Where to Buy Drawing Reference Plaster Casts in the UK

One disadvantage of studying art online, is that as well as buying all of your regular art supplies such as paints, canvases etc, you also have to buy the reference material that would normally be provided by an art school.

One thing that I’ve found most difficult to find at a reasonable price is plaster casts, which are commonly used in art ateliers for drawing practice.


Example of a drawing cast

The course I’m doing lists several sources of plaster casts, but since it’s based in America, most of the sources are US based, and the cost of shipping a heavy across the Atlantic can almost double the cost of some casts.

I spent a long time on Google scouring the UK for any suppliers who might be able to provide me with a plaster cast for a reasonable price. I only found three suppliers based in the UK, but there is a German supplier who is very reasonable, and there are some online alternatives which you might consider.

Here’s my roundup of the suppliers I found, as well as the American ones, which you may consider if you have the budget for it.

Plaster Cast Suppliers


London Atelier of Representational Art (LARA) – LARA have a variety of different sized casts, busts and reliefs, ranging from £45 for facial features to £195 for full torso casts. The casts are not listed on their website, but I emailed the school and they sent me photos of what they had available, and they look like they are great quality.

Lavender Hill Studios – Lavender Hill have a large selection on their website, but when I emailed, they only had five available, ranging from £120 to £285, and the quality of the casts didn’t look as good as the ones from LARA. Worth emailing for details though.

Plaster Cast Interiors – There’s a wide range of weird and wonderful plaster casts available here. Not so many classical art type casts, but you might find something suitable and the prices are very reasonable. Make sure you order the plain white finish.

Europe – Based in Germany, this is where I ordered my first cast from, due to the very low price. They also sell Nitram charcoal, which is supposedly one of the best kinds you can get, and it’s also very reasonable. Casts range from just 7 Euros to 23 Euros. The female torso doesn’t look amazing, but it would definitely work for cast drawing practice.


There’s a lot more to choose from in the US, you just need to watch out for the shipping costs.

Giust Gallery – These are great quality casts, and a great selection, where you can pay anything from $15 to over $4000, depending on your needs.

Philippe Faraut – These are also very nice casts, although the selection is more limited. I intend to buy either the male or female torso at some point, although the shipping cost is almost as much as the casts themselves. – A wide selection here at a variety of price points.

Utrecht – A small selection here, but what they do have looks like good quality and the prices are reasonable.

Fine Art Store – Another alternative, with some reasonably priced casts.

Online Alternatives

If you’re on a really tight budget and can’t afford any of the casts from these suppliers, you might want to look into online photo references.

This is definitely not ideal, as photos can’t portray the subtleties of real life, and some information will be lost, but if this is all you can afford, then it’s better than nothing.

Online Life Drawing now has cast drawing reference images, which you can view from all angles, giving you many different poses to draw from. A 2-day pass is just $5, but currently the cast drawing selection seems limited. Might be worth emailing them to see what they have available.

EnsoMobile is an iPhone app which also features 360 degree plaster cast images. The apps are only $0.99 each, so this is a very affordable option.

Learning Cast Drawing

If you want to learn how to do cast drawing, there is a great book called Cast Drawing Using the Sight-Size Approach, which has been a big help to me.

I hope this has been of some use in your search for drawing casts. If you know of any other good sources which I have missed, especially in the UK, please let us know about it in the comments below.

Bargue Drawing by Dan Johnson

The Process of a Master Copy Drawing

Yesterday I completed my first Bargue Drawing for the online classical art course I’m currently taking. Here’s the finished drawing:

Bargue Drawing by Dan Johnson

Completed Bargue Drawing

I could continue to work on this drawing, capturing more of the subtleties, but for the purposes of studying proportion, value and relationships, there’s no need to take it any further.

The Value of Master Copy Drawings

I recently posted over at Right Brain Rockstar about the role of master copy drawings in artistic training. Copying the work of great artists gives us a valuable insight into the way they worked and by using the same techniques as they used, we can build a solid foundation of skills that we will utilise in the rest of our artistic careers.

The Method

The Bargue drawing (named after the artists, Charles Bargue, whose drawings we are copying), is completed using the sight-size approach. This means that we make our drawing the exact same size as the reference picture, so that we can accurately check our measurements without having to scale them up or down.

In this method we set up our drawing board with the reference picture on the left, and a blank sheet of paper on the right. A piece of thread is taped down the centre of the reference picture, and a corresponding line is drawn lightly on the blank paper. Then marks are made to indicate the top and bottom of the drawing.

