Bargue drawing class

After a bit of a hiatus, I am taking advantage of another rainy Saturday to get caught up on writing a new post here. It always seems like after our annual show, there is a bit of artistic down time. Robert Genn has even written about it a few times, calling it the 'After Show Blues', when the adrenaline rush of the show is over. One of his suggestions was to have something new planned, and although that wasn't the real intention, that is how it worked out. 

This really starts back last fall, when I happened to have a look through the local leisure guide, which lists all kinds of community based activities. I usually browse to see if there is a remote chance for some new arts activities. Low and behold there was an ad for Atelier 2302. Atelier! or make that !! What, we have an atelier in town? When, where? So this goes back even further. I have learned to paint through attending workshops with the best people I could find. But I have never had a proper drawing class. I have had short bits of drawing instruction, but have mostly just had a bit of a knack for basic drawing. What I have really wanted to do for quite some time though was to be able to take a classical drawing class, like the Masters, learning proper technique and training my eye. I have looked at various ones on line, and even got a couple of books, but I don't learn all that well that way. I am a 'show and tell' learner. Most of the ateliers are set up for long term classes in distant cities and countries, which would be lovely, but not especially practical. So imagine my delight when I saw this ad. I immediately emailed Craig Berry, who heads the atelier, to see about taking his drawing class. We corresponded back and forth, and although he had initially hoped to start a class in the winter of 2013, he wasn't able to do it until May. Which was actually the best timing in the end.

He invited me over to visit the studio in February, and as it happened, his studio partner Angella Mullers was there too, so I had this great visit in the new studio building he was just finishing. Craig ended up being involved with Art Trek this year too, so it was a great start to this new venture.

The drawing program Craig uses is based on the Charles Bargue drawing course. The course uses a progression of studies so that the student learns how to sight-size draw figures and objects. This course has its beginnings in the late nineteenth century. It seems like artists such as van Gogh and Picasso worked through the exercises during their lifetimes. In good company! I wasn't aware of Bargue, but now have the book of plates on which the course is based - Drawing Course, Charles Bargue and Jean-Leon Gerome. I am planning to do 2 - 3 of the Bargue drawings as a summer project. 

The first part of the course is to learn how to work from 2-dimension to 2-dimension, that is make an exact copy of one of the Bargue plates. I decided to do Plate 1, 60 which is based on a sculpture of a standing male torso. But first we had to learn to sharpen our pencil. This is only partway done. It ends up like a needle! It certainly took a bit of getting used to, and we all managed to drop or snap at least one and we got quite proficient at doing this. The fine tip lets you do very fine, soft shading, through layering, a little bit like watercolour when I thought about it. By layering it is easy to remove and fix areas without damage. 

pencil sharpening

I have put up the drawing sequence in a Bargue drawing set so you can see the progression. This is something anyone could learn to do because it is very precise and measured. Learning to do the shadowing (half-tones) was the most challenging. The most important thing I learned, and probably everyone else, is that you must slow down and be very patient. The surprising thing was how focussed we all became. The 3 hours of class flashed by. The first Bargue took about 30 hours of work, maybe a bit more. Of course this is the first learning step, so a lot of it was getting used to how to work that pencil, getting a feel for how to draw with it through the various stages. I still have to practice my ghosty-bandy lines (this is my favourite phrase!). I am sure I could spend more time on it yet, and probably will keep going back from time to time to try and push it that little bit more.

So, I started out here:

And ended up here:

Actually, I have done a bit more to it since this - it is hard to stop, because you can just keep refining small spots endlessly. The most challenging part is getting the shadows to be smooth. That will come with practice and that is why I want to do some more, to improve my technique. I certainly have a great sense of satisfaction at having done this first one. I can highly recommend it, not just for learning how to do this, which is fascinating, but for the meditative time you get working on it. 

The next phase will be to learn to do this without the use of all the measuring, to use the eye to judge the proportions and just check measurements to be sure they are accurate. Also, to learn how to expand from the original plate to a bigger version.  Then it will be time to move to doing 3-dimension to 2 dimension. This will entail drawing from a cast, such as a bust or a horses head, or such. Then to real figures and objects. Fascinating and such good training. And here is our city.

Which brings me back to Craig. I can highly recommend Craig as an instructor. He is knowledgeable, infinitely patient and skilled. He explains the concepts very well so that you can really make progress. The classes are small and he devotes all the class time to work with individual students as well as showing the various stages of the work. I am really looking forward to continuing with the drawing class this fall. He is also offering oil painting, colour theory and a class for young students. How I would have loved to learn this as a young person. It would ground you so well. Angela is doing a portrait class also. With time I hope to do all the classes. So check out Atelier 2302  for the classes. This is such a great resource for anyone who would like to learn to classical drawing and painting techniques. You can then use them to do anything you can imagine. 



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