Drawing drapery is a test of an artist’s ability to employ suitable lines in response to subtle changes of form (see drapery and line). For this reason it is advised that the teacher first reviews the appendix on line (see Appendix: Line).
Any item of drapery is an interaction between cloth and body. The body functions as a point of suspension. Many forces, such as gravity, and tension, will act upon the drapery. The form of the body will be both hidden and revealed by the cloth.
Although folds in cloth can present in an infinite number of ways, they are broadly classifiable into a few types. These were first described by the English artist and teacher George Bridgeman in his book ‘Bridgman’s Complete Guide to Drawing from Life’ (first published in 1924 and still popular today). For the purposes of clarity, we have left a few of them out. The most basic fold type is the pipe fold, which, as its name implies, looks like a simple pipe. Other folds include: the diaper fold, the spiral fold, the inert fold and the drop fold. Drawing pattern on cloth can make the drawing more difficult, but it can also make the form easier to read.
The following artists are recommended as references in the teaching of drapery:
- The 16th century German artist Albrecht Dürer. Dürer made a special study of drapery and produced many etchings depicting them.
- The 18th century French artist Antoine Watteau. His drawings of drapery are particularly notable
- The 17th century French artist Nicolas Poussin. Not the worlds most exciting artist, but he was heavily influenced by Greek classical sculptors, who were masters of the draped figure.
- The French 20th century comic artist Hergé. In his ‘Tin Tin’ books, this great 20th century comic artist was very good at reducing the complexity of drapery to its simplest forms.