Thursday, January 15, 2015

Bargue Studies

I was recently encouraging a friend of mine to do copies from Bargue plates :

If you're not familiar with these, basically they are drawings that are specifically designed for students to copy. They express the ideals of classical realism, which through study will begin to rub off on the student.

The advantage of studying from these "plates" is that it's a very focused exercise. Compared to a photo or a life model, these have had all the distracting information stripped away. Only the most critical information remains. Notice that the drawings are composed almost entirely of straight lines. The illusion of a round surface is made by connecting more and shorter lines. This allows you to focus on just one line at a time, and make each one count. You visually compare each new mark to all others in order to make sure it's placement is correct.

This study teaches you how to reduce complexity of a complicated subject, and then to render it in a beautiful way.

Start with the vertical and horizontal "plum" lines, and work outward. This way you have a point of reference to build on.

Depending on what your goals are, you can spend 5 minutes or 5 hours on a drawing. You can render it in full detail, or just try to capture the big statements. No matter how you approach these, make sure to keep your mind fully engaged. It's much better to devote a few minutes to a very mindful study, than to spend many hours mindlessly noodling.

So to practice what I preach, I spent about 5-10 minutes on each of these. Then I applied the technique to a master study, spending about an hour on it. It doesn't look like much considering the time, but I feel it was probably one of the most useful studies I've ever done.

I allowed myself more freedom in this next one. Maybe lessening it's value as a study.


  1. Thanks for this, Lane! I'll definitely be using this for sure.

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