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Old 02-01-2009, 08:56 AM
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ESP - Portrait & Figure Fundamentals - Lesson 3: Measuring

Portraits – Lesson 3: Measuring and Laying Out

For those visiting the classroom for the first time – Welcome! My name is Don and this is lesson 3 of our Portrait and Figure Fundamentals class!

Lesson 1 started with eyes and noses and can be found here:


Lesson 2 covered mouths, ears and hair, and can be found here:


In our first two classes we concentrated on painting the features of the face by concentrating on value shapes – the shapes of the shadows and the lights. We will continue to work with value shapes, but now as we progress to the entire head and face, we will be working with the larger value shapes of the head. We need a way to place the features, and the value shapes, in relation to one another, and to the face and head as a whole. To do so, some method of measuring is recommended. And by measuring early in the proceedings, one reduces the major revisions that are often necessary when no measurements are made, or if they are made at the end!

Now, I will include lots of techniques, but that does not mean you have to use all of them when you measure. The amount you measure and how you measure is up to you. There is no “correct” amount or method. And, needless to say, there may be other measuring techniques that I am unaware of and may work just as well.

As far as this lesson is concerned, I will be dividing the term “measuring” into two types – visual measuring and actual measuring. In describing visual measuring, I will use two terms repeatedly, so I will define them here:

Eyeballing – Which describes making distance estimates, comparisons, and angle judgments with the eye only.

Sighting – Describes measurements made by using a pencil, pastel, or “stick-like” object in your hand, held out at arm’s length, lining up one end of your “stick” with the distant object in your “sight,” and using your thumb to mark the measurement. This method is sometimes referred to as measuring by “pencil and thumb.” You can also “sight” to help you judge angles.

If you are working from a live model, visual measurements are your only measuring option.

Actual measurements will include any measurements made with a ruler, pencil, pastel stick, etc., placed directly on your subject, or, more likely, a reference photo. Obviously, using a ruler will give you the most precise actual measurements.

Personal opinion: Generally speaking (with a few exceptions), I do think it is good practice to try using visual measurements whenever possible – and then checking your visual measurements with actual measurements. If you are a beginning artist especially, the skill of making visual distance comparisons and judging angles is extraordinarily valuable. And as mentioned, when painting or drawing from life, it is usually your only option. For these reasons, I will be concentrating primarily on visual measurements. Also, for the most part, actual measuring is fairly self explanatory!


Most portrait books, or books on drawing the head, discuss measuring with some “generic” or “idealized” proportion diagrams. So will I!

Generic proportions are useful when you are drawing or painting heads or faces without a model. Even with a model, knowing the generic proportions will usually guarantee reasonable accuracy. Perhaps the best reason for knowing these generic proportions is recognizing when your subject varies from the average. Compare your actual observations with these guidelines. If your subject has a longer chin than average, or eyes wider apart than the norm, then accurately representing that “unique” feature will be especially important.

Here is “Mr. Generic” - a typical diagram of the generic or average adult human head:

This diagram includes some of the most important guidelines that will help you visually measure. They are:

The “eye line” is at the ½ height measurement. Finding the “eye line” will be one of the first things we try to establish when we measure.

Measurement “A” – The length of the forehead (hairline to eyebrows), eyebrows to bottom of nose, and nose to bottom of chin are important measurements and are approximately equal.

The width of the eye, and the comparative width from eye to edge of face, and between the eyes (numbers 1,2,3,4,5) are all equal on Mr. Generic. The head is approximately 5 eye-widths across. Placing the eyes is important because the placement of the eyes will help us locate the width of the nose and mouth.

The mouth is approximately 1/3 of the distance between bottom of nose and bottom of chin.

We will use the above generic measurements on almost every portrait we paint. The guidelines we draw will start with the generic and be refined to the specific.

