The program of study naturally begins with a focus on intensive drawing, since drawing is the foundation upon which all great representational art is built. Throughout a student’s training, emphasis is placed on accuracy, or more specifically: seeing and rendering correctly such things as line quality, hard and soft edges, gesture, proportion, positive and negative space, abstract shape and form and the full range of values. Students begin by copying a few small drawings in pencil and one larger drawing in charcoal. These drawings were produced by Charles Bargue (1825-1883) in a publication called Cours de dessin (Drawing Course), which was designed to assist beginning students learn to draw objects and figures realistically and accurately from life.
Examples of student copies of Bargue drawings can be found in the Bargue Copies gallery.
Next, students copy an uncomplicated plaster cast from life using charcoal and white paper. In this stage, the student makes the transition from copying two-dimensional drawings to copying three-dimensional forms. It marks the beginning of cast work, which will occupy a good deal of a students training for some time. Throughout the period where students are copying casts, they strive to continually refine their skills in accurate drawing and correctly rendering the full range of values (light, halftone and shadow). They will also be assigned additional exercises at this stage, which will help them with their cast work and build confidence. Students continue copying progressively more difficult casts, using only charcoal, until they are ready for the next stage of drawing which is copying casts on toned paper using charcoal and white chalk. At that stage, the process is a little more like painting in that both the highlights and shadows are applied to a toned ground.
Examples of student copies of Cast drawings can be found in the Casts gallery.
Students may also be introduced to etching and drawing in silver point when their drawing skills reach a suitable level of proficiency.