Bargue Plate: Homer

It’s been a while! I haven’t posted recently because I got Covid, and I’ve been playing catch up ever since. If you are curious, read on. Skip ahead if you don’t care about Covid. TL/DR; Covid is real, and really dangerous for some people – but I’m fine and I never got terribly sick. My wife got it too, same with her.

Covid Story

For what it’s worth: I’m fully vaccinated, and I wear my mask everywhere pretty much. I went to a sleep study because I’m sick of sleeping on the couch or snoring so loud that Rachel goes to the couch. During the sleep study, I used a machine that other people have used, and it blew air into my lungs for 8 hours. I’m guessing that’s not a great idea during a pandemic, because the next day I had a dry cough.

A few days later, I spread some apple butter on toast, and couldn’t taste it at all. Then I tried to smell peanut butter, and it smelled like absolutely nothing at all. I went and got a COVID test, which came back positive. I then scheduled an appointment for a monoclonal antibody infusion. I had a really bad cough for about three days, and lost my voice. I couldn’t taste or smell anything for about four days, and then I was fine. I got off pretty easy, probably thanks to being vaccinated.

While I had Covid, I isolated in the basement because Winnie is only 7, and can’t get vaccinated yet. Rachel was awesome and wouldn’t let me upstairs to do anything, so she pretty much waited on me. I’m not going to lie, it was pretty great.

Unfortunately, because Rachel was being awesome and doing everything for me, she ended up getting it too. She got the monoclonal infusion as well (she worked on the unit at the hospital, so I’m sure it was a little strange to go in as a patient.) She got a fever, and pretty bad chills. She also lost her taste and smell for a few days and had a cough. Like me, she was fully vaccinated, which is why I think she got off easy too – thank God.

Since I was stuck in the basement, I decided to try to draw a Bargue Plate.

End of Covid Story

I’ve drawn a few of these in the Bargue plates in the past, but I haven’t tried drawing any really big. I didn’t know how you are “supposed” to draw one, I just knew it was something people did, and some people could spend a month or more on one drawing. Not knowing any better, I decided to try to draw Homer (because I like literature) on a full sheet of paper (because I figured people took so long to draw them, they must be huge.) I was about 8 hours in when I decided to actually read about Bargue plates. That’s when I realized there’s a whole tradition of how to draw using Bargue plates. Unsurprisingly, – I was doing it completely wrong.

You are supposed to use charcoal. I used graphite.

You are supposed to tape the Bargue plate drawing on the board next to the paper you are drawing on. I set my book on the stairs next to me.

You are supposed to draw your version at the exact same size as the reference, I drew mine almost five times bigger.

You are supposed to focus on recreating the Bargue plate exactly – every tonal change and proportions meticulously measured and calibrated. I basically eyeballed it.

Your are supposed to draw the major shapes and planes and shade the image as a whole, I drew mine in sections.

It usually takes people weeks to complete a drawing. Mine took 26-30 hours, don’t really know because I wasn’t counting… I was watching Ozark.

Basically, you can’t do this exercise more wrong.

I know now that this isn’t what a Bargue plate is supposed to look like. I also know I’m really proud of my drawing.

How Not to Draw a Bargue Plate (A.K.A., How I Did It.)

First, I laid out the major shapes like Bargue did in his drawings. Because I was drawing my version 22 inches tall, and the version in the book is only 5 inches tall, I had to find a way to scale the image in the book. I ended up measuring the size of the eye in Bargue’s drawing. I then used that to measure how many eyes wide Bargue’s head was, and how many eyes tall, etc.

Then, I drew a rectangle on my paper roughly as big as I wanted the head to be. Bargue’s head was 5 eyes wide (pretty standard) so I divided the width of my paper by 9. That gave me two eyes of white space, then five eyes for the width of the head. Bargue’s head was 7.5 eyes tall, so I measured to find the middle of my paper. Then I measured 3.5 eyes above that, and 4 eyes below it to get the overall height of the bust.

I then cut that in half vertically and horizontally, and drew diagonal lines from corner to corner. I assumed this would help me find some anchor points as I went that I could use to keep my proportions accurate.

Once that was finished, it was just a matter of measuring the distances between things on the bargue plate (in “eye” units) and then repeating that on my paper. The end result was a blocky illustration of the Bargue plate at a much larger size.

Once this was complete, I went in and shaded some of the areas that were going to be on the darker end of the value scale. I figured this would help me remember where things were as I went along. I was using a new set of graphite pencils that I got (2H to 8B) so I just shaded these with my 2H pencil.

Here is the range I’m working with. For the record, this is not a real thing that people do, I just didn’t know what these numbers and letters meant and figured this was a decent way to figure it out.

I knew they would need to be darker in the end, but I figured this way I wouldn’t accidentally go too dark too soon.

I have heavily edited the contrast and exposure on these images to make those initial lines stand out enough for you to see them.

Watch the top right half of his head as I go. You’ll see that my initial marks were no where near as accurate as they should have been. I got much more careful as I went, and ended up having to redo that part.

After that was finished I moved to my H pencil. I figured I would draw everything with a 2H pencil. Then I would go over the darker values with my H pencil. Then go over the next darker values with my F, and so on until I was drawing the absolute darkest values with my 8B. When I finished with my H, I realized this wasn’t going to work for me. Drawing the entire thing over and over was going to get really boring for me. I’m still not sure how this is supposed to be done, but I gave up on that idea after my F pencil.

See how it looks like someone dropped a brick right above his left eye?

At this point, I decided to try drawing the image one element at a time. I started with a curl of hair, and tried to represent that as closely as I could to the original image. Because I was just doing that one curl, I used the entire range of pencils, trying to represent all the values that I thought belonged in that one curl of hair. Then, I moved on to the next curl. I kept at it like this until the image was finished.

I am left handed, and I knew I would be dragging my hand across the drawing as I went – which I didn’t want to do. So, I grabbed a broom stick, and hammered an Allen wrench into one end. I then hung the broomstick from the top of my drawing board, and rested my hand on the broom stick, instead of resting my hand on the drawing. This gave me a mahl stick of sorts – but rather than having to hold the stick with my right hand while I drew with my left, I simply needed to move it, because it was being held up by the Allen wrench. I don’t know if this is a device people use, but it worked great for me.

Here are some in-progress shots so you can see how it went.

I finally fixed his head.
And here’s my finished drawing!
For those who don’t know what it’s supposed to look like, here is a photo of the page from the book.

And… what the hell… here’s a gif.

When I was done with that, I tried to do one of these the “right” way. Mine isn’t that great… but it only took me a day. I don’t know how people can spend 4 weeks on these – that would bore me to tears.

Also – I made marshmallows.

And then I dressed up as Joe Exotic for Halloween, and Rachel went as Velma. (Don’t worry, our quarantine period was over four days before we went anywhere.)

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.