Today I want to try to answer this great question I received from Dana:
” I really love sketching buildings and architecture but struggle with getting the size of what I want to draw, right on the page I’m working on, and correct (or close to correct) scale and proportion of what I’m drawing. I’ve studied some of the proportion techniques and measuring, but I still find it so difficult! Any advice?”
Thank you so much for your great question, Dana !
I still struggle sometimes with this as well! Some days it goes better then other days!
I’ll try to give some tricks here, inspired also from other artists I like, because there are several ways which “lead to Rome”…
The most classical way is to first draw the overal shapes of the buildings you want to have on your page: I mean: draw first the contours of the buildings. Something that works well is that I first look carefully, at least 5 minutes, before I start drawing. I figure out what’s my focal point, and what I find most important in the scenery. Then I “draw” the shape on the page with my finger: just indicating the contour of the building to have the size in mind. What you can do then is draw the contour of the shapes on the page, like does Ian Fennelly (see video below). He first sketches the main shapes with a light grey marker.
I made several sketches this way and it works very well !
But most of the time I prefer to draw more “organically”….
I then start drawing with what I like most in the building… and it happens that the building then doesn’t fit on the page… What I do then is that I just stop drawing. I leave the building unfinished. That’s ok, because our brain completes what’s missing. It’s even quite nice to leave white on the page. It makes your drawing breathe.
Below you see an unfinished drawing. It’s a view from my hotel window in Tsumago, Japan. What’s important then to do, is to leave those parts of the drawing without details, and to leave some white paper… so it looks like you did it on purpose 😉 …
And here’s a painting from Paul Wang. You see the bottom of the building is not on the painting… He does this a lot : just paint the part of the building you like most…
Now I want to try to answer the other part of the question: how to get the proportions right!
There are several measuring tricks of course. If you want to measure with your pencil: make sure to hold out your arm straight, and keeping your pencil straight, in the vertical plane, as your paper is a flat surface! Another trick is to have a transparent sheet with a grid on it and look through that, so you can see with the grid, the proportions of everything.
This is best explained in Betty Edwards book: “Drawing on the right side of the brain”.
Here’s some other “trick” to keep in mind: