Posted in Foundation Drawing - ASSIGNMENT 5, Foundation Drawing - ASSIGNMENTS, Notes, Practice, Research & Reflection

How do sculptors use drawing?


My tutor for Drawing Foundations made a potentially throw away comment that “Sculptors using drawing differently” during our Assignment 4 review session. On reflection I thought this was important to follow up on as a piece of research, as to what the comment meant and implied. I can partly answer this from my own experience. In late-stage drawings that will be mapped to a sculpture it is important that the skills of drawing in perspective are put to one side. These drawings have more in common with architectural drawings than pieces of expressive artwork. I don’t think, however, this this is the full story. There is, therefore, a fruitful avenue for investigation available which could help move me forwards.


Initial Consideration

This integrates nicely with the considerations of Tony Cragg – his works on paper and their relationship to his sculptural forms. There also seems to be material available around how Henry Moore used drawing in Sculpture, and a Google search for images on the subject also turns up quite a lots of material. This was of particular interest: I found an article on that discussed this subject fairly explicitly, and there is some material available advising on sculptural process that includes drawing reference (such as, or

Key Questions

The initial research posed the following important questions that can formed the basis of my consideration:

  • What is the process of sculpture, and how might drawing support it?
  • Why does a sculptor draw?
  • In what way is drawing for sculpture special?
  • How might I apply drawing to my own sculpture to improve it?


To provide an answer to the questions I looked for information and references relating to the questions. I also tried to pin this information back to sculptors and research relating to sculptors. The quality of information that was located varies dramatically, with the more famous artists having more detailed information available about them. The idea was to tie these questions and their answers back to artists, their practice and drawing. The idea was to ensure that the lessons I was pulling forth into my future work were likely to be fed from existing sculptural practice.

What is the process of sculpture, and how might drawing support it?

I was once told (I don’t know from where) of a sculptor who was asked how to carve a wooden elephant. He is said to have responded: “Why that is simple. Start with a block of wood and a tool. Now remove everything that is not elephant.” I tried to find the source of this in writing this, but the best I could find is this article:

Why am I repeating this? The challenge of sculpture is to produce a 3D representation of a concept. Technically, ” Sculpture” should always be a subtractive process where you start with a thing and remove what you don’t want. For the purpose of this discussion, however, I think the concepts for constructive approaches (e.g. clay modelling) are sufficiently similar to be included. The fact is that considering a 3D concept and making it is hard. If you want to end up with a particular concept well represented (e.g. an elephant) then you need to understand both the target and the path to get there in some depth.

To illustrate the point I present a wren I carved a number of years ago:


From some angles the sculpture works well. From others its wren-ness is quite limited.

The process I used to produce this was, roughly:

  1. I collected many wren reference pictures.
  2. I made a plasticine (aka Oil Clay) maquette.
  3. I took photos of this maquette to create working drawings – from the top, and the major axes:
    wren from front
  4. From which I made templates and carved the piece.

I understood that my drawing skills were weak, and used the maquette as a mechanism to move from reference pictures to working drawing. In essence the approach works, as issues can be worked out in the clay. The challenge here, therefore, is to develop a modified working approach that can apply drawing to improve the end result.

Considering Sculptural Practices

Henry Moore

Henry Moore seems like a good place to start looking for evidence. As a well known artist he has been widely researched, and much of that information is available on the web:

There is significant indication that Henry Moore used drawing to help think through ideas, and to elaborate on those ideas. Although I’ve found insufficient evidence to prove exactly how he used drawing in his practice it is fairly clear that much of his drawing emphasised form. At least some of the time in developing his sculptural work he was considering the cross section of sculptures in some detail, and considering internal details of the sculptures. Lastly, some of the drawings are more finished and presentational. It isn’t clear whether these were made to support the creation of a sculpture or to present an idea of a sculpture during a commission process.

This is somewhat at odds, however, with the follow presentation:

“The foundation of Moore’s approach was direct carving, something he derived not only from European modernism, but also from non-Western art. He abandoned the process of modeling (often in clay or plaster) and casting (often in bronze) that had been the basis of his art education, and instead worked on materials directly.” From, Viewed 05/09/2017

It seems likely, therefore, that he would use the drawings as part of his thinking and consideration of a sculpture and then created it (at least in many cases) as a direct sculpture. He also created plaster pieces (,, which he considered to be “plaster originals”, rather than as a maquette. To create the large bronze sculptures, however, needed a different approach:

“Meadows would have assisted Moore in making a full scale plaster model for the commission from a maquette. For a work of this size the plaster would have needed an internal armature on which successive layers of wet plaster would have been laid and then shaped through filing and sanding as it dried. The over life-size family group would then have been cut into a number of parts so that they could be transported to a foundry (a work of this size required the skills of a commercial founder) and to allow the different parts to be cast successfully.”, from Lyndsey Morgan and Rozemarijn van der Molen, ‘Henry Moore’s Approach to Bronze’, in Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity, Tate Research Publication, 2015,, accessed 05 September 2017.

