Sunday, May 11, 2014

Bargue Plate 52 With Steps

Lucius Junius Brutus. I've kept a record of the major phases of doing a Bargue drawing. I'm going to do two more Bargue plates before moving on to watercolour and some original drawings, and I'm going to make these plates more challenging by doubling the size of the original.

Phase 1: The Line Drawing

I first draw the contour lines of the plate, carefully rendering each small section. I start under the left ear and work my way around. The part that tends to be off is usually the top of the skull. Once I am reasonably satisfied that the angles and curves are accurate and proportionate, I draw the outlines of the major shadow areas.This phase takes 2 to 4 hours.

Phase 2: The First Shading

Using a lightly-held 2H pencil, I fill in the major shadow areas. It's at this point that I begin to see whether the line drawing was significantly off, so this phase tends to involve erasing and adjusting.This phase takes 3 to 5 hours.

Phase 3: The Second Shading

This phase involves darkening the major shadow areas. I crosshatch the 2H layer with a 2B, then crosshatch the 2B layer with a 4B, making sure that I do not over-darken. The right ear has a blend of values, so I left it at the 2B layer for now. For this plate, the darker shadows emphasized that something was off with the distance between the lower lip and the chin, so I had to move the chin down by one millimeter or so. One must always be ready to erase. This phase takes 3 to 5 hours.

Phase 4: Rendering Value

This phase is the most difficult after the line drawing. I've done the groundwork for the drawing and must now fill in the subtle values. I work all over the drawing, darkening here, lightening there. To achieve the gradation in the dark shadow area that encompasses most of the right side of the face, I crosshatch another 4B layer. Then, I do the right ear, the eyes, and the forehead. Lastly, I do the beard. Once the drawing looks mostly done, I step back and take a close look at the original in comparison with my copy to make sure that the values look appropriate. I tend not to go darker than a 4B (I find going darker than 2 or 3 layers of 4B, or using a 6B, makes the graphite clumpy and shiny), so my plate ends up lighter than the original, but I have to make sure that the relative values are accurate. This phase takes 10 to 15 hours.


  1. Patricia, I am really excited to find your blog and drawings! I have been trying to find all the resources I can to begin serious self-study in realistic drawing and oil painting. Not sure if you have seen the Art Renewal Center website but there is a vompanion DVD to the Bargue book. I am thinking of getting it once I begin. I look forward to trying my hand at this!

  2. Hi Sarah,

    It's great to hear of someone who is embarking on self-study of realist art! I'm familiar with the ARC, but haven't got the DVD. Best wishes for your studies and let me know if you keep a blog of your progress.


  3. Patricia, are you drawing from scans of the book or do you have some casts for reference?

  4. I'm actually drawing from the book itself. I cut out the page and tape it beside my sketchbook.

  5. Hi Patricia, your drawing is awesome. I just started self-study in realistic drawing for about 4 months ago and now start doing Bargue plates. but i am still struggling with the shading, hope I could do as good as yours.

  6. Thank you. This is excellent.

  7. Hi Joze,

    Thank you. Best wishes for your self-study! Getting the shading right definitely takes time and patience. Good lighting can help a lot.

  8. Hi Mike,

    Thank you for your praise!