Masterwork Drawing Exercises

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These are not just little tips and techniques, but a full course of learning how to see, think, and draw like an artist.

For centuries, drawing exercises have principally consisted of practicing drawing first from casts of Classical statues, followed by copying master drawings by famous artists, and finishing with drawing from life. This was the essence of the famous 19th century Bargue Drawing Course, for example.

I myself spent a few years as a copiste in drawing, in a real "famous artists gallery" - the sculpture department of the Louvre Museum! It was hard going at first, and I remember especially my struggling with a beautiful carved wooden statue of Mary Magdalene in the Medieval section. My drawing just didn't look anything like her.

The Famous Artists Gallery

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...

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Gesture Drawing

The famous drawing teacher Kimon Nicolaïdes introduced gesture drawing in his "The Natural Way to Draw. Here you start with one-minute poses and work your way up...

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Contour Drawing

Nicolaides also introduced his students to contour drawing. An essential exercise, it can be either continuous-line drawing or blind contour...

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Still Life Drawing

All artists begin their training by arranging and drawing still lifes. Here a selection of still life photographs will give you...

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Then it gradually happened. I slowly became fascinated with the different degrees of light and shadow - what artists call the "values". And strangely enough, I also started seriously enjoying what I was doing. The time flew without my even noticing, and when I lay down my charcoal, I saw I had one of the best drawings I had ever done.

This is Too Hard for Me!

Meanwhile, you're thinking: You mean I just sit down and copy Michelangelo??!!

Yup. But believe me, I know how intimidating it can be. I still remember hiding my distress behind the Michelangelo "Dying Slave" I was supposed to be drawing, after catching sight of a fellow student's wonderful draughtsmanship.

But as Kimon Nikolaïdes said in his 1949 reference work "The Natural Way to Draw", on studying famous artists:

"There is no such thing as starting where Cézanne, for example, left off. You have to start where Cézanne started - at the beginning - and you have to start with the same integrity and the same interest."

They say you have to do ninety-nine bad drawings first to do a hundredth good one. Get to work and get the ninety-nine bad ones behind you!

If you feel overwhelmed by how difficult a drawing looks, choose a corner of it that you like and copy just that.

Remember - learning how to draw is about taking baby steps day after day. Bit by bit you will learn as you do the drawing exercises.

Go from "Masterwork Drawing Exercises" to "The Famous Artists Gallery".

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