The purple lines coming straight down from the middle of the eyes are vertical “plumb lines.” Plumb lines (both vertical and horizontal) are one of the most useful measuring tools at an artist’s disposal. In this case, those lines represent the width of the mouth. Notice also, the vertical plumb lines in red that line up the inside corners of the eyes with the width of the nose.

Many times, these important locations – corners or center of the eyes, edges of the nose or corners of the mouth, are referred to as landmarks. Our guidelines and other measuring techniques focus on establishing the location of the important landmarks in your painting.

Guidelines can be straight (as the plumb lines are) or they can follow the curve of the head and face. When the head is seen straight on, plumb lines as shown on the idealized face may be all you need. But when the head is tilted, guidelines that follow the curvature can be very helpful, too.

I have highlighted important guidelines on the following reference photos. Keep in mind that these guidelines can be sketched in lightly, or just visualized, on your actual painting.

In this example, notice the centerline and eye-line guidelines establish both the rotation of the head and the tilt of the head. On the left, notice that the same curve of the eye-line is drawn for the nose and mouth to make sure they are lined up correctly. Now, since eyes are not always lined up exactly with one another, and mouths may be crooked, the features may deviate slightly from your guidelines, but the differences will be small. Notice the mouth is about 1/3rd distance from nose to chin.

On the right, I’ve drawn in those guidelines from the center of the eyes and the inside corner of the eyes. Since this fellow’s head is tilted, the plumb lines (straight down) won’t work here. I need the guidelines to follow the curve of the centerline. And they work fairly well in locating the width of the nose and mouth.

Another two examples of the use of guidelines:

(1) Remember Mr. Generic’s “A” measurement – the three equal divisions for forehead, brows to nose, nose to chin? Well, her forehead has too much hair to find the hairline, but these guidelines will help me compare the distance from eyebrows to bottom of nose and nose to chin. Looks about equal! Also my guidelines will help me compare that 1/3rd distance to locate the mouth in relation to nose and chin. The mouth guideline will help me keep the mouth at the correct angle, too. (2) The same guidelines are drawn for “Blue Hat” on the right. Again, establishing curved guidelines that run parallel to the eye-line will help keep the nose and mouth on the correct line. (3) The plumb lines help me locate nose and mouth width. The yellow lines confirm that the eyebrow-nose and nose-chin measurements are about equal once again.

All of these guidelines – both plumb and curved, can be used in every situation to help determine visual measurements, whether you are working from a photo or live model. And plumb lines especially, can be used anywhere on the painting to help measure and locate ANY landmark.

1) Locates the 3rd smile crease with the eye corner. 2) Eyebrow edge compared to nostril wing. 3) Smile crease and eye. 4) Base of neck and mouth. 5) Top of neck and nostril. 6) The curl of hair and mouth. 7) Top of shirt lines up with chin. 8) The center of the mouth and bridge of nose. 9) Tip of nose and eye. 10) Shoulder edge and hair.

NOTE: Notice the guidelines for the eyes and the mouth (blue lines). Usually, I will refer to the horizontal guidelines as being drawn parallel to one another, although they are subject to the rules of perspective, and when the head is rotated, will converge at a vanishing point. Normally, the convergence is slight, and can often be ignored. In this case, the photographer is quite close to the model, and the convergence is quite noticeable. If you are taking your own reference photos, watch out for this effect. Don’t get too close to your models!

You can use plumb lines to locate value shapes as well.

1) Light/Shadow edge on nose lines up with top of ear. 2) Eye shadow on left lines up with top of light shape on right. 3) Edge of light shape lines up with eye. 4) Light shape on neck lines up with mouth. 5) Light shape on chin lines up with center of mouth and nose.

So far, we’ve discussed plumb lines and curved guidelines, but there is another important guideline we need to discuss and that is angles. There are lots of angles in a portrait as well, from large shapes such as the angle of the neck or jaw, to smaller angles of the nose, eyes, creases and dimples. Here are a couple tips that may help you eyeball, sight, or sketch in angles on your painting.

