Foundations of Drawing
Illustration by John Hersey

Foundations of Drawing

with Will Kemp

Video: Scale and using a unit of measurement

So now we are going to look at a subject We're going to learn about a unit measurement.

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Watch the Online Video Course Foundations of Drawing
2h 24m Beginner Apr 28, 2014

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Anyone can learn how to draw. Success comes down to three things:

Shape: By focusing on the shapes of the objects (and more importantly the shapes between the objects) you can view subjects with a whole new outlook and focus.

Simplicity: You'll get better results by concentrating on simple subjects and drawing techniques that will still prove powerful when used together.

Structure: A structured approach makes drawing easier to master.

Each chapter in this course is built on these three principles, combining drawing theory and practical examples with worksheets and drawing assignments. Will Kemp brings his passion for teaching and infectious love of drawing together in these lessons. You'll learn about line, value, tone, negative space, and perspective, and come away with the confidence to start making drawing a daily practice.

This course was created and produced by Will Kemp. We're honored to host this training in our library.

Topics include:
  • Materials you need to draw
  • Drawing theory
  • Framing your composition
  • Using the picture plane
  • Creating contrast
  • Using negative space to create more powerful compositions
  • Creating form from shadows and light
Will Kemp

Scale and using a unit of measurement

So now we are going to look at a subject that has many a beginner running for the hill. We're going to look at perspective, and don't be too scared about perspective because it can seem really overwhelming and really have memories of lots of lines all converging together, and lots of a technical aspects that you might have done at school. But for this stage we're going to look at it a step at a time. And start to understand why artist used to hold down their pencil and what they're actually doing when they're moving the pencil around. We're going to learn about a unit measurement.

And how you can just deconstruct angles, and shapes that are in front of you. To really simplify them for your drawings. So, let's have a look at a scene and see how the perspective works within it and how you can translate that into your drawings. So, how to make that view that's so big scale down to fit onto a drawing pad or a sketch book so it actually feels right? Feels like the things in the distance go into the distance and the things in the foreground come right to you. When you're first starting, you often put a lot of importance in the main object that you're looking at.

If you're painting, say, a sailboat or a house in the distance, you subconsciously paint that bigger than the rest of the scene in front of you because you place more importance on that object. The thing that happens in perspective is very, very quickly the actual size of objects get a lot smaller, a lot quicker than you think. Your brain tries to tell you that they're still as big as you think they should be, rather than as big as they actually are. What I'm going to do is show you why and how to use a pencil to help you measure.

So I hold out my pencils, and you've got to make sure when you're measuring you keep your arm locked out straight. If you make any movement in terms of lock of your arm, it would change the measurement because after you move it forward and back, the scale continually changes. What you can do first is use your frame to try and compose the scene. And then what we're going to be doing is looking throughout the scene to try and find whats called a unit of measurement. So if I hold up my pencil, I'm looking for a unit of measurement within the scene.

So I'm looking for a length of something that is a medium length within the whole picture. So for example, if I chose this window at the top, and you notice how what I do is I move my thumb up and down and I'm looking for the top of the pencil to align to the top of an object. And then move my thumb until it hits the bottom of an object. So I'm creating its actual measurement on the space of the pencil. So if I just use the top window, that's quite small for the relationships between the whole of the scene initially.

Equally if I took the example from top of this building down to here, it's too, it's too big a scale, it's too big a unit. So you're looking for something of about a medium length. So, if, for example, here, the top of this railing to that middle section, that's a nice medium length. And then what I can do is take that measurement, and check it against other parts of the drawing. So if I took that one measurement here, and take that as one unit.

If all things comparing it to the height of this building, I'd say that one unit there. And then this mark here, I keep in my minds I. So I keep that one unit. Make one mark there. Keep that mark in my mind and move the pencil down to hit that mark again. So for this measurement from the top of the building to the top of the railing, that is about a one and a half of my first unit. And so how do we then translate that into your drawing.

Well all you do is you take the unit, and you just scale it down. So for example, on this scale, if this was a sketch pad and I was out looking at this scene. What you do is you look at the scene, and the first mark you make is your best guess. So I'm just jump my eyes between it trying to get a sense of the scale of it. And I'm just going to say very, very lightly that the top half inch here of this railing is about there. And then I make my first mark.

So i'm just saying. This is my first guess. That is my first unit. That's what I think it is. So if we look at the measurement again. We say that's one unit. Then just check it to the width of the scene. Say one, two, that's about two and one half. So, this measurement here, there's two one half of those to the whole width of the frame. So this is my first guess, so that's one unit there. So then what I do is say one there and then I'm imagining this.

Say that is three. So I've got this, is too small. So I need to slightly make that a little bit bigger. Then you take a new measurement. So that would be the new measurement there, one- Two. Now that's about, yeah that's about right two and a half. So this new measurement take those off. It's this measurement from here to here, its the same scale as from this part here to that part there, that third unit that we measured out.

So now I can just judge from here. How far down so that's one, one and a half down. So I can take that measurement there. And go one be higher up. If I take that measurement again, just check how high it is. About one unit then its one, about one and a half from the bottom.

So if I take that again there. And a half's about there, so that now gives us a sense of where the line is. And its actual scale. So if we were then judging the height of this building, we just make a mark here. And then we do 1.5 up from there. So you can start to see how you've got this basic structure, of how the relationships with the shapes are working within the scene.

Take that down to the bottom. It's just a little bit shorter than that, so about there. So now we can see how this scene is made up of blocks and units of measurements.

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