Drawing from Home: Drawing as Sculpture

April 2, 2020

Taken from the recent publication by the Royal Drawing School, Ways of Drawing, Drawing as Sculpture is an exercise designed by faculty member Marcus Cornish that encourages us to see the sitter in three dimensions 

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Drawing as Sculpture

Who: with a model

Many of Michelangelo's most basic drawings and underdrawings initially construct the body as a series of differently proportioned sausage shapes. These shapes encircle the three-dimensional features of the body and show their distribution and orientation in space. In this way, the artist thought about and understood the model physically right away. He conceived of the body in harmonious physical units and segmented forms, emulating the Greeks whom he so admired.

In the Renaissance, this approach to the three-dimensional form in art dominated both painters' and sculptors' approaches to the human body, inspired by ancient reliefs and free standing sculptures.

This approach to drawing seeks to understand the body sculpturally, and to infer its form from other vantage points rather than just from the artists viewing position.

So, how to we do this?

First, see the shape flat

  • Set up a simple, 'straight-on' pose, the model's feet planted on the ground and hands by the side, to find their general, idiosyncratic shape. Ask yourself, would the body fit into...

a vertical ellipse?

a tall, thin box?

a squarer box?

a circular shape?

a pear shape?

a peg shape?

  • To help yourself, use the head as a unit of proportional measurement. Ask:

How many times doe the size of the vertical head fir into the length of the body? - 6? 7.5?

How wide are the shoulders? Placing the head-size on its side - two heads?

What about the waist - 1.5 heads?

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Then, see the shape in 3D

  • Set a more active, dynamic pose with the model standing on a board. Starting with a stick person, draw the model facing straight ahead, rising up from the board. Notice the axis through the shoulders, pelvis and the head as they tilt in relation to each other; they counter each other in order to create overall balance, even though the pose is not longer simple and regular
  • Now view the model and pose from a more oblique angle. First, draw the board in perspective to engage with the space. Then draw the stick person rising up from it. Draw a frame that will accommodate the new pose, the oblique angle and your understanding of the body shape
  • With the stick person in place, build up the figure as before, using long, oval shapes. This time, also try to think about how these volumes are oriented in relation to your own position and the board below them
  • Once this is done, refine the drawing, smoothing the outside edge lines that link the different volumes together. These lines can be made to look closer to the viewer by drawing them slightly darker and thicker. The lines that makes up the volumes - the limbs of torso - which are receding away from the viewer can be drawn with slightly thinner, more broken-up stokes.

Tag us in your drawings on instagram @royaldrawingschool or Twitter @RoyalDrawing and use the hashtag #drawingfromhome so we can share your creations!

Marcus Cornish gained a first class honours degree in Sculpture from Camberwell School of Art followed by an MA from the Royal College of Art. In 1993 Marcus was elected a member of the Royal Society of British Sculptors. He won a scholarship to India to study the work of Ayanar Potter Priests and was awarded a Henry Moore scholarship to pursue ceramic art. He was artist-in-residence at the Museum of London in 2005-6 and at an Ibstock brick factory for a year. He was also invited to be official tour artist on a diplomatic tour to Eastern Europe with HRH The Prince of Wales and as tour artist with the British Army in Kosovo. Recently, Marcus carried out commissions for the Watts Gallery and The Royal Society. His work has been recognised in a number of awards both nationally and internationally and covered in The Times, Independent and Sculpture Magazines.

Drawings from top: Marcus Cornish, Caitlin Stone