Tuesday, August 23, 2011

New website: John Ruskin and The Elements of Drawing

Do you want to learn how to draw? Or maybe you'd like to improve your drawing skills? If you do, this website will be of interest to you.

Warning - do not start unless you have some time to spare, a comfy chair and refreshment to hand! :)

The Elements of Drawing website

Who is John Ruskin?

John Ruskin was an eminent Victorian whose range of interests was enormous.  He was a prominent thinker and leading art critic of the era.  He painted - mainly in watercolours - wrote a seminal book about drawing, promoted both Turner and the Pre-Raphaelites and engaged in a major argument and lawwith Whistler.  He was also a philanthropist.
The School of Drawing at Oxford was founded by Ruskin and is known as the Ruskin School of Drawing.
Ruskin established his Drawing School at Oxford in 1871. He intended it not for the training of artists, but of ordinary men and women, who, by following his course, ‘might see greater beauties than they had hitherto seen in nature and in art, and thereby gain more pleasure in life’. His method required the student to master the rudiments of technique – outline, shading, colour – through a carefully directed course of lessons in copying both works of art and natural specimens.
The new website - The elements of drawing

The artworks which Ruskin assembled to teach his students are catalogued and kept in Oxford.  However for the first time they have now been made available online - although it would appear not a lot of people are aware of them - hence this post.

The Elements of Drawing is a  new website devoted to John Ruskin's Teaching Collection.  It was published online this summer and is huge and complex.  I've tried to tease just some of it out in this post - but there's more to find if you keep clicking on the links.

The website is a product of a collaboration between two organisations which form part of the University of Oxford
The website includes Ruskin's catalogues of images plus two specific collections of Ruskin's artwork
John Ruskin assembled 1470 diverse works of art for use in the Drawing School he founded at Oxford in 1871
Highlights:  50 objects from the Ruskin Cabinet Series
The online learning resources are two fold - see below.  Essentially they get to grips with the basics of what Ruskin was trying to teach. However there is also an example of Ruskin's instructions on how to use the images in the Rudimentary Series
I wish you to learn to outline first; to colour next; and to shade last. Not but that you are partly to learn colour while you chiefly practise outline; and shade while you chiefly practise colour: but you must try to conquer the difficulties of the three processes in that order
Learn to draw

This is introduced by Stephen Farthing RA who was the Ruskin Master of Drawing at the University of Oxford from 1990 - 2000.  He is now the Rootstein Hopkins Reseach Professor of Drawing at the University of the Arts, London.

The online resources explain the basic principles of drawing by using the collection of drawings compiled by Ruskin 
Through Ruskin's Eyes

These are resources and exercises based on John Ruskin’s drawing course.  It has been organised around Ruskin’s key themes of Architecture, Nature, Landscape and Narrative.  

Level of difficulty:
  • The resources and exercises are targeted at Art & Design GCSE and A level teachers and students.  
  • However they will help anybody who is serious about attempting to learn about and improve their drawing skills. 
Go first to Nature........Omit nothing, select nothing, scorn nothingJohn Ruskin - advice to artists on the importance of nature and how to approach drawing Nature
The themes are:
Ruskin over painted with china white to suggest mist in the valleys.
That should keep the fans of drawing going for some time!

Incidentally I didn't find the search function very helpful.  You may have more luck with it than I did.


    1. How timely! I found this site a few months ago while doing research for my Field Sketching class (we use The Eleements of Drawing as a text). Right now, I am introducing my students in my Drawing and Painting Trees class to Ruskin and his exercises. This is a great resource!

    2. Ohh, that's excellent. I'm currently following the AlienThink course (incase you are interested), but after this I'll probably use this as a resource. Great stuff!

    3. That is an incredible resource. Thank you so much for blogging about it-I can see I will be making a great deal of use of it. And now back to the Ashmolean...

    4. Thank you for sharing this, have the comfy chair and some time, off to get a cup of tea.

    5. What a wonderful discovery - thanks Katherine for your excellent presentation.

    6. While researching for an essay I wrote for the SBA course I am taking, I ran across Ruskin and the Pre-Raphaelites and became fascinated. Somehow I missed the online Elements of Drawing book. Thanks for the great info and all of the links!


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