Learn to Draw - measuring for proportion and prespective





Before we go on to the next exercise let's talk about another skill that is absolutely vital to understand - measuring. I know measuring sounds like a very logical, "symbol-like" thing to do but follow along with me here. When doing drawing it's very helpful to have a "standard unit of measurement" for your drawings. Measuring helps you to place objects in the correct place and also helps to maintain perspective and proportion in the drawing. If you measured for where each shape was placed on your contour chair drawing it would look just like the chair and the size would not be "off". A standard "ruler" that we'll use is one that's already in your hand - your pencil.

Hold the pencil like this.

To measure something, hold the pencil like this with your thumb extended along the body of the pencil. We'll measure going from the tip of the pencil to the tip of your thumb. You're able to slide your thumb up and down the pencil to place the tip of your thumb at the end of the object you're measuring and the tip of the pencil is at the other end. Find an object in your subject that you can use as a base to measure everything else with. This "standard unit" is different for each drawing, it's not like using a ruler where an inch is always an inch (one twelfth of a foot). For example, when drawing a human face, use the width of the eye as the "standard unit", or if you were to draw a tree, use one branch length as the standard.

The fruit for the still life

Let's do something done in all art classes and draw a still life of fruit. In this exercise we'll find an object in the photo we can measure and use that as our "standard unit", then we'll use that measurement to measure the size against other objects and distance from everything else in our drawing.

Get ready to do a drawing by putting a new sheet of paper on your drawing board and sharpen your pencil. Put the paper horizontally on your board because that's the orientation of the photo. You'll be drawing this picture of fruit on the right. Click the photo to see how large it looks for you. Is your monitor big enough to have the picture open and read this page as well? If not I suggest you print the photo out. Get comfortable with your drawing board in front of your computer so you can draw and read as well.

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