On the left, I have highlighted a few important angles on her face: the angle of the neck, the nose, and the crease from nose to mouth corner. If you have trouble judging them, it might help to compare the angle to a plumb line (right photo – neck angle), or to extend the angle and see where it points to (right photo). Extending the line also makes it longer, making it easier to judge the angle.

Let’s take a look at some guidelines for the model in profile. Here is Mr. Generic once again:

Some guidelines to look for in profile are:

The width of the head from tip of the nose to the back of the skull is approximately equal to the height of the head (dimension B). The distance from the back corner of the eye to the back of the ear is roughly equal to the distance from the back corner of the eye to the chin (dimension C).

Some real profiles:

(Left) Sketched in guidelines to measure and compare the eyebrow to nose, nose to chin measurements and the 1/3rd mouth measurement. (Right) We see that the back of eye to back of ear measurement is approximately equal to the back of eye to chin measurement. The front of the eye also comes very close to lining up with the edge of mouth with a guideline that is lined up with the tilt of the head.

Note: Two measurements that cause problems for many artists are the eye-line (approx. ½ of height), and the distance to the ear. Apparently our brains like action! They tend to diminish areas and distances where there is little happening. So, foreheads and the height of the hair are often underestimated. Beginners often place the eyes as much as 2/3rds of the way up the face rather than half-way. The same is true for the side of the face. That distance to the ear is often underestimated.

In our last lesson, Charlie (Colorix) brought to our attention some important guidelines for the angles of the lips and nose in profile, and she put together the following examples and descriptions.


In the top left cluster of pics, the lines indicate that either the lower edge of the upper lip, or the upper edge of the same lip very often has the same angle as the septum. This correspondence changes over the years, as the cartilage of the nose continues to grow all our lives. But, as gravity takes its toll on the upper lip too, it doesn't change as much as one might think -- not in all individuals.

This correspondence of angle is easiest seen in a neutral, fairly relaxed face. Even a hint of a smile offsets it.

The girl in the lower right corner illustrates that if the nostril has a high curve, so does the upper lip (black arrows). If the nostrils are flat, then the mouth has a very flattened M-shape (or Cupid's Bow, as we say in Sweden.)

The man in the lower left belongs to a very common variation of the 'rule' -- his septum corresponds to the angle of the lower lip, when the mouth is relaxed and slightly open. The more pronounced the beak is, the steeper the angle of the lower lip. Yassir Arafat is an excellent example. But when the mouth is closed, it looks straight, or slanted as the first examples.

I learned about this some 20-30 years ago, and have spent many hours on the subway staring at people, confirming that these parallel angles are highly common -- I'd call it "normal", in fact.

Look at people around you, when they are neutral or relaxed, and see if this is indeed true. Eventually you'll detect it in faces seen from straight on, too.

Thank you, Charlie!

Using a Base Unit

Another measuring technique that can be used, alone, or in conjunction with the others already mentioned, is establishing a “base unit.” Personally, I find that using a base unit is easier when doing an entire figure – where the length of the head is the usual base unit, but it can be done in portraits as well. Keep in mind that when we are measuring we are comparing distances and proportions. In order that the proportions are consistent to one another, a base unit is a useful tool. The base unit must be large enough so that you can make a “sighting” measurement if you are painting from a live model, but still be small enough to compare it to most of the features in your painting. The length of the nose is often chosen for the “base unit” in a portrait, but it can be something else.

Here is an example:

(Top Left) The blue line represents the distance from eyebrows to bottom of nose. We will use this as the Base Unit. (Top Right) We compare that distance to the nose-chin distance and see that it is very close to the same.

(BL) Using the same Base Unit, you measure from the tip of the nose. You estimate that the distance from the tip of the nose to the end of the nostril wing is about ½ of the Base Unit. (BR) The Base Unit measurement of the forehead.

Again, please remember that these measurements can be made before you have made marks on your paper, or they can be used to check the placement of features or landmarks that you may have already placed.

