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Digital Subscriptions > The Artist > January 19 > Develop a sense of proportion

Develop a sense of proportion

Learn how to draw and paint animals with confidence in this new ten-part series from Ruth Buchanan. This month she explains how to develop a sense of proportion

Developing a sense of proportion actually comes from a mixture of observation (learning to look) and practice (experience), although it helps to have a knowledge of structure, and there are various exercises that can help with that. It would be impossible for me to give you a template for every species, and even within a species there can be many variants – think the differences in the proportions of a dachshund and a greyhound!

There are, however, some general pointers on what to look for, and some surprising commonalities. Learning about proportion is best done from life. In working from a photograph you can inadvertently replicate a lens distortion (smartphones are the biggest offenders here), or the angle from which the photograph is taken can cause foreshortening, especially of the lower limbs if the angle is slightly from above.

To practise drawing, it does not matter what animal you use, you can even use a human if you look for a good lifedrawing class. The idea is to get a feel for ‘learning to look’. Once you get the basic feel you can start to sketch, draw and paint animals with more confidence.

In my article ‘How to draw the horse’(January 2018 issue)** there are specific approaches that are more applicable to developing a sense of proportion. I term these construction approaches. The main ones that can help are maquette, keyline, engineering (triangulation and proportional measuring using the head length as a unit) and negative space.

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About The Artist

Welcome to the first issue of 2019 to inspire and inform your artistic development, including all the information you will need to plan your entries to the best open competitions throughout the year in our extensive 5-page guide. We also see the start of two new series, by Ruth Buchanan on how to draw and paint animals with confidence, and Mark David Hatwood on all aspects of marketing and how to make money from your artwork. There are practical articles and demonstrations showing you how to adapt your painting techniques for coloured pencil work, with amazing results, how to paint a self-portrait as well as a stunning faded rose, both in watercolour, and how to make your watercolours more dynamic by using watercolour grounds. Our top artist contributors also share their expertise on best practice for working on the spot, how to plan a complex composition, paint your first realist still life in acrylic, use your sketchbooks to work out your ideas, how to paint successfully from your photos and which colours to mix in oils to achieve a sense of space in your landscapes. With all this and much more, there's plenty to keep you drawing and painting over the festive period. Enjoy!