Sight-size method

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Sight-size refers to a method in which artists position themselves and the easel in such a way that they can paint the subject in exactly the size that it appears in their sight.

Sight Size Tutorial

Sight-size refers to a method in which you position yourself and the easel in such a way that you can paint the subject in exactly the size that it appears in your sight. For this purpose, the easel with the canvas is set up parallel to the subject. After that, you have to step back a little so that you can see both the subject and the paper at the same time. Then mark the spot where you´ll be drawing, so that you can return to the exact same spot and stand in the exact same position during the entire process.

Let´s take a closer look at the steps we have to take:

  1. Mark important outer points
  2. Determine the rough proportions
  3. Draw contours
  4. Define the shadows
  5. Separate light and shadow
  6. Set the darkest and brightest spots
  7. Model the forms

1. Outer points

The first task is to establish an initial set of reference lines, that is, top, bottom, and borders. You may think of them as the scaffolding on which the full drawing will be built. Then remember to measure the distance between these points of reference.

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2. Proportions

The next step is setting the proportions. For example, if you wish to draw a tree, you’d measure how big the treetop is and how big the tree trunk is. Whereas, in a portrait is important to establish where eyes, nose, and mouth are.

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3. Contour drawing

Once you have set the proportions, you can begin to draw the subject within these set of reference lines. You have different ways of measuring, as accurately as possible, where certain parts of the subject are. There are no fixed rules as to which measurement methods have to be used. You have to learn to decide for yourself which method is more appropriate. To measure, you always have to step back to the marked spot.

3.1 Distance

You have to compare the distances of the contours, but also those of individual parts of the picture. What is the distance from the center of the eye to the ear? What is the distance from the foot to the peak knee?

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3.2 Horizontal and vertical lines

Is it possible to find elements in the subject that lie on a horizontal or vertical line?

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3.3 Negative forms

This refers to the forms that arise between parts of the subject. In other words, the “gaps” in the subject.

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4. Define the shadows

Once you have drawn the contours of the subject, you can draw the contours of the shadows. The process is the same as for the contours of the subject.

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5. Separate light and shadow

As soon as the contours of the subject, and of the shadows, have been set, you separate the parts in the light from those in the shadow tonally. You use only two different levels of contrast: the white of the paper for the lights and a darker tone for the shadows, with which you fill the previously drawn shadow contours as evenly as possible. It is important to not make the shade of grey too dark so that you will have some wiggle room later on. The result of this step should be a graphically-looking drawing in 2 tones.

6. Set the darkest and brightest spots

The next step is to set the darkest and the brightest spot in the drawing. Wherever spot, where the subject is dark, draw the darkest tone possible. Since the white of the paper represents the brightest contrast level possible, the rest of the subject around the brightest spots must be darkened a bit. This tone should not be darker than that used in the first step to separate light from shadow. Basically, the darkest tone in the light should not be darker than the brightest tone in the shadow. The result at the end of this step should be a drawing in 4 tones.

7. Model the forms

The last step is to model the shapes. Here, the contrasts are changed. You should be careful to stay in the individual “groups” of the contrast levels and not to use, for example, a tone that occurs in the shadows, in the semitones. Sudden changes in contrast levels can only be used in hard or sharp edges, while a slow, discontinue curve acts can be used for a soft object.

There are four basic types of edges:

  • Hard: A sudden change from light to dark, without progress.
  • Soft: It is the natural blur, a very natural progression of color.
  • Lost: It is a Soft Edge that exists between two tonal values so similar that the edge completely disappears.
  • Found: an edge that picks up out of the Lost Edge area.

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