Last edited by DAK723 : 02-01-2009 at 09:14 AM.
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Old 02-01-2009, 09:14 AM
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Re: ESP - Portrait & Figure Fundamentals - Lesson 3: Measuring

Laying out the head shape:

The size and shape of the head is one of the most important aspects of portraiture. In the demonstrations that follow, in order to lay out the basic size and shape of the head, I will measure height and width and establish a centerline and an eye-line. Then I begin locating landmarks and it is not until they are located that I draw in the entire head shape. And I do that as part of making my value map of the entire head. So, making a value map of the entire head would be one way of laying out the head shape.

Another way would be to take sight measurements, or actual measurements of height and width, and sketch in the head shape. If your painting is the same size as your reference, then it’s easy to measure the same distances and make marks on your paper. If you are making your painting larger, decide on a scale factor. If the head height on your photo measures 5 inches, but you want the height to be 10 inches in your painting, you will multiply everything by 2.

If you have a fairly simple frontal view, you might not have any problem sketching in the shape. But sometimes there might be a tilt or rotation to the head that is hard to judge, or there may be shapes to the hair that make it hard to see the head shape accurately.

Here are a few other techniques that might help.

Reference frames, simple grids and negative space:

One idea is to draw a square or rectangle around the head. You can decide whether or not to include the ears, or how much hair. It is purely for reference based on the idea that it is easier to judge the shape of a square or rectangle, than a more complex and less geometric shape.

Here are some examples:

Clearly, there is a lot of variety in head shapes. Just looking at – and, of course, measuring – the rectangles will help you judge the head shapes.

Children often have head shapes that are different from the adult proportions. In the section on guidelines, we learned that the average adult head has the eye-line at the ½ height distance. How about these children? Without measuring, can you tell if their eye-line is above, below, or at the ½ height distance?

Placing a reference frame around the head might help one visualize where the center or the eye-line falls. With a reference frame, it is easy to construct the simplest of grids to help determine the proportions. As is often the case with small children and infants, the eye-line is below the center ½ dividing line. Judging distances is also easier along the frame or the grid lines.

When laying out this man’s head, the tilt is important. The reference frame gives you the height and width proportions as well as a simple way to measure that tilt along the edges of the frame.

You can take the simple grid idea one step further to help you get the head shape as correct as possible. You can use the grid on your reference to help you visually locate various reference points, or you can actually sketch in a duplicate grid on your paper, being careful to duplicate the proportions as exactly as possible.

The reference frame is helpful because it creates both positive and negative space. The negative spaces may be helpful in visualizing and drawing in your head shape. They may be smaller and easier to visually measure and replicate (see red shapes). To replicate your frame on your actual painting, you need to measure it on your reference and then make a similar square or rectangle on your paper of exactly the same proportions. Here is an example of how sketching in the negative spaces reveals the head shape.

In both of these examples, I have just loosely sketched in my reference frame and my grid. For more precision, you can use a ruler and straight edge. With a precise reference frame, one can also get actual measurements to the features or any other landmark you want to locate, as illustrated below.

I can locate, with measurements from two directions, either the edges of value shapes such as the eye socket shadow (left), or the features, such as the corner of the mouth, corner of the nostril wing, and corner of the eye (right).

As mentioned in the opening paragraphs, one of the major reasons for measuring is to establish landmarks and points of reference for our value shapes. So let us conclude our measuring discussion with the same topic that has been the focus of our lessons so far...

Value shapes!

In lesson 1, we started with the value shapes for the individual features, but now we will expand our “value map” to the entire head. Blocking in the big value shapes and comparing their sizes, shapes, and angles is a method of measuring.

Let’s start with our friend “Rod”.

I really recommend doing this type of basic light and shadow value map as an exercise. Keep it simple and look for the big shapes. If you correctly judge the size and shape of the shadow and light areas, your value map will lay the foundation for all that follows.

What might you be looking for as you try to interpret the light and shadow shapes? Let’s look at Rod again.

