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Author Topic: What are proportions? (tip/rant)  (Read 414 times)

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Offline suupertramp

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What are proportions? (tip/rant)
« on: July 18, 2018, 12:48:36 PM »
This is something I rediscovered that is very obvious and everyone including myself already knows it, but I managed to forget it in the swamp of "learning to draw". Hopefully it is sort of helpful, or hopefully you already know this and keep it in mind when drawing. Its half a rant at myself for forgetting as well.

Two point summary at the bottom for those who think I talk too much

So, all of us have heard of proportions when drawing. I think almost all of us have recommended it to everyone else at some point, "You should work a bit on proportions", or "I need to do more studies on proportions".

But somehow, possibly through overuse of the word, I managed to forget what it actually means. It sort of ended up meaning "looks real" or "looks right", which is still a correct understanding of the word, but not how it applies when I actually draw. Its a lot easier to tell something is wrong, than to be able to draw it right from the beginning.

Looking up "Proportion","Proportionality" etc on Wikipedia, You get these results: (I've highlighted the bits I think are important)

Quote from: Wikepedia
Proportionality (mathematics)
In mathematics, two variables are proportional if there is always a constant ratio between them. (Variable y is directly proportional to the variable x.)

Proportion (architecture)
Proportion is a central principle of architectural theory and an important connection between mathematics and art. It is the visual effect of the relationships of the various objects and spaces that make up a structure to one another and to the whole. These relationships are often governed by multiples of a standard unit of length known as a "module".(In classical architecture, proportions were set by the radii of columns.)

Body proportions
While there is significant variation in anatomical proportions between people, there are many references to body proportions that are intended to be canonical, either in art, measurement, or medicine.
In measurement, body proportions are often used to relate two or more measurements based on the body. A cubit, for instance, is supposed to be six palms. A span is taken to be 9 inches and was previously considered as half a cubit.

It is important in figure drawing to draw the human figure in proportion (duh). Though there are subtle differences between individuals, human proportions fit within a fairly standard range, though artists have historically tried to create idealised standards, which have varied considerably over different periods and regions. In modern figure drawing, the basic unit of measurement is the 'head', which is the distance from the top of the head to the chin. This unit of measurement is reasonably standard, and has long been used by artists to establish the proportions of the human figure. Ancient Egyptian art used a canon of proportion based on the "fist", measured across the knuckles, with 18 fists from the ground to the hairline on the forehead.

The ancient Greek sculptor Polykleitos [...] wrote an influential Canon describing the proportions to be followed in sculpture [which] applies the basic mathematical concepts of Greek geometry, such as the ratio [and] proportion,[...] creating a system capable of describing the human form through a series of continuous geometric progressions. Polykleitos uses the distal phalanx of the little finger as the basic module for determining the proportions of the human body, scaling this length up repeatedly by root 2 to obtain the ideal size of the other phalanges, the hand, forearm, and upper arm in turn.

Aspect Ratio
The aspect ratio of a geometric shape is the ratio of its sizes in different dimensions. For example, the aspect ratio of a rectangle is the ratio of its longer side to its shorter side – the ratio of width to height,(when the rectangle is oriented as a "landscape")

The aspect ratio is most often expressed as two numbers separated by a colon (x:y), less commonly as a simple or decimal fraction. The values x and y do not represent actual widths and heights but, rather, the relationship between width and height. As an example, 8:5, 16:10, 1.6:1, ?8?5 and 1.6 are all ways of representing the same aspect ratio.

So what did all that text actually mean?

Simply restating it, proportion is how sizes relate to one another, or how one size/length/dimension compares to another. Its the ratio of lengths, such as 1:2 forearm:whole arm.

Typically as stated above, artists use a base measurement that is a constant in their drawing, such as head height, and then use multiples which govern the overall character height, the torso height and the leg height, to name a few. This ratios have an actual number attached, such as "7 heads high character".

So "proportions" means, a list of lengths of objects (typically body parts) as multiples or fractions of a standard unit (typically head)

As beginner artists, we often draw these divisions to count out the multiples.
Creepy wikipedia image
But at some point, we stop doing this, and go by eye a lot of the time, or at least, I do. This is because we start to get a general feel for the 1:7 ratio (for example) without having to count it out. But I think this leads to stylisation occurring sooner or later, as our drawings start to skew towards easier ratios, and we tend to approximate a lot more, rather than measuring out.

