Learn to Draw - Using proportion in drawing




Exploring Proportion

Click to see Proportion in action

Proportion is getting the sizes of objects correct in relation to other objects in a composition. When you're dealing with Perspective as we just were, you will also deal with Proportion. Since proportion is getting the sizes of objects correct, when you're creating a drawing that shows Perspective, you must get the sizes of the objects correct as the objects recede further away from view to properly illustrate Perspective. If you are drawing from life and want to make your drawing "look like" what it is you're drawing, you'll need to get the proportions right. Here, measuring is vital. You must measure the size of one object in relation to another in your real-life subject, then compare the sizes of the two objects in your drawing. Measuring negative spaces against the real-life subject and the drawing also need to be done in order to get the proper proportion in a drawing. In the previous measuring exercises with the fruit still life, we were maintaining proportion because we were measuring both shapes and negative spaces. Proportions will be covered further and in more depth elsewhere on this website.

Being aware of the whole drawing

Measure to fit the car drawing on the paper

Roughly sketched layout in a drawing

Unfortunately, if your proportions are off on one element of your drawing, it may throw the rest of the composition off as well. As seen in the above portrait drawing, Rick's nose is intentionally drawn too large, which causes the other proportions on the face to off as well. Obviously the nose is too long - but it's also too wide. Because it's too long it means that the space between the mouth and the nose is too short. And if you measure in the photograph the width of the nose, and compare that measurement to the width of the left eye, you'll see that in the drawing the width of the drawn nose is is also way off. And since the width of the nose is off, that means that the space between the eyes is also off.

Here's a tip when you are drawing that will help keep the proportions of your drawing proportional: When you are drawing you should try and be aware of the whole drawing before you have drawn the whole drawing. How the heck can you do that?? For example, if you want to start your drawing composition on the left side, then start drawing on the left side of your paper. If you start your drawing in the middle of the paper, you won't have enough space to do the drawing and you'll crowd the drawing on the right and possibly throw the proportions off. Same goes with drawing from top to bottom. If you start at the top, start the drawing at the top of the paper. Another trick would be to try and gauge what scale you want to do the drawing in. You don't have to start thinking "ok, I want to draw a car - so I will have to draw it at 1:83 scale in order to fit it on an 8 by 10 piece of paper." No, rather what you should try is: using your pencil, measure the car's length and height. Then still using your pencil as the "ruler" - transfer those measurements onto your paper. What that does is give you boundaries within which to do your drawing so that you can get the drawing placed correctly on the page. If you do these measurements to correctly place your drawing on the paper, you will be able to maintain correct proportions in your drawing because you'll know the overall proportions of the completed drawing before you finish it. Another thing that you'll begin to do as you get more confident in your ability to draw is to quickly sketch out the entire composition in loose sketching that you can later "flesh out" as you complete the drawing. On the right is a quick sketch of two figures sitting at a table. The table is in one point perspective, and the figures are loosely drawn in so that the layout and proportions of the figures and the table can be seen before the drawing is finished.

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