Foundations Friday 5: Measured Setup

February 12, 2016 | Leave your thoughts

Next in my Foundations Friday series where I revisit the lessons from my  SketchingNow Foundations online sketching course is Lesson 5: Measured Setup.

This has been one of the more ‘painful’ lessons for many people since it can seem a little tedious to have to measure everything (takes away the fun?), and yet if accuracy is important you have to master it! But once you understand how to measure you can then simply use it for the important edges in the first few moments of your sketch and then progress with confidence.

Accuracy is not always the number one priority when you are sketching (fast) and if you are focusing on something else, such as colour or texture, then you are probably going to end up with some kind of distortion. That is one of the great appeals of spontaneous sketching, through the imperfections of it, you can see more clearly what the artist was focusing on.

This week I am just going to look at a simple problem that has been bugging me for weeks – getting a latte glass right! I have been so focusing on the texture of the coffee art that I have been aware of two problems

  1. I have been drawing the top of my latte too round
  2. I haven’t been foreshortening the side of my glass enough and whenever I took some quick measurements it just looked wrong.

I haven’t been overly concerned as I am sketching at 7.30am in the morning (before drinking my coffee), doing the sketch in about 3 minutes, and as I said, focusing on my painting of the pattern in the foam.  I knew that eventually I would get it… I have a long term view of accuracy.

So on Wednesday, being totally obsessed with working out where I was going wrong, I did some careful measurements and then I pulled a ruler out to check it. Oh no – what rule am I breaking?

Please note: I am not advocating sketching with a ruler – I was only using it to double check my measurements in order to help me SEE better so that from this day forth I will never have to measure a latte. For the record a ruler is practically useless when you are sketching unless you are drawing an object ‘sight size’ as I was in this case.

My discoveries

  1. Yes, I was drawing the top too round. It is funny that I have been making this ‘basic’ mistake so much lately. Partly it is because I am used to drawing tea that is below the top of the cup rim. But mainly it is a good example of how strong our object brain is and how we have to fight with it all the time.
  2. The heights that I was measuring were right, BUT the biggest issue was not about really measuring. It was a relationship that I wasn’t drawing correctly. As a result, I realised that the width of the glass is narrower than I was drawing it. Ah ha! this was a huge lightbulb moment.

Anyway I am very happy now! It was really annoying to me that I kept making this mistake and now that I have done some homework, I can SEE so much better.

Three morals of the story:

  1. Just because you can draw teacups, doesn’t mean you can draw lattes!
  2. As hard as teacups are, latte glasses are harder, much harder. Just for the record, ‘hard’ is a good challenge and not something negative!
  3. You can always improve your accuracy, especially if sketching fast is the goal – which it is for me!

And finally to quote from Foundations “A little measuring goes a long way.”


Just a reminder that my Foundations Course is available as a self directed course – Enrol today!

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