When drawing from life (or any drawing, really) many people (including me) seem to have trouble seeing the whole while they're occupied with drawing a part and the drawing ends up looking like a mess of disjointed pieces, nothing quite fitting together.
Say you draw a figure, starting with the torso which turns out fine, then you draw a leg, get closer to the paper, draw and draw, then you step back, look at the whole drawing and go "whow! what did I do?! That leg's way too long!"
How come you didn't realize while you were drawing the leg?
I think the main thing is to STEP BACK
(or, if you can't, take a photo and look at it on screen, use binoculars and look through them the "wrong" way, or whatever you come up with)
But sometimes stepping back isn't enough, and we just can't see "the big picture". Working on the whole drawing and blocking in big things first is usually a good strategy. But even then, when blocking in the shadow shape of the eye socket it might get too big or too small or too far over to the left even though we're stepping back. And often we see that something's off but can't quite figure out what it is. Then a friend or teacher walks up and says "watch out, that eye socket is too far to the right" - and then we can see it, too. Or sometimes not..
Any thoughts are greatly appreciated!
- Does anybody know or have any ideas about exercises that could specifically train that ability?
Tipps so far / essential & useful habits:
Exercises so far:
- step back physically!
- step back mentally! Meaning get some to the work, take a break and think about something else for a few minutes, hours or days and when you come back the mistakes will be much more obvious. Look at the work and imagine your (imaginary) assistant did it - did he/she do a good job? What needs to be fixed?
- work from the general to the specific - block in big stuff first, don't get lost in details - think abstract shapes
- squint! this simplifies what you see
- blur your eyes! this as well simplifies what you see
- use a mirror and/or turn the image upside down
- put what you see into words! "A problem well stated is a problem half solved." Say to yourself (in your head or out loud): In relation to the whole, the top of that eye-socket lines up with the ears. Then that hairline comes in THAT much, etc.
- use a measuring tool in the beginning to help you with the big proportions, but make sure you FIRST put down your best guess by eye (no mechanical measuring), then take another very good look by eye and fix it if necessary, THEN check with a measuring tool (your pencil/brush, a knitting needle, etc.)
- find horizontal and vertical alignments (use a knitting needle in the beginning, for horizontals hold it in front of you with both arms stretched out, for verticals hold it lightly at the top and let it fal down vertically or use a plumb line (string with a weight attached)
- Don't look directly at the subject, look to the left or right and try to take in the whole subject
- Draw more...! Use the above tips!
- The Imaginary Assistent - step back mentally! Draw something, then take a break. When you come back after a while, look at your work and imagine your assistant did it. Did he/she do a good job? What needs to be fixed?
- Draw the same subject a few times - every time it will go better and you will see more of the "big picture". After a few of these your drawing and seeing in general will improve
- Big-picture Contour Drawing! - "I don't focus my vision on any one part of the subject, like when you space out and blankly stare at something, you can just see the whole thing without focusing on any one detail. Then trying to block out the shapes while you've got the whole subject held in your vision. Obviously this isn't actually going to yield very accurate results, but I think it's a good (maybe) exercise to train the coordination." (Thanks Hunterkiller!)
- Memory Drawing! Put your easel behind you and your subject in front of you. Or draw in a different room than the subject is. Or look at the subject for 3 minutes without making any marks on the paper, then without looking at the subject draw for 5 minutes, then repeat the process. This will help you focus on the big stuff, simplify!