I'm not suggesting that we keep drawing little rulers all over the place with divisions to keep a track of exact ratios, but bear in mind that for the same character or person, their proportions NEVER change (minus age progression etc) They are the same person so they will always have "a slightly longer chin", or "longer arms than average". WAIT!!! What does "slightly" or "average" mean? these words can change depending on our mood, what we last drew, be it figure drawing or "cartoons", and so on. If we want to draw the same character consistently, or have a consistent art style, we need to put actual numbers on this stuff, so we should be saying "arms are 10% longer than 2 heads" or "head is 90% of normal head size".

Excercises
It helps to be able to split up dimensions in your head accurately. To see if you can do this, draw two marks about 6-8 inches apart on a piece of paper. Without measuring, draw a mark at 1/2 way between. Measure the distances and see if you got it right, or how far out you were. Repeat for standard measurements such as 1/3, 1/4 etc. Do the same for multiples, draw two marks about 1-2 inches apart, then draw marks at x2,x3,x4 etc distances. Lets see if we can transfer a dimension. Draw 2 marks at the top of the page, 1-4 inches apart horizontally. try and draw the same gap vertically. Draw a central (or slightly off to prevent accidental cheating with the paper edges) cross, and try and draw 8 compass points at the same distance from the center.

Heres my attempt, a minute after writing the above:
I've red-lined the correct measurements and drew in some faint lines after so you can make sense of the original marks

I hope you do better than me






So what do we I learn? How to quantify how much I suck at drawing That even a simple proportion is difficult to measure to the eye, so trying to draw such a proportion while also juggling character design, pose, shading, form etc, will be much more difficult.

What is the solution?
1) Practice. Like anything else, correctly measuring things by eye is a learned skill. When at work, I learnt to tell the thickness of the wood boards by 1/2mm intervals 2mm up to 15mm. I couldn't do it at the beginning and had to keep measuring, but got used to it. So I KNOW this is something that can be learned. The advantage is that this skill can be transferred traditional-digital, and uses a small amount of time once mastered. The disadvantage is that we already have enough to learn with art without adding more stuff.

2) Measure. Most digital art programs have guidelines and rulers that can be used, or you can copy and paste the part you want to measure to get the distance. traditionally is even easier in this aspect as a ruler is a lot more available and user friendly. The advantage is that it is 100% accurate and relatively quick to use, but digitally each program has its differences and so may be a hassle if it doesn't suit you, and traditionally you might not want to carry a ruler around with you if you want to travel light.

Also, use an appropriate base measurement. Just because most people use a head as the base length doesn't mean you have to. As stated from Wikipedia, the Ancient Egyptians used proportions based on the fist. Was it wrong? No, because it is a RATIO, so as long as you know how many units long something is, you're good to go. You could use fractions of your paper width (I have done this) or screen width if you wanted. (but watch out for zoom on the latter)

Once you are very experienced with drawing these proportions, you can probably (don't know, haven't got there yet) go back to the "feel" of it and you would be alright, but for us that can't draw as we would wish, thats not an option for us. We wouldn't be worrying about proportions if we could already draw it correctly by "feel".

So what are the main points?
-Keep an exact numeric ratio of the parts of the character you are drawing in your head, or write it down.
("Bob - 7 heads tall. eyes dead center on head, eyes 1/5 heads wide with 1/5 head gaps. arms 3 heads from center of shoulder to center of wrist")
-Learn to accurately draw these proportions by using an appropriate measurement tool or learning to judge it correctly by eye.
(Traditional ruler, Digital guidelines/ruler, Practice drawing fractions and multiples of head lengths)

As usual, sorry for the wall of text. You can tell I'm serious when there aren't smiley faces everywhere :P
(Needless to say I copied this to a notepad before posting just in case)
(Took 2 hours to write this)

See also for fun reading:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mathematics_and_art

Edited for adding awesomeness typos
« Last Edit: July 18, 2018, 01:21:11 PM by suupertramp »

Offline eldritchmaestro

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Re: What are proportions? (tip/rant)
« Reply #1 on: July 18, 2018, 03:03:50 PM »
I'm going to get back at this asap, but I'm pretty excited by those excercises. Also, I'm ashamed that I had to google what the distal phalanx of the little finger is. Guess I've got to brush up on my anatomy after all.

Well written suuper, and pretty useful stuff. I know I need to treat proportion with a hell of a lot more respect, if anything because I want to be able to draw people on the go, and messing up facial proportions is death for when you're trying to achievel ikeness. Of course, I want to draw my characters better, but it'd be so swell if I could draw a face from life and people could tell who I was trying to draw.


Offline suupertramp

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Re: What are proportions? (tip/rant)
« Reply #2 on: July 18, 2018, 04:39:46 PM »
Yeah I had no idea what the finger things was either. A knowledge of anatomy is something else that helps an artist get stuff right, but that's another story :P

Yeah I must admit I was treating it pretty casually up until now. I'm definitely going to try and work on that a bit more, especially putting numbers on stuff. the amount of times I say "oh its about this much bigger", and sort of arbitrarily remember "this much" in my head without any reference point or value.

let me know how the exercises go :)
« Last Edit: July 18, 2018, 04:43:32 PM by suupertramp »

Offline eldritchmaestro

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Re: What are proportions? (tip/rant)
« Reply #3 on: July 18, 2018, 05:58:05 PM »


I've just discovered that I need to buy a compass haha. I'll do that last excercise better.

It went better than I thought in some areas, but the multiplyer and horizontal-to-vertical flips are so insightful into my problems with proportion it's ridiculous. It's actually quite exciting to see.

 So this is why my characters get noodle legs. I usually draw without bounding my characters from top to bottom and divvying that general relationship.

I might be adding this to my regimens. I'll see how I feel about it tomorrow.
« Last Edit: July 18, 2018, 06:01:35 PM by legomaestro »

Offline Coach Fro

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Re: What are proportions? (tip/rant)
« Reply #4 on: July 18, 2018, 07:19:45 PM »
Man that wiki article had so much math talk that my head started to hurt as I read it, lol.

But yes, this is good stuff indeed, suuper! This is extremely helpful for someone like me who is just starting out. Proportions and anatomy seem like tricky subjects to tackle, and from the frustrations I've seen raiders expressed about these subjects recently (*Cough* Mahlua *Cough cough*  ;)), I can tell it's certainly not the most fun of processes to deal with.

Still, much like writing, if you're serious about improving your craft, you must push through that phase where everything you once did for fun now feels like a chore, and realize that proper understanding of the fundamentals and actively putting them to practice is the only way you'll see improvements in anything you wish to be good at. 
Messatsu...



Offline devola

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Re: What are proportions? (tip/rant)
« Reply #5 on: July 18, 2018, 09:50:18 PM »
Great advice, it just goes to show even if you've been drawing for a while and have slipped into a comfortable pattern, there is always more to learn. I screwed up pretty bad on that exercise as well so don't worry @lego haha.


Offline MahluaandMilk

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Re: What are proportions? (tip/rant)
« Reply #6 on: July 19, 2018, 01:04:34 AM »
The architecture definition of it made the most sense to me, but maybe that's because I took a drafting class in high school and played around with an autoCADD program in a middle school lab.

But yeah, sadly I don't have a functional ruler or compass lying around. If I did, I would use them a lot more. Drafting taught me all sorts of neat techniques for bisecting lines and whatnot. I'd also be like, 500% more chill about drawing backgrounds if I had a good ruler on me.

I suppose it does do one well to show just how poor we are at actually eyeballing things. I'll get on trying this once I have appropriate tools, whenever that will be.

Offline suupertramp

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Re: What are proportions? (tip/rant)
« Reply #7 on: July 19, 2018, 04:43:04 PM »
@mahlua it also made a bunch of sense to me, which is why I posted it as an extra reference. And since art often included a lot of architecture, it was also a good idea anyway :P

I learnt a bit of drafting at school too, and I still do bisections a lot by eye. which is partly the reason this article ended up getting written, because the eye lies :P

@devola yeah I didn't realize until trying out the exercise how insightful it actually was. I'm wondering what would be the best way to practice a lot of this in the smallest amount of time.

@fronomenal yeah I understood absolutely none of that article lol. yes, effort and perseverence will push through even thr most toughest of hurdles.

@lego very nice exercises. yes it is rather informative. I dont know how the best way to repeat these exercises would be, but doing a little of the above every now and then wouldn't hurt. carrying a tape measure and randomly guessing the lengths of stuff would be a cool idea too

thanks for the feedback guys, glad I wasn't going down a stupid thought path on my own :P

Bonus Exercises
Mahlua reminded me that bisection is a cool thing. angle bisection is rather important especially if you draw technical parts such as cogs and gears etc.
-try drawing 15/30/45/90 degree lines off a vertical or a horizontal line.
-drawing random "v" shapes of varying angles, and trying to copy them, maybe rotated or something. You'll need a protractor to measure the angles though.
-drawing various "v" shapes and splitting the angle into 2,3,4 segments of equal angle
-same as the multiplying widths, but with angles, draw a "v" and continue it rounds as if there were more of them

heres a quick example: (the solid lines are the starting lines, and the dotted ones are the ones you will be checking)
Spoiler

