Lessons in Classical Drawing: Essential Techniques from Inside the Atelier

by Juliette Aristides

Whether you are interested in learning to draw, or are just curious about the process as an observer of art, this is an outstanding book. It is clearly written, and illustrated with elegant artwork by contemporary artists and old masters.  The book includes a DVD with video demonstrations by the author.

“Every good drawing exhibits an understanding and control of tone, proportion, harmony, and composition.”

In the chapter on the illusion of depth, Aristides tells a story of how her teacher explained “a profound relationship between art, artists, and viewer” in Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus. “So Myron showed us that the figures sitting at the table were resting inside a sphere; the figures hug the one side and we (the viewer) complete the circle… Caravaggio includes us at the table by having us complete the ellipse started by the figures in his painting.”

The author explains how to use a nine-step value scale. “Some artists even make holes in each value so they can look through at their subject and see if the values match… The digital camera I use has 256 values. I was taught to use nine… Keep in mind that if you cannot manage six values to good effect, it is unlikely you will handle fifty any better… A restrained value palette provides an elegant scaffolding for great art.”

Artistides explains that “light is to art as air is to life… The brilliance of light depends on the shadow.” She emphasizes the importance of core shadow. “No single line is more crucial to form drawing than this one… it must convey strength and accuracy.” Another notable bit of wisdom:  “White is best used like salt—sparingly.”

“Remember that it is your goal to create not a photographic likeness, but an emotional accuracy. Your drawing doesn’t have to look just like your subject; it just has to be honest, consistent, and believable.”

Aristides, Juliette. Classical Drawing Handbook: Essential Lessons from the Atelier. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, 2011. Buy from Amazon.com