Drawing: It’s a Matter of Placement – Finding the Mid-Point

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Placing the subject correctly on the page once created huge problems for me and I can remember my teachers at art school repeating “don’t make little drawings in the middle of the page” or “fill up the page.” Somehow these statements fell on deaf ears and students (including myself) continued off and on to put our drawings all over the place.
Here are some images of incorrectly placed drawings.

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The first is cut off at the ankles, the second too small compared to the size of the paper and the third has the lower part of the figure bunched up to fit on the page.

Today I will talk about how I saved myself a world of trouble later on in my drawing by planning the placement of the subject first. It is best to be relaxed about this process so as not to get bogged down with detail and thus set down a tight tone for the drawing. The motto is “whatever!”

A shape is so much more manageable as two halves and this is at the heart of how I place my subject correctly on the page.

The half above the midpoint must fit into the top 50% of your drawing page and half below must fit into the lower 50% of the page.

Most art instructional books advise me to do a sighting with a pencil. The way to do this is to align the top of the pencil with the model’s head and guess the mid-point.

I don’t see the purpose of this and since I’m guessing anyway prefer to do use my eye only.  Here’s the deal:

  • Check out your subject (whether in a photo, real life object or figure) and estimate half the height with your eye. What do you see at that spot, is it an elbow, hip, or another marker?
  • Then go ahead and estimate the half-way height point of your drawing page, then make a dot right there!
  • I usually make a mark around this dot showing a little of what I see at the half-point of the subject (elbow, hip or other marker) and commence my drawing from there. In my drawing of the snowboarder above, the half point was at the left-hand side of the man’s body at his waist.
  • Next, above and below this mark, establish where you want the drawing to end at the top and bottom of the page (usually quite close to the edge.) Mark a dot at the points, one near the top and one near the bottom to represent the extremes of the figure.
  • I usually start drawing from the marked mid-point. The dots at the top and bottom of the page tell me how far up and down I can go to keep the drawing placed squarely on the page.

In the case of a horizontal drawing, it helps to guess the halfway point both horizontally and vertically as below.

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I was not too accurate in my drawing at the top of the page as you can see.  The distances from the drawing to the sides of the page are not even.   The left hand edge of the snowboard and the right-hand edge of the man’s helmet were the extreme widths of the figure in this case.  Oh well, I am happy with the drawing whichever way.

Anyhow, you will be very surprised at how accurate your eye is in establishing two manageable halves.

Now your boundaries are set and you are ready to proceed with your loose handwriting.

I found this really great, helpful drawing blog by a self-taught artist named Paul from the UK.  No one beats him for encouragement.  Here is the link: http://www.learning-to-see.co.uk/drawings

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