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Lesson 5 from: Learn to Draw: An Introduction

Amy Wynne

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Lesson Info

5. Measurement

Next Lesson: The Series

Lesson Info


A really key element to drawing is measurement. And measurement has to do with the size of objects, but also their relationship to each other. And their relationship to themselves. So the height to width of an object, but also how objects interact if they're placed in space in a sort of staggered fashion. So I'm gonna show you an example of a landscape where that's like, super evident, and then I'm gonna show you more of a still life example that you could actually try at home. So, in this landscape example here, the artist has created a terrific sense of depth. And the way that he's done that, in a great extent, is based on diminishment in scale of the objects in the picture. So really measuring the size of certain things as opposed to other things. So that's what we're talking about, measurement. So what I'm gonna do is I'm just gonna elaborate some of these ideas on this sketch. And, for instance, like what's happening back here with this building, okay. This building is set back to...

wards the horizon. It's really in our sort of mid-far ground of this picture. This tree, however, or what's left of the tree, sort of a tree stump, is way up in the foreground. Now I'm guessing that tree stump, if I was walking down this path, might be like five or six feet tall. But if I take this house, which looks like a two story structure, and I take the height of that house and I bring it forward in the picture I can fit one, two, three, four of those house heights into this tree stump. So, that's pretty incredible because if this tree stump was growing right next to that house, it would only be like a quarter of the height of the house, be much smaller. So through scale change and diminishment you're really able to create depth and space. And it's an illusion that you can create by really noticing the relative size of things. Another way that depth is created in this picture, just briefly, is also the diminishment of this road, this path, going back into space in terms of measurement, measuring the width of it here, versus the width of it way back here. If you were a bird flying over that little road it would probably be rather parallel, like the size would be parallel, but as we look down this perspective, through measurement we can also look at the relative width of the road and through that create an incredible sense of depth. So those are some basic ideas. But what happens when we're working with every day objects around the house? Let's take a look at what we might be able to do. So, I've got these three bottles. They are things I have in my studio. Again, when you practice this, I definitely recommend just using everyday things. Currently these bottles are in a line. And you can see that they're all the same size, they are all pretty much the same bottle. If I drew them this way I would create identical heights and widths for each one. However, if I rearrange them and I push one really far forward, I pull one really far back, and then I keep one somewhere in the middle, what starts to happen is there's this illusion that the bottles suddenly become all different sizes. The one in the front becomes really big, the one in the back becomes really small. So let's take a look at that visually, so that we can really see the comparisons. So, in this drawing, in this linear drawing, we have the bottle up front is clearly the biggest. Midground bottle a little smaller, background bottle the smallest. So I'm just gonna bring this over to this side, so we can reference not only the photo, the drawing, but also this spacial setup in real time. So remember, what we're focusing on, is we're focusing on measurement, we're focusing on relative scale, and we're also thinking about depth and how those all play in together. So, if I was going to take this drawing and sort of elaborate how these objects relate to each other in those ways, one of the very first things I try to ask myself is like, "What's really close to me? "What's really far away? "And what's their relationship in terms of scale?" So, if I take a measurement of this far bottle, and I take that measurement, I can ask myself, "How many of this bottle fits within the foreground bottle?" So let's check it out. I'm guessing maybe five? But let's see. And I'm gonna make a little notch there's one, two, three, actually it's more like three and a half or four. So, this bottle is only a quarter of the size of this large bottle. And knowing that is really important because if I made this bottle a third of the size or half of the size, it wouldn't zoom the space like what's happening right now. So that scale relationship is really important. Another thing to think about is, in terms of creating depth and measurement, is how wide to how tall an object is. So that's a little bit more about the object itself versus where it's placed in relationship to other things, but let's just take a look at that because some of the same ideas apply. So, this midground bottle, let's use that as an example. If I take a measurement, and this will help us really draw the bottle itself. And this is all about measurement, if I take a measurement of the width of this bottle, and I compare that, I take that very segment and I bring it vertical and I say one, two, three. That bottle is one third, the width of that bottle is one third the height of the entire bottle. So I know that if I went, when I went to draw this bottle, if I think about almost making an imaginary container for the whole item, I know the rule that I need to follow is that the width of this container is one third the height of the container, and that bottle cannot expand outside of that ratio. And that's really gonna help us put it in the correct scale. And then one other thing that I want to mention in terms of measurement, is, especially in creating depth, is the relative placement of these items and how they actually relate to each other. So, in terms of looking across the surface of the table that these bottles are resting on, the foreground bottle lands on the table at the lowest horizontal point in the whole composition. The midground bottle lands on the table a little higher up, and the background bottle lands on the table almost at the very back edge of the table. And noticing where they place themselves in space, combined with their relative size, and also perhaps looking at where they are in relationship to each other across a horizontal plane. So if I bring the top of this bottle across, it hits this bottle right kind of at the corner. If I bring the placement of the bottom of this bottle across it hits this bottle about there, and that's one, two, tree, it's a quarter of the height of the whole bottle. So, everything exists in relationship to everything else in a drawing. I wouldn't advise, like, drawing one thing without associating it with the other items in the picture because they all reinforce each other and they actually are what start to create this great sense of drama, especially when we use proper measurement. And what I suggest is at home, rather than lining up three apples in a row, play with putting one like way up front and one way in the back of your dining room table, and maybe one on the side. And even play a little bit with overlapping them to help elaborate depth. All of these experiments will really allow you to create well measured objects and dimensional pictures with a great sense of depth.

Ratings and Reviews

Juliana Lugg

Amy is a talented artist and a very effective teacher. I have the pleasure of having her as a professor, however these online classes show her passion and expertise just as much as in our in-person classes. If you are intimidated by drawing, like I was, her teaching helps to simplify the process of learning how to draw while also inspiring her students to take more risks with their artwork. She will help you realize that studio art really can be for anyone, and that drawing can be a meaningful tool for expression, relaxation, and growth. I highly recommend any course that she teaches, online or in-person!

Alisha Weiss

Great introduction to drawing and sort of the key skills to develop if looking to improve or starting. Not a lot of hard and fast skills but definitely a great first building block to what someone can expect. Great job Amy!

Myndi Quirion

This was an excellent class. As a beginner I learned a lot of great techniques that I hadn't even considered. It really changed the way I view drawing! She's great, I'll definitely watch more of her classes!

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