Blocking In

The first stage after setup is to very roughly block in the outline of the drawing. The purpose of this stage is to get an accurate framework for the large structure of the drawing.

(Note: I have increased the contrast of the drawing in these initial stages, so you can clearly see the pencil lines, as they are very light in reality.)

Bargue Block-in

Blocking in a Bargue Drawing

There is no detail at this point. All the features of the face are simplified into large angular shapes. We draw a line, then use a piece of thread to measure it against the reference. If it is out, we draw the line where it should be, erase the original line, and measure again.

This process is repeated until the whole drawing is blocked in accurately. It is worth spending a long time on this stage to ensure our proportions, angles and relationships are all correct before proceeding. This will save us a lot of time later.

Refining the Block-In

The next stage is to refine the block-in with more detail.

Refining the Blockin

Refining the Block-in

We go around the whole drawing, adding more detail, but still keeping things angular and simplified. Don’t be tempted to start drawing detailed curves or shading at this stage.

We are still constantly checking our measurements to ensure an accurate drawing, but we always measure with the eye first, and only then check with the thread. This helps train the eye to measure more accurately.

Adding Tone

Once we have a fairly detailed and accurate block-in, we can add a layer of consistent tone to the shadow areas.

Adding Tone

Adding Tone to the Bargue Drawing

This stage adds some depth to the drawing, and makes it easier to see any drawing errors we may have made in the previous stages.

Spend plenty of time on this stage, making the tone consistent and smooth. This will give us a good basis for finishing off the drawing in the final stage.

Finishing the Drawing

The final stage involves accurately matching value relationships, and refining the edges between the light and shadow areas.

Finishing the Bargue Drawing

Finishing the Bargue Drawing

This stage can take a very long time, so we need to exercise patience and make sure we spend the time getting everything just right.

Value Relationships

One thing I learned from this Bargue drawing is the importance of capturing accurate value relationships, as opposed to exact value matching.

Depending on what medium you use, you may not be able to match the values in your drawing exactly. For example, I used an HB pencil for the drawing above, which cannot match the darkest darks in the reference picture.

But we can still get an accurate drawing provided we match the value relationships. So even if the darkest dark in our drawing is a fair bit lighter than the reference, as long as its relationship to the surrounding values is consistent, then the drawing will still work.

So if your darkest dark is lighter than the reference, then all your other values will need to be lightened accordingly, so that the relationship between all of the values is consistent.

Next steps

My next assignment in the course is another Bargue drawing, and I’m also currently working on a self-portrait and finishing off my oil painting colour charts. I’ll share finished assignments here, but if you want to see the stages as I complete them, you can follow me on Facebook, where I will post more regular updates.

If you have any questions about the Bargue drawing process, please let me know in the comments below.

Art School

Back to School, and a New Blog

I’m very excited. Next week I am starting to study classical art with Jonathan Hardesty’s online atelier.

For a long time I have been wanting to do some formal art training, and I’ve become very interested in the classical atelier approach to art instruction. This involves learning to draw and paint through a series of projects including bargue drawings, cast drawings, master copies, and finally full colour paintings.

I had considered enrolling at an actual atelier, but a bit of research turned up only two atelier schools in the UK, both of which are in London. I toyed with the idea of spending a year studying in London, but soon decided against it due to the expense, the upheaval, and the commitments I have here in Sheffield.

So I needed another option. I have taken an online art course before, Jason Seiler’s Art of Caricature at, and I was very impressed with the way it worked, so I figured maybe I could do something similar again.

A bit more research landed me at Jonathan’s site. I checked out his paintings, watched some of his YouTube videos, and was sold. I’ve been in touch with him, and I will be starting on Monday!

I will be posting images here of all the projects I complete along with my thoughts on the learning process. I hope those will be of some interest.

More Exciting News!

What, more?! Yes. I have spent the last few weeks working on a new blog called Right Brain Rockstar. The site will be a source of information and inspiration for anyone who would like to make a living out of their creative talent.

I have long since wanted to do art full-time, but until recently I’ve never had the motivation that’s required to do something about it.

Now I am working toward that goal, and my new blog will document my journey, and hopefully inspire other people to join me in my quest to make creativity my day job!

The blog is scheduled to launch on Monday 28th November, but you can go there now and join me on Twitter or Facebook, or join the mailing list, and you will be the first to know when the site goes live. Let me know what you think of the idea in the comments below.

I will continue to use this blog to talk about my art, speaking of which, here’s a video of a figure drawing I did a while back. This was originally published on an art tutorial site I started, but I’ve decided to abandon that and any tutorials or demonstration videos I make will be published here from now on. Enjoy!