Monday, January 14, 2008

Sight Size Method of Drawing

One goal of some 2-dimensional artists is to try to create the illusion of 3-dimensions on their flat surface. It is done with tone, the relative range of a color from lights to darks.

In these images of my study in charcoal of a plaster sculpture cast of an ear, you can see my basic set-up, as well as the finished work. I used the Sight Size Method of Drawing to create this cast. In this case, my easel with board and Roma charcoal paper are placed directly next to the subject I am drawing – namely, a white plaster cast of a sculpted ear hung on a grey board. One light falls on both original and drawing.

In the Sight Size Method, I actually make my observations from about two meters away. Then I walk up to my paper and make a mark. Backing up again to my same spot (which is marked by tape on the floor), I check my mark before approaching again to make the next one. It is a lot of pacing, but with my energy level, this tends to be calming for me. However, it does take getting used to because you must keep your eye on the intended target on the paper as you move in, knowing that as you approach the paper, your point of view will change and so will the perceived location of your intended mark.

With the Sight Size Method, the idea is to place the easel so that the drawn image lines up horizontally with the subject being portrayed. In this case, I want to make a drawing that is 100% the size of the original, so I must place my drawing surface on the same vertical plane as the original. If I were drawing from a live model and wanted to draw a figure smaller than life size, my easel would be moved much closer to my viewing position until my intended size appeared to be the same size as the actual model. And I would horizontally align the bottom of the model’s feet to the bottom of my drawing’s feet. I would then align the head of the model with the head of my drawing. And then draw, continuing to record these kinds of relationships.

Anyway, there is more to it than that, but I hope you understand the basic concept. You may be interested to note that I was unable to get my camera’s tripod high enough to mimic what my eye saw while creating this charcoal drawing. In the photograph, I am actually looking UP at the cast. The viewpoint is different from the one that I drew. And, for the close-up “final drawing” shot, I lowered the drawing on the easel to photograph it by itself. That means that the light source was that much further away, meaning that my drawing is seen with less light on it. The tones will not appear to match the original object, not only because of the limitations of photography, but also because of the paper. The Roma paper is simply not as white as the plaster cast original. And the compressed charcoal (used in the cast shadow) cannot get as dark as the real object’s shadow. Hence, in my drawing, the tones are compressed because of the limited range of the materials used.

It may also interest you that since I am in Italy studying design, including seeing real forms in the terms of abstract shapes, I do not see my drawing as depicting an ear. On one level, of course, I know that I have drawn an ear. But for a long time now, all I have been able to register in my brain are abstract shapes, such as the bird, a distorted infinity sign, and a comma turned 90 degrees.

Now, all I need to do is find an ear doctor who would like to purchase this drawing for the office! (Oh, and sign the work . . . )


Rodney said...

Surely Harry knows that hes in the
hands of greatness and that your star is forth coming...Rodney

Rodney said...

Ears? Everyone tells me ears are hard to do you seem to make it look easy...Rodney

Jo Castillo said...

Kelly, this is very interesting. Your camera shots, etc., are a little complicated, but it looks great.

Like Rodney says, you make it look easy.

I had heard about this method before, but you know me. Patience. I might try it on something very, very, simple after seeing and reading your post. :)

Rose Welty said...

Kelly, I found this post from Jo's link. This is very interesting. When you "make your mark" do you then just do shapes of tone and value, rather than lines? Is your easel angled, or vertical?

Sorry for the questions, I'm very intrigued and just trying to figure out how it works.

Kelly Borsheim said...

Wow, Jo, thank you for the link and thank you Rodney for your dedicated encouragement.
Well, Rose, let me first explain the easier stuff. My easel and board with the drawing paper on it are positioned vertically. Less sloppy artists would use a level to make sure that the drawing surface is straight up and down. This removes distortion. If your surface was slanted away from you, for example, your finished drawing would look wider at the top of the image than you intended -- unless it were displayed in the exact same position for the viewer.

Kelly Borsheim said...

Started a new response in case a crash lost all of my typing: OK, so, making the mark. Sight size, I believe, more refers to the concept of using distance as a means to line up subject and drawing in such a way that one may use a horizontal line to measure the same relationships from subject to drawing. I still draw with the same process that I use for non-sight size. In that, I work large to small. I capture gestures by marking places that I intend later to put the figure. For example, I am not drawing the arm, I am only sketching in a loose line to indicate where I will later draw the arm. A subtle difference to some, but one that helps us to realize that we are creating our own designs based on the natural world, NOT that we are copying nature.

So, I start by drawing the shape. At this stage, my marks start off as possibly "tick marks" -- I draw a short dash to indicate my top. Another dash for the bottom, and widths. I continue to observe relationships until I have enough markings (such as the tilt of the shoulders, tilt of the hips) to create the shape's outline. Loose gesture / disegno and then later the articulation. Later in the process, my mark may be a dab of charcoal on a very specific spot that needs a wee bit of darkness. Or it may be that an area is blotchy and my mark is a kneaded eraser shaped into a point to remove the smallest amount of charcoal in a specific spot. I guess my "mark" refers to whatever it is that I do to my drawing surface, whether it be dash, line, tone, or removal of material. I hope that helps clarify. Thank you for your interest.

Rose Welty said...

Kelly, thank you for that response, it does clarify it for me. I did have a little try at a sight-size idea yesterday. It was intriguing, although I don't know if I would really use it all that often, it certainly points out some good ideas to me. Thanks again.