Notes on Drawing Lessons From the Great Masters

I’ve been wanting to read Robert Beverly Hale’s Drawing Lessons From the Great Masters for years.  As I finally did, I jotted down a few notes: underlined items are an immediate “to-do” list.

Watteau’s “Nine Studies of Heads,” just one of many drawings I loved in the book.


* see things as cubes, spheres, cylinders, eggs

* contour lines add depth, purpose

* lines separate angular planes where they meet

* heaviness of lines indicates darkness, light

* practice drawing blankets over furniture

* draw transparent ice, cylinders, globes w/ lines around back

* lines disappear at highlight points

* darker shade where interior planes meet

* practice shading and highlights on interior and exterior of objects

* avoid cast shadows—don’t draw what you see

* practice w/ lights from below

* sketch large masses first

* side view: eggs for rib cage and hips

* must practice w/ construction lines—research them, and composition

* think of bones as rods and balls

* “up plane light, down plane dark; front plane light, side plane dark”

* practice reflection and shading on ribbons

* keep your highlight near your dark


I found Hale’s preoccupation with minute details of anatomy in the next-to-last section to be overwhelming–the anxiety of a rookie, I suppose.  Still, I absolutely loved this book, both as a practical guide for developing drawing skill, and as a primer in art analysis and appreciation.


“…the forms we draw are just thoughts with lines around them.” page 248