Beginning Drawing Atelier

This is a very practical book by Juliette Aristides that invites copying, tracing over, and adding to the illustrations it contains. Published in 2019 by Monacelli Press, it’s a beautiful thing in its own right.img_4163

The illustrations are copyrighted and so I’m posting only my own copies with perhaps a tangential view of the original.



The original drawing by Julio Reyes, Nothing Gold Can Stay (2016) is in graphite on paper. To me, it has the look of something knitted – wooly with tiny surface threads. I tackled the mouth, nose, and eyes in semi-profile because I find these really challenging. The result, with the exception of the top sketch, is better than I’d hoped and I’ll likely return to this many times. Tracing over the hands on the following page was also remarkably useful too, just getting a feel for the marks that make the shapes and don’t seem at all intuitive is a bonus. Aristides says elsewhere that beginners tend to draw what they think is there, instead of what is actually there. A symbolic all-purpose image, not the specific reality. This is page 34 of the book – the first I’ve had explicit permission from the author to write in!img_4172

This is my copy of a woman reading to a child, the original by Adolf von Menzel (1863) and titled only Sketchbook P29 of the book). Lots about my copy isn’t accurate in the sense of faithful replication, but again I was pleased to have produced something better than I’d anticipated.


This is a chubby kid with a sheep roughly replicating da Vinci’s ‘Studies for Christ Child with a Lamb’ 1503-1506 (page 46 in the book). It’s a very strange experience second guessing the likes of da Vinci but I realised it was an easier task than some of the others simply because he makes the kinds of gestural marks left handers make. There is a calligraphy exercise earlier in the book which I found impossible – pushing when I should have been pulling and the guidelines obscured by my hand.


This exercise involved more ‘boxing in’ of the shapes to get a sense of relationships within the composition and the individual components, and I’ll admit to getting a bit lost as these proliferated. I was also baffled as to the identity of at least two of the items – the one that looks like a folded packet of some kind and the ticket-shaped object beneath it. Still, it was about getting the shapes and despite there being another of my betes noir – a jug – it worked out reasonably well. I didn’t leave enough space for the lemon though. These items are on pages 52-53 of the book.


I am some way off completing the exercises in this book but for now these are my personal triumphs. The original for this (on page 42) is by Anna Egrova (untitled 2013) and I am pretty pleased with my larger version, freehand, out in the garden copy.


The next is also a cat and also an untitled 2013 drawing by Anna Egrova (P44). I’d imagined that, because I know cats, own cats, lived with cats for many years, I might be subject to the ‘universal symbolic cat’ problem. But it seems I can manage a half decent copy of someone else’s drawing of a cat which must imply looking and seeing rather than just stamping a cat shape on a page.


I’ve photographed all of the exercises and pasted them in my sketchbook.


Ref. Aristides, J. (2019). Beginner Drawing Atelier. Monacelli Press,

4 thoughts on “Beginning Drawing Atelier

  1. Thank you, I think for me it’s about the discipline of looking properly, teaching my eyes what to look for, and training my hands to make the right sorts of marks. I’ve been winging it and getting away with that (so far!), but really I knew I was fudging. Time to get a grip!


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