Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Using a Pencil to Check Measurements

Yesterday I painted a street scene in Hudson, New York. (Link to video on Facebook)

I choose a limited palette of gouache: purple, lemon yellow, white, and two shades of raw umber. (Raw umber varies a lot by brand; the Shinhan is really more of a raw sienna). I add vermilion later on as an accent color.

The limited palette unifies the color scheme, and it's fun to try to mix a green with that blue-leaning purple and green-leaning yellow. 

In the video, I'm using a time-honored method for checking measurements. I choose a unit of length— the apparent height of the opening of green awning. 

I mark off that segment by choking up on my pencil held at arm's length. Then I transfer a comparable unit to my drawing and use that unit of measurement to check other things. It's a good way to guard against errors and to get a reasonably accurate basis for the picture.
I'm using Shinhan Pass Design Water Color/Gouache and M. Graham Gouache in a Pentalic Aqua Journal.


Charley parker said...

Nice use of split-screen.

Why post from Facebook instead of YouTube? I was looking for controls to up the resolution.

Peter Drubetskoy said...

Seconded for posting on YouTube - FB is (a) blocked at a lot of workspaces and (b) not accessible w/o a FB account, I believe?

Regarding measurements, I just recently learned of this simple but cool tool called "proportional divider", which is trivially easy to make and use:
(sorry if this is old news)

James Gurney said...

Charley and Peter, Yes, you're right. I know embedding from FB is an issue, but here's the deal:

When I make videos of 1 minute or less, I post them on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, platforms that are optimized for micro videos. But I don't post them on YouTube, because the community on that platform rightly complains that the videos are too short. So I wait until I've got 4 or 5 related micro videos and I weave them together into a 3 - 5 minute YouTube video, adding endscreens, titles, voiceover, and other touches. For example this animal video is made up of short FB/TW/IG vids:

Are there other free upload platforms that are unblocked and allow good embed options?

Peter, thanks, not old news at all. I haven't tried dividers yet. Looks intriguing.

Warren JB said...

Great street, great sketch, great video. Highlights the necessity of the fundamentals!

Peter: I can't speak to workplaces, but I haven't got a FB account and I can see it fine. (With a third-party mobile browser, to boot.)

Unknown said...

As a relative beginner I find this technique pretty challenging still and need to practice it a lot more. I have found that my eyes sometimes start to hurt when focusing on this style of measurement. I am not sure if this is because I often measure with the pointy side of the pencil, because I am using it on objects too small (like small basic cubes for still lifes)or if I need to look into glasses of some sort.

A somewhat related issue but when it comes to measuring and transferring angles of a box with a pencil I am uncertain if I should trust the actual measurement I take of the angle as the final line or if I should use them to estimate where the vanishing points probably are and then adjust the final line accordingly. Probably a very beginner question but any thoughts on that?

Daroo said...

Great microvid. Thanks!

Measuring strategies, while seemingly a little dry, would make a great series of videos. When painting from life, the painter benefits from being able to measure as fast as possible, while still maintaining accuracy. Being flexible and having an abundance of measuring strategies in your artistic quiver definitely helps -- measure twice and paint once (alla prima -- au premier coup).

Some topics/methods: Comparative measuring, hierarchy of measuring (big shapes vs small), Approaches: general initial placement (composition) vs accurate drawing(proportion/perspective), plumb lines and angles, the Gurney transferable plastic grid method (Camera Jimgurna?), sightsize, proportional dividers, positive shapes/negative shapes, adjustable aspect ratio frames, iPhone screens/composition apps.

Maybe to make it less dry put "Yakety Sax" on the soundtrack...

bernicky said...

At the 8 second mark you draw a diagonal line across the sketch. Is that a vanishing point or was it for some other reason?

Beautiful work as always.

Bob said...

You sure know how to render the "shine" of a car's surface. Page 75 of your book Imaginative Realism shows an even more amazing example.

It seems as if pencil measurements would fix the scale of your drawing -- a 1:1 relationship between an arm's length measurement of an element of your subject and the same element in your drawing suggests that holding your sketchbook out at arm's length would determine the frame of your composition. Is this correct or am I missing something?

James Gurney said...

Bob, yes, normally a measured segment would translate directly to the surface of the sketch, but it works proportionally, too. That is, a given unit could be repeated and checked within the subject, and then a corresponding unit of a different length could form the basis of measurements in the drawing.

Glenn Tait said...

I use a thin, grey knitting needle for sighting, it's about 6" in length. Holding it in my non-drawing hand saves a lot of time when measuring and rechecking between the subject and my drawing.

Bob said...

Got it, now it makes sense. Thanks!