PDA

View Full Version : Measuring vs instinct of the artist's eye, developing a sence for proportion


Whirlwind123
07-21-2010, 11:19 AM
I am finding getting proportions correct when drawing from life or reference incredibly difficult. I don't want to resort to plumb line measuring or grids, or sight sizing or things that are incredibly time consuming as I know artists who can sketch and get the 'feel' of the proportions correct so it looks right even if it isn't ridiculously accurate and they can play with proportions and make it look funny etc. That's what I am looking for.

So here is the totally idiotic question. Does that just come from practice sketching or must you first rely on measuring methods and master that first before your eye can take over or are they two completely different disciplines and I should just continue sketching like I am (for a few more years http://conceptart.org/forums/images/ca_smilies/normal/anj_happy.gif) and it will just come.

I know it sounds stupid but I am not sure if its a [use this time consuming method first and get things perfect and in time you artists eye will develop and you will be able to do decent fun quick sketches of people on the subway in time and not have to rely on them] or its [just keep drawing things that you see, objects on your table etc .. they will look crap for a long time but it will come and its important to develop your artists eye without long measuring routines.]

Lunatique
07-21-2010, 11:40 AM
Regardless of what style you work in--be it cartoony or realistic, you must learn anatomy and figure. All stylistic conventions are rooted in how people really look and function, and without that understanding, your work will never have the necessary sense of authenticity and authority. To be able to depict stylized versions of our world, you first must be able to depict the realistic version of our world, and then figure out what is the best way to exaggerate, simplify, or idealize specific elements to your liking. If you don't even understand how the real world looks and works, you wouldn't know what the best choices are to make when depicting a stylized version.

So yes, you need to first learn proper accuracy, and once you have attained that level of accomplishment, you can start to investigate how to depict stylized versions of the real world.

When trying to achieve accurate proportions, you have to visually compare the various shapes you see in front of you--their sizes, angles, curvature, distances...etc in relation to each other. For example, you might notice that the distance between two eyes is the length of one eye. Or that nose in the profile is slanted at roughly 30 degrees. Or the tip of the fingers reaches to mid-thigh when the arm is straight down, standing in a normal position...etc. It's a constant check and balance and adjustment while observing and analyzing what's in front of you, in real-time.

When doing stylized interpretations, you must first already be solid in your ability to depict the "normal" reality, and only when you acquire that understanding, would you be able to understand how stylization works and how to push, pull, idealize, exaggerate...etc. Stylization is a whole different topic and gets pretty complex. It is not something that gets talked about a lot, or in any depth. As far as I know, my workshop is the only one that's tackled this very difficult topic head-on in great depth.

Whirlwind123
07-21-2010, 11:48 AM
hmm I don't think I worded my question very well. Forgetting stylized interpretations for now:

You have people who are amazing representational artists. They can do perfect photographic lighting and shadow and can capture likeness although their drawings take a very very long time to do. These people may have studies with bargue plates, learned grid and box systems and such to make angles and proportions perfectly accurate to what's in their visual field.

Alternatively you have people who can get down the essence of what they are looking at very quickly. People like Glen Vilpuu or people who sketch on the subway I guess. Where their eye seems to do all the work and know know when things look wrong and slightly adjust and seem to have a strong instinct towards correct proportion without spending a very long time measuring anything.

I guess what I am asking is do you really have to master the first one before your eye can develop well enough to be able to do the second one?

Edit: Also thanks for the fast response :) and I sure I would learn this from your course :D will definitely do it once I have the time hopefully you will still be running it by then.

Lunatique
07-21-2010, 12:28 PM
The short answer is yes, you do need to acquire the ability to depict accurate proportions first, before you start being able to see the "essence" of shapes and structure and what "feels" right or wrong, even when exaggerating and not being totally faithful to reality. But it is not as you think, where you have to be some kind of mathematician measuring everything with grids, plumb line, and so on. That is what beginners do in the beginning because they have not developed the ability to do visual comparison purely with their eyes and nothing else. Once you get past the beginner stage, you pretty much don't use any visual aids and just use your eyes as the measuring tool. Even very advanced artists will sometimes look at something in front of them, and then make very simple marks on the canvas to indicate where the limits of certain aspects of the image would be--the major landmarks of the proportions of the subject. They're just a quick mark--nothing elaborate or involved, and certainly no need for elaborate grids or other measuring devices.

