View Full Version : Sight Measuring Workshop #1 - Verticals and Horizontals

11-27-2004, 11:59 PM
Sight Measuring

There are a few methods commonly used for sight measuring. For the next few weeks I am going to write about one each week. This will give a beginner a chance to try each method a few times before going on to next method.

One of the most basic of these sight measuring methods is this method of checking horizontals and verticals.

By taking a pencil (or brush or chalk), a person can compare width and height measurements by sliding their thumb along the pencil.


When using a pencil, hold your arm straight. Be sure your elbow is straight. If you bend your elbow which is really easy to do without thinking about it, it changes the scale of the measurements. If your elbow is locked, your measurements stay constant because your arm doesn’t change length. You would be changing the distance you are measuring without knowing.

Also, be careful that your pencil is parallel to you. If it is at an angle, it will throw the measurements off.

Now, close one eye as you measure. The tip of the pencil is even with one side of the object and you slide your thumb until it is even with the other side of the object.


At this point, many artists will transfer this measurement to their paper. If you choose not to do this, you still to be sure that the ratio of the proportions (or scale) the same.

This method of sight measuring is good for comparing the height to the width of objects.


Try first measuring the height, and then turn your pencil ninety degrees. How does the height compare to the width? Are they the same measurement? Is it half as wide as it is tall? Twice as wide?

You can also use this method of checking horizontal and vertical measurements to find the midpoint. You can measure the distance between the top edge of an object and the midpoint and see if the distance between the midpoint and bottom is the same. Being able to find the midpoint is helpful in keeping your drawing from going off the paper.

Since it is good for comparing measurement of different objects, it helps the artist keep every thing in the same scale. (Is the person’s head about the same size as their foot?)

As you practice, here are some things to try:

A house (Windows and doors are great practice. Try to find one distant enough that you can measure the whole house top and bottom.)

A simple still life

A person (Is the person’s shoulders twice as wide as their head?)

Try sight measuring 4 or 5 items for practice. Draw whatever is around you.

Post your attempts. I would love to see how things turn out!

Barb Solomon :cat:

11-28-2004, 07:05 PM
Post your attempts. I would love to see how things turn out!

Barb Solomon :cat:
I don't know if it's wise to comment at this point or not since you may well plan to cover this later. But I have always found it much easier to use a ruler, with it's graduations, rather than using something that is not graduated, when transferring measurements.

11-28-2004, 08:03 PM
That is not a bad suggestion. I wanted to stay away from any extra equipment because there are so many times when all I have is a pencil and a notepad. With a little practice, the pencil isn't so bad for accuracy and it is easier to have around.

Thanks for making the suggestion, though, it may perfect choice for someone else.

Barb Solomon :cat:

11-29-2004, 01:09 PM
Thanks Barb! I never understood how this worked.....no wonder my plein aire experience was like falling down Alice's rabbit hole!! :crying:

A VERY through explanation!!

11-29-2004, 11:00 PM
Hi Cathleen! Thanks for coming by! I am hoping to show some other sight measuring methods in the weeks to come.

I am hoping that people try practicing their sight measuring skills by attempting to do a quick sketch of about five objects. A house and a person would be great, but if someone tries 5 things that they see around them that would be great. I would love to see people’s post, particularly newbies!

Barb Solomon :cat:

12-01-2004, 01:01 AM
barb---this is just a wonderful explanation--I will use what I have learned here--great job!

12-01-2004, 06:54 AM
Wonderful guide. :clap: This is one very useful skill I need to practice more. With frequent practice one willl be very good at estimating proportions of length and angle. Trying to work out how many degrees the contour is still quite tricky for me. Many times i noticed that what I perceived is completely different from what I actually saw. ;)

12-01-2004, 11:21 AM
Celestia - I really enjoyed writing the workshop and will be doing some more in the weeks to come.

vee 209 - Thank you very much. You are so right about the practice. While I can explain generally how sight drawing is done, just like learning to write, a person has to do it a bit to get the hang of it.

Next week’s workshop is going to be on angles!

Barb Solomon :cat:

12-01-2004, 11:25 AM
I was hoping to get some people to post some little sketches as practice.

I haven’t been able to get mine posted because we are in the process of moving from Tallahassee to the Chicago area. Last night, we sold our current house.

I had wanted to get 5 little sketches as practice - just whatever is around. You should be trying to use this form of sight measuring as you draw.

