A small error at any point in the process of creating your drawing can have an adverse effect on the result. It does not really matter when the error takes place, but the earlier the error the larger its effect will be. This concept, that a small change can have large consequences, is known as the butterfly effect.
Articles about Sight-Size
Here is an ever-growing collection of articles related to the Sight-Size approach. Many of these articles expand on the lessons I teach my own students. Others are of more historical interest. And yes, many contain promotional content to my free guide, books, and online courses. You can learn how to see accurately so that you can successfully draw what you see. Therefore, all of the content I produce is centered on helping you do that.
Relational seeing is a hallmark of many ateliers that are influenced by the teachings of R. H. Ives Gammell. Seeing relationally requires that the specifics of every aspect of the scene relate to each other: All values are compared to the darkest dark. All edges are compared to the sharpest sharp. And so on.
Movement is one of the most challenging elements students encounter when graduating from still life to portraits. Whether they’ve conquered it or not is best seen in how the eyes in their drawing work together. Often they don’t, and just as often the error is so slight that the student fails to see it. The solution is to stop chasing the distant eye.
One issue many students face when first attempting Sight-Size is keeping their plumb line level. The problem is the relative strength of your dominate arm, and oftentimes the result is a drawing that is higher on the paper than is the subject. The solution is to level up!
Scattered throughout a book of letters (written to Richard Whitney from R. H. Ives Gammell) is perhaps the best advice ever given to an aspiring painter: “Do your memory work for 10 to 15 minutes daily.” In fact, Mr. Gammell instructs Richard to bring some memory drawings with him to their very first meeting.
The fundamental element of Sight-Size is accurate comparison. Without it, your guesses are akin to guesses in arithmetic. One common way is using a plumb line. But what happens when you can no longer clearly see the line? What happens to Sight-Size with older eyes?
Memory training must be integrated into a mature painter’s working method if his or her talent is to be truly fulfilled. I myself, when doing a portrait commission, will spend up to three times as much time on memory work as I do on direct observation. Much of the weakness of contemporary realism done from nature comes not only from poorly trained eyes, but also from poorly trained memory.
Did you know that every time you look from your subject to your drawing or painting you have to rely entirely on your visual memory? And, although this applies to all who work from visual sources, it is especially true for those who work in Sight-Size. This article takes a look at visual memory and what some artists have had to say about it.
From the time I began teaching back in the late 80s I have made the case that in order to learn how to draw what you see you need to learn how to see. The best way to do both is in Sight-Size. From today you can do it in your own home through my first online course: Sight-Size Cast Drawing, on my new site: Atelier Rousar | online.
Beginning students must learn to see nature simply, unencumbered by all the little piecemeal details. Under proper lighting many casts can provide this. But Michelangelo’s nose of David gives us simplicity, regardless of lighting. Due to that, the first thing I ask my students to do is to buy a nose.