Let's say for example, I'm drawing a guy with very normal build--just an average guy. Let's say it's not meant to be an accurate figure drawing and I'm merely using him as a basis to jump from, to do a more expressive figure. I would need to combine my figure drawing skills along with my knowledge of anatomy and figure, and then as I'm drawing, I have to decide which aspects I want to change--to idealize, exaggerate, stylize, simplify, elongate, shorten, widen, narrow, make more angular, more curved...etc. When I make such decisions, I'm drawing upon both my academic knowledge and my drawing experience, and I need to ask myself, if I elongate this leg and make it more muscular, how far should I push it? If I were push the pose just a bit more to be more expressive, how far should I push? You cannot know these things if you don't already know what reality should looks like, and what "normal" looks like. Only until you have learned that, would you know how far to push without making things look blatantly wrong or awkward.

Whirlwind123
07-21-2010, 12:42 PM
Thank you for the wonderful and concise answer. It really helps with confidence to get answers like this rather than struggling with "is this the right thing to do" rather than just drawing.

I will stop being fearful and slow down :)

A couple of points you mention have me thinking:
--- "That is what beginners do in the beginning because they have not developed the ability to do visual comparison purely with their eyes and nothing else."

--- "You cannot know these things if you don't already know what reality should looks like, and what "normal" looks like"

I am struggling with gesture at the moment because the proportions make things look horrible. Would you suggest then that I hold back from gesture drawing for the moment until I (in your words) "acquire the ability to depict accurate proportions first, before you start being able to see the "essence" of shapes and structure and what "feels" right or wrong"

Lunatique
07-21-2010, 01:26 PM
I'll say this--too often I see people blindly throwing around the advice that you need to do a lot of life drawing, gesture drawing..etc from life, but they don't stop and think for a moment the level of skill and knowledge of the person they're giving this advice to. This is the difference between good teaching and bad teaching. A good teachers will cater to the needs of the specific person's actual level of skill and knowledge, and will not throw things at him that he cannot handle or benefit from at his current level.

If you cannot look at any photo or drawing from a figure/anatomy book or someone else's artwork and make a convincing copy of it without glaring inaccuracies and mistakes, then you have not attained the basics of being able to draw/paint accurately. Until you have attained the ability to make convincing copies, which is something all beginners must learn, you wouldn't benefit from doing life drawing and gestures from real life nearly as much as you think you will, because you can barely observe and analyze and break down what you're seeing with any level competence. Think about it--if you can't even draw accurately while observing something 2-dimensional and completely still, without any time limit, then how the hell can you even begin to tackle something that is 3-dimensional, moves, and can only hold a pose for a very short amount of time--sometimes only seconds?

If you must push for doing gestures, then use photo references or other people's drawings you admire first. Try capturing the main essence and feel of the poses quickly, and if you find that very difficult, then forget about doing it from real life for now--you're not ready for that yet. I think once you're able to do expressive gestures of still image references quickly and to your satisfaction, that's when you tackle real life.

Whirlwind123
07-21-2010, 01:50 PM
I'll say this--too often I see people blindly throwing around the advice that you need to do a lot of life drawing, gesture drawing..etc from life, but they don't stop and think for a moment the level of skill and knowledge of the person they're giving this advice to. This is the difference between good teaching and bad teaching. A good teachers will cater to the needs of the specific person's actual level of skill and knowledge, and will not throw things at him that he cannot handle or benefit from at his current level.

If you cannot look at any photo or drawing from a figure/anatomy book or someone else's artwork and make a convincing copy of it without glaring inaccuracies and mistakes, then you have not attained the basics of being able to draw/paint accurately. Until you have attained the ability to make convincing copies, which is something all beginners must learn, you wouldn't benefit from doing life drawing and gestures from real life nearly as much as you think you will, because you can barely observe and analyze and break down what you're seeing with any level competence. Think about it--if you can't even draw accurately while observing something 2-dimensional and completely still, without any time limit, then how the hell can you even begin to tackle something that is 3-dimensional, moves, and can only hold a pose for a very short amount of time--sometimes only seconds?

If you must push for doing gestures, then use photo references or other people's drawings you admire first. Try capturing the main essence and feel of the poses quickly, and if you find that very difficult, then forget about doing it from real life for now--you're not ready for that yet. I think once you're able to do expressive gestures of still image references quickly and to your satisfaction, that's when you tackle real life.

