Shape Replication Exercises

The Waichulis Curriculum Shape Replication exercises are an effective and efficient series of mimetic challenges designed to improve one’s ability to register shape. Since our biological vision system is non-veridical, the practicing observational representationalist must work to build a series of appropriate responses to geometric stimuli that will facilitate the marks that will result in a successful biological percept surrogate. The Shape Replication exercises were designed to do just that.

To use these resources as intended, you will need access to a standard laser printer and transparency film (if you do not have access to these items you can do this at a retail printer like Staples or Office Max.) To proceed, download any of the following:

Shape Replication Model Sheets: #01-#03 are part of the Language of Drawing and Language of Painting program. Many of the others can be found in the Visual Language III program also available through this forum.


Perception and the Practical Painter Shape Replication Model Sheets: These are the Shape Replication Model Sheets that are often used with the Perception and the Practical Painter workshop.

WCSR_Practical Painter_SR–Model_Sheet_01

WCSR_Practical Painter_SR–Model_Sheet_02
WCSR_Practical Painter_SR–Model_Sheet_03

Shape Replication Notan Model Sheets: These Model Sheets contain regions of flat value. A “notan” is a Japanese design concept involving the play and placement of light and dark elements. We often use this term to refer to an arrangement of homogeneous light and dark shapes. We include these in our Shape Replication schedule as our ability to perceive “shape” is influenced by many factors—including value. Here is one powerful example of how value can influence our perception of shape (both images are of concentric circles):


It is recommended to attempt these “notans” before embarking on any of our Bargue Plate adaptations so as to address this value influence on shape perception before embarking on more complex stimuli.

Bargue Plate Shape Replication Adaptations: Charles Bargue (c. 1826/1827 – April 6, 1883) was a French painter and lithographer who devised a drawing course, “Cours de dessin,” conceived in collaboration with Jean-Léon Gérôme. The course, published between 1866 and 1871 by Goupil & Cie, contained 197 lithographs printed as individual sheets. It was intended to guide students from plaster casts to the study of great master drawings, and finally to drawing from the living model. We have used a number of plates from the Bargue course as Shape Replication Models. We have digitally cleaned and enhanced a number of the plates (allowing for the texture of the original line work to be somewhat preserved) and also rebuilt a number of others (referred to as “redux” plates). Some are only cropped regions of the original plates (labeled “detail.”) For anyone interested in the entire Bargue course; I would recommend Charles Bargue: Drawing Course 3rd Edition by Gerald Ackerman and Graydon Parrish.

WCSR_BARGUE_Plate_1-14_ Hand_Whetstone
WCSR_BARGUE_Plate_1-32_Cardinal Jiménez_REDUX
WCSR_BARGUE_Plate_1-49_ Agrippa
WCSR_BARGUE_Plate_3-1_Young man
WCSR_BARGUE_Plate_3-1_Young man_REDUX
WCSR_BARGUE_Plate1-43_ Faustina_Detail
WCSR_BARGUE_Plate1-43_ Faustina_Detail_REDUX
WCSR_BARGUE_Plate1-53_ Young_Woman_Detail

After a Model Sheet is successfully downloaded, print it to a transparency sheet.

Mount the transparent Model Sheet onto your drawing board to the left or right of your pre-determined drawing area. Since the Models are on a transparent surface, they can be used to to assess your results. For now, if the transparency is problematic, you can adhere a piece of drawing paper to the back to give it an opaque surface to rest on.

Using a ruler, lay out squares that align with the outer boundary boxes that house the Shape Models (if applicable—some shapes here, including the Bargue adaptations, do not have boundary boxes.) Remember to keep all of your line work, including these outer boundary boxes very light. The Shape Models are illustrated darkly for purposes of clarity, but make an effort to get in the habit of using light pressure for all early line and shape work.

After your boundary boxes are established, replicate the shapes that you observe as “accurately” as possible. Remember to visualize the line before you connect with the paper. Try and see the shape where you intend to illustrate it and then confidently make your marks. Again, don’t forget to keep your pressure light.

When you are finished, lift your transparent Shape Model Sheet from the paper that it is attached to and place it over your drawing. You should be able to see any inconsistencies immediately. If your initial lines were applied with adequately light pressure, you should be able to lift out errors with a kneaded eraser to make corrections.

As you progress with the series of Shape models, they will become increasingly complex. At this time you may choose to make use of a measuring device like the dividers. You can measure where certain shapes intersect with the boundary box and indicate it accordingly as a reference point.

As mentioned earlier, some Shape Models (including Bargue adaptations) are not housed by a boundary box. This removal of a static reference shape will force you to adapt and seek out an alternative source for relative measurement. The dividers may prove very useful here.

Another aspect worth noting is that the later Models in the series incorporate curved lines. Early Shape Models consist of strictly angular lines and rectilinear shapes, but now we are faced with curved lines and curvilinear shapes. However, our approach does not change. Our early recording of these curved elements will still be drawn with straight, confident, angular line. In later layers, we will refine curved contours within the drawing process, but for now, you can record the curves with angular simplifications.

You may increase the challenge of this particular exercise by layering shape replication model sheets or even “sizing-up” your drawings of the Shape models while maintaining accurate proportion (however, enlargement will eliminate the primary advantage of the transparency for error-checking.)

Happy Drawing!