Later, he used industrial processes to scale the plaster original to a full sized bronze:

“On the one hand, there is Moore’s persistent use of enlargement, which from the late 1960s was often achieved through the use of polystyrene models.”, from Rachel Wells, ‘Scale at Any Size: Henry Moore and Scaling Up’, in Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity, Tate Research Publication, 2015,, accessed 05 September 2017.

Thus, Henry Moore’s drawing was a preliminary piece of work to support the creation of a sculpture. It allowed him to consider aspects of the sculpture from different angles and in cross section. This was used to develop ideas and solve issues in 3D before starting to work on the creation of the sculpture itself. Its unclear how much he referred back to these drawings during the creation process, but it is clear that the drawing process was used extensively. It is also clear that the sculptor’s style comes through in these drawings, and is part of his “voice.”


It is noted that Rodin was a prolific drawer, but it is less clear how the drawings fed into his sculptural process. There is a significant amount of information about Rodin here:, in particular this article discusses “The Kiss. This includes a drawing which describes the pose and is likely to be from his sketchbook. There are more Rodin drawings which seem to relate to his sculpture (if indirectly) here: On this basis, it seems that Rodin used drawing heavily to play with ideas, and to consider pose. He seems to have relied more heavily on live models and the translation of these into plaster forms for the modelling process. In many cases his drawings don’t seem to relate much to his sculptural practice at all. It is clear, however, that there is a common style that shines through both sculpture and drawing.

Tony Cragg

As a contemporary artist there is less independent information about his work available for analysis. His own “works on paper” site contains useful drawings, some of which seem to inform about his use of drawing in his sculptural practice. This, combined with having seen some of his work at the YSP exhibition, is enough to help provide a concept of how he approaches sculpture in relation to his drawing.

The following additional information is also of interest:

It seems that he uses drawing in the initial idea formation stage. Some of his drawings seem to be part of the manufacture and idea communication variety, whereas others seem much more developmental in approach. Looking at some of the sculptures and at his drawings allows the viewer to imagine the path by which early ideas on paper might translate through to sculpture. There is also a clear alignment between many of the drawings and the sculptural forms being created as part of his body of work.

Anatomy for Sculptors

This book and web site is very interesting. Although not a famous artist, the resources are created by sculptors as a reference work for sculptors. The information is presented in a form that is useful for sculptors. It is full of information that helps a sculptor understand the logic behind the human form. I’ve used it in support of my drawing and in support of my sculpture. The resources include images from multiple angles, cross sections, internal structure information and images to help the sculptor better understand the basic forms.

Why does a Sculptor Draw?

This initial research points to a number of reasons that a sculptor might take to drawing.

These include:

  1. To commit an idea to paper before it is forgotten: If an idea wanders through the brain then a quick sketch will pin it to a page for later reference. The drawing here is not an art work, but a way to bring the idea back at some later stage. Likely to be a thumbnail sketch, or series of very simple lines. These drawings are likely to be in a far from finished form.”For its speed and ease, drawing is a ready tool for brainstorming. Sculptors often draw to inspire, manifest, and explore ideas for future works. This may be a directed activity (sketching or proposing) or a less conscious habit (doodling and scribbling). The results are also often noncommittal and diaristic.” , Kurt Mueller, Sculptors Drawing (, page 1, point 1
  2. To help see and understand a subject: These drawings will range from the simple to the complex, and include the “data mining” drawings of any artist’s sketchbook. They can investigate the idea from more perspectives or positions, but the basic concept is the same. Understanding development.”… The ability to see, to discern between the “ungainly” and the aesthetic line/contour is paramount. It isn’t about detracting from the creative process while working in the materials, it’s about making that process the most perceptive one it can be. … An artist that fails to perceive is an artist that is unable to control his work and logically unable to see it to its greatest fruition….”“… Then there’s a whole other class of drawing that is done to hone one’s craft. Learning how to see, as Jeff aptly put it…. drawing something is the best way to learn about it, and later on to remember it, which may be just as important. Perhaps another kind of drawing is something to do to work problems out on paper. …”

