Claudia Nice, popular author of more than 20 books on drawing and painting, has learned a thing or two in her long career about creating accurate and realistic drawings. One thing she has watched many students struggle with is how to draw a subject in proportion. The key is to “learn the skill of observation” and whether you’re working from a photo or sketching outdoors, careful observation will improve your work immensely. Here’s a quick and easy technique for finding the mid-point in the length of your subject—no rulers needed!
Drawing Your Subject in Proportion
Finding the mid-point in the length of a subject is just as important as documenting the mid-point of its height, especially if you’re working in a horizontal landscape format. Knowing both points will allow you to draw your subject squarely where you want it and in correct proportions. You might ask, “Why not use a ruler and be done with it?” That’s a good question, with several answers.
1. If you learn to depend on a ruler, then you will have to have one with you whenever you go out to sketch.
2. Working with a ruler and the division of numbers is more of an architectural endeavor than a sketching process. It can detract from the fun and creativity of the drawing.
3. But most important, finding the mid-point by sight and instinct, and then confirming your guess, will train your mind and eye to make accurate comparisons.
Step 1 Estimate where you believe the mid-point is and mark it with a pencil dot. Place the end of the pencil on the farthest-reaching part of the polar bear on the right (indicated with a double pencil line), and line up your thumbnail with the mid-point.
Step 2 Shift the end of the pencil to the mid-point without moving your thumb nail and see if your thumb nail lines up with the portion of the bear farthest to the left. If it does, you have found the mid-point.
Step 3 Decide how much room on the drawing surface you wish the subject to take up and mark both ends and the mid-point lightly in pencil. Use simple shapes to block in the bear, paying close attention to how much room each portion should take up and where it is positioned in relation to the mid-point and both ends.
Step 4 Refine the drawing, making corrections and adding details and shadows.
Step 5 The finished drawing is shaded with a 5B pencil. Note how the dark background forms the outline of the polar bear’s back.
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