The Pencil As A Measuring Device

We can analyse our observations in a number of ways to enable us to make a visual record of what we see. One of these ways involves using the pencil both as mark maker and measuring device. What you are doing in effect is building a grid on which to map out your drawing. This approach is appropriate for all types of observational drawing and for different subjects ranging from landscape and still life to figure drawing. I have chosen a figure for our example because the pencil is still the most popular measure for this type of drawing; go to the life rooms of any art college and you will find it widely used. The procedure is as follows:

1/ Set yourself up for drawing in a fixed position so you have a consistent view that doesn't alter. This enables you to see the subject from the same viewpoint every time without any change occurring - vital if your measurements are to be accurate.

2/ Hold the pencil in the fist of your favoured hand, leaving your thumb free so that it can slide freely up and down the side of the pencil.

3/ Stretch your arm out straight towards your subject matter and take a measurement. This is always done on a vertical axis. For instance, if we are drawing a figure, usually the measurement will be from the top of the head to the bottom of the chin. Close one eye as you do this, to focus your vision and give you one viewpoint. Put the top edge of the pencil at the top of the head then pull your thumb down the pencil until you come to the bottom of the chin.

Pencil Technique Draw Body Proportion

You have now established the proportion of the head. Repeat this process along an imaginary vertical down the body, using that first head proportion as your measure for dividing the figure. This will give you a proportional overall length of the figure -usually an average person will comprise eight head proportions in all from tip to toe.

4/ You can repeat this process to measure the width of your figure. Turn your pencil to the horizontal position and measure across

Establishing the head proportion: Align the top of the pencil with the top of the head, then slide your thumb down the penc your thumb aligns with the bottom of the chin.

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