Draw from Cast to Improve your Figure and Life Drawing

Drawing from Cast is the act of Sketching, Mass or Tone Drawing from a Statue.

This is a very powerful and essential method to improve your life drawing and painting techniques.
This is why you will find that every respectable Art School, in addition to the regular drawing from life models, they will most likely have dedicated sessions for students to practice drawing from cast or from statues in museums and galleries. 

Drawing from statues is not new. In fact, it’s a very well known method of practice during the Renaissance, and as you will see even the Great Masters have practised regularly from cast. 

Drawing from Cast is as good – if not even better – for practice than the average life drawing sessions (as in drawing from live models).

Here below I list for you my personal opinion on the advantages and benefits of drawing from the cast and how it can improve your Life Drawing.

A perfect, permanent pose, that’s impossible to recreate in a life drawing from a model

The work for the perfect pose has been done for you by the original sculptor. They’ve probably spent countless hours, or even months in some cases, in prior studies and drawing subjects and compositions to find the perfect pose for the sculpture you see.

To give you some idea; in 1506 The statue of Laocoön and His Sons was discovered missing the right arm. It took the best sculptors of the world at the time over 20 years to come to an agreement and add a single missing arm. In 1510 the Pope set up a sculpture contest for a replacement arm for Laocoon, which was only added to the sculpture in 1532.

Drawing complex compositions and actions that are hard to recreate with a life model

Action poses are hard to set up in life drawing and it’s even harder to arrange multiple elements and complex subjects combined, like this Bernini.
It’s practically impossible to set up a life subject to replicate statues such as these.

Why Drawing from sculpture -Bernini's Apollo and Daphne c1622 is a perfect example of what's impossible to recreate in Life drawing from a model
Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne c1622 is a perfect example of what’s impossible to recreate in Life drawing from a model.

The subject in the sculpture is usually in perfect form

Imagine if you see a statue of Bernini or Donatello – how many drawings preceded that? How many models were auditioned? How many ideas and studies went into this work? All of this is already done for you.

The lighting can be controlled without altering the pose or the model.

With the cast in a studio, you have full control of lighting and the background. As for a statue in a museum, you can just move around to find the best light angle or revisit the statue at different times of the day.


This is how I made the drawing (above) recently at the V&A Museum in London. I know the V&A have skylights and depending on the time of the day you get good lighting on different statues throughout the day.


Conclusion

If Michelangelo, Paul Rubens, Battista, and many great masters used to draw from statues such as Torso de Belvedere for their studies and paintings, you should too.
Just head to a Museum with a sketchbook and practice from casts and statues. You will be able to study and draw from incredible compositions, some of which are practically impossible to recreate in any life drawing.

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