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  • Sadie Valeri

Leonardo Drapery Master Copy


Artists have long been fascinated by the study of draped fabric, and it's an excellent subject for learning about light, shadow, and form. In my Online Atelier we guide students through the process of making a charcoal and chalk master copy of Leonardo's 1470's oil painting "Drapery Study for a Seated Figure". This drawing is ideal for showing both a detailed investigation of the folds and shapes made by the heavy fabric, balanced with a dramatic, glowing sense of light.

Following a classical drawing method, we first create a simplified line drawing of the subject. In classical drawing we "block in" the drawing using straight lines to establish the large shapes. At this point in the course my students have been drawing with this method for more simple subjects, and are familiar with the process.

As we block in large shapes, then medium, and finally small, the straight lines become segmented enough to show the flowing curves of the drapery. Many students are surprised to find that what may seem like curvy, flowing shapes, are actually more angular than at first they are perceived.

What at first may seem to be an overwhelming mass of confusing detail becomes organized and manageable with this systematic drawing method.


Once the line drawing is established, with accurate shapes and proportions, the drawing is ready to be shaded. Just as we approach the line drawing in an organized way, in classical drawing we approach shading with hierarchical system, by first deciding what areas of the cloth are in shadow, and what areas are in light.

Shading Instructions: 1. Lightly shade shadow shapes with a flat, even tone of vine charcoal. Slightly darken landmarks in shadows.

2. Mark the two lightest spots with white chalk, to establish a broad value range. Darken the terminator at the knee.

3. Starting from the terminator, render the left knee area. Leave gray paper for middle values. Finish this area completely before continuing.

Below is a copy done by one of my students with chalk and charcoal on Stonehenge gray-toned paper. As you can see she did a beautiful job!

Drawing by Student Lanny James After Leonardo da Vinci

This lesson is included in my Online Atelier. The corresponding video "Drawing Drapery with Charcoal and Chalk" is also available for individual purchase on the Download Videos page.

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