Around the corner and down the street from my apartment, the Loggia dei Lanzi displays several masterful sculptures. On low steps outside the loggia, you’ll see tourists enjoying gelato and people-watching. Step inside, and it is the perfect place to rest and enjoy magnificent artwork.
My painting teacher decided to assign a large drawing to be accomplished over the course of five weeks. First, I had to scope out which statue was my favorite, complete a variety of sketches, and then begin drawing. That was only week one. I spent a lot of time sitting in that loggia, experiencing a mixture of excitement and anxiety. Drawing a famous sculpture is intimidating. Eventually, I decided to do a detail of The Rape of Polyxena. The masterpiece depicts a small woman being carried away by Achilles, as two women try to save her. I focused on the torso of the former, enthralled by the folds of her fabric and the perfection of her features.
There are two ways to look at a sculpture. You can look at it, enjoy the figures or comment on its beauty, or you can look at it, drawing it with your eyes. The latter takes a significantly longer amount of time. It involves looking at each contour individually, and it can sometimes become quite boring. Sitting on cold stone steps and trying to focus fully on one figure, while the distractions of city life buzzed around me, was surprisingly tiring.
Our teacher emphasized the importance of both rendering and proportion. Both were necessary to have a successful finished work. Checking proportions meant sizing the sculpture with my charcoal pencil and then drawing, erasing, and redrawing. And then repeating that process.
There were a few instances in which I received encouragement from strangers passing by which gave me the energy to keep drawing. One woman from Paris wanted to take a picture with my rough sketch, which was one of the most sincere compliments I could have received. Another woman was working in the loggia, making sure no tourists broke the rules. She smiled and nodded after seeing the work in progress, a simple but encouraging gesture. As an amateur artist, these moments help to keep my attitude about my work positive. As much as the idea of success should come from within, it never hurts to get outside reassurance.
The drawing in its current state is unfinished and not yet considered successful by my teacher, but I would like to disagree. I can’t argue that it’s completed, because it isn’t. However, I can say it has been successful. Over the course of a month and a half, I discovered, drew, and fell in love with a sculpture. I hadn’t drawn a famous statue before, and it was much harder than I expected. Nonetheless, I memorized each detail and curve, admiring the craftsmanship on an entirely new level.