How to I get better at proportions?

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This topic contains 3 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by Michael Houghton 2 years ago.

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    I have a difficult time realizing my proportions are wrong and sometimes one body part is longer or bigger that ot should be

    Not only that, I cant figure out foreshortening at all or drawing stuff in angles

    Do yall have any tips?

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    Not a 100% silver bullet, but some steps that helped me to somehow overcome the problem (Also only somehow, it still keeps creeping up on me)

    The first step is meassuring. That doesn't necessarily involve holding a pencil in front of you and making a smart face, what it does involve is finding a habit to check what you already have drawn during drawing. Usually we are good at checking horizontal lines and vertical lines. So when you plan your next line, compare the point where you want it to end, to the lines you have already drawn. Should it end a bit deeper or a bit higher or at the same height as that line you already drew over there?

    When I mess up a drawing, the cause is usually not that I meassured wrong, but that I didn't meassure at all. I was so concentrated on that details of how the shadows on that right knee looked, that I not once looked left to check how long I already drew the other leg, and such stuff. Or I didn't look at the torso above for more than a minute and now the leg is broader than the entire chest.

    In my experience the "meassuring" part falls in two areas: Really building the habit to do it regularly while drawing, and also sort of a training effect to just develop more capacity to keep more relationships on the page in mind while drawing. It's a bit like, once you pay attention to it, it's really easy, but learning to keep paying attention to it while concentrating hard on all the other stuff, like forms, shapes, line quality, controlling your pen, analysing the reference, etc.. is really hard.

    A second step is training specific methods. For heads and faces, the Loomis construction is by far the most well known, for bodies, there is for example the O'Reilly method. You basically just grind to know the proportions of such specific objects as the human head or body by heart. It's good to have at least a basic grasp of this methods, and when you find, that you keep struggling with the same parts of your sketches over and over again you can always go back to the foundation to find out more about what mistakes actually keep bugging you.

    Then, generally the advice to learn to draw big forms first, before you concentrate on details. Sounds extremely easy, but it absolutely isn't, as it runs a bit counter to our intuition of looking at art. When we look at art naively, we tend to be impressed by all the pretty, pretty details first, and that is what we want to copy. Then we end up with a page of multiple mediocre details, that are somewhat randomly scattered over the page, and just don't form a cohesive image.

    Foreshortening or drawing stuff in angles... well there is a quite famous and good page, named It focuses on perspectivic drawing first and foremost, and does it in a very methodical way. If you do the lessons, and the homeworks, you will have a good idea on how geometric shapes behave in perspective. One of the homeworks, probably the most famous one, and the one the site is named after is: Draw 100 boxes and check each of them for correct perspective! Definitely check the site out. And try it out. Doing it yourself is less gruesome than it sounds, and it feels great, when you are done.

    Here is a freebie tip from me, if you ever venture into urban sketching or architectural drawing: Drawing horizontal lines horizontally greatly enhances the final result of your image! I keep repeating it to myself when drawing outside, as my righthanded body has a biomechanical tendency to let horizontal lines tumble more and more to the right when drawing on the right side of a page. I assume lefties have the same problem on the left side of the page.


    Please don't worry, this is a very common problem. maybe I can help you with some tips:

    1) Concentrate on drawing poses as often as possible, you will get better every session.

    2) For practice select the type of proportion you want to draw and limit your time. Try to draw during this limited time as acurate as possible. Make this exercise a daily habit and you will surely improve faster! You can challenge yourself and choose a shorter time limit every few weeks.

    3) Simple thing but: if the sketches are out of proportion, then try to draw the hips and spine first.

    4) Try different painting materials from time to time. It can develop youe abilities.

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