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Measured drawing

Measurement is a device to help you see more objectively, says Philip Tyler, who shows you some methods for measuring the figure

DRAW: 2 OF 6

Blind drawing and partial peek drawing can have a positive impact on your observation skills (see last month’s issue). However, proportion can still wander off course when you are confronted with a difficult pose, where your brain is telling you one thing and your eyes another. This is where measuring comes into its own.

With measured drawing you are trying to objectify your observation, trying to think about the figure as a series of interrelated points or lines in space.

You will need a pencil, a ruler, cotton thread, thin card, a scalpel, a cutting mat, masking tape, and two plant labels and paper clip to make the callipers.

Working from life

Make a square viewfinder out of thin card and sew a grid onto it with cotton thread. You have to ensure that your head remains in a fixed position, and a way to do this is to visually align the corner of your rectangle with something in the background and always ensure that you keep this same position throughout the measurement. The viewfinder should be fixed in some way so that it doesn’t move and that it is perpendicular to your line of sight. This might involve taping it to your easel; otherwise the frame of reference (the viewfinder) is not a square but a trapezium. Secondly, the size of the grid itself can often be far too big for the distance away from the model, if the grid is too large and the subject too small then it is of little use, so make grids of different sizes (10cm, 15cm, 20cm) and try out each to see what is the best scale.

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About The Artist

Follow cover artist Henrietta Graham's example and set yourself a challenging project to create a series of paintings on a particular subject matter, or why not try something different from your usual practice to keep your creativity flowing? Our professional artist/tutors offer plenty of ideas this month, from how to paint loose watercolour landscapes by Lea Nixon, unusual compositions from a high viewpoint by Jo Quigley, and how to use pattern to dramatic effect in your still lifes by Penny German. Hazel Soan demonstrates how to paint a lively self-portrait in watercolour, Glyn Macey shows what you can discover by studying Rauschenberg's work and techniques plus we include articles on understanding the structure of the head and how to measure and see more objectively to help improve your figure work. Oil painters will love Martin Kinnear's new series on oil techniques, starting with the importance of value and chiaroscuro, while Charles Williams takes a thought-provoking look at the age-old issue of 'when is a painting finished?' With more besides, you won't be short of inspiration and helpful advice in this month's issue!