Statues are becoming more imaginative over time and are no longer mainly for the commemoration of individuals, chiefly military or political. These days they can be whimsical, moving and beautiful and made from a variety of materials. I had already been drawing statues for some time before this exercise and include several examples below.
The most recent example dates from last week when I was visiting the Rose Garden in Naumburg, which contains a number of statues / sculptures hidden in little wooded alcoves around the perimeter of the garden. The one shown below appealed to me because of his haughty expression and enormous legs and head out of proportion with the rest of his body. Using an HB pencil, I began by sketching the sculpture as straight lines, focusing on the main edges and ignoring the curves. However, I drew him to close to the edge of the page and had to redraw. Using the first drawing as a model, I drew the second attempt directly as curves but had to make a number of adjustments, particularly to the relative positions of the legs and shoulders. I am not entirely happy with him – the head should be a little further back (as in the sketch on the left) – but he was fun to draw and I have captured something of the character of the sculpture in these sketches.
The sculptures shown below were drawn in a one-day workshop (“Vom Kopf zum Füß” – from head to foot) run by Franca Perschen that I took part in last year in the Akademisches Kunst Museum in Bonn. The museum is small – a few rooms – and most of the rooms are stuffed to the gills with casts of ancient Greeks. Here are my first attempts in pencil, which took the morning to draw. The headless man on the left appears to have more to worry about than just his missing head and arm. However, I am pleased with the armless woman. I have caught the drape of her robe as well as her movement quite well, I think.
After lunch, I found a statue in an alcove to draw but found it difficult to situate him correctly in the alcove on his plinth. Here is the preliminary sketch. The movement here is overdone – his right leg is too flexed and he almost appears to be dancing. The angle that the plinth makes with the floor is also incorrect. It is below eye level so should be angled up as it moves away from the viewer.
Here is the second attempt. The statue now is better positioned in the alcove and feet and leg positions are more accurately depicted. The angles that the plinth makes with the floor and with the statue have been improved. The head on its own plinth on the right is also more realistically portrayed.
Finally, here are some statues that I drew during a holiday in Italy last summer. The first are to be found in the Prato della Valle in Padua, which is Italy’s largest public square. I sat on the grass and had a picnic lunch and then drew the view. The perspective of the building behind the statues is not quite right – the arches don’t completely “work” – spacing arches correctly is difficult, getting the right number in the right space, diminishing in size on the right scale is challenging and I need more practice. However, I am pleased with the the “diminishing” statues. The one closest to the building is much smaller in the drawing and without detail – a suggestion of a statue only. The detail on the building is quite intricate and I have also only suggested a pattern here.
The second drawing was made in the cloister of St Anthony’s Basilica in Padua. St Anthony is depicted in this statue by Lorenzo Quinn (1995) in his role as intercessor between heaven and human kind. I tried to capture something of the delicate balance of the statue. The child is depicted as “floating” in the air, supported only by holding St Anthony’s hand. I used a fineliner and began by drawing the outline in slight, broken lines, in an attempt to convey the ethereal nature of the child as well as the line that leads down through their connected arms and St Anthony’s left hand to the ground. Finally, I applied a wash to indicate the shadows within the cloister as well as the folds in St Anthony’s garment and on the underside of the child and the foliage.
The following sketch was made very quickly in the midday sun. It is of the beautiful and inviting entrance to a medieval tower in the Legnago gate in Montagnana, an ancient town still with its city walls in tact, a 40 minute train ride south of Padua. The tower is used by the local ostello della giovento (youth hostel) the rest of which is a little way down the road but guests can spend a night at the tower in the Legnago gate, too. It is said that a friendly ghost will make sure that no harm comes to those who stay here. The statue of the woman reading beside the door is a simple wood carving. She is shaded from the sun by many flowers. I spent not more than 10 minutes capturing the essentials: the ancient wooden door, the stone pots, a bench and the woman with her book. The sun was directly on the statue, so that she cast a shadow on the foliage behind her and some strands of foliage cast shadows on her. I am not sure in retrospect about the shadow on the window but I do recall the window being very dark.
Overall, drawings of statues work best when seen in a context. Classical Greek statues crammed together in a room are difficult to engage with because they lack a context unless there is an attempt to recreate the forest of sculptures on the page. However, they are undoubtedly good material to practise on. There is a continued absence of colour in my work. This is mainly because I have used fineliners for such a long time, due to their convenience; they are easier to carry around than a box of coloured pencils or pastels. I also wanted to get out of the habit of using erasable materials in order to focus more on the marks and living with the mistakes and getting into the habit of redrawing rather than erasing. However, the time has come to use more colour….