Sunday, January 25, 2015

Learning from a master

I have been trying to copy drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, and I am awed by this study of the head of the Virgin Mary. She leans toward  her Child with loving tenderness, yet we see her from an angle where the height of her forehead and the length of her nose are foreshortened, and we see more than usual underneath her nose and the space between her right eye and eyebrow. We see her features in the same proportions as we would if her head were upright and she were standing on a pedestal just a little above us. It gives her an exalted and exultant look. The expression of tenderness, humility, exaltedness and exultation drawn in a single face seems almost miraculous to me, yet I never would have realized what was going on here if I hadn't tried to copy this piece, carefully trying to match the proportions. I have heard that Leonardo was the best draftsman in history. I think that must be true.

I copied this ancient head of a Greek athlete from an art book I have lying around. I couldn't be bothered to put in all the carefully articulated curls above the band on his forehead,  hence the shower-cap look. The streak across his nose was an accident.

I found the photo reference for this little dancing (or running?) Bolivian girl on Pinterest


  1. Maybe the fact that we're looking up at Mary is because she is the archetype mother for everyone? It is a very beautiful drawing, and an excellent exercise for everyone!

  2. It is amazingly beautiful, isn't it? You will notice I did not post any of my drawings of it! But I have learned a lot from trying to copy and I agree that it would be excellent for every artist to copy as well as they can.