Drawing Basics: Drawing Lessons from John Singer Sargent

16 Dec 2006

Drawing of W.B. Yeats by John Singer Sargent
In the fall 2006 issue of Drawing, we explored how the best lessons in value, light, and form are clearly visible in John Singer Sargent's drawings. We present a excerpt from the article that discusses how he taught drawing classes.

by Mark G. Mitchell

The truth is that Sargent worked harder to draw than you might guess to make things look easy and dashed off. He planned his drawing art. He struggled with the drawing ideas. He wiped out and redrew until he got something right. He would have been the first to say, had he been inclined to talk about his art, that there was no magic in what he did, not so far as he was concerned.

He sought to understand the basics of drawing: forms in nature and the effects of light and shadow on them. “Work out the form,” he exhorted his students at London’s Royal Academy. He loved doing landscapes, but he was not interested in views, only objects, he had said.

Like any New England gentleman, Sargent wore a suit to the studio every day. He believed in stepping back from the easel and constantly checking his work from a distance. He urged his students to view their model with the aid of a plumb line—to make sure things fell correctly in relation to the pose’s central axis. “Get your spots in their right place and your lines precisely at their relative angles,” he would tell his students.


To read more features like this, check out the fall 2006 issue of Drawing magazine.


Related Posts
+ Add a comment