While looking at the shadow and light values, check for comparative distances and look for distinctive shapes. What is the distance of the light forehead compared to the shadow eye socket area below it? How does the other eye socket shadow area compare? How wide is the light area on the cheek? How wide is the light across the bridge of the nose? How does that compare to the light area at the tip of the nose?

Don’t worry if you need to simplify the shapes in order to define them more easily. Compare the shapes with your painting. Are they the same size? Are they the same shape?

Here’s another example:

On the left, I have traced the basic shadow shapes on the computer. Now in this example, the contrast between light and shadow is very stark, making it easier to identify the shapes for my value map. It is very basic – again, just two values. But the likeness is already taking shape!

As you sketch in the shadow and light values in this case, distances that you might concentrate on might be: The eye shadows, the distance from the eye shadow to the ear, the light area on the nose that defines the length of the nose. Unique light shapes that you would try to replicate, such as the small light area on the far cheek.

As in all of the examples in our first two lessons, the basic stage would be followed by subsequent stages that add additional values and begin to refine the big shapes into smaller shapes and ultimately, detailed small shapes.

You could start with making a value map of the entire head first, and then adding measurements using some of the techniques we have discussed. Or you can measure, note the location of various landmarks, and then do your value mapping. That is the method I will now demonstrate!

Last edited by DAK723 : 02-01-2009 at 09:43 AM.
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Re: ESP - Portrait & Figure Fundamentals - Lesson 3: Measuring


Visual Measuring techniques:

I wanted to do a demo that replicates what it might be like working from a live model rather than a photo. Your measuring options are obviously more limited. I didn’t actually use a live model – I used a photo of Rod taped to a chair!

Just as when we map out the value shapes, when measuring, it is best to start with the larger measurements and work toward the smaller. When doing a head, for example, establishing the largest measurements of head height and width, need to be done before measuring and placing the features. You don’t want to spend a lot of time on the eyes, for example, and then find out the head width is incorrect resulting in the eyes needing to be redone because they were in the wrong position! Make sure the larger measurements are accurate first before making the smaller measurements.

So let’s start with height and width. These measurements are perhaps the most important, not only because they determine the general shape of the head, but because we will be using these measurements to do other measurements.

Helen Van Wyk, in her book Portraits in Oil the Van Wyk Way, actually recommends holding a ruler directly up to your model’s head and taking actual measurements. Needless to say, height and width are important!

We will sight measure them with our ruler method! When you sight measure, you keep your measuring stick at full arm’s length so that your measuring stick is always the same distance from your eye.

The width measures approx. 65 mm. The height is approx. 100 mm. This tells me that the height is almost exactly 1 ½ times the width. Now if you aren’t using a ruler, you can sight with any old stick (my red line represents a stick!), measuring the width first, then placing that measurement horizontally for the height. You note the spot where “one width measurement” falls, then place your measuring stick again. You have to approximate, but it looks like you get 1 ½ measuring sticks for the height.

(Right) On my paper*, I make two marks for the width (it can be whatever width I want). I will measure the width on the paper, then make the height 1 1/2 times that.

* (Well, to be honest, this demonstration is done on the computer using the program Corel Painter. Painter has “brushes” that replicate various artist mediums, including soft pastel. I am using a pen style mouse, so I am making all the strokes by hand onto the digital paper).

(Left) I sketch in my eye-line and centerline. From my sight measurements, I noticed that the eye-line was at ½ of the height (go ahead...check the photo!). The vertical centerline is offset a little to the right, as the head is rotated slightly.

I eyeball the forehead – nose – chin measurements. The nose distance looks to be shorter than the other two.

Since I have the nose distance now, I will sketch in (orange) an equal nose distance to the right and left to help locate the eyes. My nose measurement will be my Base Unit.

So far, however, I am just “guessing” that nose measurement! It is important to check my eyeballed estimates. I will sight measure my Base Unit and then measure right and left. The sight distances left and right seem close to the marks on my paper.

