Cast Drawing Tutorial – Learning to see in three dimensions

The student´s next step in a classical atelier after having done a couple of Bargue drawings is the cast drawing. These most often are anatomical plaster casts. Plaster is white so there is no color distracting the student. He is able to see the form better while looking at a monochrome reference. Plaster casts are quite expensive but you can read here how to make a plaster cast on your own for little money. Or you can obtain plaster casts on Amazon which you can find on my SHOP page here. A simple one and a complex one is recommended – the most complex and challenging for a student is a bust.

See the steps of the cast drawing process:

Cast Drawing Tutorial

Needed Materials

  • Wood panel or something similar (should be large enough to place the plaster cast and the drawing paper besides each other).
  • Sheet of charcoal drawing paper for your drawing.
  • dark/gray fabric/paper
  • a plaster cast
  • artists tape
  • charcoal in different grades (e.g. NITRAM Fine Art Charcoal)
  • kneaded eraser
  • measuring device such as a knitting needle or a thread
  • spot light source

Execution

Is pretty much the same as with the Bargue drawing except that you now want to draw a three dimensional object which makes a light source necessary.

  • As a righty you need to hang the cast on the left hand side of your panel. Your drawing paper should sit on the right hand side. As a lefty you do it vice versa. I recommend to place a dark/gray sheet of paper or fabric over the panel.
  • Place the spot light so that it makes interesting shadows on the plaster cast. You don´t want it to be lit too light or too dark. Make sure that your drawing paper gets enough light to draw on.

It should look like this now (in this example the panel is mounted on an easel):

Cast Drawing Tutorial

  • Here you can not make any guide lines, so you need to work without them which should not be a problem since you have practised the Bargue drawings. With your measuring device determine the width of your subject and transfer it to your drawing paper. Then hold your measuring device perfectly horizontal on the topmost point of your cast. 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.
  • Now hold your measurung device horizontally on the topmost point of the cast and make a corresponding mark on your drawing paper. Double check by holding the measuring device again horizontally. If you were right at the first time – fine. If you were wrong, and even just slightly, correct your mark. Do the same with the bottommost point.

Cast Drawing Tutorial

  • Do these steps with the most prominent points of the reference. Always double check. This process seems to be tedious but it is worth it.
  • After you have determined a couple of points, connect them with straight lines to have a simplified image of your reference. You can now dispense your measuring device since it is the learning-to-see what you are after.
  • Now the fun part starts: make your drawing match as perfect as possible to the reference just by using your eye! You not only have to make the lines match perfectly to the drawing cast you also need to match the values – the lights, the middletones and the darks. This is what is practised in a cast drawing – to see how light is shaping the form.
  • Learn to see the different types of shadow and also their shape and edges. Some shadows have soft edges, some have hard edges and some are in between (see detailed description on this website: huevaluechroma.com)