Ignore the x4 on the right, thats a x3 :P

Also, this is another very obvious thing but sometimes if its not mentioned people wont think it. When doing gesture drawing, figure drawing or whatever, make sure to make an actual mental note of the proportions, again using actual numbers. use head widths or whatever you feel is appropriate. this includes the angles of lines which fortunately are not proportions but values which dont ever change. sometimes I've drawn a line pointing down when it should have gone upwards, just because I didnt think to myself "what angle is this line" and just randomly drew it, and spotted it afterwards and kicked myself.

Angle and curve control are pretty much a topic by themselves (which I might make), because with correct length and angle control, You're virtually becoming a human camera.

Offline eldritchmaestro

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Re: What are proportions? (tip/rant)
« Reply #8 on: July 19, 2018, 05:08:35 PM »
I haven't figured out how to even imagine angles in drawings so I'm going to need a bit to acclimatize myself to that, but seems interesting.

@lego carrying a tape measure and randomly guessing the lengths of stuff would be a cool idea too

I actually forgot to share an anecdote about Shigeru Miyamoto: 
Quote
For instance, I might guess that the table in front of us is about 1.2 metres long. Then I'd actually measure it with the measuring tape to check. If I got it right, I'd think: "I'm on form today!" But if I missed the mark by a long way, I'd think: "I've been slipping a bit recently!" ... And it's not just length: I also really enjoy predicting the weight and other measurements of things. So for instance, I'd pick up a chair and think: "I wonder how many kilos this weighs." Or I'd wonder how many grams a weekly manga magazine weighs.


Seems like you really have some Japanese in you dude. Tell you what, that's something I could practically get into. Might as well live up to the glasses on my face.

Offline suupertramp

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Re: What are proportions? (tip/rant)
« Reply #9 on: July 19, 2018, 06:13:17 PM »
yeah until I just said that I completely forgot about angles lol

ahhhhh cool quote. I hadn't heard that before. I think I will definitely also carry a tape measure now :)

Offline Ryan

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Re: What are proportions? (tip/rant)
« Reply #10 on: July 25, 2018, 03:02:42 AM »
I'm not really sure it's necessary (or a good idea) to chart out a lengthy codex for the mathematical proportions for one's characters. Sure, that would be necessary for perfection, but hardly any artists maintain proportion all that well between and within characters. And I'm not meaning artists these days are lazy, but even highly consistent draftsmen are less consistent than you probably think they are, especially with body proportions. A mathematical codex of proportions will generate a significant amount of mathematical information that is ripe and ready for contextual interference within its own set of numbers. If it would be necessary to consult it then due to difficulties in remembering the information, then a visual reference guide, showing the relative differences in body types and heights, perhaps the height of the important characters in inches/feet, would be just as useful and easier to make. I wouldn't go anymore than knowing how many heads tall a character is, really, in terms of mathematical proportion.

Regarding the general usage of proportion for drawing characters, proportions should be thought of as tools for fixing drawings, as well as a tool for acquiring feeling of correctness (every time you fix a drawing of yours into the correct proportion, you acquire a little bit more sharper feeling for correctness, but this is only assuming you actually managed to correct it to a 'correct' version, which may not be the case if you aren't using reference).

However, I really don't think it should be a heavy-lifter in the drawing process. Foggy, relative proportions like: the upper arm bone is longer than the lower arm bone, can be helpful to have in mind as they aren't really disruptive. Skilled artists don't 'not' think about proportion because they don't need to, but because if they did their drawings would come out worse. It disrupts their flow of drawing, and it will disrupt your flow, too. Anyways, proportions of a character end up shifting in order to be more pleasing depending on the angle they're being drawn in. This applies to all of the proportions that you can think of. If you will, Japanese-esque stylization is highly idiomatic regarding the angle a subject is seen in. Some styles need to be altered with a secondary style to be more appealing due to this, depending on how you view this. For this reason being overly concerned with the proportion can actually damage the appealing quality of one's drawings.

In regards to the fear of proportional decay, I don't think this would be the true cause of such a symptom if it were to occur. It's more likely structural decay, or a lack of any real structural understanding to begin with. To re-word, if I were to experience proportional decay (and I do), I know there are many more things going wrong with that area of ability that won't be remedied by just reviewing proportion.