I will also check my forehead and “chin” measurements compared to my nose measurement.

They confirm that the nose length is smaller than the forehead and chin measurements. Whew, that’s a relief!

Using my Base Unit measurements, along with visual estimates, I place the eye measurements on my painting. I judge that the distance from edge of face (on the left) is slightly more than “one eye width.” This also helps me place the first eye. I approximate one eye width between the eyes, then the next eye. Since the head is rotated slightly, I have less than one eye width on the right side. Obviously, the “eye width” distance is an important one for making distance comparisons.

With my eyes in place, I can now use my plumb lines to place the nostril wings and the corners of the mouth. I estimate the placement of the mouth with a visual 1/3rd estimate from nose to chin. I sketch in an outline of the head and place the ears comparing them to plumb lines of the eyes and mouth. My landmarks are in place! I have emphasized them with a red dot. They are: Top and bottom of ears, width of eyes, nose and mouth.

(L) I now start my value map of the head and face with a medium value pastel. The landmarks will help me locate and define the shadow shapes.

(R) I’ve added the light value shapes and have begun with some darker values.

As I sketch in the value shapes, I am not happy with the location of the mouth corner and crease from the nose. My analysis of the value shape tells me that the measurement of the mouth was not that good! The value shapes will often help with the measuring, too. It works both ways!

It is not unusual to have to re-measure or double-check measurements as you progress. I look at my plumb lines again as I try to relocate the mouth. I continue adding and refining the value shapes. I’m pretty happy with the measurements, so this is as far as I will take this painting for our lesson.

Here are some other sightings I took for this demo:

I use my pastel to judge vertical and horizontal plumb lines. And I do an angle sighting, trying to estimate the angle of the crease running down from his cheek.

Last edited by DAK723 : 02-01-2009 at 09:51 AM.
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Re: ESP - Portrait & Figure Fundamentals - Lesson 3: Measuring

Actual Measuring techniques:

When working from photo reference, you can use all the techniques already discussed. If you have a digital reference and a printer, you can print your reference as large as possible. You can draw guidelines and do your measurements with a ruler, or pastel, pencil, etc, directly on the photo. Needless to say, actual measurements can be more precise and more numerous!

As I mentioned at the beginning, I would recommend using your visual measurements as much as possible to develop your skill. Actual measurements can be used to check. Of course, you can do all the actual measurements first, if you like!

Let’s go right to the demo! I’m working on velour paper and using Girault soft pastels.

Once again, I do recommend getting actual measurements for the height and width to start. In this case, width is approx. 90 mm, height is approx. 180 mm.

This pose has a tilt that is important to draw in correctly. All my horizontal guidelines will relate to this angle. I can place a straight edge on the photo and make a line on my paper that represents the eye-line angle.

Now that I have the angle, I can place the height and width. I am doing this painting using the same measurements as my reference photo, so I can compare measurements without converting them (that makes it much easier!). I also make a mark at the ½ height distance on my paper. It gives me another point of reference.

(Left) I eyeball the approximate location of the centerline and the location of the eye-line (which coincidentally lines up with my angle line). Notice that the centerline and the eye-line are curved to match the curve of the head. Also notice that the eye-line and the centerline are perpendicular to one another. (Center) I measure to check the distance between the eye-line and the ½ mark. (Right) I measure to check the distance between the edge of her face and the center of the bridge of her nose for the centerline.

I make the adjustment of the centerline based on my measurement. I was a couple millimeters off! The eye-line checks out OK!

I eyeball in the eye locations. To check my last eye location, I take a “thumb and pastel” measurement to the side of the face...And check it against the photo. It’s the same. If it wasn’t, I would have to redo my eye estimates.

I put some guidelines on my reference: Eye-line, nose, mouth, chin. They are all parallel. I replicate them on my drawing. I estimate the 1/3rd distance between nose and chin to locate the mouth.

