Master Study, Michaelangelo's Libyan Sibyl - graphite + prismacolor process.


Alright, decided to do a master study today, and I decided to also do a 4 step process showing some major steps to completing it.

For those of you not in the know, this is a master study of Michaelangelo Buonorotti, the one and only, master artist during the Rennaissance period, a major inspiration for me, next to Leonardo.

This is a study of HIS study for his painting called Libyan Sibyl, it was great fun and very inspiring to just stud his well known chalk piece, it gives a direct link to his past and you can understand some of the decisions he made while drawing, and a lot of the guidelines I used, suprisingly matched his so i was very excited while doing it. Also, it must be noted, I was listening to classical music at the time and feeling very Renaissance-ish.

Ultimately, one of my major goals is to learn how to paint in a Rennaissance style fashion, I believe these studies to be some of the most important I may ever do, and I am tying to learn in the fashion the great masters painted in - minus a teacher.

So, first up, we have the blank piece of paper - I scanned the first 3 steps in monochrome, but it is really a piece with graphite tonage and red ochr powder spread on the paper with a piece of toilet paper.

Tools used, cheap copy paper, red ochre grinds and graphite powder - these two you can purchase from any good art store, generally used to create your own oil paint, but I use them for applying tone. Graphite pencils, 8/9b - for darker regions and shade, 2b for a nice split between detail and darkness, and f for finer details. Also used prismacolor in the final stages to bring the shadows to a deeper and i used a putty eraser as a definition tool to bring out the highlights. Oh, also cheap toilet paper in place of commercially available paper stick blenders.

Alright, the first step looks like not much, but this initial stage already comprises a number of important basis steps - I’ve already done the head, sorry about that, I didn’t think of doing this as a quick tutorial until a little wile into it.

Firstly, tonage - I dont know about you guys, but I hate working on a pure white surface, for some reason I really do not like it much, do I take a piece of toilet paper dip it into the graphite powder (do not breath this in, it is toxic) and spread it around teh page - I use long strokes to give some characters and dab in places to fill in white. Reason why I don’t use my graphite pencils is because it takes too long.

Next, I mix in some red ochre and spread that on too - both the red ochre and graphite erase easily, so long as you dont push it into the grain too hard. This tone laydown will have an important function later too, so its not simply for those afraid of the white paper.

Alright, I’ve also - if you can see the light lines, dropped the reference lines I am going to use to plot out the major landmarks for the image - I am not looking off the reference image for what to put where - my anatomy knowledge knows most of it, I place the trajectory line from which I will base the spinal column and from that point will then attach the rest of the limbs, muscles and so on, I do not need to rely on the reference to tell me where everything is - this in itself is reason enough to memorise and study the anatomy, your studies will become much better.

Alright, fleshing out of the limbs, proportioning and landmarking.

Once the first step was completed, I then checked the composition of the figure, and then started to drop in the major landmarks - you can see them as circular markings on the image, representing the heads and tails of bones and muscles.

The easiest way to plot out limbs like these, are from inside out, those closes to the initial point of reference (in this case, the head) will first be measured out and plotted, and following on from there in a build up process.

Firstly the trajectory of the horizontal axis has already been determined, now you have to determine how far from the head the coccyx bone needs to be, in this case, if you have done your studies, you will know that it is from the top of the skull to rough centre of the pelvis, is 4 heads, so measure that out, and we have our spine and the most important reference in place.

From there, you know from your studies, that the navel - another important landmark is two heads down from the chin, take into account curvature and drop in a ref - in this case, it has been covered over, but you should be able to figure out roughly the navel line.

The navel line is important because it is roughly where the oval of the ribcage ends, and the obliques start - Leonardo has slightly exaggerated the obliques in his subject, for wht ends I can only guess - my thoughts are that these proportions fit the renaissance’ ideal proportions for a woman (this piece is - although studied from that of a man, is to be used for the painting of a woman).

