My name is Jonene Ficklin, and I'm a full-time wife, mom, writer, and professional artist. I've been drawing since I was old enough to hold a pencil. I use colored pencils, oil paints, and watercolors. I love what I do!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Lesson 5 – Measuring Form without a Ruler

How can you draw the form of things accurately? Measuring is a big part.

There’s a variety of ways, but one of my favorites doesn’t require a ruler, at least for the measuring part. You use your drawing pencil to measure. Here's how you do it. (I used a vase.) Stand back from your subject. (I put my vase on my table and went around to the other side.)

Aim your body toward the subject. Hold your pencil in your hand and stretch your arm out straight, locking your elbow.

Now close one eye (if you’re right handed, close the left eye and if you’re left handed, close your right). Hold the pencil upright. Now, put your pencil in front of your subject.

Line up the top of your pencil with the top of the subject. (I'll be referring to it as the vase.) Slide your fingers up or down your pencil until your fingers are just under the bottom of the vase. Now your pencil is as tall as the vase.

What if your subject is too big to measure? Step back until until it fits your pencil. Remember this spot. You will make all future measurements of your subject from that place.

Now that you have the measurement, mark it on your paper.
Flip the paper around with your other hand, and lining up the first mark with where your fingers are on the pencil; mark the other side, making the full height measurement of the vase.

Then go back and measure the width of the vase by tipping your pencil horizontal and putting the tip on one side and your fingers on the other.

Mark it on your paper.
Using your other hand, flip the paper around again and lining the previous side mark up with the bottom of your fingers on the pencil, lay the lead down on the paper and mark the other side.
You should have four marks showing both the width and height of the vase. You can use a ruler to connect the marks. It should make a rectangle that is accurately as tall and wide as your vase.
Take a ruler and connect your marks to make a rectangle.
We'll use this technique to help us with next week's lesson, where we'll draw the vase.
Look at other subjects and practice measuring the height and width with a pencil, then marking them on the paper.
If you have some time to kill, find a set of cupboards in your kitchen or office. Measure the height and width of the whole set and mark them as you go. Then, going from left to right, measure the width of each individual cupboard door and mark it, left to right, on your paper. Then go back and from the top, measure the height of each individual cupboard and mark it. Take a ruler and connect the lines. You'll have accurate 'bones' of the cabinets.
Use this technique on anything!

Next week: Form: drawing a perfect (or pretty darn close to perfect) vase


  1. Too cool. I really should have taken an art class, this is fun.

  2. Leisha, thank you!

    Jolene, I hope it helps. Thank you!

  3. What happened to lessons 2,3 and 4? Enjoying these tutorials thank you :)

  4. Hi Cynthea, I'm glad you're enjoying the lessons. Lessons 2,3, and 4 should be here, just click under 'Art Lessons' on the top bar.


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