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Drawing Measurements with a Live Model

October 4, 2008

To follow yesterday’s post using a grid, here’s a demonstration of a similar sytem for drawing a live model. I’m using a photo here to represent this method, but it should make sense in how to use it for nay real-life situation.

Finding center

Finding center

Once again, I want to spot the center of the model’s pose and project as much of a grid as I can. Since I’m not dealing with an original 2D image, my mesurement is going to be rough and approximate, but that should still be sufficient. Holding out a ruler at arm’s length makes measuring easier. I run an imaginary horizontal line from the top of his head horizontally to align with his left shoulder, and from that point picture a diagonal line drawn from there to his right toe. I don’t bother to include his right hand and foot since his arm and leg make a nice square. It looks like the center will be approximately where the shadow of his right arm meets the waistline of his shorts. I verify that by measuring out from that point to the sides and top to bottom. Unlike the grid made with the photo from yesterday, this pose is simple enough to not need as many lines, and I can accomplish the same thing just by measuring within the outer boundary and two inersecting lines at the center. The fewer grid lines I make, the better.

Drawing the model

Drawing the model

I begin my drawing with a quick sketch of the pose, usually composed of the basic shapes of the figure. This is to insure that I capture the flow of the lines and shapes right from the start without getting trapped by the confinement of measuring. If I’m sketching someone who is not actually posing for me, such as at a park or by the ocean, I want to be sure and get as much information down as quickly as possible before they move.

On my larger drawing, I measure from where the center point is supposed to be out to where I’ve drawn his knee, and check that distance to his left shoulder. Looks like I’ve got that distance correct. Now I check the height from his head to that waistline point, and what do you know, that’s about right too. Lucky me. It might have been that the leg was drawn too long or the torso too wide, but in this case no length corrections were needed. I draw a grid of four rectangles from that point to the sides and compare my figure drawing to the model. (Honestly, I seldom draw out the grid. I’m mainly using it here for demonstration purposes. As long as I know the center point, I usually just “eye-ball” the lines from there, which saves me from erasing grid lines later.) Looks like I’ll need to make some adjustments to his right arm, the height of his right leg, and move his head slightly to the right, shown here in red.

You could also create your grid on paper before you start drawing and just enlarge it by a certain percentage. Measure the sides of the rectangles on your model grid, and draw them on your paper to a larger ratio that will fit on the page, twice as large or whatever size you wish, then draw the figure within that grid. I prefer to start with a sketch instead since it improves my guesswork.

Make sure that you measure points on the model from a stationary spot that doesn’t change, in other words, don’t move around, especially not forward or back. The model also needs to remain as still as possible. When I’m outdoors sketching people, the first thing I draw is anything that might move in the pose they are in, like arms and feet. Train your eye to study the features without looking back, so that if they move, it’s not a problem. For a model that is posing for me time is not a problem, but I still prefer to make quick marks for where things go so the model won’t tire on me. Once everything is properly placed, you can add more details if you wish, but don’t jump into that before you’re ready.

There’s another similar and more precise method of drawing like this which is called “sight-size” that is worth studying, but this system is more portable for outdoor situations.

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