Music of the Spheres...

My atelier curriculum begins with drawing a sphere, in graphite, according to very specific standards. The sphere is always drawn in three stages: Contour, Shape, and Form.

Sphere: Contour, Shape, and Form. Drawing by student Harriet, graphite.
Sphere: Contour, Shape, and Form. Drawing by student Harriet, graphite.

When an artist takes the time to perfect the sphere, they find their ability to draw and paint any subject has significantly advanced.


Any specific struggles an artist has with the sphere will be echoed in all their other artwork: A misshapen circle, misjudged values, inability to control the drawing media, or inability to conceptualize the 3-dimensional form in space are all issues that will weaken every other drawing and painting the artist attempts.


Therefore, we apply the exact same method for every drawing that follows in the course of study.


After the sphere students move on to rendering "Bargue Plates". (Bargue plates are instructional drawings designed in France in the 19th century to be copied by art students).

Bargue Plate: Contour, Shape, Form. Drawing by student Grace in graphite
Bargue Plate: Contour, Shape, Form. Drawing by student Grace in graphite

When a student has completed one or more Bargue plate copies, they are ready to begin a Cast Drawing, which is a drawing of a plaster cast of a sculpture by a historic master.

Cast drawings by four different students at different stages, all in graphite, by Connor, Zia, Patricia, Kathleen
Cast drawings by four different students at different stages, all in graphite, by Connor, Zia, Patricia, Kathleen
Cast drawing by student Michelle M. in graphite
Cast drawing by student Michelle M. in graphite
Cast Drawing: Contour, Shape, Form. By student Alex, charcoal and chalk.
Cast Drawing: Contour, Shape, Form. By student Alex, charcoal and chalk.
Cast drawing steps by student Zia
Cast drawing steps by student Zia
Cast Drawing: Contour, Shape, Form. Drawing by Sadie Valeri, graphite
Cast Drawing: Contour, Shape, Form. Drawing by Sadie Valeri, graphite

It often takes 50-200 hours to complete a Bargue plate or cast drawing with this method. It's important for students to slow down and take their time to really understand the shapes and forms of their subject.

However, as we all know, it's rarely practical to have this much time to capture our subject. So as we advance, we naturally begin to adapt the concepts that have been ingrained by classical drawing to shorter time frames and less static subjects.

Drawing of Draped Model, charcoal and chalk, 12 hours, by Sadie Valeri
Drawing of Draped Model, charcoal and chalk, 12 hours, by Sadie Valeri
Drawing of Melinda, red pastel pencil and white chalk, 3 hours, by Sadie Valeri
Drawing of Melinda, red pastel pencil and white chalk, 3 hours, by Sadie Valeri
Detail of Peonies and White Roses, oil on linen, 3 hours, by Sadie Valeri
Detail of Peonies and White Roses, oil on linen, 3 hours, by Sadie Valeri

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