I am sat at work at the moment so I cant stand up and shout THANK YOU!

I have been saying this for so long and people keep telling me I am wrong!! I am terrified to go do life drawing and draw a model when there is fork on my desk that I cant acuratly represent on paper so how the hell am I going to be able to a person. Also struggle to copy a master drawing of an arm how am I going to do an actual arm. Yet I am urged to skip this step and move onto real 3D humans. It seems like making things harder on myself is going to be detrimental and lower my confidence to even pick up a pencil.

To be fair this advice of course the people who sit and copy Bridgeman all day doing great copies are going to learn far more going to a life drawing class but I am not at that (or any) skill level yet.

So does this sound right for a list of consecutive goals in this order?:

1) Be able to copy from a simple 2D source accurately (not necessarily only thinking 2D!)
2) Be able to copy from a complex 2D source accurately (not necessarily only thinking 2D! for example an artist I admire)
3) Be able to copy from a simple 3D source accurately (for example the stuff on my desk)
4) Be able to copy from a complex 3D source accurately (for example a human or mechanical device)
5) Be able to get the essence of the 3D form (for example gesture drawing and bringing imagination into play
6) Finally construct a human/object from your mind using what you know after the learning from the first five and studied methods of constrictive anatomy)

I need to take your class! Thank you for opening my eyes!

Lunatique
07-21-2010, 02:56 PM
It's not really a neatly sequenced list of things in proper order as you think. For example, you'll very likely find that by the time you've gotten competent at #2, you're already starting to attempt #5 and #6, IF you have been doing lots of learning from copying examples in anatomy and figure drawing books, photo references...etc.

Working from life is a very different mentality, and it's not always a requirement for being able to draw and paint, as there are plenty of people who have learned to draw and paint fairly well without really working from life. What working from life gives you is extra sensitivity in your observation, understanding, and interpretation of the world. You'll find that when working from life, it's much harder to just copy what you see like an uncreative machine--you must make hard creative decisions on what you should capture, what to gloss over or leave out altogether, where to emphasize, where to push back the focus, when to simplify, when to be faithful, when to push for more expressiveness, and so on. Working from still image references tend to make a learning artist lazy--they just copy what's in front of them without engaging their creative mind . This is why working from life is a lot harder--there is so much your eyes are bombarded with as reality contains so much subtlety and detail and vivid richness--your brain is working much harder trying to observe, analyze, and deconstruct it all. But as you will discover, creative interpretation and stylization can also be applied to when working from still image references or out of your head. It all depends on if you like to take the easy way out and just copy, or engage your creative thinking and actually be an artist instead of a human copy machine. ;)

Whirlwind123
07-21-2010, 03:03 PM
Understood :)

Sorry to be a pest this is that last question promise ...

Would it be, in general, correct to say that before I am able to pursue any level of competency with 3 and 4 I should at least have some level of competency at 1 and 2?

Lunatique
07-21-2010, 03:36 PM
I would say yes, that you should first be able to attain accuracy working from still image references before you try to work from real life. You'll find that attaining accuracy isn't nearly as hard as you think--it really is the most basic skill all learning artists must have. Take a look at this thread: http://forums.cgsociety.org/showthread.php?f=166&t=880796

There is a much bigger and more challenging world of art once you get past the beginner stage of merely trying to be accurate. Once you attain accuracy, then comes all the creative stuff like stylization, idealization, exaggeration, simplification, expressiveness, experimentation, design, visual narrative, expressing emotions, depicting moods, making personal, socio-political, philosophical statements, and so on.

Whirlwind123
07-21-2010, 03:41 PM
I would say yes, that you should first be able to attain accuracy working from still image references before you try to work from real life. You'll find that attaining accuracy isn't nearly as hard as you think--it really is the most basic skill all learning artists must have. Take a look at this thread: http://forums.cgsociety.org/showthread.php?f=166&t=880796

There is a much bigger and more challenging world of art once you get past the beginner stage of merely trying to be accurate. Once you attain accuracy, then comes all the creative stuff like stylization, idealization, exaggeration, simplification, expressiveness, experimentation, design, visual narrative, expressing emotions, depicting moods, making personal, socio-political, philosophical statements, and so on.

Thanks so much for your help Robert.

CGTalk Moderation
07-21-2010, 03:41 PM
This thread has been automatically closed as it remained inactive for 12 months. If you wish to continue the discussion, please create a new thread in the appropriate forum.