Do you struggle with proportions in your art? Hi, my name is Carrie and today on Artist Strong I’m going to share three different tips that will help you maintain those proportions in your artwork when working from photo reference.
There are three tips I’m going to show you today when we talk about keeping proportions.
The first one is to block in your drawing and make use of negative space.
The reference that I work with today really makes the negative space quite clear. It’s all of the dark around the figure. There’s some ambiguity here, because of the shade cast on the woman’s face. Rosa’s face. I can look at where the black is on the photograph and help me place the figure that way.
The other thing I can do when I’m considering blocking in is look at the angle at which her shoulders are for example. Then, I know that those same angles need to be in my drawing. I know that if my pencil measures and falls like this, then that should be the same matching angle when I draw it on my paper. Same here.
We can do this with the face as well. For example, I can see that there’s a diagonal like this along the left side of her face, so I can make sure that there’s a left angle there for myself. You’ll want these marks to be light so that you can make sure that you can erase away and they don’t impact the quality of your finished product. You don’t want really, really dark marks, because that will limit you.
This can be a starting point to help me start placing her as a figure on my paper, because the other thing is sometimes you don’t want to copy an image exactly when you’re working from photo reference. It may not fill the same exact space. If I were going to copy this square for square, then I’d want to make sure that I have the same distance here. However, I am more concerned about her face, her shoulders and the top area of her collar bone. That’s what I’m going to focus on.
I have a smaller space now in which to work on her face and start placing things. I can look more carefully at the angle that her chin creates and start putting that in on both sides. See where I see pieces of the puzzle coming together. I can see there’s a lot of dark covering her left side of the face, which is to the right for us as viewers. I can look at the line created in the angle from her hair.
You slowly start piecing together the space that her face actually takes up on the paper. You start to be more accurate about all the objects within the image. Whether or not this is portraiture or landscape, it doesn’t really matter. You’re going to see that you have more accuracy of placement because you’re blocking in and you’re starting to make the lines so that you have a box in which everything fits.
You can also fill in entire areas. As I start to get more detailed here, I can start looking at the shape created here between her collar and her neck, which is all shadow. I might decide to fill all that in black so that I know where it all fits.
The other pieces of the puzzle include having a way to measure. For example, if I know that her eye fills this space, what’s the distance between the other eye? It’s usually one eye length. How many eyes is it for the nose? How many eyes take up the space and the length of the nose? Those are all things you can consider.
The other thing you can do, which is step two, is divide the space to help you see.
If blocking in like this is not giving you enough information and you’re feeling nervous, you can actually draw a grid over the face or fold your paper into quarters so that you can see how it all works together. Breaking it down into some kind of grid or dividing it even into quarters can help you see the angle of the face better, where the eyes fit and how they line up. All of that’s really important.
The other thing I’d tell you to do, is as you’re working on this, is number three, flip it around.
You’re going to have more information. This is all about helping your eyes see what’s really in front of you, because a lot of times we don’t see all the details that are in front of us.
Unless we train our eyes, we are not going to see these details and we won’t recognize them. That’s part of why we need to flip things around and we need to use grid systems, because it helps trick our eyes to pay attention to more of the details that our brain typically ignores. You don’t just have to flip it upside down. Flip it sideways. Make it a diagonal. Find ways that help you be more accurate with your proportions.
Be Creatively Courageous: In the comments below, share some tips and tricks that you use to help you maintain proportions in your artwork. I look forward to reading them.
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