How to Measure the Height-to-Width Ratio in Life
Using relative proportions, unlike sight-sizing, allows to make proportionate drawings on any scale, small or big. This is because such proportion is a ratio between any two dimensions in life, not a ratio between life and drawing.
Measuring relative proportions is one of the most fundamental skills every fine artist must have. Without this skill, it is impossible to make proportionate and realistic artworks.
Here's how to do it with a pencil:
Stretch out your arm, holding the pencil strictly perpendicular to your line of sight.
Align the pencil's end with the object's top edge and glide the thumb along the pencil to mark the object's bottom edge.
Keeping your arm stretched, rotate the pencil 90 degrees. Make sure it remains perpendicular to your line of sight.
Do not move the thumb along the pencil, but align it with the object's right edge. Note that "A" is shorter than "B"; the missing bit is "C".
Glide your thumb along the pencil to mark the dimension "C".
Measure how many times "C" fits into "B".
In this example, the measurement "C" fits 3.5 times into the object's width "B". This is the Ratio in question - the object's Height is smaller than its Width and the missing bit fits 3.5 times into the Width.
Keep this proportion in mind, you will use it in drawing. Because the main Height-to-Width ratio is very important, remeasure it several times.
Also, check how many times the dimension "C" fits into "A".
How to Measure the Main Ratio in Drawing
Mark on paper the object's Width "B" at any scale you need.
Hold the pencil so your index finger could glide along it.
Divide the Width "B" as many times as required (in our example, 3.5 times). This will give the dimension "C".
Align the pencil's tip with the left edge and glide your index finger to mark the dimension "A" on pencil.
Rotate the pencil 90 degrees, but do not move your index finger. Mark the Height "A" on paper.
Complete the drawing and recheck the Main A-B Ratio.
Check how many times "C" fits into "A" as well.
This method can be used to measure any proportions in question, not just the Height-to-Width ratio. For example, to compose a still-life, you may want to check how its overall height relates to its width. This will help to scale and position a drawing with precision. Also, when depicting separate objects of such a still-life, you may compare different dimensions to each other, not just height and width, but whatever you need to measure.
Apart of measuring relative proportions, you can also use a pencil to measure angles, alignments, and cross-points. To learn this method, watch the How to Measure with a Pencil from Life video »
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