WE NOW come to another important phase of our work - cast drawing, for as soon as the student has gained facility in object drawing, the next logical step is to turn to plaster casts for his subjects; in fact, many teachers make cast drawing a starting point for the beginner-
If one, is to work at home a few casts may be purchased, and the expense of obtaining the smaller ones is not great. One is more fortunate, however, if he has access to a museum or school collection which will give him the opportunity to make such a choice for each drawing as will best meet his needs, for there are casts of many kinds and sizes, ranging all the way from tiny ones of coins and medals and jewelry to huge plaster representations of sculptured groups, too enormous to be housed in any but the larger museums.
The student will be wise in selecting first a cast of medium size, say a foot or so in its greatest dimension, and of a simple subject. The architectural student will find it extremely beneficial to make a series of drawings of architectural ornament, and there are casts available of all of the better-known forms. A good starting point would be the lotus flower or palmette or something of the sort which has come down to us from the earliest times. This might be followed by others of like nature, one or two typical forms being selected from each well-known period. There would be the acanthus and anthemion of the classical work, perhaps, or some of the incised patterns of the Byzantine, or the roughly carved grotesques of the Romanesque, while the Gothic is particularly rich in ornamentation, showing not only many geometric forms but naturalistic and conventionalized carving of ivy, oak and grape leaves, the ball flower, etc. Then comparative sketches might be made of capitals of different styles of architecture and of mouldings; these last are especially important and every draftsman should be familiar with such moulded members as are in common use, enriched with the well-known egg and dart, leaf and dart, guilloche, dolphins and acanthus, bay leaf, etc., etc. Let him study these and not only his knowledge, but his appreciation of architecture will be strengthened. For advanced studies the orders of architecture might be drawn from the cast, correctly represented in perspective and with all the metopes, triglyphs, mutules, modillions, etc., carefully represented: - it is doubtful if there is a better way to master the orders than to work in this manner. Nor is there a better way of learning to design carved wood or stone or ornamental terra cotta than by working from casts of antique examples, as one not only stores up knowledge of the forms of the past but unconsciously assimilates a sense of proportion and design of the greatest value in doing original work.
If casts of ornament are chosen for the first problems let them be simple, as we have indicated above, and comparatively low in relief, as these are the easiest to do. Then the later problems should be so arranged that high relief decoration and incised ornament are also represented and that not only geometric patterns are shown but conventionalized and naturalistic representations of plant and animal life and the human form as well. Some casts that are delicate in detail should be done and some which are bold and vigorous in character; - in short, one should not rest content until he feels that he has quite successfully mastered every type of ornamental subject.
The art student, however, may find a few of these ornamental casts enough and then go on to the type of subject which will prepare him more directly for later work in drawing from the living model. Here as before it is best to select something which is not complex, a cast of a foot or hand or arm offering a good starting point. After a while heads may be attempted and the complete human figure.
One is hardly wise to attempt to draw from the living model until he has spent considerable time in working from these inanimate objects, which will hold the pose until a drawing is finished, something which the living model can hardly be expected to do. And neither do these casts have hues of color to add to the difficulties of the student.
Then there are anatomical casts, especially designed to show the various bones and muscles, and these should be studied at this time, for the art student cannot begin too early to learn anatomy and its application to problems in art.
This practice from casts of the human form is to the art student absolutely indispensable. And it is hardly less essential for those of the architectural profession, for from the earliest times the human figure has been used in connection with architecture, sometimes merely as applied ornament or decoration and sometimes structurally, as, for example, the caryatids of the Erechtheion at Athens. So no architect can afford to neglect this part of his training. He should study especially the use of the human figure as applied to such architectural features as friezes, the tympana of the pediments, the spandrels of arches, and the pendentives of vaults; also the free-standing figure as used in connection with or as a part of architecture.
Now regardless of the type of cast selected for the first subject, the method of procedure is exactly the same as for the drawing of objects, and as this has been described fully elsewhere it seems needless to repeat it here. We might mention, however, that in order that the lighting shall be satisfactory, the cast should be shifted, if possible, to various positions until one is found which brings a pleasing relation of light and shade. Then the form should be sketched and the shading started.