A cast of thousands...


At the Atelier we do things in the old fashion way. We believe that an artist is capable of creating anything they care to if they have put in the effort to gain the skills to represent their ideas. Some would have you believe otherwise, but theirs is a different world from ours.


You might have noticed that we make reference to drawing from the cast. This is a time tested method of learning the basics of a traditional drawing practice. It used to be the case that a student would spend at least a couple of years in the cast room before being allowed to draw from life. This isn’t a notion that would sit well with many contemporary art students, especially in a State institution where an interview and the presentation of a well founded portfolio is a thing of the past, and the only requirement for entry to the art college is the ability to fill in the application form, and the expectation of an OP score.


But I digress. The reason for this Blog entry is to bring your attention to our casts. Not quite numbering in the thousands yet, but climbing steadily. Unfortunately, many casts were destroyed or allowed to fall into neglected ruin during the heady days of the sixties and seventies, and it is very difficult to find suitable replacement pieces at an affordable price. Things are different in the US where the Art Renewal movement has been active for a considerable time, or Europe, where many of the originals came from, but the tyranny of distance and the price of freight still conspire against us in Australia.


Fortunately, we were initially able to source a good number of casts from New South Wales, and more recently we have been making our own from works which we have modelled. We have also been gifted the odd piece by students. Our most recently arrived casts have been made especially for us, and come from Italy. They include a glorious Laocoon head, a variety of masks from classical and renaissance sculptures, and a beautiful St Peter, the recent work of Cody Swanson who teaches at the Florence Academy.


My own experience of the cast room wasn’t as rigorous as it would have been a hundred years ago, but anybody who has ever wondered what a Bargue drawing was, wrestled with the notion of plane breaks, or has gone into battle with the Voltaire bust or the Lanteri ecorche figure, will have a certain empathy with me…


The photographs above will have given you an idea of the sort of thing I am talking about, and the work of our students below (thank you Deb and Wayne) will hopefully give you an indication of what is possible with meaningful tuition and the will to succeed.


The most important thing of all though is to realise that all of the efforts made to represent the cast, or indeed in the study of making traditional representational art, are not necessarily an end in themselves, they are simply the first steps of an incredible assured, skilled, and creative journey.


Nick Leavey. October 2011.

Nick Leavey