or with the help of an instructor and often these drawing courses were used to gain admittance to an academy or to raise the skill of an artist privately.
After the other courses he figured out a way to make even more crystalline and more clear all of the lessons.
That one was to get from these courses. So many artists would use them and notable people. So French Impressionists like Vincent van Gogh was said to have done the entire course twice and he wrote to his brother Theo and said the immense value that he received out of doing them. Pablo Picasso did them with his father when he was young. They are not art projects, they are skilled projects. He worked with my teacher Daniel Graves to find out everything they could about this course and put it in a book.
So this this exists now, I remember when I got printed every student at the school wanted a copy and there was stuff in here that none of us knew. So the value in some of the lessons here is immense. So what is interesting about the Bargue book it is like I said the latest iteration in a series of courses that were designed for aspiring artists.
So as you can see this is the same cast. And I think just looking at it you can probably get a sense of which would be easier and more pleasurable to copy. When I was a student these were just plates that we would check out from the secretary and I had no concept of the large arc of the course.
It is actually designed for an art student to go from point A to point B to point C with variety of different levels of difficulty throughout. So book starts out very simple. Just legs and feet, hands, and slowly goes to things that are a little bit more complicated.
This is one of the ones that I chose to draw for you guys. The last Bargue at the school that I went that students would do would be one of these that you see also here on the wall back here. The Belvedere torso or one of these large torsos would be something the student would work on for weeks and weeks and weeks with instruction.
And after working your way through the course there were really beautiful copies, right, line drawings and copies of paintings from from the same time of the artist. So these are our modern and antique things mixed together. This is not the way that I would sketch. This is the way that I can visually analyze what I see in the most precise way possible.
This is plate two or three if I remember right, plate three. So the first thing that I would notice is that if I drop a plumb line - and we talked about our plumb line in the materials section - right at the corner of his eye that lines up perfectly right there with the corner of his mouth. It comes close to his nose, but not entirely overlapping.
Because sight-size works works on a horizontal axis, I always want my subject and my drawing as close together as possible. Under no circumstance do I want this here and my paper down over here or up here or somewhere off to the side. What I want is always to be able to see in a one-to-one ratio. If I was to carry my plumb line across horizontally it would exist on that access right there. So here is where the top would be and here is where the bottom would be. Now the next thing I would always recommend to you to do in sight-size is find a single middle point.
Yep, and I thought I started that a little low. Let me explain more clearly. This line serves for me to just find where something would be in relation to its neighbor. And this line here show me where the eye would start.
This overall shape. And if you really look carefully at this, although this is part of the eye socket, you can sort of see this like a bat in flight. See a little head right here. And this is its wing going back. And we will throughout the Bargues and casts try to anthropomorphize, to find a animal or creature which feels similar to the shape that we see so that we can draw it with more precision.
These first few Bargues are intended to be a little simpler to give you an opportunity to acclimate yourself to the level of precision that you should expect from yourself in a project. It is only after going this far that I would want to soften it.
I noticed that my philtrum and the beard, the spot in the lip right here, eels a little bit short and that makes sense if this is long. So let me take my plumb line and check. Yes, it looks like I can raise just a little bit but it also looks like I can bring the bottom down.
And this bring up just a line width. The nice thing about sight-size is it gives me a multiple choice option. Those little errors that I made initially the closer that they got they just never move again, but what will change is the relationship between things.
So how wide something is, how thin something is and that angle between things is one of the most important things. It is not a 3D moving object that will take you all of your strength to copy. You can actually get it as accurate as humanly possible just by working slowly and learning to correct it with the help of a teacher or yourself.
In order for me to look to this side, I have to sort of turn my head or turn my eyes the other way what we can best observe is in sort of a 45 degree radius around us. They would be walking back and forth so much.
So when I step back. I am indeed bothered by this angle that I was referring to. I want to do another pass with a slightly softer pencil. If anything gets too wide or scratcy of a line just going to carve away at it. I hope that you can see already that these incremental changes and even the line width is making it resemble much more the Bargue next to it.
But when I was a student my first Bargues I remember I can turn over the back of the page and I could still see the image etched in there. I had a very heavy hand. I would recommend instead using a harder pencil and doing more passes. Graphite is also a very waxy medium and the harder the pencil is, the less waxy it appears. Something that even for filming this or photographing a drawing if the pencil builds up too much it starts to get a sheen and is difficult even to take a photograph of.
I like using harder pencils to make darks and more passes rather than trying to knock it out all in one go. One my eye feels a little bit more open than his eye. I would wager that comes up and the eye is slightly more squinty like that.
It looks like my eyes are more open. I would also say that this shape is I shrunk down the nose while it got two small actually from there to there.
Your drawing paper should sit on the right hand side. As a lefty you do it vice versa. Now make a straight vertical line through the middle of your reference. If your reference is a symmetrical object the middle is easy to determine — if you have a non-symmetrical reference just estimate a middle. Also draw a straight vertical line through your drawing paper. Make two horizontal lines across the reference and your drawing paper — one on the topmost point of your reference and one on the bottommost point.
Charles Bargue Drawing Course (Cours De Dessin) Review