A method for drawing measurement – The method of Proportional Dividing

Beginners often have a problem with drawing measurement techniques because they often rely on concepts like “find the midpoint” or “estimate the one third point”, a task beginners can find daunting and as a result can lead to inaccuracy in drawing measurement. The method presented here does not require estimation of intervals, it is a method that always yields the exact relationship, similar to the use of a proportional divider tool.

The method is best explained using pictures.

Step 1: Fix your station point. With one eye closed, sight your model and mark off the overall height with your thumb on the measuring stick. Every time you sight the model for a measurement, you will always have one eye closed, and you will always do it from the same exact station point position. This is very important.

Step 2: Mark your measuring stick with the height of the model. This is the only mark you need to make on the stick. It should correspond to the largest vertical dimension of what you are drawing.

Step 3: Now, go to your canvas and figure out your composition. Place tick marks at the top and bottom of where you want your subject to fit. These correspond to the largest vertical dimensions of the model corresponding to the marks you made on the stick. Note, the tick marks on the canvas do not need to be the same length as your measurement from step #1 & 2. It can be *any* arbitrary length. This measurement technique is proportional, not sight-size.

Step 4: This is the most important step. Facing the canvas and with one eye closed hold up your measuring stick and adjust the distance between your eye and the stick and the canvas so that the tick marks you made on the canvas align exactly with the top of the stick and the mark you made. See picture below. This is the position that you will always come back to when you want to transfer a measurement from the model to your drawing.

Step 5: Now go ahead and make a measurement on the model. Mark that measurement with your thumb. Now come back to the drawing and align your tick marks with the brush ticks, and your thumb represents the measurement! Always perfect. Always easy. No guessing. Repeat many, many times over hundreds of drawings until you don’t need to do it any more because you have developed the artist’s “caliper vision”.

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