Introducing a new (old) way to practice your skills
In order to learn a new skill, and even once we have the skill, we need regular, deliberate practice. For most of my life, even as a child, I have held an earnest drawing practice. However, being a busy adult has a way of getting in the way of signing up for a drawing group or setting up a still life. I work as a professional artist, but have let my drawing practice slip. So, I’m introducing #MasterDrawingMondays for 2023!
We may not all have access to a figure drawing group, or have the time to attend one regularly, but we can still develop a regular practice of figure drawing by copying Old Master Drawings.
The challenge of Master Drawing Mondays is to set aside time to copy a drawing. You can either choose from a book, or I will provide a weekly prompt from a museum collection. If you are on social media, use the hashtag #MasterDrawingMonday and tag me on Instagram @SarahHI. Let’s see how many out-of-practice artists we can encourage to take up a regular practice of copying the old masters!
Wait, isn’t copying cheating?
Generations of artists have trained by copying the works of the so-called Old Masters. In 1793, when the Musée de Louvre first opened its doors in Paris, artists would come with easels to copy the works in the collection. In fact, some of the most famous modern artists, including Dali, Picasso and Degas, studied the art at the Louvre by making copies. This was part of a good arts education.
While I was a student, we had weekly assignments to copy from one of the books in our teacher’s Dover Art Library collection. You can still buy them from Dover and can improve your skills without attending a figure drawing group. (Though I highly recommend finding a group in your area. There is nothing better than drawing from a real live model.)
Digital Master Drawings
With the internet, we have access to the world’s museums collections and can more closely study the drawings of the very best right in our own homes and art studios. Check the blog and Instagram on Mondays for a new prompt each week. Museums such as the British Museum, the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, and the Louvre have high resolution images of drawings in their collection. I’ll share one drawing each week. Don’t forget to take a picture and tag your drawing with #MasterDrawingMondays on Instagram. If you prefer to stay away from social media, treasure your drawings for yourself, hang them in your studio, or send me an email with your drawing of the week: Sarah@HempelStudios.com. I always love hearing from you.
What You’ll Need:
Really all you need for Master Drawing Mondays is a sketchbook and a couple of pencils. However, if I know artists it’s that we love cool art supplies. To get a more authentic copy, use similar materials as the master you are copying. If they use charcoal on a toned paper, use charcoal on toned paper. If they use a sepia Conté à Paris crayon, use a sepia Conté à Paris crayon. (Only applicable to art after 1800. Before that it was a red chalk.) If you are really into authenticity, share which materials you used!
My Shopping List from Dick Blick Art Supplies*
You do not need all of these items. Choose the ones you’ll be using, but be open-minded to try something new!
Sketchbooks and Paper
- Sketchbook of your choosing
- Strathmore 400 Series Drawing Paper Pads // This is the sketchpad I bring to drawing groups.
- Strathmore 400 Series Recycled Toned Sketch Wirebound Pads
- Strathmore 500 Series Charcoal Papers
- Canson Ingres Toned Paper
- A Drawing Board // If you are using loose paper, a drawing board is a must!
- My favorite pencil: Staedtler Mars Technico 780 Lead Holder // I like this because the point is easy to keep sharp and it never gets smaller as would a wooden pencil.
- General’s Carbon Sketch Pencil // This is a nice pencil that’s in-between a graphite pencil and a charcoal stick. It has better control than charcoal, but a richer color than graphite.
- Conté à Paris Crayons in black, white, and red // The crayons have a different, more sensual feeling than the pencils.
- Conté à Paris Pencils // These have a different hand feel than their crayon counterparts.
- General’s Compressed Charcoal // I prefer this to vine charcoal. I don’t like the sound vine charcoal makes on the paper. The compressed charcoal has a binder that makes for a much smoother line.
- General’s White Charcoal // These are great for highlights especially on toned paper. Many of the master drawings you see will have white lines.
Erasers, Sharpeners, and Accoutrements
- A little square of sandpaper to sharpen your pencils and charcoal
- A shapener for my favorite pencil: Staedtler Mars Lead Pointer // You can also use a bit of sandpaper to sharpen your lead, but I love this little tool.
- Staedtler Mars Plastic Erasers // Goes with the Staedtler Mars Pencil
- General’s Tri-Tip Eraser // This is my favorite eraser to use with charcoal and conté. It can be used to blend as well as remove the marks.
- And everybody’s favorite squishy eraser: Faber-Castell Kneaded Eraser
- Yasutomo Hake Brush // When I was a girl in Japan, just learning to draw, my art teacher recommended a hake brush. I still have the same one I’ve used for the past 30 years! I use this brush to dust off my paper and free it from charcoal dust or eraser bits. Please, do not blow on your paper. The moisture from your breath can mess up your drawing. If you don’t have an hake brush, use another kind of brush. If you are at a loss, you can use a Swiffer duster.
- Blending Stumps // I don’t generally tend to use these, but they are much better than using your greasy fingers. If my fingers are dry, I’ll use them to smudge, but if they are sweaty at all, it makes the paper gross.
- *I do not participate in an affiliates program. This is simply where I get supplies. If you have a local art supply shop, please go there!