The Arte of Drawing

These fragments come from a 17th century book entitled The Arte of Drawing, designed ‘for the behoofe of all young Gentlemen or any else that are desirious for to become practitioners in this Excellent and most Ingenious Art.’  As well as providing a fascinating insight into approaches to art at this time, the book also details some of the more common art materials in use.

‘I am not ignorant of sundry ways that have beene devised to teach draught, as namely by crossing the pattern, then your owne paper with equall spaces, filling the same as you finde in your example: also drawing upon a lanterne horne, with a paper blackt with a torch, and such, like.  Neither do I mislike any such convenient help to a young learners furtherance. You must first get you black lead sharpned finelie, and put fast into quills, for your rude and first draught, some ten or twelve.  Moreover you must not be without as many Sallow coales, sharpned at the ends.  You shall choose them thus, they are more blue and finer grained than the other coales, smooth (being broken). You shall sharpen them upon one of your fingers, as also your black lead; otherwise they will quickly breake and point sharp.

Get you also a small paire of brazen compasses and Brasill rule, for taking the distance, if you followe a printe; and bee not without the crums of fine manchet or whitebreade, to rubbe out your lead or coal, when you have done amisse, or finished your worke.  Scriveners & Schoolemasters in the Country that teach to write have divers small pensills of broome, with which they shadowe greate letters in copy bookes very prettily.  They are made in this manner, take a broome stalk about the bigness of a spoone handle, and cut it even at the end, when when you have done, chewe it betweene your teeth till it be fine and grow at the end like a pensill, but I care not how little you use them, because your pen shall doe better & shew more art.

For your drawing pennes, never be without twenty or thirty at a time, made of Ravens and goose quills; your Ravens quills are the best of all other, to write faire, or shadow fine, your goose quills serve for the bigger or ruder lines. Having these in a readiness, you shall practise for the space of a week or there abouts, to draw Circles, Squares of all sorts, a Cylinder, the ovall forme, with other such like solid and plaine Geometricall figures, till you can doe them indifferent well, using the helpe of your rule and Compasse: the reason of exercising you first in these is, when as Symmetry or proportion is the very soule of picture, it is impossible that you should be ready in the bodies, before you can draw their abstract and generall sortes. For example, your Circle will teache you, to draw even & truly all sphericall bodies which are of like parts and formes, as the Sun, Moone, Stars, &c.

The square will make you ready for all manner of compartments, bases, perystiles, plots, buildings, &c. Your Cylinder for vaulted turrets and round buildings; your Orthogonium and Pyramids, for sharp steeples, turrets and all things; your Ovall forme will help you in drawing the face, a shield, or such like: so that you may reduce many thousand bodies to these few generall figures, as unto their principall heads and fountaines.

After you are cunning in these figures (beginning with the Circle) imitate some thing of Circular forme, what you shall think good, in which as in all the other aforenamed proportions you shall worke and help your selfe by the Diameter (which is a strait line, drawn long ways just in the midst of your circle or square) and which will guide you marveilously in your work.

Since man is the worthiest of all creatures, and such pleasing variety in countenances, so disposed of by the divine prouidence, that among ten thousand you shall not see one like another, you shall begin to draw a mans face, in which as in all other creatures you must take your beginning at the forehead, and so draw downward till you have finished.  The visage or countenance is (for the most part)  drawn but three manner of ways, the first is full faced, as commonly we see King Henry the 8 drawne. The second is 3 quarter faced, as our Flanders and ordinarie pictures are. The third is onlie halfe faced, as you see the pictures of Philip and Mary uvpon a twelve pence.

For draught of a full face you must beare in memory and narrowlie observe the breadth of the fore head, and the compasse of both the cheekes, all which are composed of two lines. And be carefull to give as precise an evenesse to one side as to the other; causing both your lines to meete at the tip of the chin: your diameter guideth you for the even placing (as I said) of nose & mouth, your other line for the just opposition of the eyes between which in distance for the nose, always leave the space of an eye.  The end of the nose in ordinary proportion must be brought no lower then the middle of the cheek,  from whence to the chin is for the most part as far, as from thence upward to the eye browes.

An eye is commonly drawn in this manner.

To make an angry or sterne countenance let your brow bend so, that it may almost seeme to touch the ball of the eye; at what time you must also give the forehead a fine wrinckle or two, and withall the upper part of the nose betweene the eyes. A great conceipt is required in making the eye which either by the dullnes or lively quicknes thereof giveth a great taste of the spirit & disposition of the mind, as in drawing a foole or idot, by making his eyes narrow, and his temples wrinkled with laughter, wide mouthed, or shewing his teeth &c.’

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