“Classical Drawing Atelier – A Contemporary Guide to Traditional Studio Practice” by Juliette Aristides

Here’s an art word that I discovered… “atelier”. According to my Mac dictionary “atelier”, from 17thcentury France, means “a workshop or studio, esp. one used by an artist or designer.” 

You would think, being an artist keener, I would have come across this word earlier in school. But, it was not until I started reading “Classical Drawing Atelier – A Contemporary Guide to Traditional Studio Practice” by Juliette Aristides, that I really understood a major hole in my art education.

For years, I looked at the master artists from history and wondered how they gained their artistic abilities and knowledge. Was it really just practice from life model drawing where they gained all their experience?

I have drawn a lot from live models in both university and through a life drawing group but I never seemed to reach their level of expertise.

It is not until I understood the practices of a classical drawing atelier from history, that I really was able to answer this question.

According to the book by Aristides, there are certain lessons that an expert passes on to students who are mentored through an atelier system.

Discipline is practiced through the basic drawing of geometrical shapes -spheres, cubes and pyramids. Simple geometric shape drawing is a fundamental building block for creating the “illusion of form”.

From there, the students advanced by copying the master artists from history. By copying, the students understood the secrets the expert artists had already uncovered.

The lessons then continued to develop through to drawing of cast sculptures where the student took their expanding knowledge and applied it to 3D objects with controlled lighting.

Finally, the students focused on studying human anatomy.

It takes depth in the drawing process and creative discipline to separate the good artists from the masters.