Academic learning and the 3 hours egg.

Vine and compressed charcoal on bond paper.

Vine and compressed charcoal on bond paper.

No one has ever taught me how to draw. I did have a few drawing classes in college but it was fashion school so it was all about how humans are 10 heads tall NOT 8, and heaven forbid, NEVER 7.5 We had 10 hours of life drawing total, in 3 years of college.

I learned in books, I went to life drawing, I practiced, I checked videos. I learned a lot about color and composition and edge control on forums and in workshops, in portfolio reviews and in tutorials. But I never really learned about drawing. The very basic foundation stuff. I know I am not too bad, but I know I could become better. So as recommended by my friend Marc, I decided to enroll at Atelier De Bresoles.

I made an appointment to go meet Eric and show him my portfolio. He looked at my stuff and we talked about what I was expecting of the school. All students have to start with 4 weeks of cast drawing so I signed up for that. It’s 1 day a week and 6 hours days.

The teaching follows the academic tradition but it doesn’t go overboard with overly long cast drawings for months on end. After all, you don’t want to scare away the students. Eric and Allana have a variety of students of different calibers in at the atelier everyday, some full-time, and some one day a week, like me. Everyone is toiling away at their easel, and if you are lucky, you get to draw your casts while Allana lectures about anatomy or while Eric pulls out authentic master drawings and talks about academic methods.

White chalk and white pencil on grey paper. After a Donatello cast.

White chalk and white pencil on grey paper. After a Donatello cast.

The first week, we got an extended demo about drawing an envelope or contour and measuring everything until it’s very accurate. At 3 hours per drawing, it might seem long, especially since we were not rendering anything, it was just outlines. But I can assure you that I used all of these minutes. I learned a lot.

On the second week, we did a rub-off drawing with charcoal on bond paper. Basically, you put down a large swath of charcoal and you use a shammy cloth to remove some of it from the paper. Refine, add compressed charcoal, use erasers, rinse and repeat. It was more fun than I expected. Then again, I had to buy charcoal in college, but no one had taught me how to use them. It’s very forgiving and I managed a reasonable range of values.

On the third week, we started to work on grey paper. In the morning we only used white chalk and white pencil, and therefore, only rendered the bright side of our casts. In the afternoon we graduated to white pencil and graphite, by drawing an egg.That’s the 3 hours egg. It looks easier than it really is. To start, eggs really have no features to measure against, and then, the rendering was very involved. And if you think that’s a lot of time, well Eric had to tell us to hurry up so we’d finish in time.

Egg in chalk and graphite on grey paper. Drawn from an actual hard boiled egg.

Egg in chalk and graphite on grey paper. Drawn from an actual hard-boiled egg.

And just now, I had my last class of the series, with chalk and graphite, but we did something a little more complex than an egg. We each had a David cast to draw. I got the mouth. So we got to measure and do an exact contour drawing and then render it with graphite pencils and white pencils. It took around 6 hours, 3 hours for the contour and the first pass of flat shadows, and 3 hours for the rendering itself. Believe it or not, it’s possible to spend even more time on them, but I don’t think I want to do that.

David's mouth, rendered in HB, 2B, 2H and 4H and Derwent china white pencil on grey Canson demi-teinte.

David’s mouth, rendered in HB, 2B, 2H and 4H and Derwent china white pencil on grey Canson demi-teinte.

And I decided to take on another 4 weeks, this time with more of a focus on anatomy. I’ll keep you posted on how it turns out.

Note
My classmate Eduardo is going to the Atelier full time. He posted some of his work on his own blog. It’s very impressive.

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