Rib cage has been dropped in - but it sinks too low on the frame, and this will be corrected in the next phase.

The arms are added in, the horizontal line depicting the positions of the arm is still visible here.

While still in such an early stage, you should already start to understand where the image is going - if not, then somthing is wrong and it needs to be fixed as soon as this is noticed, or else the final render will not sit properly.

Alright, 3rd stage, this is getting a bit more fun - but this fun never comes before the intial foundation, as in everything else in life.

At this stage, I start to tighten up the back muscles to give the feel imminent in the original, they are taught and wound, and should immediately give the impression of twisting.

The upper arms have also started to be rendered, and a lot of the guide lines are fading away - I tend to use a lot of blending with tissue in order to achieve a nice soft tone - I prefer not to use my finger because depending on how much sweat is on the finger tips, it can play havoc with the paper, instead using a tissue gives a consistent feel and blending properties, and is nice and clean. Tissues are great as blending tools, and how you use them is to pick up loose particles by rubing on the grind, then gently feathering across or applying tone where needed.

Please note, the arms have not been correctly positioned and will be changed before the final stage. In the composite here, the arms - when compared to the reference image, are in too flat a plane. If I am sticking to the reference image - which I want to do, since it has a more naturalistic look compared to my image here - the forearms need to tilt forward more.

I know something is not quite right at this stage, but the upper arms feel fine so I continue with them.

I remove the bottom rib, as it is way too low and start to use my kneeded eraser to start peeling away the ochre and graphite to define the lighted regions. This is where the tonal shades come in important, you are now using the eraser not as a correction tool, but rendering tool, to apply the highlights, using the paper’s luminosity to define light areas.

There are also techniques of removing grades of graphite, if you want to take it all off, just rub it as per normal and it will reveal the brilliant white. if you need to tak half a scale away, use pointism, taking away dots of graphite and ochre and blending over to reduce the strength, repeat as required.

Alright, but the end, I know something is definitely not right with the forearms so I erase them and properly map them out - this part is not shown.

The way I do this is by using readily available landmarks, particularly the head.

Using the reference, I check the distance between the left elbow and the chin - it is the same distance as the chin to the back of th head, so I replicate this distance on my own image, i drop a reference circle there representing the elbow joint. the physical bend in the arm, the inside closest to the face should be in line with a trajectory draw from the eye, to the nose and extrapolated.

I move towards the hand, how high should it be? I check the horizontals and find that the wrist should be right about forhead height, do I drop in that reference circle too the highest point of the hand should be in line with the top of the hair.

I use similar techniques to fine the correct references for the other side too.

I finish off with detailing of the right side of the body, keeping a close eye on the values on that side, understanding that not as much light will fall on that end.

The hands are created to the degree that they imply the gesture - as keeping with the original, more blending, and we’re done.

As you can see, the grid lines and references at this point, are completely gone - I hope his shows how important grid lines and references are, without them you’re flying blind.

Hope you enjoyed the process.


magic man,

As a point of reference, here is Michelangelo’s Libyan Sibyl preparatory drawing:

and the finished fresco:

 Looks like my request on the WIP main forum was premature. :thumbsup: *does the happy dance* I finally got my tutorial from magic man! :bounce:

 [i]Beautiful[/i]drawing, and [i]excellent[/i] steps showing and explaining your process ~ thank you very much for taking the time to do this! :thumbsup:

Any time you feel like creating and posting one of these, please feel more than free to do so!!! :slight_smile:

 Cheers! :)


wow!!! amazing work Magicman. You are one truly skilled artist! Thanks for sharing :slight_smile:


[cheesy ass comment] thats truly magic…man [/cheesy ass comment]

coughturn it into a PDFcough


awesome…stuff…this is magic…man :o


thanks all, nubian, maybe I’ll do that sometime.


Late to read this thread, but so blessed to have found it. Really inspirational tutorial. The use of toilet paper makes me feel good, since that is my first choice when working. Anyway Wow and thanks.


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