Monday, September 17, 2012

Drawing by Measuring

The most profitable lie I've ever told was during an interview for my first job after university. The interviewer asked me if I was numerate. A reasonable question given it was a financial services company. Embarrassingly, however, I had to ask what the word meant because I'd never heard it before. "Are you good with numbers?" he responded. I should have said, "Are you kidding? I'm RUBBISH with numbers!" Instead, I looked him in the eye and said, "Oh yes."

I got the job.

Nowadays I make it my practice to avoid numbers like the plague. So why then did I embark on a protracted exercise of learning to draw by measuring?

Because a book told me to.

"The next level in your quest to see clearly is measuring."

I thought I would do this for a week and then be able to tick it off the list.  I'm now on week seven and I've become strangely obsessive about it. I carry a ruler with me wherever I go (along with a pair of compasses.)
The way I'm doing it is to cut out images from magazines (and, more recently, an anatomy book) and map them across to drawings by a system of dots, marks, lines and measurements. It takes ages because I keep getting the measurements wrong. I sometimes short-circuit the process by drawing freehand - which is much more fun but totally missing the point. The point is to understand scale and proportion - especially of the human figure.

I came across two examples of artists working in this way.The first was William Coldstream who measured every last, tiny detail in his paintings and also left the construction marks dotted around over the finished picture for all to see.

The other was Euan Uglow - whose work I've become quite fond of. He would spend a long time - sometimes years -on an awkwardly posed figure painting, meticulously measuring and correcting to create images that are almost sculptural.

I'm hoping this exercise will rub out of steam soon and I find something less taxing to do.

Still, in the meantime I've become brilliant with numbers and can perform complex calculations in the blink of an eye.
Would I lie to you?

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