When I first started, I had to practice this quite a bit before it became a comfortable habit. Since there are other sight measuring methods, it isn’t going to be the answer to all problems. Just a start.

Barb Solomon

So here is the first of my drawings. I think that I took about 10 minutes. It shouldn't take more that 15 minutes to do one of these drawings. Is anyone else going to give it a try? I would love to hear about your experiences.


12-01-2004, 03:54 PM
Okay, Barb, you asked for it! :evil:

Seriously, thanks so much for doing this for us! It really is a tremendous help to have these things laid out for us...thanks a bunch!! I will *definitely* be tuning in for your next ones!

I did my cat last night...very quick because, of course, he wasn't going to stay in that position for long! Mr. Kitty is done in pen...one of those cool space pens, in fact. :p

And I did the race horse this afternoon...after I did it, I realized that I might be cheating a bit because it is from a photo from the image library! :eek: However, it was on my monitor and I was a good distance away from it, so, well, I still used this technique. I definitely need to do more drawing from life, that's for sure. More drawing in general, in fact... The horse is done with pencil.

Anyways, though I perhaps understood this concept before I read your account, Barb, having you lay it out in such an easy-to-read fashion sure was wonderful and I'd never really seriously tried it before...I *do* think that it helps with those intial, oh-my-goodness-it's-a-white-paper! feelings. :p ;) Often, I *hate* getting started on a drawing, though once I'm into it, the process is fun.

Again, thanks a lot, Barb! I'll be looking for more!


These are both done on my 9x12 (I think! :p ) sketchpads...



12-01-2004, 05:38 PM
OH Goody! Drawings!!!!! :clap: :clap: :clap:

Thanks a bunch! I really love doing it! When I first started, it was difficult to find demonstations of this stuff! So I am glad to make it easier for people!

Your drawing of the cat has all the makings for a nice painting. It looks like your cat is in one of those extremely comfortable positions that cats get themselves into! Pets are such a great choice for this. They are usually there and it is a kind of “figure drawing”.

The horse and rider look wonderful. I do take the same measurement when I draw from a photo. Usually I lay my pencil over the drawing instead of extending my arm, but it is the same measurement.

I don’t object to using photos but, I do try to draw from life as much as I can. It is good for your drawing skills.

Both of your drawings look great! I really look forward to seeing more!

Barb Solomon :cat:

12-02-2004, 09:52 PM
Here are my next two drawings! That gives me three in all.

Since I am moving from Tallahassee to DeKalb, IL (about an hour’s drive west from Chicago), I have plenty of boxes to draw! So I arranged some into a still life!

I liked the drawing of a cat so much that I decided to draw my dog, Cindy! Believe it or not my sleepy dog, wondered why I was staring at her and decided to go and sleep behind a chair.

12-13-2004, 04:48 PM

here is an example of the process you have outlined.
It's how I design and keep in check my bonsai.

Every year I place the tree in front of me and erase
or expand an area.This controls the pruning.The earliest note on the page is 99.In Bonsai angles are more important than curves as the tree will soften an angle
with age.

A working drawing.

Let's see how this image comes out.

12-13-2004, 04:59 PM
Okay Sanguine is how I prefer to work,but
is always difficult to scan.

A page from my home-made drawing book

12-13-2004, 05:09 PM
From my past [I was 23 or 24 ]
Using the same pencil technique via Sight-Size
This reflects 4 days work,3 hours[less model rests]
a day.

For a painting I am still to finish.
Sanguine again.Drawing is on a 13x19"paper,
couldn't all fit on the scanner.Apologies.

12-13-2004, 05:58 PM

it's Christmas coming.

Here is the unfinished - Awakening. 21.5 x 34.5"

A young Amerindian girl,who has come of age.
Thoughts of love and romance.
Maybe one day I will finish her.

*Apologies for the image,the flash high the
macaws hard and not the girl.

12-13-2004, 06:15 PM
Last one Barb.
Had to crop done back in the 80's.

That should bring up my average for
things shown on W.C.

*You really went from Warm to Cold -brave lass.

12-14-2004, 12:26 AM
Titanium - It is really good to see you here!

Your drawings are wonderful! I love the bonsai and foliage sketches. (I am happy to know of a new use for sight measuring.) The figure drawing is also quite nice!

It is nice to let people see what can be done, if someone takes a little bit of time.

Barb Solomon :cat: