| March 16th 2001
YouCanDraw.com's Insider Communique
In today's issue:
1) Member Suzy Voye wants to know how to get more accuracy in her
2) Making mistakes? There are no mistakes.
3) Internet Spring Convention 2001
Good day every body, hope you’re having a wonderful week. Can't believe it’s
Saint Patrick’s weekend again already. In today’s issue, we’re going to look
at an issue that pops up with a fair amount of frequency: accuracy. Which
really begins with realism. Member Suzy Voye from Tennessee (who is drawing
up a storm these days!), asks this question:
“Jeff, the more I draw, the more I realize how important accuracy in
measuring is. Was wondering if you could pass along any tips you have
concerning this subject sometime. It's a waste of time to have to correct
mistakes, why not get it right the first time?”
So let’s dive right in
To answer that, there’s lots of ways to assess accuracy - in fact that’s
really what the whole first 9 lessons are about: how accessing the
observational part of your brain is the big trick - not accessing a symbol
from your memory of how an object ought to look. You learned there to really
see your subject in the moment. Rather than make you look through 250 pages
of material, let me highlight some of the key sections and topics and add
A “format” is essentially a frame you place both around your drawing subject
and around your drawing paper. When you use a format to look through to see your
subject, it’s called a “viewfinder”. When you look through your camera,
you’re looking through a viewfinder. Picture that in your head: you’re
looking through your Kodak camera and you’re motioning your friends and
family to get closer together - because they don't all fit in the
VIEWFINDER. “Johnny, scoot in closer to Annie. Burt, you and Ernie switch
places. And Billy, would you sit still!”
For the viewfinder:
The viewfinder imposes a format around the scene or subject. It limits what
you have to draw. Your car’s review mirrors are also viewfinders of sorts.
Next time you’re stopped traffic, close one eye and notice how all the
reflected shapes in the mirror form it's very own little composition. Now
if you had an outline drawn on a piece of paper in the shape of that
rear view mirror you'd have a rear view mirror shaped format. And filling in
that format just got a lot easier.
Check out these links for formatting (look to the bottom half of this page):
There's a good at home instruction exercise using a rectangular piece of
cardboard or stiff paper with a rectangle cut inside it. (See the “for the viewfinder”
For accuracy: use a drawing grid
The drawing grid is a lace work of lines - usually a series of parallel
horizontal and vertical lines that you view an object through. (You can see
your subject through the drawing grid because it’s transparent or the lines
are made of wire mesh like the one renaissance artist Albrecht Durer use to
These lines crisscross to form rectangles or squares - much like
miniature formats. (Remember formats? just above?). In front of you on your
drawing desk lies a sheet of paper with the exact same set of squares
with the exact same proportion pre-drawn on a piece of paper.
When you view your subject through the grid you'll see e.g. the nose might fit in
across the middle two rectangles just above the horizontal center with the
septum about 1/3rd the way down the very center rectangle. And you can now
draw what you see in the corresponding rectangles on our pre-formatted
drawing paper. I know sounds pretty complicated, but it’s really not that
tough once you try it.
Check out this section for an in-depth discussion in lesson 8, Part II:
(look about a third of the way down the page)
Let me give you a visual here: the stereotypical artist with arm
extended, thumb or pencil up, one eye closed? Remember that guy?
That’s the position of sighting. Sighting rallies around finding a constant
unit of measure within the object you're drawing and using that unit of
measure to compare and contrast all other parts of the features. For
instance, in the latest in-depth caricature analysis of Hugh Hefner, we
used the width of the eyes as the “unit of measure”.
E.g., the eyes are an eye width apart, the base of the nose is an eye
width wide, and the whole face is 5 eye widths wide. If you were the artist
above with your arm extended with a pencil in your hand you'd be looking
(almost aiming), down your arm with the subject's eye or “unit of measure”
fitting between your thumb and the end of the pencil. And, you could now
carry that measure, that proportion around to other parts of your picture
and relate everything to the “sighting” you just made.
See these sections for sighting:
In fact all the links in chapter eight are very relevant to today’s
Here’s a walk through on sighting and proportion:
Check out the animations on this page for proportion (they’re not very well
marked - something I have to fix in the next revision):
Also, scan through the archives for sections on grids, or formatting. If you
have the e-Sourcebook, click on “find” and enter “drawing grid” or “format”
or “proportion” or “sighting” and you'll get a whole range of answers.
For the Archives:
2) About correcting mistakes: don't worry about them! I think a lot of
mistakes can actually be very happy accidents. The downside of worrying
about making mistakes is that it tightens you up. You lose your fluidity.
Make mistakes! Try to make mistakes! In fact, warm up with a couple of
pictures next time where you try to draw them as BAD as you can! This will
loosen you up. In skiing, they say “if you’re not falling, you’re not taking
any chances”. So run with it Suzy - buy a bunch of cheap paper (like
newsprint), and cut loose. Progress can be very up and down - with the
general trend most definitely up. Just keep practicing.
Thanks very much again for your thoughtful questions Suzy.
3) Inspiration from the Internet World Spring Convention
I spent all day Thursday at the Los Angeles Convention Center - believe me,
there’s no sign there the e-economy is showing any signs of failing! Slowing
maybe, failing? It's here forever folks. The most inspiring thing I saw there
was the Macromedia Flash demonstration - You'd be absolutely amazed
with what you can do in Flash. Right away I thought of how all the key lessons
could be animated - full multimedia demonstrations and with sound too!
Rather than reading just a whole ton of text and pictures you'll have moving
explanations you can stop, rewind, play back - until you say “I get it!” (or tell
me to go back to the drawing board.:-) Compared to the animations you've
seen already, which had to be made frame by frame, Flash practically reads
your mind and builds them for you. It just opens up a whole ton of other
possibilities for teaching drawing - heck teaching anything - so I think you'll
enjoy the coming “Flash” additions as we get “up to snuff” in the program.
I'll keep you posted.
Until next time, keep on drawing and don't get too green this weekend!