Comparitive Measurement Method

Figure Drawing

Using the comparative measurement method

I enjoy using the comparative measurement method of drawing for figures instead of sight size.

Not only is it faster, but it has a more organic feel to it as I draw.  Most importantly, models move and shift.  Even the really good ones – and this particular model is amazing – cannot help but give in to the forces of gravity.  If you are working in sight size that can be a problem.

In this drawing, I am using the length of the head as my base measurement.  She is 5 heads long by 3 1/2 heads wide.  You probably can’t see it on my paper, but I have tick marks on the side to mark her boundaries along the side, top and I believe I have a bottom for that foot.

Once I get a basic envelope made of where this figure is I can begin to discover where things line up.  For example the edge of her heel lines up with the beginning of her breast that lines up with the edge of her face, etc.   I can use that head measurement to compare to my other measurements.  How many heads long is that lower leg?  The upper leg?  The arm?  What is the distance between the bottom of the upper leg and the heel? What is half a head long?

Even though all of the measurements can be answered bu using the sight size method, they are very dependent on where they line up on your paper.

In Sight Size – If your horizontal and vertical lines are off after a rest period or starting a new session you either have to move to a new measurement method or adjust your drawing.  With a living model, this is almost impossible to avoid.  With Comparative measurement as long as your model is in the same general location and you are in your same general location, all those measurements are generally correct.   You are not comparing the measurements of the model to your paper, you are comparing them to other measurements on the model.  This gives them much more portability.

No matter which method you use for drawing the figure, there is no way to get out of measuring and remeasuring to gain understanding of what you see.

I once believed that an artist could sit in front of a model or object and just know how to draw or paint them.  The only way to know the difference between what you see and what you think you see is to measure.  The only way to build a more correct instinct is to measure often.   If I am lucky, one day I will be able to draw a figure without the world seeing that I am measuring the whole time and dazzle the onlookers with my brilliance.  Until then, I will be comparing and sight sizing and holding pointed objects up at arms length between the model and I while talking to myself.  The talking to myself is also an important key, but that’s another post.

In another figure drawing I am using a combination of Sight Size and Comparative measurement.  I am using sight size to get my envelope and exterior boundaries, but using comparative measurement to get the interior.  Perhaps I will have pictures next week to demonstrate what I mean.

Some Helpful links:

Wikipedia Comparative Measurement

Concept Art discussion on measuring

Misconceptions of Sight Size
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