And really, I think proportion is used way too much as a buzzword these days. A nice way to tell someone they need to get a clue about what the heck they're drawing  :tongue:. If people tell you your proportions are wrong, heck, 99% of the time you just don't know how to draw the damn thing they're talking about and need to start using some reference. Sure the proportions are also probably wrong, but it's highly likely you don't know much about the anatomy or structure which lead to that problem in the first place.

Following the anatomy and structure is like following a rhythm, continually building and fleshing out from a starting point. If the rhythm is wrong, the proportion will be wrong; fix the rhythm by improving your structural understanding, and you fix many proportional problems as well.

What happens over time, with stagnation, is your artistic reach contracts. It simplifies, becomes more efficient; but at the same time you get stuck within your own efficiency. Proportional decay is the least of your problems; you are going to be plain forgetting what things look like. Muahahahaha.

I'm sorry, haha. I don't mean to mock decay. Drawing is really difficult, or rather, it's really difficult to get to the place where you are drawing very well. Even if you start relying on feeling (and you should), as long as you are continually expanding and improving your understanding of the structure (as well as your ability to draw the structure), your proportions will actually seem to get better than before (and it will). And, in the end, you will experience decay no matter what and the need to do some sort of maintenance.

Still, there is some emotional and storytelling value in proportion that one should not forget. If you really want to remember proportions, place them in a wider context of the trope and stories the specific proportions occupy the most. This will lead to stronger memory and you will improve in other ways as well. As well as providing more holistic ways to categorize the proportions of your characters.
« Last Edit: July 25, 2018, 03:10:08 AM by Ryan »

Offline suupertramp

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Re: What are proportions? (tip/rant)
« Reply #11 on: July 25, 2018, 12:34:08 PM »
@ryan long time no see! your insights are always great to hear :) how has your art been going? actually the moment I made that long post I thought of you lol

I agree that this is just one of the many problems an artist may face, whether its the most important or not the most important is probably up to each individual person. at least, it's important to me at the moment :P

a lengthy codex is probably not useful in the long term, but i've found a casual "this bit is longer-ish that that bit", while yes being helpful, sometimes results in really whack results, especially when drawing symmetrical parts. usually noticed very quickly if you pay attention, but still having a number in mind helps as opposed to a vague "a bit", "a lot" etc.

I agree that having a biometric volume for each character is a poor idea, time wise and everything else. perhaps I went a little overboard on the exactness that is required, but I was trying to point out that, that is what proportions actually are.
As a beginner artist I find working in multiples of 1/4 (usually head width) is what I normally do, as anything else will probably end in worse results lol

I assume an experienced artist can probably get away with saying "a bit longer", or "nearly double", because their experience enables them to be able to judge it a lot better. For me its a sort of intermediate problem, where you are able to judge it close, but not close enough.

proportional decay was just a side point I thought of while rambling. I think I'll agree with structural issues being more the problem. although guidelines/structure can also be affected by proportion errors, which affects the overall proportions.

Offline Ryan

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Re: What are proportions? (tip/rant)
« Reply #12 on: July 25, 2018, 05:16:11 PM »
@suuper glad to hear you thought of me haha, I am the sort of person to make long rambles about art. It's been a while haha. You can see my art here. I recently graduated from uni. https://www.instagram.com/ryanprovenart/

Regarding it's importance, I would say proportion has an extremely valuable place during the process of learning to draw anything, especially if your practice involves drawing from memory or imagination. Having an idea of the mathematical proportions is another way to comprehend and understand images/subject manner in a concrete manner, which is obviously a good thing. What I mean by that, is proportions are an immediately understandable occurrence, not a theory. It's real, tangible, and visible in an image. How much proportion is necessary to know, I would say, is how much you need to learn to manage to draw something(or a certain stylistic representation of something) well, and anything beyond that based upon your desires. But it can eventually become something like an advanced Japanese learner trying to learn obscure kanji that even speakers don't know, almost a sort of game of trivia.

Since you're familiar with language learning, I think the usage of proportion has a very large degree of correlation with mnemonics. Mnemonics help with the recall of information, but eventually the mnemonics fall away and all is left is automatic understanding of language. Proportional knowledge doesn't really disappear to an experienced artist, but the artist will eventually get to the point where utilizing the proportional knowledge is no longer integral to the recall of the drawing procedures they have acquired.