    “The author of Modelling and Sculpting the Human Figure, Edouard Lanteri, said that in his opinion drawing was more important for the sculptor than the painter. … his assertion is based on the idea that an artist that is dealing with form rather than shape alone must have a better working knowledge of the way objects are constructed. …”

  3. To develop a concept and/or style: These drawings concentrate on experimentation and elaboration of a concept. They can show form to varying degrees, and they can be used to build a concept to a more refined position. They might even be a series of scribbles. These can be usefully combined with the construction of some form of maquette, with a maquette-drawing-maquette set of iterations being of particular value. They can be simple lines or fuller tonal drawings with colour. What is needed will depend on what is being produced and the preferred approach of the sculptor.”…freestanding figurative sculpture has many thousands of perspectives-… working together to create a unified dynamic whole which is equally comfortable from all viewpoints. … as a subordinate tool for refining concepts and exploring perspectives… reguide the hand to improve the work… In all fairness let me point out that I may invest lots of hours sketching—-especially when I am foundering for a bearing…….my mental sails flapping from an untethered boom……sketching soothes and focuses the meandering mind …. and most especially helps me to back off from working the piece while staying in the game.”“There are many considerations to make when starting a new sculpture, unless you have a great experience and knowledge of what your subject is and how best to translate that into three dimensions it is important to produce some initial drawings of your designs…”


  4. To communicate an idea before making it: This is the equivalent of a drawing to show a client as part of a commission process. The drawing will be reasonably well finished in most cases, and is likely to need to provide a good impression of the finished piece to be created. It will also need to be visually attractive, as it is (in effect) a sales tool.”The importance of drawing, I believe, is to communicate the idea in order to win the commission, otherwise I don’t go near the idea with a pencil. I draw the idea in 3-d by producing a sketch in clay. …”
  5. To make from: This is the late-stage drawing referred to above. Having scale drawings of the final piece, and even better with a matching maquette, can be very valuable during many stages in the making process.”Perhaps most regularly, sculptors utilize drawing to address and overcome construction concerns. ” , Kurt Mueller, Sculptors Drawing (, page 2, point 2
  6. To draw: Sometimes a drawing is a drawing, done by a sculptor but not related to the path towards a sculpture. Sometimes a drawing is related to the sculpture but not a part of its development path, maybe as a mixed media parallel.”Drawing in these instances—drawing as breathing space—is likely an end rather than a means, done perhaps for a pause or the pure pleasure or mark making.” , Kurt Mueller, Sculptors Drawing (, page 2, point 4″Like mixed-media artists, self-identified sculptors produce drawings that parallel their sculpture in concept and form, but do not depict sculpture.” , Kurt Mueller, Sculptors Drawing (, page 3, point 6

This list isn’t intended to classify or limit the application of drawing to sculpture, or define a process. One drawing can perform more than one function, and many of these drawings will not be used in many cases.

In what way is drawing for sculpture special?

In many of the reasons sculptors draw above the drawing matches either what an engineer might do (To make from), or other artists might be doing. (To commit an idea to paper before it is forgotten; To help see and understand a subject; and somewhat To develop a concept).

The aspects that have come through as different, however, are:

  1. The need to consider multiple perspectives;
  2. A priority on considering, conveying and experimenting with “form” and “volume” in drawing; and
  3. The need to consider cross-sections and internal structure.

That is not to say non-Sculptors do not need to worry about these, as these are things that a painter (for example) might consider during the development of a painting. It is more that a sculptor will need these aspects as their main considerations in drawing. This is evident, for example, in Rodin’s drawings relating to sculpture over his non-sculptural drawing.

These aspects are present in many of the different reasons for drawing considered above. That is, the “Why?” considers the time and process stage at which drawing might occur. This question addresses the priorities and drawing skills that might be needed on these occasions.

How might I apply drawing to my own sculpture to improve it?

The answers to the questions above start to answer this question as well. Although I have started to improve my drawing as a whole, it would be worthwhile me spending time developing my skills around conveying form and drawing the same subject from multiple angles and perspectives. Similarly, I have started to use my sketchbook to help mine for information about a subject. This can obviously feed straight into the development of a sculpture. I can also, however, use drawing to help develop the concept of a sculpture – and should practice doing so. As part of this process I also need to consider internal structure and (where helpful) cross section information.

Lastly, however, there is the subject of style. The consideration of Henry Moore, Rodin and Tony Cragg made it clear that their style shone through their developmental and other drawings. That is, their approach to considering their sculpture in their drawings came through in the final work. As their style developed I would expect their drawing and sculptural style developed together. This is, therefore, an area for development in its own right – to work on an approach to drawing for sculpture which supports the creation of the style sculpture I wish to make.


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