Learning From Charles Bargue, Deformed Obersheens and The Uninvited Ghost of Albrecht Durer

I’ve just finished my 2nd Bargue plate and my mission to sharpen my understanding of notional space and sight-size measuring continues. This one presented challenges in the way of its peculiar shape. Honestly speaking, parts of it look more like a deformed obersheen than an arm. But I should welcome challenges, so bring on the deformed obersheens.

I believe I captured the form and shape of the Bargue plate much more accurately this time (although that’s for unforgiving Internet critics to decide) and I’ve certainly become faster at measuring with my knitting-needle and thumb and then applying those measurements to the initial block-in, although speed is not the goal, accuracy is. The aim is to constantly take measurements and apply them to your block-in in as many ways as possible. Just like the ‘lather-rince-repeat’ ritual of obsessive hair-care, you must observe-measure-observe-re-measure again and again.

When I reached the tonal stage I decided to get a little more expressive as I’ve no real desire to be a strict realist. I didn’t want smooth gradations; I wanted movement in the very texture of the shadows and highlights. I’d recently been looking through the ink drawings of the great German artist of the Renaissance, Albrecht Durer. His hands and feet drawings feature beautiful cross-hatched and simple single-lined highlights of white that always follow the shape of the form.

So, without the means of a spiritual medium or group séance, I began to feel myself channelling the spirit of Durer. Taking my white charcoal pencil to now be my finger tip, I ‘touched’ and followed the shapes and grooves of the arm, starting from the highest highlight and trailing off as I approached the deep shadows; my only aim was to achieve a certain sense of life and sensual texture in the finished drawing. Did I achieve this? You decide. What do your eyes tell you?

The studying continues and Mr Charles Bargue is not finished with me yet, neither is the ghost of Albrecht Durer. I fear I may need an exorcist by the time this is all over.