If you're familiar with the concept of the transition from passive vocabulary to active vocabulary, it's similar to that I think. With passive vocabulary you can understand a word or phrase when you read it, but you are unable to spontaneously activate the vocabulary or phrase when you need to speak. The key difference here is when you need it. When you're practicing speaking, you quickly fill up your short-term memory with the required processes; when you need to speak it, your short-term memory is empty.

This is similar to what occurs when you are practicing drawing. Your short-term memory quickly fills up and you experience the short-term improvement in drawing something. At this point you are no longer, mentally, in the context where you are going to spontaneously draw upon information and process to make a drawing for the sake of making art.

When the vocabulary is finally activated, it is a feeling like you don't know where the vocabulary comes from. A theory in language learning is that this occurs after repeated exposure and comprehension of the specific vocabulary, over a long period of time, and this is sort of what underlies the efficiency of spaced-repetition systems in learning language.

Now before I lose you here, this also occurs with drawing, I believe. Proportion, and mnemonics, probably both share the same characteristic in speeding up the activation process. And they both share the same characteristic that they eventually separate from the desired knowledge, leaving the desired knowledge itself accessible. This is why, as you have noted, you notice yourself spontaneously stopping the conscious usage of proportion in your drawing process.

Heck, I'm going to go farther and say that the conscious utilization of proportion is a mnemonic.

Now, regarding decay, you are probably right in that a beginner is going to more quickly unconsciously shift themselves from the mnemonic patterns they used. It just has to do with the fact that subject matters are like puzzles, just like languages are. Stronger understanding of the puzzle causes stronger resilience to decay. The stronger you are at something, the longer you've done something, the more resilient to decay you are. This is evident in practically all skills.

Before I make this post too long again, I think you are right to push proportion. But I think you should be less fearful of it separating from your drawing process. Remain conscious, with sharp eyes, looking at your art. Look at it in a mirror, flip it horizontally for a fresh look. As you said, "Its a lot easier to tell something is wrong, than to be able to draw it right from the beginning." Which is absolutely true. So trust your ability to tell when it's wrong; use proportion as a tool in those cases to fix it. Else, learn to allow art to pour freely from you as it wants to, to focus on expression in your drawing, rather than focusing immediately on correctness. At least some of the time. And if you aren't satisfied with what pours out, you go back to learning. Making this distinction between practicing and performance is important. I realize now it's wrong to think of drawing in terms of a singular process; purpose shapes process.
« Last Edit: July 25, 2018, 05:21:20 PM by Ryan »

Offline suupertramp

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Re: What are proportions? (tip/rant)
« Reply #13 on: July 26, 2018, 02:37:49 PM »
congratulations on your graduation! and fantastic art! you should definitely post some in your art thread here. From what I remember of your art everything on your Instagram is a vast improvement!

I am glad you mentioned mnemonics, I absolutely love them!
And yes once you get used to using them you stop using them sadly :)
the great comparison is that even after stopping using a mnemonic because you start to instantly remember, you can still recall the mnemonic on those moments that you forget again, which is great as an artist might forget something but can still recall it again if they recall the proportions.

I think decay happens if you just draw, without topping up your studies. Often while on holiday I would often produce my best work, but also because of drawing so much without reference, would lose a little accuracy and become stylized.

I remember you (I think) once posted a tutorial, or a link to something about the "5 drawing glasses" with different types of holes in them. I try and keep that in mind, especially vertical and horizontal alignment. Very linked with what you say about staying conscious. When I slow down while doing longer pieces, they turn out a lot better as I am relaxed and so can stay focused a lot more than if I am rushing or producing large volume output. Every line should be deliberate.

I totally get you about "activation". thats very close to the art theories I have been developing for the last year or so. I experienced it heavily in Japanese and learnt to "think in Japanese", to the extent that I am pretty sure I lost part of my English ability (partly why my posts are incoherent sometimes). I believe that "thinking in art/images" is an equally plausible outcome for an artist.

Quote
A theory in language learning is that this occurs after repeated exposure and comprehension of the specific vocabulary, over a long period of time, and this is sort of what underlies the efficiency of spaced-repetition systems in learning language.
I LOVE spaced repetition. I even wrote my own Japanese vocab program with spaced repetition, and it was fantastic! I have been working on an art study style where I rotate my study subjects (hands,feet,face,colour,shade etc) over a month or two months, but its hard to tell what needs the focus or how much so I'm going with gut feel at the moment, and just keeping a running list of what I want to draw next.

I think its safe to say that regardless the art theory being discussed, repetition in study and drawing practice will get results over time :P