The original plate
Plate two, and the drawings are starting to grow in complexity already. I worked on these copies for longer, each one taking me between half an hour to an hour, so there’s well over ten hours work in this plate.
For this plate, I had the originals blown up closer to the original size, 60 by 46 cm. The eye plate, plate 1,was roughly half size. It struck me that I was making life difficult for myself by doing them smaller than actual size.
Charcoal isn’t easy to work with at the best of times, and trying to squeeze the same amount of detail into a smaller drawing has got to be more difficult than doing them actual size. Unfortunately the biggest my local printer can do is A2, so I had to split this plate in two.
One interesting thing about blowing them up this big is that I could see better how Bargue had done the original drawings. Initially I wasn’t sure if he’d done each line in one stroke, but with the drawings this size I can see that he built them up out of smaller strokes. I don’t feel so bad now about having to do the same myself.
The original plate
After making such a hash of laying out the drawings on the first half of this plate, I was careful to lay them out a bit more neatly for this half, following the layout of the original.
Bargue has made the second half of this plate a bit harder than the first. Only the first drawing has any construction lines to guide you, after that you’re on your own.
I’m beginning to realise how well thought out the progression of the drawings is. This really is a drawing course, not just a series of plates which you can copy in any order you like. It makes sense. I can feel that I’m getting better at them as I go along. I’m still a bit anxious about some of the later plates though, I really can’t see how I’m going to get good copies of them, they’re so complicated. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it though, hopefully by the time I get onto the difficult plates, my skill with charcoal will be considerably better.
These drawings are hard work to copy, don’t let anyone tell you different. At least that’s true if you’re being strict with yourself as I am, and trying to get them exact. I’ve seen a few copies of these drawings around the web that people have posted, and whilst some of them are very good, the majority are just somewhere near. I don’t mean to sound superior, that’s fine if the people who did them are happy working that way, but for me, I want to do these drawings as if I was in a proper atelier.
I suspect that I’m still not being rigorous enough, but I really am doing them as well as my eye will let me. If I see a mistake I correct it. It’s tempting to rush ahead and get onto the more interesting plates, but that’s doing yourself and Bargue a disservice I think.
The disadvantage of copying these plates on your own is that your eye is necessarily less accurate than a master’s eye would be, so you’ll miss mistakes that a more practiced eye would point out. I’ll just have to do the best I can.
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