Author Topic: SPA201 - Measuring by eye  (Read 4417 times)

Pa Kalsha

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SPA201 - Measuring by eye
« on: January 13, 2016, 02:18:00 PM »
So you’re ready to do your first drawing from life. You’ve got your pencils sharpened and your paper picked out, you’ve found the perfect subject and position, and you're ready to start drawing. An hour later, you take a step back and realise the drawing looks nothing like your subject. It's too long, or too short or just inexplicably, completely, wrong.
We've all been there. The trick to accurate drawing is sighting, or measuring by eye.

Sighting is a vital skill for drawing from life. You can’t get a tape measure out every time you need to see how big something is (both museums and life models object to this, and the less said about trying it at the zoo, the better), so you need a way to size things up from a distance.

  • For small subjects like statues, life models or tigers:
    • Start by drawing a vertical line in the middle of your paper to indicate how tall the drawing will be. This gives you a parameter to work to, so you don’t run out of paper.
    • Look at your subject and pick out the highest and lowest points.
    • Divide the vertical line in half and then into quarters. These are your basic measurements and you can come back to them to check your measurements as you go.
    • Make a fist with the end of the pencil coming out of the top. Hold your arm out straight towards your subject, locking your elbow, and close one eye so that the subject appears kind of flattened. Position the top of the pencil so that it looks like it's touching the top of the subject and mark the opposite edge on the pencil with your first finger. Guage the half-way mark on the pencil and mark it with your thumb. Look for any notable features that you can use to find this point without measuring.
    • Measure the width of your subject in full-, half- or quarter-heights and mark it on the paper. This gives you a box showing the dimensions of your drawing.
    For large subjects like rooms, buildings or star destroyers:
    • Use a viewfinder to set some boundaries around the scene and make it easier to measure.
    • Lightly draw out the limits of your picture.
    • Find a largeish object you can use as a standard unit of measurement. The width of a door frame is a good choice, but you can use anything so long as it's identifiable and static (parked buses are bad choices, as are particular rocks in a pile of identical-looking rocks).
    • Make a fist with the end of the pencil coming out of the top. Hold your arm out straight towards your subject, locking your elbow, and close one eye so that the subject appears kind of flattened. Position the top of the pencil so that it looks like it's touching the edge of the object and mark the opposite edge on the pencil with your thumb. If the object you've chosen is longer than your pencil, you'll have to find something else.
    • Use this basic unit to measure the subject and mark out how many units high and wide the picture will be.
  • Start making note of the largest features in the subject (e.g.: the head of a bust, the torso of a life model or furniture in a room) and block them in with relative width and height measurements. You’ve got to be accurate in the early stages or everything after that will come out skewed.
  • Be on the lookout for features that cross at specific intervals (ie: the half, third and quarter points of a line segment) and make light marks to indicate where features cross the vertical line.  If you're shading the picture, consider the the edges of shadows as features and mark those out as well.
  • Keep measuring and marking, joining up points where it’s sensible and working towards smaller and smaller details. You should end up with a close approximation of your subject made entirely out of straight lines.
  • Finish the picture by adding details, keeping an eye on the relationships between edges in the area you’re working on.

Important points:
  • Only measure out horizontal and vertical lines
  • For diagonals, mark the start and end points and draw between them
  • Keep your arm fully extended while measuring

« Last Edit: January 23, 2019, 11:40:43 AM by Pa Kalsha »