I have also drawn in my vertical plumb lines down from the eyes. I could have used curved guidelines instead of the plumb lines, but I notice the plumb lines mark important locations.

I also make an estimate of the forehead distances.

(Left) With my plumb lines in place, I can locate my landmarks! A plumb line down from the inside corner of her right eye (our left) marks the corner of the mouth and the edge of the nose. From the center of her left eye straight down marks the other edge of the nose. From the outside corner of her left eye marks the other corner of her mouth. (Right) I add two horizontal plumb lines to locate the ear. The bottom of the ear lines up with her left eye, the top lines up where the forehead and hair meet over her right eye.

With the ear located, I have enough landmarks to start my value map! The landmarks help me locate the value shapes. I start with a medium dark value to establish the shadow shapes. I keep it fairly loose. It could be even looser!

(Left) I add the light value shapes and the darks. As I added the value shapes with increasing precision, I made a couple small adjustments, but nothing is more than a fraction of an inch out of place.

(Right) The finished portrait.

Last edited by DAK723 : 02-01-2009 at 10:08 AM.
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Re: ESP - Portrait & Figure Fundamentals - Lesson 3: Measuring

OK, that was a lot to digest! But remember, even though I showed a lot of techniques, you can pick and choose those that work best for you and your particular painting. As you noticed in my demonstrations, I did not come anywhere close to using them all!


You know by now, that I consider the value shapes to be extremely important. Here are some quotes that I came across as I prepared for this lesson, to let you know that I am not alone!

From Helen van Wyk, famous TV artist and author, from her book, Portraits in Oil the van Wyk Way:

“Painters must always see people in patterns of light and dark.”

“You will be more successful beginning your portrait if you reduce your observations of the model to patterns of light and dark.”

From Joy Thomas’s book, The Art of Portrait Drawing: “Massing is the blocking in of large shapes of value (light and dark)....I start most of my portraits by looking for these values and massing in a shape map.”

Paul Levielle, author of Painting Expressive Pastel Portraits, says the following in his instructional DVD: “I start with the big shapes first, including the basic overall shape of the head. Then I look for the next largest shapes that are visible, in the form of light and shadow.”

This is why I recommend, as one of the exercises for this lesson, to do basic value maps of the entire head.

You can:

1) Do value maps without measuring first, then measure to see how close you visualized the basic proportions. These can be small – even thumbnails size, if you wish.

2) Do some thumbnails, or fairly small drawings trying out the reference frame idea to establish the overall shape of the head.

3) If you want, you can continue the sketch by adding in the value map.

4) Do the measuring first, locating landmarks, then do the value map of the entire head. You can stop at that point. It’s just an exercise. Do as many of these as you can. See how it works before you take the time to do entire portraits.

Or, of course, you can do entire portraits, trying out as many (or as few) of these measurement techniques as you want!

For the reference photos we have been using from lessons 1 and 2, here is a link...


...and scroll down to post #3.

Here are a few new pics to try:

Photo by cmwynn

For a larger version, click here:


Photo by sundiver

Photo by babybrush

Photo by jocelynsart

For a larger version, click here:


Photo by terence p

For a larger version, click here:


Photo by nonamac

Photo by me

Please post your exercises, practice pieces, and portraits here in this thread. Also ask questions, make comments, share measuring techniques that you know and love! Whether you have experience with portraits, or if these are the first ones you’ve ever attempted, please join us!

If you are still working on lessons 1 or 2, that’s fine! Work at your own pace. Feel free to post lesson 1 or 2 exercises in this thread if you want. I will continue to check the previous lesson threads, as well.

Thank you to all the photographers whose works I have been using from the reference library.

Next month – Hopefully the last portrait class, where we will discuss backgrounds, composition, edges, depth and anything else I can think of!

Last edited by DAK723 : 02-01-2009 at 10:13 AM.
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Old 02-01-2009, 10:22 AM
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Colorix Colorix is offline
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Re: ESP - Portrait & Figure Fundamentals - Lesson 3: Measuring

Don, only had time to speed-read it for now -- it is wonderful. Thank you so much for doing all this enormous amount of work.

