If you’ve seen Being John Malkovich (pictured above), you’ll remember the “7 ½th” floor. Once you see the jarring contrast between the size of a person and the five foot high ceilings, it’s impossible to shake the feeling of unease. This was an intentional narrative device for the film, but I see it all the time in novice illustrations. What you’re seeing is proportion in action. Proportion is a relative measure of height or distance; one object compared to another. Our brains are really good at seeing proportional mistakes, so don’t accidentally set your characters on the 7 ½ th floor! It might seem obvious, but even subtle proportional mistakes in the drawing stage can kill a painting before you ever have a chance to polish it.
Observation to Imagination
It’s been awhile since I released an episode of Ctrl+Paint unplugged, but this is a special occasion. The next premium series, "Observation to Imagination" (coming March 28th) is all about connecting the gap between observational drawing skills and illustrating from your imagination. It’s two parts: a series of videos, and a collection of 40 assignments designed to walk you through the concepts. Since I’m so excited about it, this week’s blog post and next week's blog post will give you a small sneak peek into the format.
First off, watch the video (above ) to learn a bit about visual measuring for proportion. Additionally, it’s worth watching the earlier episode about visual measuring for angles. Next, there’s a homework assignment to go along with the concept in the video (below).
Accurately measure & diagram simple objects from direct observation. (Optionally) once you’re satisfied with the overall proportions, lightly sketch in the general contours.
15 household objects (or more if you prefer.)
Photoshop: Digital line drawing, simple objects for reference.
Traditional: Pencil, paper, eraser, simple objects for reference.
Blocking in an object’s proportions is essential to it’s ultimate success, though artists often rush the process and make mistakes. The goal of this assignment is not to make beautiful contours, but instead to capture accurate dimensions. In fact, you can can completely skip the contour stage if you prefer - since accurate measurements are plenty challenging on their own. Even if you’re working digitally, make sure to work from direct observation instead of photos - you will get much more out of the assignment.
If you'd like to submit your results, we'd love to see them on the Facebook wall! Since this assignment involves a high quantity of drawings, it's best to shrink them down and present them on a single page for Facebook viewing.