I'll definitely continue participating -- hopefully this week already.


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Old 02-01-2009, 11:48 AM
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DAK723 DAK723 is offline
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Re: ESP - Portrait & Figure Fundamentals - Lesson 3: Measuring

Originally Posted by Colorix
Don, only had time to speed-read it for now -- it is wonderful. Thank you so much for doing all this enormous amount of work.

I'll definitely continue participating -- hopefully this week already.


Thanks, Charlie, for your contribution and your participation!

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Old 02-01-2009, 01:53 PM
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winecountry winecountry is offline
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Re: ESP - Portrait & Figure Fundamentals - Lesson 3: Measuring

Don, a wealth of info, that will take some time to digest...thanks so much, this will be an interesting month just what I need!
Constructive critiques and comments welcome.
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Old 02-01-2009, 03:01 PM
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Re: ESP - Portrait & Figure Fundamentals - Lesson 3: Measuring

Hi All

Don! this look great, well explained and well put together, thank you for putting in the time to do this for us all, now we have no excueses but to get a good likness now it all just us

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C&C always welcome
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Old 02-01-2009, 03:12 PM
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Re: ESP - Portrait & Figure Fundamentals - Lesson 3: Measuring

Don, what terrific work you have done here for us. It is very much appreciated. I haven't got to finishing what I want to do in lesson 2 yet, but as i have just finished Charlie's class (today) I will now be putting more work in here, and I hope to be joining in this lesson 3 SOON.
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Old 02-01-2009, 08:17 PM
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kadon kadon is offline
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Re: ESP - Portrait & Figure Fundamentals - Lesson 3: Measuring

Boy Don! This is so comprehensive....my mind boggles! Are we lucky or not to have such a dedicated teacher! I bet Colleen is over the moon.
Much studying to be done...not to mention the experimenting with a new medium! Kathy
Can never learn enough.....
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Old 02-01-2009, 11:10 PM
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Re: ESP - Portrait & Figure Fundamentals - Lesson 3: Measuring

Thanks, Colleen, Graham, Xina & Kathy for the kind words. I look forward to your participation in the class!

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Old 02-02-2009, 01:26 AM
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Re: ESP - Portrait & Figure Fundamentals - Lesson 3: Measuring

omg ... the information !! ... you are fabulous for going to the lengths you did to pull this together !! ... i'd love to participate but haven't been able to yet as much as i'd like to ... you can be sure to know, though, that this thread has been labeled as a *favourite* ... kudos to you and all that you've done and are doing for this portrait project !! ...
“The way to discover (creative) secrets is to be a student of your own efforts.” (Robert Genn)”
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Old 02-02-2009, 08:31 AM
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Deborah Secor Deborah Secor is offline
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Re: ESP - Portrait & Figure Fundamentals - Lesson 3: Measuring

Amazing! Thank you for all this information and help! I can't wait to have the time to give all of this a good digesting, but right now it has to wait. I'm putting this in my favorites and will keep an eye on the thread as you go along. Don, this is MOST helpful. Thank you so much.


PS Are you still working flat on the floor? Maybe that's part of the secret!
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Old 02-02-2009, 08:04 PM
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Re: ESP - Portrait & Figure Fundamentals - Lesson 3: Measuring

Thanks Violet and Deborah for your kind words!

Originally Posted by Deborah Secor
PS Are you still working flat on the floor? Maybe that's part of the secret!

Hmmm, maybe it is!

For those who didn't see my "studio" in Deb's recent thread about lighting, I am indeed working on the floor. Although I do have an easel and studio set up (in my parent's old house), my computer is here at my house and the best window for natural light and taking in-progress photos is here also.

You can see some of my pieces from Lesson 2. The demo from this lesson was painted here, too! Note also my fancy pastel boxes!


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